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When Will Galveston Pass 1 Million Cruise Passengers?

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You may not realize it, but that quiet little port in Galveston has quietly turned into one of America’s busiest cruise ports.

In 2014, the port expects 640,000 cruise passengers to pass through — about the population of Denver, Colorado.

That figure has grown enormously in recent years. Consider that in 2008, roughly 380,000 passengers sailed from Galveston. So in five years cruise passenger traffic has increased about 70%.

All of this begs the question — when will the Port of Galveston pass the 1 million passenger mark?

One million passengers would be a major milestone and a huge economic boom to the port and the island (though still a far cry from the 4 million-plus passengers that ports like Miami see every year).

That mark still appears to be a little ways off, though we think Galveston can get there. First, it will take more ships and cruise lines calling the port home.

On the good side, Royal Caribbean has decided to keep the Navigator of the Seas in Galveston year-round. That’s a major boost — especially during the summer months when Royal Caribbean used to leave the island to sail in Europe. Meanwhile, the Carnival Triumph fiasco, which cancelled many cruises for the ship, is in the rearview mirror.

On the bad side, Disney has pulled its business from the port, electing to leave the Texas market for now. As well, Princess Cruises (which used to sail from Galveston) is now sailing from the Bayport Terminal in Houston, adding more competition.

The port definitely has its work cut out. But given its proximity to the Gulf, two cruise terminals, and an established infrastructure, we think the island port will be able to overcome the Bayport Terminal.

The real key will be getting more cruise ships and cruise lines to call the port home. The good news? There seems to be plenty of space.

Cruise lines like to sail on weekend days — it’s more convenient for passengers. Right now nearly every Sunday in 2014 has a full schedule, with two ships docking. But Saturdays have plenty of open space with only one or zero ships scheduled to use the port that day throughout the year.

We think that space is eventually going to be used. With millions of people with a few hours drive of Galveston, the reward is too great for the terminal to sit idle. It wouldn’t surprise us to one day see another Royal Caribbean ship — or another cruise line — start to sail from it.

And when that happens (it will almost certainly take a few years), we think the port will sail by the 1 million passenger mark.

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