Galveston preps for mammoth cruise ship

GALVESTON, TX We're talking about an 18-deck ship. Because of its size, a terminal at the port has to undergo an $11 million renovation to accommodate it, and the plan has a lot of island residents buzzing.

As the Port of Galveston prepares of its biggest facelift this decade, fewer people anticipate it more than the owner of Olympia Grill, Larry Kriticos.

"It's great for business; it's great for tourism, great for the whole economy," he said.

Kriticos' business is located on Pier 21, and he believes he'll see a direct benefit from the improved facility and the new ship.

"Right now, we do bon voyage parties where people wave to their friends and hold banners up," he said. "I can't wait to see what the Magic will bring."

The Carnival Magic will be the cruise line's largest vessel, carrying more than 3,900 passengers. It will replace the Conquest, which will head to New Orleans.

Because of the Magic's size, the port had to make major changes, including $7.5 million to expand and upgrade terminal facility, which will house new waiting areas, bathrooms and moving the screening section from the second floor to the first. Another $3.5 million will go to install a taller gateway to handle the bigger ship.

"The spinoff is in all the jobs it creates, from the cars stopping to get gasoline, stopping to even send a telegram, wire money, pick up gifts from a local retail shop," said Ernest Conner, the port's former director.

The facelift comes as the port is already working to widen and deepen the channel to handle bigger vessels. Those improvements are crucial as Carnival is also replacing the Ecstasy with a larger cruise line appropriately named the Triumph.

Both ships are expected to double the capacity of cruises out of Galveston.

"Definitely something that I would be interested in," Longview resident Gwen Yates said. "It's much handier than flying to Florida for a cruise."

We're told the construction should be getting underway any time now and is scheduled to be completed by November 2011.

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