UPDATED 15 September 2021
Construction of Royal Caribbean's new Cruise Terminal is in progress, with completion planned in time for the arrival of Allure of the Seas on 13 Nov 2022.
Galveston is the fourth busiest cruise port in the USA and the 11th busiest in the world.
Cruise ships calling Galveston their home port include: (this is a fluid situation and dates may not be accurate)
Independence of the Seas - 154,407 GT, 3,858 Passengers - 7 night sailings, followed by 4-5 night sailings (Beginning 15 Aug 2021. Repositions to Port Canaveral 29 Oct 2021.)
Allure of the Seas - 225,282 GT - 5,484 Passengers - 7 night sailings (Arrives 13 Nov 2022 from Ft. Lauderdale)
Liberty of the Seas - 154,407 GT - 3,648 Passengers - 7 night sailings (Resumes 3 Oct 2021. Repositions to Fort Lauderdale on 30 Oct 2022)
Adventure of the Seas - 137,276 GT - 3,114 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Arrives 29 Oct 2021. Repositions to Cape Liberty 29 Apr 2022. Returns to Galveston 27 Oct 2022.)
Grandeur of the Seas - 73,817 GT - 1,992 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Arrives 4 May 2022 and repositions to Miami 2 Nov 2022)
Carnival Vista - 133,500 GT - 3,934 Passengers
Carnival Dream - 130,000 GT - 3,646 Passengers
Carnival Breeze - 130,000 GT - 3,690 Passengers
Disney Wonder - Nov/Dec/Jan holiday sailings each year
Cruise Terminal 1, which serves mainly Carnival, is the largest single-berth cruise facility in the world at over 257,000 square feet. Cruise Terminal 2 which currently serves Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Disney, was expanded in 2017 to accommodate larger (Freedom Class) cruise ships.
Planning & Tourist Info
You can't beat this website for information on everything that is happening in Galveston: www.galveston.com
Fly into HOU (Houston Hobby Airport) if you can. It's much closer to Galveston than IAH (Bush Intercontinental Airport) and you won't have the Houston traffic to deal with. Tip: HOU is a large hub for Southwest Airlines. They often don't show up on the travel booking sites so you need to book at www.southwest.com. You can't beat their "bags fly free" policy and "no change fees".
Here are some options for getting to Galveston from the airport:
Galveston Limo - provides very affordable shared rides from the two Houston airports with either their scheduled service (8 trips per day) or you can arrange a private car. Currently the pricing for the scheduled service from Hobby Airport to Galveston is $25/person one way if you book online. Owned by a local family of good folks.
Galveston Express - Their pricing starts at $30/person each way.
Lyft and Uber - Lyft and Uber now operate in Galveston. Lyft has a contract with the Port of Galveston to bring passengers to and from the cruise terminals. Uber has chosen not to sign a contract with the Port, but can still operate in other areas of Galveston.
Enterprise Rent A Car - Enterprise is the only rental car company on the island. You should be able to rent from Enterprise at the airport and drop it off on the Island. The Island location is open on Saturday, and before cruises shut down it was also open on Sunday, so you can drop off on the weekends as well as weekdays. Check with Enterprise directly for updated hours and shuttle arrangements.
Arriving By Car
I-45 is undergoing several phases of construction that will continue through 2022 and beyond. TxDOT is widening I-45 all the way to Galveston Island.
I-45 south ends on Galveston Island. When arriving on the island, if you turn off at the "Cruise Terminal" exit (Harborside Drive) you will hit a traffic back-up as you approach the cruise terminals. To avoid this traffic jam, as you drive down I-45 and arrive on the Island, continue straight on Broadway as the interstate ends and follow these directions:
Continue straight on Broadway as the interstate ends. Continue to 23rd street and turn left. Follow 23rd and it will dead end at the entrance to the cruise terminals. This route will avoid the lengthy backup on Harborside Drive. As you enter the Cruise Terminal area, turn left to bypass the Carnival Cruise drop-off area, then you will see your Royal Caribbean ship at Terminal 2. Drop your luggage with the porters, and then proceed to your parking location. It is highly recommended that you drop your luggage at the terminal before parking. This prevents you from lugging all of those suitcases on and off of a shuttle bus.
