Port of Houston looks to save cruise business

HOUSTON -- Port of Houston officials are scrambling to save the city's fledgling cruise business after losing two regular operators late last year.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sea made its final departure from Houston last week; NCL repositioned the ship to Miami.

In September, the port lost Premier Cruise Lines' year-round Mexico service after Premier's main creditor, the investment firm Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette, seized Premier's ships.

The port built a $3 million cruise terminal in 1997 in anticipation of regular cruise business. The terminal could be turned into a parking lot and vehicle-distribution center if no new lines are located, said port officials.

Still, the port's chairman, James Edmonds, believes Houston will attract new cruise ships for regular departures. He said the port authority is planning five berths for cruise ships at a proposed new terminal.

Edmonds added that Houston also could pursue a proposed merger with the Texas port of Galveston.

"If [cruise lines] want to be in Houston, fine," said Edmonds. "If they want to be in Galveston, fine. We just want to be in the business."

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