As we near the end of the first quarter of 2024, the global cruise market is expected to see growth compared to previous years, indicating a strong appetite for cruise travel.

According to a recent report by Oxford Economics, cruise operating capacity is on pace to exceed its 2019 level by 16% in 2024. The question, then, becomes if the cruise industry can meet the current demand of customers. The cruise market overall is reaching record high deployment rates—or number of ships operating out of ports--especially in the Caribbean and Mediterranean markets, and consumer interest in cruises remains strong thanks to high satisfaction with cruise experiences and cruise line loyalty.

What does this mean for Galveston?

The Caribbean market is expected to see a roughly 11.5% increase in total cruise passengers compared to 2023 and an almost 10% increase in number of port/destination visits. Within the Caribbean market, Galveston ranks 6th in top ports by total passenger volume and 4th by percent share of embarkation and debarkation as well as total passenger days (behind Miami, Port Canaveral, and Fort Lauderdale). These rankings have stayed fairly consistent since 2019 and are forecasted to remain so through 2026.

In 2024, the Port of Galveston is expected to see over 3 million embarkations and debarkations – this is an approximately 48% increase from 2019 volume and largely due to additions of large cruise lines docking in Galveston. About 58% of the ships operating out of the Port of Galveston are with large capacity cruise lines (2,500-4,500), another 37% with mega cruise lines (4,500+), with the remaining lines being medium capacity (1,000-2,500). Carnival is the parent company of half of the cruise lines operating in Galveston, followed by Royal Caribbean, holding 37% of the total.

Travelers will be taking cruises for Spring Break and the winter holiday season, with the highest volume capacity by total passenger days happening in March and December of 2024. Many of these passengers will be seeking tropical destinations, with 35% of cruise lines out of Galveston going to Cozumel, followed by Costa Maya at 25%. This is a slight deviation from traveler behavior pre-COVID, when top destination ports were Cozumel, followed by the Cayman Islands.

2023 In Review

2023 was an exceptional year for the cruise industry, with almost 15% growth in total passenger visits in the Caribbean port region, compared to 2022. The Port of Galveston also saw  gains, with a 40% year-over-year increase in embarkations and debarkations. Peak travel months for cruisers in 2023 were April and December. Much like 2024, the Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean line continued to make up over 90% of all cruise lines out of the Port of Galveston, with the Princess, Disney and Norwegian cruise lines rounding out the remaining ships.  

Written by Megan Henson 

Pictured: Norwegian Cruise Line

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