If you search "Galveston cruise parking" you will see plenty of parking options. I highly recommend making a reservation on line with one of the parking companies, especially if you want an indoor or garage space as these will sell out (especially now, with so many ships sailing from Galveston). Prepaying usually gets you a 5-10% discount and a guaranteed parking space. Things to consider in addition to price:
Elevation - heavy rains can quickly flood the streets of Galveston, and not just during a hurricane. Leaving your car in an elevated spot will provide peace of mind against flooding if an unexpected storm comes in.
Walk or Shuttle? - most parking lots have shuttle service, but some offer "park & walk" for a discount (shuttle companies have to pay a fee to the Port of Galveston for each trip). Walking to and from the terminal avoids waiting on crowded shuttles and can be an enjoyable stroll if the weather is nice. But heat, humidity, and rain can make the savings of a few dollars seem insignificant. I like to drop off the family and luggage at the terminal, then go park the car and walk back to the terminal, but occasionally I have to wait for the rain to pass or put up with a hot/humid walk.
Garage, Inside, or Outdoor Lot? - outdoor surface lots are cheaper, but your car is exposed to the south Texas sun and weather. A building provides better protection and security. The parking garage provides protection, security, and gets you elevated and safe from almost any flooding.
Discounts & Loyalty - there are extra savings if you sign up for these programs online and reserve after your account is tagged with the applicable discount. You can combine loyalty and one discount but you can't have multiple discounts.
Security - all parking is at least fenced and gated. The buildings are enclosed and locked. Some facilities have security cameras. The Port of Galveston claims that the Port Police patrol their lots 24/7 which you won't find at the private parking lots.
Electric Vehicle Charging - more and more lots are offering EV chargers. If you drive an EV like I do, you will appreciate having your car fully charged when you disembark. This perk is currently free at all parking facilities where it is offered. Remember that even a 110 volt plug will fully charge your car over the course of several days.
Here is my comparison of some of the parking options. I have parked at all of these except Falstaff.
There are a couple of hotels near the port and the historic Strand District in Galveston. It's a great idea to arrive a day or two early and enjoy the island ambiance.
The Harbor House is very convenient to the ship and to many nice restaurants, museums, and shopping. Caution: Our room had a smell of mildew when we stayed here in May 2021, so if that bothers you I'd suggest choosing another hotel.
The Tremont House is also very walkable to the Strand, the Port and nice restaurants, museums, and shopping. This is my preferred pre-cruise hotel. They offer cruise parking (for a fee) which includes shuttle service to the ships at their sister property, the Hotel Galvez, when you stay at least one night at either hotel (call to confirm details). The Tremont House is located in a beautiful historic building. The Tremont's rooftop bar has wonderful views of the island and port area. The lobby bar has live jazz on most Friday and Saturday nights.
There are plenty of other hotels on the Island, many along the Seawall facing the Gulf of Mexico. Hotels providing transportation to the port or offer park & cruise options can be found here. Call the hotel that you are interested in to confirm that they provide cruise parking.
Galveston has a wide range of hotel prices depending on day of week (weekends obviously much higher), whether there are major events happening, and the season (summer is the busy season here). Booking hotels during Mardi Gras (February), Lone Star Biker Rally (early November), Art Walk (every 6 weeks) and other major events will be much more expensive. Some hotels have a 2 night minimum on weekends.
Galveston Dining (And A Few Drinking Establishments)
Please avoid the tourist traps and chain restaurants that will leave you disappointed. Eat at these locally owned restaurants that use locally sourced, fresh food, including fresh Gulf seafood right from the docks in Galveston. All restaurants are casual dress unless noted, and all are family friendly (even most of the bars). Many serve craft beer on tap from Galveston Island Brewing. My only connection to these places is that I have personally eaten at them multiple times and I love them all!
Rudy and Paco - 2028 Post Office St (21st and Post Office) - Arguably the best restaurant on the island. Wonderful food with a South and Central American flair. Best service on the island. A little expensive but worth it. We like going for lunch because it's very affordable (lunch served weekdays only). No shorts allowed at dinner. Reservations suggested and are a must on weekends or when The 1890 Grand Theater has an event.
Riondo's Ristorante - 2328 Strand (24th and Strand) - Our favorite Italian restaurant on the island, and they also serve great seafood and steak. Beautiful historic building built in 1895 in the Strand Historic District. "Farm to Fork" sourcing and they make their own pasta. Tell them you "want a table in the vault."
