It could really happen! Thanks to the hard work of many, the Port of Galveston could be the first cruise port in the United States to host cruise passengers since March 2020 when sailings were suspended due to COVID.
On May 28, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved Carnival Cruise Line’s processes and procedures to resume sailing, just three days after the plan was submitted to the CDC. This approval gives Carnival the green light to move forward with plans to resume sailing from the Port of Galveston as early as July 3, as planned.
On May 25, the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees, Galveston County Health District and Carnival signed off on the 40-page agreement detailing safe sailing processes and procedures that was submitted to the CDC.
The CDC requires the agreements as part of its Conditional Sailing Order issued in October 2020 and updated in April. Royal Caribbean International’s agreement was near completion on May 26.
PREPARED WITH A PLAN
We support the objectives outlined in the agreements for the benefit of everyone involved:
- Preserving the health and safety of cruise ship crew members, cruise passengers, vendors and contractors who provide cruise-related goods and/or services, port personnel and the community
- Preventing the further introduction, transmission and spread of COVID-19 into, within and outside the United States
- Preserving the public health resources of federal, state and local governments and local health care providers
The agreements also detail how the port, health district and cruise lines plan to respond in the event of an outbreak with medical care, transportation and housing, if needed. The cruise lines must demonstrate that they have agreements in place with providers for all of these services.
Procedures detailed in the agreements include the following:
- Simulated passenger cruises
- Compliance with port COVID safety procedures
- A tabletop exercise with cruise line and port staff on port COVID safety procedures and protocols
- An emergency response plan in the event of an outbreak
- A plan for medical evacuations at sea coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard
- Cruise terminal and transportation vehicle cleaning requirements
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
With 40 percent of Americans fully vaccinated and COVID cases trending downward, I’m hopeful that we can resume safe sailing and ramp up to where we were in 2019. That year, cruise lines sailing from Galveston attracted more than 1 million passengers, generated 26,900 jobs and totaled $1.6 billion in cruise industry direct expenditures statewide.
The Port of Galveston’s cruise business also generates about 65 percent of our annual revenue. Cruise suspensions will have cost our port $44 million in lost revenue by the time cruises resume in July, as targeted.
While we’ve weathered the COVID storm by generating additional revenues and controlling costs, I speak for the entire Port of Galveston staff when I say that we’re ready to get back to cruising.