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Could a South Texas Cruise Port Be On The Horizon?

In May 2016, the Houston Chronicle reported that State Representative Todd Hunter from Corpus Christi will co-chair a new joint committee looking into the viability of another cruise port along the Texas coast.

According to the article, Representative Hunter has championed the idea of a cruise port on the southern Texas coast for several years. His argument is that the more southern location could attract cruisers from San Antonio and Austin, as well as northern Mexico.

The appeal of bringing a cruise port to the area is clear.

Over the past decade and a half, cruising in Galveston has soared in popularity. In that span, it has grown from nothing to be the fourth-busiest cruise port in Texas. Today there are roughly 250 calls to the port each year, and more than a billion dollars in economic impact.

That’s left many people trying to replicate that same sort of success elsewhere. As you may know, a cruise port in Houston (Bayport) opened several years ago, sitting empty for years before Norwegian and Princess Cruise Lines signed on to sail from the port. However, those cruise lines left after this year, with no intention to return. Among other reasons, the cruise lines reportedly don’t like the inland location of the Houston cruise port, which adds valuable time to their journey.

So with the recent failure of the Bayport Cruise Terminal, is it crazy to assume that a port further down the Texas coast would meet a similar fate?

According to the article, Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, Brownsville and South Padre Island, Point Comfort and Port Lavaca are all locations that the committee will look at. Frankly, we can’t imagine any of them being viable cruise ports that compete with Galveston.

South Texas cruise ports

Possible locations for another cruise port in Texas.

Galveston has some huge built-in advantages that other ports in Texas simply can’t compete with.

First and most importantly, Galveston is in the best location possible for a Texas cruise port. The cities of Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Houston are all within a five-hour drive of the Port of Galveston. These cities make up the bulk of the Texas population, giving more than 20 million people an opportunity to cruise with a half-day’s drive.

In comparison, Corpus Christi (the largest of the cities mentioned for a possible port) is nearly six hours from the DFW Metroplex. Meanwhile, it’s safe to assume that passengers in Houston (a three hour drive to Corpus) would much rather than quick one-hour trip to Galveston to sail instead.

Next, a big draw to Galveston is that it can be served by Houston’s two major airports. If you are a Texas resident, then you might not realize that literally thousands upon thousands of cruisers fly into the area for their cruise. With Hobby and Intercontinental serving Houston, this gives cruisers dozens of options of airlines to fly into the area, both domestic and international. From there, they have a roughly one-hour trip to the port of Galveston.

The same cannot be said of any of the proposed port locations. San Antonio would have to serve as the airport hub for cruisers sailing from a south Texas port. It is two hours and fifteen minutes from Corpus Christi, meaning that by the time most people landed in the city, they would still be about 3-4 hours from the port given taxiing to the gate, unloading bags, and getting transportation. That’s a major hurdle.

Finally, Galveston has a built-in advantage given the length of time it has operated as a cruise port. That manifests itself in several ways. First, there are the built-in relationships with cruise lines servicing the ports. While cruise lines can and do come and go from Galveston, it’s much easier to continue cruising from a known port than to switch to a new port or add ships to another port.

Galveston also has the tourist infrastructure to attract cruisers and keep them happy. This includes everything from hotel rooms to activities to restaurants to services to get passengers back and forth from airports. At this point, any port in southern Texas would have to start from scratch to build out this ecosystem around cruising. It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely a challenge.

In total, we would welcome any more cruises from Texas as it means more options for passengers and more economic development for the state. However, looking critically at the possibilities, if a port in Houston can’t gain traction, then the more isolated ports options on the southern Texas coast stand little chance.

Do you think a cruise port in south Texas is a good idea? Let us know in the comments below.

One Response so far.

  1. Larry Ludmer says:

    I agree with your assessment that Galveston is the logical place for a cruise ship home port on the Texas Coast. However, why not develop Corpus Christi as a port of call? There is plenty to do there for a day-long visit and it would be something different for many people rather than the usual ports on a Galveston-based cruise. This would be especially so for the thousands of cruisers not from Texas who likely have never been to C C.