Though authorities only just today laid out a plan for its evacuated residents to return to the Texan island of Galveston, according to media reports, the Port of Galveston's cruise terminal will be able to welcome cruise ships back by October 1. Cargo ships will return even sooner.
As a result of the severe devastation of the island by Hurricane Ike, Carnival, the only cruise line currently homeporting ships in Galveston, announced this week it would base Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Conquest at Houston's Bayport Cruise Terminal for the near term. After all, many tourism establishments (hotels, restaurants and other facilities that cater to passengers cruising from the port) will need more time to recuperate before they can reopen their doors. At this point, electricity is not even fully restored to Galveston -- and many residents, whose jobs support local tourism, have homes that are not habitable.
So the move to reopen the port facility at Galveston seems dubious. Indeed, Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de le Cruz tells us that a date to return Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy to Galveston has not been set despite the fact that the port will technically open on October 1. "We are committed to returning as soon as feasible," she says, but the line is not in a position to do so yet or to propose a timeframe at this point.
According to Cruise Critic members, Houston's cruise ship "house guests" will be around for a while. "My next cruise isn't until January 24," firefly 333 posts, "and my [travel agent] called me at home to notify me about an itinerary change to Houston instead of Galveston." dprg644 says, "My [Personal Vacation Planner] called yesterday and said that our October 26 sailing will definitely be sailing out of Bayport. I just don't see them getting everything in place in 12 days to support everything that thousands of cruise ship passengers would need."
It would seem that right now the focus should be on those returning to what's left of their homes. The Associated Press article further reports that residents are being admitted entry in phases and have been issued this warning from City Manager Steve LeBlanc: "What you're going to be facing is not going to be as nice as it was before."
We'll keep you posted.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor
Is Galveston Ready for Cruise Travelers?
September 19, 2008