After a six-year absence, Princess Cruises is finally back in Texas.
The world’s fifth-largest cruise line on Sunday launched its first series of sailings from the Lone Star State since 2016 — a mix of five- to 11-night trips to the western Caribbean that will continue through April 2023.
The voyages are taking place on the line’s 3,080-passenger Ruby Princess and are mostly made up of seven-night trips to Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico.
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The first of the trips, which began Sunday, is an 11-night sailing set to stop in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands as well as Honduras, Belize and Mexico.
The new sailings come as the market for cruises from Texas heats up. Just last month, Royal Caribbean upped the ante for voyages from Texas by deploying one of its giant Oasis class ships to the Port of Galveston for the first time.
The massive vessel, which can hold up to 6,780 passengers and has more amenities than almost any other cruise ship, will sail to ports in Honduras and Mexico.
The arrival of Allure of the Seas at the Port of Galveston coincided with the opening of a new, $100-million cruise ship terminal at the port capable of handling a ship as big as Allure of the Seas.
Related: The ultimate guide to Princess Cruises
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Ruby Princess and Allure of the Seas are joining nearly half a dozen other major cruise ships based in Galveston for the winter. They include Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas; Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Dream, Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze; and Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic.
While Florida ports such as PortMiami and Port Canaveral remain the biggest hubs for cruises to the Caribbean, the Port of Galveston has been growing quickly in recent years as a hub for cruises to the region (assuming you don’t count the last few years when the COVID-19 pandemic brought a sharp downturn to cruises everywhere).
More than 1 million cruisers passed through the Port of Galveston in 2019, up from 641,650 just five years earlier. Cruise calls over the same period jumped from 181 to nearly 300.
The Port of Galveston is now the fourth-busiest port for cruise ships in North America, after Florida’s PortMiami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral.
Related: TPG’s guide to Princess cabins and suites
In many cases, passengers on cruises from the Port of Galveston are “drive-in” customers — people from the surrounding region who reach the port’s ships by car instead of flying to Texas for the sailings. It’s a type of cruise travel that’s expected to grow in 2023 as vacationers look for ways to save due to economic uncertainty.
Cruises from “drive-in” cruise hubs such as Galveston can offer significant savings compared to cruises from “fly-in” cruise hubs that can sometimes require expensive flights to reach.
“Galveston is an important port for Princess Cruises, and [it] provides an exciting and easy-to-reach option for millions of people living in the southwestern U.S. to enjoy the ultimate in classic cruise vacations,” Princess president John Padgett said on Sunday during a ceremony in Galveston marking the new Texas sailings.
Princess this week said it expected around 50,000 people to sail on Ruby Princess out of Galveston over the next four months.
In addition to round-trip sailings out of Galveston to the Caribbean, Ruby Princess will sail two 16-night voyages between Galveston and San Francisco that feature a full transit of the Panama Canal.
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