The Bayport Cruise Terminal is scheduled to open in the fall. // © POHA
“If you will build it, they will come.” That sentiment, from the movie “Field of Dreams,” was somewhat reflected in the decision reached by the Port of Houston Authority (POHA) nearly seven years ago when it set out to build a new cruise terminal, despite the fact that, at the time, no cruise lines signed up to use it.
This year, they are, indeed, beginning to come. The Bayport Cruise Terminal, owned and operated by the POHA, soon will be the home port for Princess Cruises’ 2,080-passenger Caribbean Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,374-passenger Norwegian Jewel. Both cruise lines are going to promote the sailings from Bayport heavily, thanks to a $6.7 million grant from POHA earmarked specifically for marketing.
Princess will operate 26 departures during the 2013-2014 season, starting Nov. 5 with a special four-day itinerary to raise funds for two U.S. Veterans’ organizations, before launching its regular seven-day itinerary calling in Cozumel, Roatan, and Belize City before returning to Bayport.
Norwegian has signed on to sail from Bayport for 75 departures over a period of three years, starting with the first sailing on Oct. 11, 2014, with an option for an additional two years. The Jewel will sail seven-day Western Caribbean itineraries, calling in Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; and Roatan and Bay Islands, Honduras.
Bayport’s $108 million terminal is 96,000 square feet and well designed to make the embarkation pleasant and to process returning passengers and their luggage efficiently and speedily. Inside Bayport is a 13,500-square foot passenger lounge area, while 55 check-in counters can be staffed to process boarding guests. Information, and even paging messages, is transmitted over a network of 40, 42-inch plasma video screens. VIP customers will have access to a separate lounge for priority check-ins; the space is also available for wedding parties and similar pre-embarkation social events.
Anticipating a large number of regional drive-up passengers, the design includes parking space for some 800 vehicles. Covered walkways connect the building with passenger drop-off points, and nearby taxi stands and bays for tour buses will transport passengers to and from both Hobby International Airport 25 miles away and the George Bush International Airport 45 miles away.
For passengers opting for a pre- and post-cruise vacation, the surrounding Bay Area Houston offers around 35 hotels, motels and B and Bs, some providing free shuttles to the cruise terminal. About eight miles from Bayport is the 60-acre Kemah Boardwalk, a complex that features nine themed restaurants, amusement rides and games, retail shops and the 52-room Boardwalk Inn.
Both passengers and officials of the POHA are excited that their long wait for their ships to come in, literally, is over. Ricky Kunz, who heads up trade development, commented, “We’re already getting calls from passengers about where they should park.”