Cruise Bruise Investigates: Corpus Christi Cruise Port Stench Non Starter For Cruises – On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, Corpus Christi Port commissioners voted to have staff bring back proposals in April to update a 2016 study on the cruise ship industry. If you don’t put your hook into the water to catch your limit, there is virtually no chance of big fish jumping into your boat.
Port Commissioner Wes Hoskins made the request Tuesday, expressing his belief that the port had a good opportunity to diversify its customer base by looking at the tourism industry. A cruise ship terminal on Harbor Island in Port Aransas, along the Bayfront or somewhere in between, would help increase the number of tourists coming to the area and thereby promoting growth and new jobs.
Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan said the town used to have the Texas Treasure gambling cruise that used to cruise out of Port Aransas several years ago. While that is no longer in operation, Bujan said he would not be against something that could help the town’s tourism [cough] industry.
Having a cruise ship Port in Corpus Christi is a long shot, at best. Texas has the cruise ship port in Galveston, though there had been one in nearby Houston until April 2016. That is when the brand new Bayport Cruise Terminal shuttered their doors. Why did Bayport get closed? Fog, fog so thick ships couldn’t traverse Galveston Bay or Trinity Bay on the way to Bayport.
As an example, Caribbean Princess, which was scheduled to disembark passengers November 29, 2015 at the Bayport Cruise Terminal, was unable to dock because of visibility issues caused by heavy fog. The ship’s arrival to Houston was postponed until November 30. The fog issue had become a deal breaker for Houston.
Houston and the nearby port of Galveston are prone to fog delays, particularly in the winter months. Fog delays disrupt passenger travel plans, as late docking caused passenger headaches with missed flights home, resulting in cruise line passenger compensation. Such compensation was almost always in the form a credit on the next cruise.
For the cruise lines affected, the small compensation, which was normally $50-$100, was the least of the problem. With paying passengers aboard, the ship was delayed for next cruise, often embarking the next cruise waiting passengers late, adding to thousands more passengers becoming angry and sometimes missing Caribbean port calls, as the cruise itinerary was shortened.
While they had hostage passengers aboard during fog delays, some who would no doubt spend their time in one of the cruise ship’s bars, missing a Caribbean port sometimes meant missed commissions for tours sold through the cruise line. For passengers who had booked those tours for a special occassion cruise such as a honeymoon, terminal illness bucket list, retirement, or graduation cruises, the disappointment would leave a sour taste in Texas passenger’s mouth when it came to cruising out of Houston.
The Texas motto, “don’t mess with Texas”, isn’t just something they say, Texans live the motto. “Don’t mess with Texas” is a slogan for a campaign aimed at reducing littering on Texas roadways by the Texas Department of Transportation. The phrase “Don’t Mess with Texas” is prominently shown on road signs on major highways, television, radio and in print advertisements.
On January 10, 2018 we posted an article, South Padre Island Texas Fishing With Cruise Line Lure, as we saw another Texas city have the same dream as Corpus Christi. We wrote, “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, [Brownsville] 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”.
In September 2018, the South Padre Economic Development Corporation approved a $100,000 feasibility study for attracting cruise ships to the island. January 2019, South Padre realized the Isla Blanca location they had chosen as a cruise port actually was under the jurisdicition of Cameron County. They chose the location because, minimal dredging would be required to accommodate the large ships. A feasibility study and other reports would be done on the port of call issue is suppose to be completed by the end of 2019.
Corpus Christi Hazards For Ships Passengers Crew
If there was only one reason (there are many) to not choose Corpus Christi, it would be the lost savings on the cost of cruise ship fuel from Corpus Christi to the Caribbean round trip, specifically Mexico cruise port calls like Nuevo Progreso. The distance from South Padre Island, Texas to Nuevo Progreso, Mexico is 579 miles, from Corpus Christi to Nuevo Progreso, Mexico is 662 miles and from Galveston, Texas to Nuevo Progreso, Mexico is 639 miles. This makes South Padre Island the winner on fuel costs alone and Corpus Christi the big loser.
However, the issue is really about the target market base demographics. Brownsville – South Padre, (Cameron County) population is 423,725 (2017), Corpus Christi (Aransas County) is 25,572 (2017) and Galveston (Galveston County) population is 335,036 (2017). Looking at all the possible Texas cruise port options, cruise lines look at how many people live within an easy drive of the port, making Corpus Christi a non-starter financially, in my opinion.
