Hoping to benefit from an anticipated $19.8 million windfall from passenger fees and money spent at the town’s shops, restaurants and other attractions, South Padre Island city councilors approved $100,000 to develop a program introducing South Padre Island to cruise lines and to create relationships with cruise line executives and those in charge of choosing port of calls where ships dock.
South Padre Island is home to many water sport activities with personal water craft rental, kite boarding and dolphin watches being the most popular. Other favorites are horseback riding adventures on the beach and ecological tours that explore Padre Island National Seashore.
For a cruise ship, the distance from South Padre Island, Texas to Progreso, Mexico is about 574 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. From Galveston, Texas, which is the next nearest established cruise port, the distance is approximately 632 miles, or a round trip savings of 116 miles.
The question cruise lines will be asking themselves is this – Can San Padre Island increase their passenger base enough over the passenger base they already have in Galveston to make South Padre Island a profitable port of call?
The answer may be cheap cruises targeted to Mexicans. Mexican citizens living in Mexico who have a valid passport can apply for a Border Crossing Card — also classified as a B1/B2 visitor’s visa — that allows them to temporarily enter the United States. If they are crossing to go on a cruise and have round trip tickets, it will not be much of a problem, if they pass all other background checks to enter the United States.
A typical itinerary might include Progreso, Mexico and Cozumel Mexico for a 5-night cruise, making it very cheap for Mexican citizens employed in the U.S., as well as for the more affluent residents of Mexico who work in Mexico such as business owners. As an example, Carnival Cruise Lines is currently offering 5-day cruises from Galveston with calls at Progreso and Cozumel starting at $259.
Longer cruises might include the increasingly popular Quintana Roo port of Costa Maya (Mahahual), Mexico. The Costa Maya cruise is known for the Mayan ruins which document the history of Mexico back to 2000 BC. The extended cruise might also include. Belize City, Belize.
In October 2017 alone, 1,082,604 people crossed the border at Brownsville, Texas either in vehicles or on foot, which currently is the nearest border crossing for South Padre Island. The numbers are similar for every other month, potentially increasing the cruise market demographic by millions of passengers each year, compared to Galveston, Texas.
The combined population of 41 southern Texas counties, south of or near to South Padre Island equals 4.67 million residents, according to the 2013 census estimates. Add those numbers to the 1,082,604 people who cross the border at Brownsville each month, one cruise ship has a potential passenger base of more than six million passengers. Those south Texas counties are heavily populated by the Hispanic community in general and Mexican immigrants.
A cruise to Progreso and Cozumel would be highly targeted to this demographic, if the cruise ship itself is also targeted to the Hispanic community. Cruise ships embarking from Asian ports are designed for the Asian demographic with ports-of-call, amenities and events of interest to the Asian market.
It would also make it more affordable to those living in south Texas, who currently have to travel to Galveston to take a cruise, which is a full day’s drive away. The added cost of vehicle fuel for the 15 hour round trip to Galveston, adds significantly to the cost of the cruise for many of those who live in the counties which are considered “south Texas”.
Some of those 4.67 south Texas residents, along with the million residents living in Mexico near the Matamoros, Mexico border are likely to have friends and/or relatives living in or near the Yucatan cruise ports, giving passengers a perfect opportunity for an memorable family reunion while in port. Cruise ships are generally in port for eight or nine hours at both Progreso and Cozumel.
Houston lost cruise ship calls to the brand new $108 million cruise terminal at Pasadena’s Bayport Cruise Terminal in July 2016. The distance from the Gulf of Mexico to the terminal raised fuel costs significantly, and the the Houston ship channel was prone to heavy fog. Fog repeatedly brought ship traffic to a halt, delaying cruise arrivals and departures.
South Padre Island is hoping to pitch a plan to tender the ships off shore, thereby reducing the impact from foggy docking delays. However, cruise terminals are normally located on the protected side of islands and peninsulas so they are protected from the ravages of rough open seas. It can make for rough or impossible tendering when winds are high and seas are rough.
It is fairly common for the Texas ports of Houston, Galveston, Freeport and Corpus Christi to close due to heavy fog ; this was the case this past December for the 52-
If Carnival Cruise Lines came aboard with the South Padre Island deal, it would give them one more Gulf Of Mexico port to use for emergency docking, such as was the case with the hurricanes last year. Currently, Carnival has cruise ships porting in the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston, Texas; Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana and Tampa, Florida.
South Padre Island News
Right off shore, like much of the gulf coast, loom huge oil rigs which pose a risk to sea life and the beaches. Oil spills have littered the South Padre Island beach over the decades. We stayed at a hotel on the beach at South Padre Island in September 2013, as we traveled to Puerto Aventuras on the Riviera Maya in Mexico, for a thirteen month business trip. The beach was littered with tar balls from oil leaks which had come ashore from off shore oil drilling operations. The hotel had signs everywhere not to use their towels on the beach or to clean oil from your body, otherwise extra charges to clean the linens would apply.
On October 24, 2017, the sheriff’s office responded to Padre Island at 11:33 p.m. after Border Patrol agents found a body about six miles south of the Malaquite Pavilion in Padre Island National Seashore. The body was that of a male crewmember missing from recent oil barge explosion off the coast of Port Aransas, Texas. The crewmember found was one of two crewmembers who went missing after a barge carrying 140,000 barrels of crude oil caught fire offshore between Port Aransas and Rockport.
In February 2014, thousands of Grey sea stars in the Gulf of Mexico were stranded on the beaches of South Padre Island after what investigators are calling a “perfect storm” for starfish. It’s thought that high winds and strong currents coincided exactly to wash up the starfish which had been close to shore feeding. It was the third time in recent memory this type of event had taken place.
- Gulf of Mexico Cruise Ship Tracker
- Transportation.gov Border Crossing Statistics
- Webcams in Texas
- Galveston, Texas Cruise Port Schedule
- Cruise Port Views Progreso, Mexico
- Cruise Port Views Cozumel, Mexico
- Puerto Aventuras Bay
- Webcams in Caribbean
- Wikipedia South Texas
Video: South Padre Island Tx 78597 beach