An ambitious, expensive and maybe misguided project to lure the cruise ship industry to Houston, and perhaps away from Galveston, is failing and will most likely be re-purposed for another use.
“I understand the port is considering several options -- one to use it as a retrofit for incoming automobiles,” said Sen. John Whitmire.
The Port of Houston would not confirm specific plans for Pasadena’s Bayport Cruise Terminal.
“There are other opportunities it can be used for and we’re going to continue to explore those opportunities,” Port of Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther said.
Both Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises confirmed to Channel 2 Investigates the companies’ plans to remove their ships from the Port of Houston’s $108 million cruise terminal after the current season ends.
“The cruise lines have made a decision, a business decision, to go elsewhere,” Guenther, said.
As early as late April, the cruise terminal will be left with no cruise ships, a familiar problem.
The facility sat unused for its intended purpose for about six years before NCL and Princess Cruises signed on in 2012.Given how cheaply NCL and Princess had been offering staterooms on cruises out of this terminal - I kept my eye on them because I was considering vacationing on one of them - it was clear that this facility was struggling to attract travelers. Its location was a liability, as Pasadena is nobody's idea of a tourist paradise, even if you're just going there to get on a ship:
“All you (have) to do is look at the location and use some common sense,” Whitmire said.
The Port of Houston’s cruise terminal, located in Pasadena, is at the end of a road that's home to heavy industry.I also seem to recall hearing that heavy fog over the bay was also an issue, as it impeded ships from being able to navigate to the Bayport terminal in time for their scheduled disembarkation. That's not quite as much of a problem at Galveston, because it is closer to the open waters of the Gulf.
But the bigger problem in terms of location, Whitmire said, is for the cruise lines themselves, a point also made by Sen. Paul Bettencourt.
“In the end, you’ve got a logistical problem," Bettencourt said. "You’re moving a boat farther up the Ship Channel than what can be serviced by competitors right down in Galveston."
The trip from the Port of Houston’s Bayport Cruise Ship Terminal adds hours to time spent in intercoastal waters, where onboard casinos are not licensed to operate.
In the end, perhaps trying to operate two separate cruise terminals within a relatively short distance of one another was simply too ambitious. It's probably best for the Port of Houston to focus on what it does best - being one of the largest maritime freight terminals in the nation - and let the Port of Galveston handle cruise passengers.
Royal Caribbean and Carnival will continue to operate out of the Galveston terminal. No word as to whether NCL or Princess will one day operate ships from there as well.