For the first time, a cruise ship has set sail from its home port at the controversial Bayport Cruise Terminal.
The Caribbean Princess cast off, Tuesday evening, for a four-day cruise to Progresso, Mexico.
Better late than never for an inaugural cruise at the Port of Houston's Bayport Terminal, which was built with bond money and completed in 2009 at a cost of $108 million.
For the better part of four years, the terminal sat unused – until now.
"Unfortunately we had the economic downturn and shift in the cruise market," said Phyllis Saathoff with the Port. "So we didn't have the business as we anticipated."
But Princess Cruises – and later, Norwegian – will be sailing out of Bayport's 1,000-foot dock. The expected economic benefit to our area? $155 million over three years.
"You have the line handlers, you have our wonderful longshoreman association that's providing the handling of the baggage, stevedores that are handling our parking, so there are just a variety of jobs and economic impact that's created from this cruise operation," said Saathoff.
And the impact is felt beyond the terminal itself. A Comfort Suites hotel five minutes away experienced an influx of guests.
"We had some people that came in from Paris, London, who actually went on the cruise today," said James Ward, a hotel employee who handles maintenance and engineering.
Ward also helped out by taking the wheel of the hotel's 15-passenger van, and showing the visitors around.
"We took them to the NASA Space Center and they enjoyed just visiting Houston," said Ward. "We had a wonderful time."