Carnival Will Return to Galveston November 1

October 22, 2008
Carnival announced today that its ships will return to the Galveston homeport as of November 1. In September, the port was badly damaged by Hurricane Ike and Carnival was forced to redeploy its Galveston-based Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Conquest to Houston's new Bay Port Cruise Terminal.

Carnival Ecstasy's the first to depart from Galveston; it resumes its regular, four- and five-night cruises on Saturday, November 1. Carnival Conquest will return to its year-round seven-night sailings out of the Texas port on Sunday, November 2. All departures prior to November 1 will leave from Houston.

The only other major cruise line to offer regular seasonal sailings out of Galveston is Royal Caribbean; its Voyager of the Seas, however, doesn't begin its cruises until December so should not be impacted.

Galveston is still recovering from the storm's severe damage though, in addition to the port facility, a number of hotels, restaurants and nightspots are ready for business. You can read the list here:

Even with Carnival returning to the port and the reopening of various businesses, there's still a lot of clean up left to do, and it may be some time before many of the city's residents have their lives back together. ABC13, a local ABC affiliate, reported that one hundred people were in line today to receive $200 gift cards being handed out to Galveston residents by the Salvation Army. The Galveston County Daily News reported that two elementary schools damaged by Ike have been shuttered for the year due to extensive damage.

Not all are convinced that it is time for Carnival, the only line at this point to sail from Galveston, to return. Cruise Critic contributor June Naylor was in Galveston just last week for a first-hand look. "It's badly, badly bruised and made me incredibly sad," she told us.

"Structurally, a lot of places near the cruise port are sound, but it needs a lot of work to make it serviceable again. A Carnival rep told me yesterday they hope to be back in Galveston around the second week in November --- but I do not see how that is humanly possible.

"Even if they could open the port," Naylor noted in her email last week, "the surrounding area is nothing that cruise passengers would want to see right now, and much of the workforce that would be staffing the shops and cafes and hotels have no place to live. FEMA has many of them in tents, for Pete's sake. It's all such a shame."

Cruise Critic member Cruzinsuz understands the need to return. "I find it hard to believe that the port is ready so quickly too, but I know they don't want to lose all the revenue and that they need people to start going to the hotels." Cruise business generates millions of dollars per year in revenue for the port.

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor, and Dan Askin, Assistant Editor