In the span of a few hours, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line announced plans to sail from the Bayport Cruise Terminal, located just outside of Houston, Texas.
The 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess will kick off a season of Caribbean cruises November 5, 2013, with a special four-night sailing to support U.S. veterans. The ship will then offer 25 weeklong Western Caribbean cruises with calls in Costa Maya, Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel.
From fall 2014, 2,374-passenger Norwegian Jewel will launch weeklong Western Caribbean cruises. In a statement, Norwegian, previously known as NCL, said Jewel will be stationed in Houston seasonally for three years, totaling 75 calls, with an option for a two-year extension. Details on the itineraries have not been revealed.
There's also no word on whether Caribbean Princess' tenure will last more than one season. We've reached out to Princess by e-mail for comment. What it does mean is that Princess won't have a ship based in the popular homeport of Galveston in 2013-2014, where Crown Princess is seasonally stationed.
Baypoint Cruise Terminal, which was completed in early 2011, isn't exactly new to the game. The port served as a temporary domicile for Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy in 2008 after Hurricane Ike devastated nearby Galveston, then the ships' home base. Approval from local authorities was required to temporarily welcome ships at that time, explained Lisa Ashley, Director, Corporate Communications for the Port of Houston Authority.
Houston has long been positioned as an air hub for cruises from Galveston, which has been enjoying a post-Ike renaissance, with lines scrambling to tap into a drive-to market boasting millions of residents from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Will the debut of Houston spark a Texas homeport turf war? We'll keep you posted.
--by Dan Askin, Senior Editor