Katie's Seafood House - 2000 Wharf Road (On the water, adjacent to the Port of Galveston) - This new restaurant opened in mid-2019 and is the only restaurant in Galveston that catches their own seafood! Great food, good service, and a wonderful view of the Port of Galveston from their covered outdoor deck.
Cafe at the Tremont House - 2300 Ships Mechanic Row (Mechanic Street) - Beautiful historic hotel built in 1879 near the Strand Historic District. Enter the main entrance, up a few stairs, and the cafe is just off the lobby to the right. Nice salads, flatbread pizzas, Panini served in a casual atmosphere. Most weekend evenings there is live jazz in the lobby, which is why we go here (in addition to the good food and casual, historic atmosphere). There is a beautiful bar at the opposite end of the lobby with several Galveston Brewing options on tap. Before or after dinner, take the elevator to the top floor, turn left, and walk to the end of the hall to the rooftop bar to cap off the experience.
Eatcetera - 408 25th Street - Lunch only (until 4 pm, closed Sunday). Gourmet sandwiches, salads, soups, Panini. Vegan and gluten free options available.
Brews Brothers Brew Pub - 2404 Strand - Huge craft beer selection, creative American bar food. Very casual. You wouldn't expect it for a bar, but the food here is excellent. Burgers (try the "Mission From God"), fresh made chips (try them with Buffalo Sauce & Bleu Cheese), local fish tacos, salads, etc.
Texas Tail Distillery - New larger location at 2416 Post Office - On-site distillery for whiskey and vodka. Try the honey whiskey and other infusions. Friendly staff, fun place to try crafted drinks with local liquor, or try them all with a flight of shots! New: food is now served on site!
Blvd. Seafood - 28th and Seawall - One of the best seafood restaurants on the island. There isn't a lot of curb appeal outside but the inside is very nice. The food and service are both quite good and the seafood is all local. The red snapper is amazing and always comes fresh from Katie's Seafood Market.
Grotto Italian - 5222 Seawall (In the San Luis Resort) - Classic Italian restaurant featuring delicious veal, chicken, seafood, pizza, and house made pastas. This one breaks my rule of avoiding the Landrys restaurant chain, but we tried it again in February 2020 and are convinced it's a great option.
Blake's Bistro - 5222 Seawall (In the San Luis Resort) - Great burgers, gumbo, seafood. Overlooks the resort pool and the Gulf of Mexico. This one breaks my rule of avoiding the Landrys restaurant chain, but we gave it several tries in February 2020 and added it to the list.
The Cove Poolside Bar - 5222 Seawall (In the San Luis Resort) - Beautiful outdoor poolside bar with a swim-up bar too, all overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The pool is heated so expect swimmers even in cool weather. Great place to people watch and enjoy a drink with one of the most picturesque views of the Gulf of Mexico on the island.
Gypsy Joynt - 2711 Market Street - Funky family-run spot with great comfort food. Excellent pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads, etc. Breads/buns baked fresh multiple times per day. Casual, funky atmosphere. A little off the beaten path but definitely one of my favorite casual places for lunch or dinner.
Maceo's Spice & Import Company - 2706 Market Street - Excellent muffaletta's, sandwiches. Simple menu to eat in or carry out in this little spice shop across the street from Gypsy Joynt.
Hey Mikey's Ice Cream - 2120 Post Office Street - Ice cream is made in the store. Unique treats like Ice Cream Nachos (share with a friend) and traditional favorites. You gotta' go here! Note: this place is owned by a nice island family. It is sometimes closed over the winter holidays.
Mod Coffeehouse - 2126 Post Office Street - comfortable with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Live music many weekend evenings. Coffee, tea, espresso, latte, home baked goods.
Jimmy's On The Pier - 9001 Seawall - On the 2nd story above the fishing pier (enter the souvenir shop, exit to the left, and up the stairs). Very casual with great views of the seawall and Gulf. Owner has their own farm and livestock for a true "farm to table" concept; other items locally sourced. Fish tacos, burgers, seafood, local beer, full bar, etc.
Mama Teresa's Flying Pizza and Italian - 416 21st Street - This is the place for pizza. They also have nice Italian dishes. Convenient to the Post Office Street Arts District for a nice after-dinner stroll.
Protocols will be changing regularly until we get through the Covid craziness, but here is what we experienced in late August, 2021.
