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I cruised Royal Caribbean from Galveston for the first time. Here's what a cruise from Texas is like.

09 Oct 2023
Angie Vognild

Many people looking to cruise automatically think of embarking and disembarking from Florida, whether it’s Miami, Orlando, or Tampa, to name a few. But did you know you can cruise out of Galveston, Texas?

Galveston, Texas terminal

Located southeast of Houston, Galveston offers Royal Caribbean cruises year-round. Royal Caribbean recently built a new port here in November of 2022, which cost $125 million. This new port allows larger Oasis Class ships to sail out of Galveston. Galveston is a popular cruise port for those living in Texas, as well as nearby states like Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Read more: What you should know about cruising from Galveston instead of Florida

For the rest of 2023, Voyager of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas will sail out of Galveston. There will be a few ships cruising out of Galveston in 2024, including Jewel of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas.

Voyager of the Seas in Costa Maya

I had never cruised out of Galveston, but when I found a cheap, five-night Western Caribbean sailing on Voyager of the Seas, I decided to give it a try. My dad joined me on this cruise - he was also curious to see what it was like to sail from Galveston since he had never been either.

If you are cruising out of Galveston for the first time, my experience may be helpful for you as you plan your upcoming cruise!

First, we had to plan how we would get to Galveston

I quickly found out after embarking on Voyager of the Seas that many cruisers were from Texas. This makes sense, as Galveston is in close driving distance. Since my dad and I live in South Dakota, we had to fly to the closest airport to Galveston, which is Houston. (Though I did meet a family onboard that drove from Iowa!) 

There are two airports in Houston: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). When looking at airfare on Delta for both airports, they were similar in price.

HOU is located in south Houston whereas IAH is in the north. Because Galveston is south of Houston, it made more sense to fly into HOU, and that is what my dad and I ended up doing.

If you have the choice between these two airports, try to fly into William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) because it will be quicker and cheaper to get to the Galveston port. This is unless you are able to find a flight from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) that is significantly cheaper.

The day before our cruise, we flew to Houston and got a hotel near the airport

My original plan was to fly to Houston and get a Lyft or Uber to Galveston so we could be near the port for embarkation day. When I was looking at hotel prices, it was a lot more expensive to stay in Galveston, so we decided to stay in Houston where the prices were much cheaper. It seemed as though most hotels were at least $50 or more a night in Galveston versus Houston.

We ended up booking a hotel near the Houston airport so we didn’t have to drive far. It was easy to get a shuttle to the hotel via the free airport shuttle they offered.

I planned on ordering a Lyft or Uber the next day to take us from Houston to Galveston, but my dad wanted to look into booking an independent company shuttle

When we arrived at our hotel, we told them we were there for a cruise. They gave us a card that said, “Cruise ship shuttle: $20 per person each way (no port fees).” This intrigued my dad, so he decided to give them a call to get it scheduled. 

Lo and behold, the price was not $20 per person. It was actually going to be $60 per person! I was confident that a rideshare would not be more than $120 one way, so this shuttle option was a no-go for us. 

However, an independent shuttle is an option for those traveling with a larger group because the fare is usually cheaper with more people traveling. It just wasn’t ideal for the two of us.

Royal Caribbean does offer a shuttle from the HOU airport to Galveston, but this didn't make sense for us since we were not going to the port directly after arriving at the airport. We also didn’t want to wait around for others; we wanted to leave on our own schedule.

We decided to stick with my original plan of ordering a Lyft or Uber the next day.

On embarkation day, it was easy to get a rideshare to Galveston

As I suspected, it wasn’t a problem at all to get a rideshare from our Houston hotel to Galveston. At 10 a.m., I requested a Lyft and we were picked up within 15 minutes. The total cost of this Lyft was $61.25 including a tip.

Since it was Saturday morning, I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take to get to the port. The ride was 50 minutes in total. Traffic was not bad at this time of the day, but it did get busier as we got closer to Galveston. 

Not long after getting in the Lyft, both my dad and I got a notification on our phones that we could start the mandatory safety briefing. This was the perfect way to kill some time on the way to the port. I highly recommend you watch the safety briefing video as soon as it is available to you so you don’t have to do it once onboard.

After crossing the bridge into Galveston, traffic started to pick up. This was around 11 a.m. There was stop-and-go traffic for about a half mile before we arrived at Terminal 10, Royal Caribbean’s new terminal.

