Two cruise lines to offer service from Bayport Cruise Terminal

November 15, 2012 8:44:30 PM PST
An expensive cruise terminal at the Port of Houston, sitting empty for years, will soon be the home of two major cruise lines. Norwegian and Princess cruise lines Thursday announced a deal with the Port of Houston to sail seasonally from the Bayport Cruise Terminal in Pasadena.

If that terminal name sounds familiar, it's probably because of 13 Undercover's "Port of Plenty" series of reports. That investigation exposed the millions of dollars spent to build and maintain the Bayport terminal that has sat virtually empty since it opened in 2009.

The empty cruise terminal will finally get its first customers -- two cruise lines have signed on for regular service out of the Bayport Cruise Terminal.

"We're talking about $200 million of economic impact and that equates to other things like jobs. There's going to be 200 jobs that will participate. We believe there's going to be another 100 jobs created," said Leonard Waterworth, Port of Houston Executive Director.

Waterworth is understandably excited. In 2011, 13 Undercover showcased how the $100 million cruise terminal has sat empty since it was completed in 2009. Waterworth was brought in as the port's new director earlier this year and has aggressively pursued different cruise lines.

"I would hope that everybody sees this as a positive opportunity. But I think I'm excited about what additional potential that area has," said Waterworth.

Princess Cruise Lines is scheduled to begin using the Bayport terminal in November of 2013. Norwegian will follow suit in 2014. For commissioners who have seen the port weather a number of controversies in the past two years, this is certainly a positive development.

"The cruise terminal has been one of the priorities of the commission for a long time, and we're really pleased that Colonel Waterworth and his staff have done an excellent job of making it their priority, and bringing to the commission today for approval two agreements with two different cruise lines," said Port of Houston Commissioner Janiece Longoria.

The hope is taxpayers who footed the bill for the terminal to be built may finally see some use out of their money.

"My stakeholders are the taxpayers of Harris County and I've got to return value back to them in economic growth and jobs, and this is may be the crown jewel where I'm going to be able to do that," said Waterworth.

The plan is for the Port Authority to unchain the terminal and evaluate things such as parking and escalators. The first ship will set sail in November of next year.

As we mentioned, 13 Undercover did a series of reports on the Bayport Cruise Terminal. You can see the Port of Plenty series by clicking in the 'Related Content' box on the left side of this article.

More info on partnership

The Port of Houston Authority is partnering with two separate cruise lines, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines, to offer new service from the Bayport Cruise Terminal.

Princess Cruises will make passenger cruise calls during the 2013-2014 cruise season, while Norwegian Cruise Lines has committed to begin service in 2014.

"We are ecstatic that these two premier cruise lines have chosen to sail from our state-of-the-art cruise facility at Bayport in Pasadena, Texas," said Jim Edmonds, chairman of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority. "Securing this cruise business helps fulfill our commitment by building the cruise terminal to spur job creation and economic development for the entire greater Houston and Pasadena region."

It is projected that the cruise activity will have a considerable economic impact. Activity from a single cruise line is expected to generate annual economic impact of $50 million, according to the firm Martin Associates, including local purchases of $3.6 million. A total of 222 jobs will be touched, including the creation of almost 100 new jobs. An estimated $941,000 annually in state and local taxes is anticipated. The combined impact of the agreements with the two cruise lines over the next four years will be approximately $200 million.

Princess Cruises' new service is scheduled to begin in November 2013 with a total of 27 departures planned for the season.

Norwegian Cruise Lines and the Port Authority reached an agreement covering three years for Norwegian to sail from the cruise terminal beginning in 2014, with a total of 75 calls. The agreement includes an option to extend for up to two years.

Norwegian Cruise Lines will bring the 2,374-passenger Norwegian Jewel to Houston to sail seven-day Western Caribbean cruises. The deal marks a return to Houston for the cruise line, which last sailed from Houston in 2007. Norwegian's cruises from Houston will go on sale to the public in mid-December 2013.

The Bayport Cruise Terminal, which was fully completed in 2011, is located in Pasadena.


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