Get ready for a major new option when it comes to cruises from Galveston, Texas.
Fast-growing MSC Cruises announced Thursday that its long-awaited expansion into the middle part of America would kick off in late 2025 with its first sailings from the port town — a move that would put it head-to-head with such established players in the Texas cruise market as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line.
The world’s third-largest cruise brand said it would move a single ship, the 4,560-passenger MSC Seascape, from Miami to Galveston in November 2025 to operate seven-night voyages to the Western Caribbean.
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It’ll be the first time the 22-ship brand has sailed from any U.S. cruise port west of the Mississippi River.
The new sailings will open for bookings Thursday.
The announcement marks a significant milestone for MSC Cruises, a Europe-based brand that, until now, has only offered sailings in North America from the East Coast — specifically, from the ports of Miami; Port Canaveral, Florida; and New York City.
“Expanding to Galveston with the magnificent MSC Seascape is a pivotal moment for us at MSC Cruises and for our guests,” Rubén Rodríguez, MSC Cruises USA president, said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
The expansion “makes our unique cruise experience more accessible to travelers in the central and western parts of the country and it illustrates our commitment to providing families in the region with unparalleled vacation options,” Rodríguez said.
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MSC Cruises USA is the U.S. division of MSC Cruises, which is based in Switzerland.
Calls in Mexico and Honduras
The new MSC Cruises itineraries out of Galveston will bring calls at Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, and Roatan, Honduras.
MSC Cruises is adding the sailings out of Galveston amid a boom in cruising from the port. A record 1.3 million people took cruises from Galveston in 2023, up 25% from the year before, according to the port. Even higher numbers are expected for 2024.
The boom is taking place as cruise lines add new and bigger ships to Galveston, which is the fourth-busiest cruise port in the U.S. after PortMiami, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.
Thursday’s deployment announcement from MSC Cruises comes just over a year after Princess Cruises added its first sailings out of Galveston in years, and Carnival revealed plans for a major expansion of Galveston cruises to kick off later this year.
Carnival’s expansion will bring “Texas-size” long voyages of nine to 12 nights out of the port on the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle as the line broadens its Texas deployment from three to four ships. Carnival also just deployed its newest and biggest ship, the 5,252-passenger Carnival Jubilee, to Galveston in late December.
Other lines that have been expanding operations in Galveston include Royal Caribbean, which recently began weekly Caribbean departures from Galveston with its biggest Oasis Class ships.
This is up from zero cruise ships based in Galveston as recently as 1999.
Carnival was the first cruise line to operate regular voyages from Galveston in 2000.
MSC Cruises expanding fast
The Galveston deployment announcement from MSC Cruises comes amid a flurry of expansion at MSC Cruises, which has been growing faster than any other major line in recent years. The line has added nine new vessels since 2017.
While it’s well known to Europeans, MSC Cruises has far less name recognition among Americans than such big, U.S.-based lines as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line. But the line has been moving aggressively to change that.
As part of its expansion, MSC Cruises has been rapidly building its footprint in North America in an effort to woo more Americans. As recently as 2017, MSC Cruises only had a single vessel based in North America. It now has five vessels based in North America.
All of the North America-based ships are marketed heavily to Americans.
Founded in 1989 in Naples, Italy, and now based in Switzerland, MSC Cruises in recent years has been building big, resortlike vessels that compete with the biggest ships from the likes of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. It currently operates eight of the 22 biggest cruise ships in the world.
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