Galveston, Texas terminal

Something to note about Galveston - it appeared that there weren't many hotels close to the port. I mainly saw beach homes. I would assume it would be easier to find an Airbnb or Vrbo than a hotel if you were looking to stay in the area.

If you are driving to the Galveston port, there are parking options close by. At Terminal 10, there are three lots where you can park. You can expect to pay around $20 to $25 per day. According to the Port of Galveston website, “Rates are based on availability.” We also drove by and saw a sign for $70 for private parking near the ship, but it didn’t specify the number of days for that amount, so who knows if that was a better price.

When we arrived at the Royal Caribbean terminal, it was unclear where to go next

Our Lyft dropped us off right at the front entrance of the terminal. Our luggage was swiftly picked up by one of the many porters anxiously ready to help us. All of the porters were easily identified because they were wearing tropical shirts. 

After the porters took our big luggage, we were unsure of where to check-in. There was a sign for The Key and Suites/Pinnacle guests, but not one for everybody else. We asked one of the employees about where to go and they pointed us in the right direction. 

I was not expecting such a long line to get inside the terminal, but this was due to a United States Coast Guard inspection.

We were shocked to see the long line winding around outside. One of the employees was explaining to everyone that there was a Coast Guard inspection going on and that was the reason why the line was so long.

I had received at least three emails from Royal Caribbean about this Coast Guard inspection before embarkation day. One of the emails said, “To ensure we have a smooth boarding process, we kindly ask that you please arrive during your selected arrival window.” We definitely could have come even earlier if we wanted to because of the long line. 

For the next 30 minutes or so, we stood in the heat with hundreds of other cruisers. The line moved slowly but we were thankful that there were fans outside that sprayed us with water. 

As we got close to the inside of the terminal, the line started to move much faster. Once inside, there were escalators and elevators to take us up to the security area.

When we entered the terminal, the intercom announcement was going, but it was confusing because it was listing Crown and Anchor categories that could go off into specific directions. We couldn't understand what it was saying, so we stayed in line with everybody else. The line was moving very fast at this point and we didn’t hear the announcement again to try to understand what they were saying.

Once inside the terminal, the check-in process was a breeze

After we went up the escalator, we checked in and then went through security. This was very quick and efficient.

The first thing we did after stepping foot on Voyager of the Seas was find our muster station. We had to go to the Star Lounge, located at the front of the ship. A scan of our boarding pass and a little presentation later, we were ready to start our vacation!

Looking back, if the Coast Guard had not been doing their inspection that day, the embarkation process would have been around 15 minutes instead of 45 minutes like it was for us. Our check-in time was at noon. We arrived at the terminal around 11:30 a.m. and we didn't get on board the ship until about 12:15 p.m. I was very impressed with the embarkation process even with the delay.

When disembarking, know that you can request a Lyft or an Uber at the Galveston terminal

I once again was prepared to request a rideshare when our cruise was done to take my dad and I to the Houston airport.

On the last day of the cruise, you will receive a “Tips for an Easy Departure” document along with other information to prepare you for getting off the ship. On this document, it stated that, “Taxis are usually readily available outside the terminal. Lyft is the only rideshare available in Port of Galveston.”

The next day, I kept this in mind when we disembarked Voyager of the Seas. I requested a Lyft since this was supposedly my only rideshare option. After waiting for about 15 minutes, no one picked up my request for a ride to the airport. I decided to try Uber and see what would happen. 

After requesting an Uber, I was selected pretty quickly and our driver picked us up within a few minutes. I thought it was strange how Royal Caribbean said only Lyft was an option when I was easily able to request an Uber instead.

Galveston, Texas terminal security

If you were wondering, the Uber ride was an hour long to the HOU airport and cost $65.77, including a tip.

In the future, I would definitely consider another cruise that leaves from Galveston

Galveston is the perfect cruise port for those who live in the South. Though I live in the Midwest, I would select Galveston again as a port to cruise in and out of. I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to cruise out of Galveston, but my decision would primarily be based on the cruise itinerary, ship, and price.

Royal Caribbean’s new terminal is beautiful and the check-in process was fast and efficient.

If you happen to have a Coast Guard Inspection before your cruise like we did, be sure to pack a little extra patience!

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