Future port of call? Project to attract cruise ship to the Island under way

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Mayor Dennis Stahl ordered full steam ahead to make the Island a cruise ship port of call.

But study and exploration for the project is also ahead.

For decades, the thought of families seeing their loved ones off on a cruise ship voyage from the Island to Mexico’s finest beaches has been a dream for many city leaders.

And now more than ever city leaders believe it’s the right time to turn the Island into a cruise ship destination by starting out as a port of call and then a cruise ship port.

“Annual cruise passenger growth is up 8 percent and there is a lack of new ports,” Stahl said. “Millennials are looking for new adventures.”

A port of call is where a cruise ship docks, passengers disembark and spend a day using local businesses, which has an economic impact on sales taxes.

Making the Island a home port is more difficult and would call for more infrastructure in place to accommodate the cruise ships.

To bring cruise ships to the Island and attract more visitors, the City Council recently agreed to pay $100,000 to the Passenger and Shipping Institute Inc. to sell South Padre Island to the cruise ship industry.

The consultants are expected to create awareness, and a memorable image of the Island as a potential port to cruise ship executives.

The consulting cost will be paid with the city fund balance.

“There are a lot of spinoffs that can happen off this project immediately,” said Ron Pitcock, Island city councilman. “It would be a big benefit to the Island.”

Pitcock said there would be an increase in shops opening and the fishing industry would pick up.

“It will change the face of the Island,” Pitcock said about the impact the cruise ship industry could have on the city.

But first the Island has to get on the cruise liner radar.

“We have 90 percent of the conditions to become a port of call,” said Susan Guthrie, Island city manager. “The infrastructure of the dock and the welcome center is the big hurdle we would have to climb.”

A floating dock and welcome center would cost the Island upwards of $24 million to $30 million.

Preliminary projections show the dock could be close to Isla Blanca Park with minimal dredging.

“If there is interest, the potential revenue would be used to fund it,” Guthrie said. “This would be a project that would be funded through its own revenue.”

Guthrie expects if the project moves forward, the first cruise ship wouldn’t port for another three years.

If the Island received one ship per week it would mean 150,000 passenger visits and a $2.1 million direct benefit to South Padre Island.

“The total economic impact from the total passengers would be an estimated $65 million impact,” Guthrie said. “The goal is to get them (passengers) to come back and spend a lot more time in South Padre Island.”

The cruise ship industry has grown each year.

“More ports of call are needed,” Guthrie said, due to the hurricane season.

Island leaders have explored the idea before in the 1970s and again in 2009.

“Every study says this is a really great thing,” Guthrie said.

Possible points of interest and attractions for cruise ship passengers


Sea Turtle Inc.

Birding Center

Horseback riding

Beach adventures

Gulf and Bay fishing

Day Trip opportunities include

King Ranch

Nuevo Progreso

Gladys Porter Zoo

Possible cruise ships leaving Galveston and New Orleans consultants reported may come to the Island

Carnival Breeze

Disney Wonder

Norwegian Dawn

Vision of the Seas