Putting cruise sailings on pause during the pandemic has had far-reaching impacts for vacationers, workers and major cruise ports like the Galveston Wharves. In this time of uncertainty, I believe one thing is certain – the cruise industry will return stronger than ever.
Cruise industry leaders are collaborating with federal officials and health authorities to share information and coordinate as we plan how we can resume sailings while ensuring that passengers, workers and communities are safe.
A Seat at the Table
As the fourth most popular cruise port in the United States, Galveston Wharves representatives have a seat at the table as leaders work out how and when to begin cruising again. We’ve been in conversations with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and elected officials, as well as leaders from other major U.S. cruise ports and cruise lines.
In addition, the CDC is seeking broader public comments through an online Request for Information through Sept. 21. Thousands of comments have already been submitted. Submit your comments through the Federal Register (Click HERE).
The New Normal
What changes can cruise passengers and workers expect? With input from outside public health and medical experts, the cruise industry is taking a holistic approach to planning for COVID-19 safety. They’re following a “door-to-door” strategy, beginning when passengers book their cruises through their return home.
Cruise lines and cruise ports are exploring more robust screening protocols; expanded cleaning and sanitation practices; and comprehensive shipboard prevention, surveillance and response measures.
The Galveston Wharves is planning a number of changes in its two cruise terminals, including touchless bathroom fixtures, plexiglass shields in customer service areas, and enhanced air handling systems.
Additional concepts that continue to be explored broadly by the cruise industry include:
- Enhanced passenger and crew screenings
- Appropriate distancing measures
- Modified or eliminated buffets as necessary
- Potential solutions to challenges related to shoreside excursions
- Enhanced medical capabilities, in addition to the medical facilities and personnel already onboard
- Quarantining protocols
- Pre-arranged options for ship-to-shore medical evacuations with consideration of impacts on local healthcare systems
- Care and training of crew on all new and enhanced protocols
As you can see, there’s a lot to be considered. The good news is that federal, health and industry leaders are focused on working together to find solutions.
What Cruising Means for Galveston
Safely and sustainably restarting cruises from Galveston is critical for the Galveston Wharves and our regional economy.
Our cruise business generates 65 percent of the port’s annual revenue, allowing us to reinvest in business growth and infrastructure improvements to generate more jobs and economic benefits for the Galveston community.
The following statistics highlight the benefits for our region:
- More than 1 million cruise passengers in 2019
- $115 million in local spending
- 3,638 cruise-related Galveston area jobs
- An estimated 13 percent of Galveston hotel guests are cruise passengers
- $16.3 million in state and local sales tax revenue in 2018
Rest assured that the cruise industry will return to Galveston.