Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

Are you excited to board a cruise ship in Corpus Christi, Texas? I know I'm not. But the folks in and around Corpus Christi are excited to bring a cruise ship to their town.

Is that enough to make it happen? I tend to doubt, it but a look at a few comparisons suggest it isn't out of the question.

First a little background: Last week mayors and port officials from Corpus Christi and surrounding cities testified before a Texas state panel looking at the economic viability of Corpus Christi as a cruise port. Tourism and business leaders are eager for the jobs and economic development a cruise ship could bring.

No doubt their model is nearby Galveston, where more than 800,000 cruise passengers visited last year.  But with the Texas cruise trade now established in Galveston, which is only 250 miles away, is there any room for Corpus Christi to elbow its way in?

The only cruise line whose current strategy seems to fit with positioning a ship in Corpus Christi is Carnival Cruise Line, which has single ships operating from ports including Baltimore; Charleston, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and, soon, Mobile, Ala.

Carnival has deployed mostly its older Fantasy-class ships in these markets, aiming them at passengers within driving distance of the port.

Although Galveston and Corpus Christi are close to each other, Carnival has ships in ports that are closer. It's only 238 miles between Jacksonville and Charleston, and just 150 miles from Mobile to New Orleans.

Mobile shows that these ports are often on the bubble. Carnival started service there, pulled out, and now is returning with the 25-year-old Fantasy for a 13-month stay, starting in November.

Mobile is kicking in about $800,000 to help market Carnival cruises for the year. It seems likely that Corpus Christi would also be a willing partner.

But Carnival has made huge investments of its own in developing cruise centers in New Orleans and Galveston, where it now operates three ships year round.

Corpus Christi says there are 4.8 million people in the 41 counties that comprise south Texas, but San Antonio is the only major Texas city closer to Corpus Christi than Galveston. For that reason and others, landing a cruise ship there will be a struggle.

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