One of the world’s biggest cruise ships is heading to Texas

Dec 23, 2019

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It’s official: Texas soon will be home to one of the world’s biggest cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean has recently said its massive, 5,484-passenger Allure of the Seas will begin sailing out of Galveston, Texas, in November 2021 following the completion of a new cruise terminal for the line at the city’s port.

The announcement comes after the finalization of a deal between Royal Caribbean’s parent company and the Port of Galveston to build the $100 million terminal, which has been in the works for more than a year. The two parties signed final contracts on the project on Dec.12.

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At 225,282 tons, Allure of the Seas is the fourth-largest cruise ship in the world. Unveiled in 2010, it’s one of Royal Caribbean’s four giant Oasis Class vessels, which are more than 20% bigger than any other cruise vessels afloat. The series includes the recently unveiled Symphony of the Seas, the current size leader in the cruise world.

The arrival of Allure of the Seas in Texas will be a major milestone in the history of cruising out of the state. The 18-deck-high, 1,187-foot-long ship is more than 40% bigger than the biggest cruise vessel now sailing out of Galveston (Royal Caribbean’s 3,798-passenger Liberty of the Seas).

Until now, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships mostly have sailed out of the major Florida cruise hubs such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades, as well as select ports in Europe. Royal Caribbean also soon will be deploying an Oasis Class ship to the New York area.

“We are excited to partner with the Port of Galveston to develop a world-class facility which will allow us to sail our newest, largest and most innovative ships from Texas,” Royal Caribbean’s president and CEO, Michael Bayley, said in a statement after the signing of the terminal deal.

Bayley said the new terminal would allow Royal Caribbean to increase its passenger count on ships sailing out of the port by 50%. In addition to Liberty of the Seas, the line’s smaller, 2,252-passenger Enchantment of the Seas also currently sails out of Galveston.

Related: How to plan a cruise with points and miles

Cruising out of Galveston has been booming, with passenger numbers up more than 13% in 2018, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). This year, the port will handle more than 1 million cruise passengers for the first time. That’ll make it the fourth-busiest cruise port in the U.S., after Florida’s Port of Miami, Port Canaveral and Port Everglades.

Royal Caribbean’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., will build the new terminal but won’t own it. Royal Caribbean will lease the site from the port for an initial term of 20 years that can be extended. The company said the new terminal will be a two-story, 170,000-square-foot structure with state-of-the-art technology such as mobile check-in and facial recognition to expedite passenger arrivals. Construction will begin in April.

Designed for vacationers who love big, bustling megaresorts, the Oasis Class ships are chock full of more deck-top attractions and interior lounges, bars, restaurants and showrooms than any other cruise vessel.

Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International
Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Like its sisters, Allure of the Seas boasts three main pool areas; a separate, adults-only outdoor lounge area; an outdoor “aquatheater” with diving shows; an ice skating rink; two rock climbing walls; a basketball court; a massive spa; and a mall-like indoor promenade with shops, bars and places to eat. There’s also an open-air, tree-lined area called Central Park with more restaurants, bars and upscale shops; and one of the biggest showrooms at sea.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

In advance of its sailings out of Galveston, Allure of the Seas will undergo a $165 million overhaul that will bring even more attractions, including the ship’s first deck-top water slides and one of the tallest dry slides at sea. The latter attraction, called Ultimate Abyss, will drop nine decks (from the Sports Zone on Deck 16 to the Boardwalk area on Deck 6). Royal Caribbean says this is a 10-deck drop, but don’t be fooled: There’s no Deck 13 on Allure of the Seas.

Both the water slides and the Ultimate Abyss attraction already can be found on the three other Oasis Class ships.

Allure of the Seas currently sails to the Caribbean and Bahamas out of Port Everglades. It’s scheduled to move to the Mediterranean for the summer of 2020 before returning to Florida in late 2020 for sailings out of Miami and Port Canaveral. Once in Galveston, it’ll operate seven-night Western Caribbean itineraries with stops in Roatan, Honduras; and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

Feature photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International.

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