Check-in times are being enforced. We had the 1st check-in time at 1:00 pm and were allowed some flexibility. They allowed Pinnacles and Suites into the terminal around 12:15 pm. The 1:00 pm people (first check-in time) were admitted around 12:30 pm. People with later check-in times were lined up outside in organized lines marked with the later check-in times.
Once inside, there are several lines. Lines to the left are for vaccinated passengers. If you have unvaccinated passengers in your group (i.e. kids) they direct you to a special line all the way to the right. The purpose of the first checkpoint is to make sure you have 1) proof of vaccination 2) proof of negative Covid test 3) passport or other citizenship documents 4) boarding pass
The next checkpoint is the scan for weapons/liquor. Your carry-on luggage goes through the scanner and you walk through the metal detector. If they discover liquor or prohibited items, there is a table right behind security where those items are dealt with.
If you have an unvaccinated child that needs their pre-boarding Covid test, that happens next.
Following this, you walk into the next room where you do the actual cruise check-in. There are quite a few check-in stations and this process takes quite a bit longer that pre-pandemic. This is where they take a photo of your vaccination card, verify your negative Covid test, check your passport or other citizenship documents, issue your wrist band showing you are vaccinated, and take your photo if you failed to upload it before the cruise. We observed that if you had completed all the online checkin steps, had your documents in hand and ready, and generally had your act together then things went much quicker.
After checking in, you take the escalator or elevator upstairs to the waiting area. With the check-in times being spaced out and enforced, there isn't much waiting. You will likely move directly toward the ship.
The final checkpoint is completed in the upstairs waiting area where they scan your SetSail Pass and check your proof of vaccination for the third time. After this you walk to the gangway and directly to the ship!
After having your SeaPass Card scanned, you disembark the ship, walk down the enclosed gangway, and walk down several long ramps to get to the ground floor.
Just inside the luggage hall is the new facial recognition area that replaces your discussion with a Customs and Border Protection officer. You are directed to remove your facemask, look toward the facial scanner, and immediately (if all is well) you are cleared to proceed. It was interesting to see about a dozen CBP and police officers behind this area just observing the process. This is an incredible improvement to the old system of waiting for a face-to-face discussion with a CBP officer and it was a big time saver.
The next step is to claim your luggage and proceed to the terminal exit.
Just before exiting the terminal you will be asked by a State Agent whether you are bringing back alcohol or cigarettes (see the next section for details).
Bringing Back Liquor & Cigarettes
If you sail from the Port of Galveston, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has agents sitting at a table after you clear Immigration. They will ask you if you are bringing back any alcohol or cigarettes. If so, you will need to pay the state tax for importing them into the state, whether they are purchased in the ship's duty free store or in a foreign port of call. Although Texas state tax is due, these items are still exempt of any Federal duty.
The law limits personal importation by an adult to once every 30 days with limits of 1 gallon of distilled spirits, 3 gallons of wine, and 288 ounces of malt beverages (24 12-ounce containers).
Tax due for a 750ml bottle of wine is $3.25, for a 750ml bottle of distilled spirits is $3.50. These rates include a $3.00 "administrative fee".
Cigarette tax is $1.50/pack or $15.00/carton. Other tax rates are available online.
You can pay with a credit card and they will give you a receipt and a sticker to place on the bottle. Failure to pay the tax and obtain the appropriate stamp will subject violators to a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000 and/or a jail term of up to one year.
Galveston has some great webcams. If you want to see what the cruise port looks like, or if your friends and family want to watch you sail away on Royal Caribbean via several live full-motion HD video cameras, go here (they have a pretty big following when ships are arriving and departing the port).
There are several Carnival ships here as well, and they often block the view of the Royal Caribbean ships when they are alongside the dock. Cruise ships can be seen on the Cruise Cam, Strand Cam, Marina Cam, and Emerald Cam.
Don't be sorry. In case you haven't noticed, this message board is for people suffering from "notcurrentlyonacruiseitis". Any and all chances to talk, think & dream about another cruise for ourselves or others helps us cope with our very serious disease.
Here's a graphic I slapped together since I like to see fleet info with the tonnage listed. The pictures and below came straight from the RCI website. I only added the header and the tonnage info. I've attached a pdf version and also included a ppt version if you want to tweak the image to your liking. Enjoy!
