Looking to get the most mileage out of drive-to domestic ports, cruise lines have beefed up their presence along the Gulf Coast, with four major deployments from Galveston, Texas, to New Orleans and Tampa.
Carnival Cruise Lines earlier this month hosted agents from around the country in Galveston, where its newest ship, the 3,600-passenger Carnival Magic, is homeported year-round for seven-day Western Caribbean cruises.
The ship launched last May and operated in the Mediterranean through October.
The line celebrated with the agent gathering and a concert by pop group Maroon 5 on Nov. 13. The Magic joined the 2,700-passenger Carnival Triumph in Galveston, where it, too, will be based year-round operating four- and five-day Western Caribbean sailings.
The line also moved the 2,052-passenger Elation to New Orleans, from Mobile, Ala., last month, where it joined the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest. The Elation will sail four- and five-day cruises in the Western Caribbean, while the Conquest will alternate seven-day trips between the Eastern and Western Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean International brought its 3,100-passenger Mariner of the Seas to Galveston and its 3,100-passenger Voyager of the Seas to New Orleans earlier this month.
The Voyager of the Seas is the largest ship yet to homeport in New Orleans. The line marked the occasion with a concert by country music star Martina McBride.
The Mariner will sail six- and seven-night Western Caribbean cruises, while the Voyager will operate seven-night sailings, also in the Western Caribbean.
The line’s 2,100-passenger Jewel of the Seas arrived for its new deployment in Tampa last month. It offers four- and five-night Western Caribbean sailings.
The arrival of these ships, said Royal Caribbean, gives Gulf Coast-area residents “more opportunities to enjoy a hassle-free cruise vacation to the Caribbean and Mexico.”
Other cruise lines are maintaining their hold on certain Gulf Coast ports.
Norwegian Cruise Line is in New Orleans, with the 2,200-passenger Norwegian Star and the 2,000-passenger Norwegian Spirit each sailing seven-day Western Caribbean cruises.
Holland America Line’s 1,200-passenger Ryndam is based in Tampa this winter, offering six- and seven-day Western Caribbean sailings.
One Gulf Coast city that’s watching from the sidelines is Mobile. Carnival’s decision earlier this year to reposition the Elation in the Big Easy left Mobile without any cruise presence. A $24 million cruise terminal, built in 2004, sits idle on the waterfront.
Officials at Alabama Cruise Terminal, which runs the port, said they were “moving aggressively” to attract another cruise line.
One ship deployed there translates into a regional economic impact of some $20 million, said Sheila Gurganus, general manager of Alabama Cruise Terminal.