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  1. UPDATED 17 June 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) Allure of the Seas - 225,282 GT - 5,484 Passengers - 7 night sailings (Arrives 13 Nov 2022 from Barcelona) Liberty of the Seas - 154,407 GT - 3,648 Passengers - 7 night sailings (Repositions to Fort Lauderdale on 30 Oct 2022) Explorer of the Seas - 137,308 GT - 3,286 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Arrives 5 May 2021. Repositions to San Juan 25 Oct 2021.) Adventure of the Seas - 137,276 GT - 3,114 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Arrives 20 Oct 2021. Repositions to Cape Liberty 29 Apr 2022. Returns to Galveston 10 Nov 2022 through 1 May 2023.) Grandeur of the Seas - 73,817 GT - 1,992 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Arrives 4 May 2022 and repositions from Galveston 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 Transportation 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, stay to the 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. Parking 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? - all 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 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. Hotels 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. You may be able to get a nice rate on priceline.com using the Name Your Own Price tool (select "Galveston East - Harbor" and choose 4-Stars... there's only one hotel in that category and you can name your own price until you get an acceptable offer). 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. Embarkation Experience This section will be updated when we sail on Independence in late August 2021. Everything will be up in the air with new protocols for a while. Disembarkation Experience This section will be updated when we sail on Independence in late August 2021. Everything will be up in the air with new protocols for a while. 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 Webcams 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.
  2. Hi! Using the "Apple-pay" hack, we just found out our GTY room is in the aft of deck 2 of the Independence of the Seas. My wife is a little anxious about this. Can anyone give us some pros/cons of being on deck 2 or just let us know what to expect that might be different there as compared to the room tours available on YouTube? Thanks in advance.
  3. Here's the link to a Facebook group for those on the May 11 2020 cruise on Independence of the Seas https://www.facebook.com/groups/340651366880781/
  4. Hey guys! It’s been a bit but I YOLO booked it tonight! I’m curious for suggestions. Independence of the seas May 11-16, 2020. Girls Cruise! Visiting labadee and then coco cay. This is a cruise for just my friend Julie and I. We’ve been living on opposite sides of the country for ~8 years and not been able to meet up. We for the last 6 months or so have tossed around ideas but we’re both busy moms and a few weeks ago I said let’s hop a cruise we don’t need to plan anything other then airfare after it’s booked the rest will work out. Needless to say we cleared some dates and talked to my TA and here we are! Deposit is paid this is her first cruise my 3rd. But first on Independence. I’m also super excited about going to Labadee and Coco Cay back to back but we have no other ports. Does anyone have suggestions for what to do (except thrill water park I’m saving that to do with my family). Share to me all your tips and tricks and things I shouldn’t let her forget
  5. I booked my first cruise with my 4 closest guy friends. I'm in the Army and stationed overseas. I am on Holiday Block Leave and this cruise is the highlight of my vacation. I'm super excited about my first cruise experience and I wanted to see/connect with others who are on this sailing. Feel free to message and reply if you are!
  6. Hi, First cruise in 4 weeks time with young kids (5 and 8). Does anyone know if it is possible on the newly refurbished Independence to connect my kids games console to the in-room TV (Promenade View Interior)? Nintendo switch, HDMI required? As much as I’m sure the cruise will have much entertainment, I don’t want my kids waking me up at o-crack sparrow in the morning and they’re sure to get bored of the cartoon channel during the 2 weeks. We’re also going to be cabin bound in the evening as we can’t exactly leave them to sleep while we hit the bars, so watching a downloaded movie from my iPad on the TV would be good. Obviously no point in me downloading oodles of content if my wife and I are going to be limited to watching on an iPad screen. I have seen comments about some ships HDMI ports not being accessible and/or the remote not allowing TV input changes so bring a universal remote. Has anyone tried this on Independence since the refurb please or have any other experience to relay? Thanks very much.