RCI SHIP INFO.pdf
RCI SHIP INFO.pptx
@SDanielT Thanks for this! I'm really horrible at technology, but I was able to take your file and adapt it slightly with a Star on ships with water slides. We have started cruising with our kids and they now think they are getting ripped off if there isn't water slides on board. So now when I'm searching for the right family cruise I look to see which ships have water slides. I can't be the only one, so Here is my contribution.
@Matt I love all this content, it is such a great resource. I totally understand if you think this is unnecessary, but can I make a suggestion. Sometimes it can be hard to find the Gems that this community puts together. For example this ship flyer or the Cruise director list or any of the sheets and lists that people put together(i read a post earlier where someone had a packing list that everyone would love to have). They are such great work, but they can disappear in the thousands of posts. So my idea is this. Make a locked topic where these can be easy to find, and maybe make a sub to this topic where people can submit their work. That way it's clean and easy to find. I hope this comment is received as I intended, as I am not great with words and sometimes am misunderstood in writing. Thanks again for this great community you have created.
With the position I work at, the last two weeks have been extremely slow ((to the point that my new Samsung Smart Watch claims I was asleep for 3 hours on Wednesday!!)).
@Matt, coming here and reading and listening to this blog has been my saving grace...as it is every time I am stir crazy at work.
What is it about reading the Live Blogs, that is sooo stimulating, that you feel like you are on the cruise with them. Is it just me??
As I mentioned in a post by @twangster a few days ago, 2018 has been a great cruising year for us. After sailing mainly OA class for the last few years, we had a chance to revisit Voyager class and try out Quantum and Freedom Class. I am, without a doubt, still an OA class girl. There is simply no comparison. Nothing comes close. My heart belongs to that class of ship.
Indy is a great ship. Would I sail her again? Yes! Will I? Maybe not. But that is because Hubby doesn’t like to sail the same ship in a short period of time. He already thought with this cruise that it was too similar to Mariner. So, we may not end up keeping our booking for next New Years. Time will tell.
Other than the MDR, I have no real complaints. The crew for the most part was friendly. The stateroom attendants seemed a bit overworked but they still took the time to acknowledge you while passing. The lines at the pool bars were long most days. The WJ crew was one of the friendliest I have encountered in a while on any cruise. Special shout out to the WJ “washy washy guys”. They turned that wash your hands song into a show every day. I will post a video when I get home. D12 has one on her device.
The revitalization, IMO, was most definitely a step in the right direction. My kids loved the pools, sides, etc. and feedback from the Playmakers scope was that it is in a great location and is huge as a venue. The ship is showing her age in small areas like the chipped tiles and worn out chairs. I really wished they updated their furniture (couches and chairs) and curtains in the cabins. That really dates the ship. Like Mariner, only the newly added staterooms received new items. But she was clean and functional for the most part.
While I do not regret the stateroom that we booked, I did not care for it either. The additional space was nice but I completely hated the bathroom. For me that is a deal breaker. And I really missed not having a balcony. So for @WAAAYTOOO, @bellemiche, @Boston Babe, and anyone else wondering, I have not left the suite snob club. Hubby is out of luck. His plan did not work.
Once again, thank you all so much for following along. Blogging is so much more fun when you all are with me. And for people wondering if that consumes too much of my vacation time, it does not. I just don’t read anymore on a cruise. I blog instead. I have plenty of time to read back at home. I consider this relaxing and enjoyable.
That’s all for now. I will report back on the disembarkation process tomorrow. We have never had issues at Terminal 18 so hopefully that is the case again tomorrow.
The countdown is finally on for our next adventure, and possibly the best cruise of my entire life...
67 days to go!! It’s Genie time! Excited is an understatement.
Sadly I know someone going on her first cruise and has already received advice from someone on how to remove the tips and she will. The person who told her has claimed to be on 20+ cruises and never tips. They just give a few people a couple of bucks at the end.
I have a larger family also and all the tips sting but if I cannot afford them, I can't afford the cruise.
Those "some" are plain wrong. Like it or not, gratuities are part of the cost of the cruise. You can argue the merits of this system, but until it changes you are obliged to pay gratuity for every guest, including kids. Period.
When I read the release from NCL themselves it was confusing to be honest - as every line cancels your res if you don't pay. All they're doing is improving their reminders/notifications that final payment is approaching. My travel agent knows when to start harassing me, and smartly, he usually lies about the date to give me a buffer ?