Galveston is an island of about 50,000 residents, but nearly 7 million visitors travel across the causeway every year. Soon those visitors will have an impressive new cruise terminal at the historic Port of Galveston to enjoy as well.
At the recent Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau Summit, Royal Caribbean representatives Russell Benford, Vice President of Government Relations Americas and Joshua Carroll, Vice President of Destination Development and Deployment unveiled renderings for Terminal Number 3 at Pier 10.
“This terminal is extremely special to us for one particular reason, the Oasis. Royal Caribbean and Texas have a lot in common. We like to build things really big,” Carroll said with a smile. He referred to the European-built Oasis Class as the “Bucee’s of the seas.”
“The Oasis has been around since 2010 when it was the largest class of cruise ship. We now have four, and will have 11 ships of this size by 2030.” Referring to the plans for the new terminal, he explained, “This project is about bringing the Oasis Class to Texas. Unfortunately, we can’t currently bring the Oasis to Texas because there isn’t a big enough turning basin and space.”
Jayne Halcomb, Director of Business Development for Royal Caribbean, illustrates how unique these vessels are. “They are architectural marvels at sea. Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas tout the cruise line's signature neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas, which include Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place, and Youth Zone. Because of their size and number of guests, they require large and efficient ports and terminals that are able to process large numbers of people quickly.”
“We expect to complete the terminal in Fall 2022 and the expected cost will be $110 million,” she concludes. The first ship slated to sail from the terminal will be the Allure of the Seas which will host 5,400 guests and 2,200 crew members.
According to Halcomb, “We plan to relocate all of our passenger volume to the new terminal, which opens up space for other brands (cruise lines) to enter the Galveston market, essentially growing overall passenger volume in Galveston Wharves with not just our Oasis class volume but also other cruise line passenger volume as well.”
Benford clarified the importance of Galveston to the Royal Caribbean brand stating, “Josh’s team, in corporate development, does projects all over the world.” He said they had to “press the pause button” on projects due to the recent pandemic, and “scale back from about 100 projects to three—and one of those three is right here in Galveston.”
Participants at the summit agreed that the new facility will be a game changer for Galveston business.
“What’s really impactful about this project is when you start to deconstruct what it will mean to the community of Galveston,” explained Benford. “First and foremost, you have a 110 million dollar construction project with a Texas-based construction company. That means 400 jobs.”
“Once the terminal is complete, there will be about 400 full and part time jobs that are created just to service that terminal and the ships. That’s the longshoremen, the people driving the produce trucks, security, and all of the folks working in that terminal.”
“The ship holds about 6,000 people, and about half of them will drive into Galveston to take their cruises. That means they’re going to come in a day or more beforehand and book hotels, eat at local restaurants, shop on the Strand, visit Moody Gardens and more.”
“In addition to that, one of the things we hardly ever talk about is that a ship this size will require about 2,500 to 3,000 crew members who are living on the ship,” continued Benford. “Every week when that ship comes into home port, those people will come off the ship and use local facilities in Galveston: banking, eating, shopping, and entertainment.”
The economic opportunity will generate millions of dollars in the Galveston community for small, medium, and large businesses on the island.
“The new Galveston terminal will be equipped with a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program,” adds Halcomb, “which provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-savings green buildings.” The design will also incorporate state-of-the-art technology including mobile check-in.
Galveston Mayor Dr. Craig Brown also participated in the panel discussion at the summit and emphasized that the community would welcome the additional cruise traffic brought by the project. “Connecting the new cruise terminal to the community is the important thing. They’re going to be down at Pier 10, and the key will be a rubber-tired trolley system to bring the passengers to enjoy the restaurants and shopping in downtown and throughout the island.”
Russell, whose enthusiasm for the terminal project and the benefits it will provide to Galveston is evident, cited that Royal Caribbean will dedicate themselves to working with the community utilizing three pillars: respect, communication and collaboration.
“As visitors that are invited in to work with your community, you have our commitment to those three things.”