Then, there is the smell, my God the smell! Have you been there? In August 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “Near Corpus Christi’s north end is an industrial area referred to as “Refinery Row”—approximately 10 miles of petrochemical facilities that are bordered by residential neighborhoods. Residents are concerned about breathing chemicals released from companies in Refinery Row and about the recurring odors in the area.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health agency, has been involved in public health activities in Refinery Row for many years. One of the findings in ATSDR’s 2016 report points to hydrogen sulfide as a chemical contributing to odors in the Refinery Row area. Our Refinery Row air data review showed that chemical releases to outdoor air, especially hydrogen sulfide, were regularly high enough that neighborhood residents could smell the odors. Odors affect area residents. Odors can produce health symptoms that reduce the quality of life and sense of well-being. Health symptoms include:
• Watery, itchy, or burning eyes
• Mood and behavior changes
• Burning nose or throat
• Depression and sadness
• Coughing and wheezing
• Fear, annoyance, or stress”
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is a colorless, flammable, and extremely hazardous gas with a strong “rotten egg” odor. Hydrogen sulfide is particularly dangerous to equipment when moisture [as in ports] is present. H2S damage can lead to rapid and extensive damage to metals, including uniform corrosion, pitting, and stepwise cracking. Imagine prolonged cruise ship port calls over the course of a year, or more. This is likely the core reason in 2017 Corpus Christi Aransas County only had 25,572 residents.
Galveston Wins Hands Down
Meanwhile, Galveston cemented their exclusive Texas cruise ship port revenue, after Royal Caribbean announced investing close to $100 million to build a new cruise terminal at the Port of Galveston. “When we’re investing this heavily in the construction of a terminal and entering into long-term lease agreements, then that usually signifies that we will be bringing our ships such as the Oasis class,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International.
Cruise passengers embarking through Galveston’s cruise terminal will experience shorter wait times when new facial recognition software is installed. The 200,000-square-foot terminal is slated to open in the fall of 2021 and will be the third cruise terminal for Galveston.
As well, January 17, 2018, the Port of Galveston and Disney Cruise Line signed a deal to include more sailings. The agreement is for an additional 10 years, starting November 1, 2018, and includes an option to renew for two additional five-year periods.
So, where do these major Port of Galveston cruise industry deals leave Corpus Christi? The cruise industry appears to have decided that the fog issue in Galveston is going to be a monetary issue they can work around. But, is the fog in Corpus Christi a deal-breaker, before the deal has even begun?
Corpus Christi has a fog problem, which is not uncommon for the region. However, Corpus Christi gets more fog days per year than Houston, which spent $106 million for the brand new, 96,000-square foot Bayport Cruise Terminal, operated by Port of Houston Authority, owned by the City of Houston.
But, Harris County taxpayers are footing the bill for that financial disaster. Since January 2009, they paid $440,000 for insurance and $283,000 for security AND because of Houston humidity, the air conditioning has to be left turned on, becoming the community’s financial plague on tax payers. There, is something for Corpus Christi and South Padre to consider. Houston learned the hard lessson, “if you build it, they will come”, is not always the case.
No offense to Corpus Christi City Counsel appointed Port Commissioner Wes Hoskins, Corpus Christi should save their time, energy and money courting the cruise lines, because they will NOT come. Should they come in error, passengers will quit booking very quickly and the cruise lines will pull out, leaving, Corpus Christi holding the same empty bag Houston has been carrying for years.
- South Padre Island Texas Fishing With Cruise Line Lure
- CDC Corpus Christi Refinery Row Odors (pdf file)
- Gulf of Mexico Cruise Ship Tracker
- Webcams in Caribbean
- Webcams in Texas
- Cruise Port Views Progreso, Mexico
- Cruise Port Views Galveston, Texas
Other Cruise Port Articles:
- New Puerto Peñasco Mexico Cruise Port Opens Dec 2019
- Carnival Corp Ends Cruise Ship Calls Antigua and Barbuda
- Green Bay Wisconsin Becomes Cruise Port
- State Dept Issues Level 3 Reconsider Travel Warning Including Cruise Port
- Royal Caribbean Cancels 2017 Turkey Calls
Video:Dense Fog Advisory – KRIS-TV, Corpus Christi