  7. Just checked the Royal carribean website and 2019 UK dates have been published! Explorer of the seas will be joining independence of the seas departing from 2019 :)
  8. Day -3 A wise @Traveler once asked: "To blog or not to blog this is the question." I choose to blog. With my adult kids out of state having their own plans I was left with the decision of how to spend the holidays this year. It didn't take long for a cruise to come to mind. As I looked over potential candidates it didn't look like I could find anything to fit my budget given that this would be the 3rd cruise this month. However when I was on Freedom last month I saw a "Going, going, gone" promotion on Independence. The dangers of combining a drink package and the NextCruise desk weren't obvious to me at the time and with my inhibitions in an altered state I booked it. I know Indy will soon enter dry dock and she will receive was looks to be some very exciting upgrades but the price was right for this pre-dry dock holiday sailing so why not? So instead of Christmas Home Alone, I'll spend it with 4,000 of my new best friends. Nine nights leaving from terminal 29 in Port Everglades. Sea day, Labadee, San Juan, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts and two sea days back to Fort Lauderdale. I'm looking forward to returning to St. Maarten. It's a been a while and with the impacts of recent hurricanes I want to contribute to the economy and help the island get back on its feet. Doing the same in San Juan for the 2nd time this month will help San Juan as well. Using my $50 NextCruise OBC I've pre-booked some 'tour' excursions in San Juan, St. Maarten and Antigua. Given 4 ports in a row I plan to use St. Kitts as a day to stay on the ship and relax. After all I was just there last week and went scuba diving so a day to do nothing but hang out in an empty solarium sounds about right. I'm not often a bus tour kind of guy but they are good way to explore an island and learn of potential things to do on another visit. I'd been having some issues getting the C&A points from a recent cruise to post even more than two weeks after disembarking. Without those points I would remain Emerald green and once you've tasted Diamond it isn't easy being green. Despite numerous contacts with the C&A desk I wasn't making any progress but fortunately my agent made some calls and got it straightened out. It seems somehow my booking number changed on my C&A account and it showed as being cancelled but she was able to prove to them I did in fact sail on that cruise. Don't under estimate the value of a good travel agent even after your cruise is over. Thank you Beth! I'm really trying to pack light this trip. I've often managed week long business trips using only a small carry on spinner but I've yet to cruise with the same efficiency. Time to start packing and really cutting down on stuff I don't need. As always I'm flying in the day before and spending a night in a Fort Lauderdale hotel. Let the packing commence!
  9. We're planning on sailing on IOS this summer after the refurb. Does anyone know if Viking Crown Lounge is staying? It isn't showing on the new deck plans but there's nothing marked in its place either. I really hope it will still be there. We loved loved watching sunsets and sailaways from this bar during our previous sailing on Navigator. That would definitely be my go-to place/moment. Forgive me if this has already been answered somewhere - I have trawled and searched but couldn't find anything.
  10. Day -3 To blog or not to blog this is the question. On one hand it was a nice experience last time , on the other hand this following cruise was just got excellent live review from Matt , also blogging in parallel to such nice blog from Anthem with pictures I can only dream to take with my poor phone … But hey there is not such a thing as too much live blogs right ?! So once again (and not so far from last time) we are planning to be on cruise. This time a quick 5 days on Indi. So let’s start from the whys: After the last cruise we got a voucher from the Casino for a free cruise, the voucher allow you a free (well they call it free, you still need to pay gratitude and taxes) to choose from a list that contains mainly Caribbean cruises. If you choose not to use one of the cruises from the list you can use the voucher value for any other cruise you choose (only new cruises allowed and it should be no later than one year from the voucher date) Why Indi – well I was looking for a bigger ship after our last cruise in the Voyager and a shorter one. The main idea is for us to squeeze a cruise and some other activities in one week which will allow us to be back home/work at the next Sunday. So the 5 days cruise was just perfect for that and I loved to find out short cruise on bigger ship (usually the shorter cruise are on the small ships for some reason). Why now? , We both need to consume some vacation days as the end of the year around the corner and we both over the allowed accumulated quota. The most important reason - its going to be my spouse birthday and I cannot think about a better place to celebrate such occasion … Besides that, does anyone really need an excuse why to cruising RC ? J As Usual (if I can call a second live blog usual) I am starting the blog few days earlier as the vacation starts now and I started my long journey to the US (currently waiting for my connection in a country which I will not disclose its name but its famous for its Swiss cheese , Swiss chocolates and Swiss clocks). The plan was very simple, flying to Miami, take a car and drive to Orlando (I refuse to go to Florida and skip Orlando parks, sorry, if I am already there I will take advantage on it), 3.5 hours’ drive after a transatlantic flight is not something I am not familiar with and we planned to split the drive between us , its sounds like a good plan. Plans are one thing and reality is another, my spouse was called few days ago, urgently to some business meetings in the US. It was perfect on one hand as it save us one of the reward airline ticket (all I needed now is one domestic ticket from the city the meeting are taking place to Orlando) on the other hand it means I will do the Miami – Orlando drive alone, well not totally alone, although Matt still do not know it yet but he is going to make sure I will stay awake during driving by listen to a binge RC blog podcasting I calculate after 8 podcast I should arrive safely, you can say many thing about Matt (just good thing don’t worry) but no one can say his podcast can be used as lullaby, especially with his enthusiasm, Before you all ask why I did not fly directly to Orlando ? well as I am using rewards miles I cannot be too picky , in other words , it’s much easier to find international flight to Miami than to Orlando. So now the plan is even easier , land in Miami , run to immigration and custom , pray that the lines are short and I am not stuck behind people from a flight of certain countries in Europe which the immigration officer love to question them for long period of time. I will pick the car set the BT and start my way to meet my spouse so tomorrow we can visit Universal. Currently still waiting here , after leaving a teenager to watch the apartment (he rather be left alone almost for the first time than joining us). I just hope it will be ok as all we ask him is (he is a teenager you know you cannot ask them much) : We want still have the apartment when we are back. No complaints from neighbors. Alcohol bottles remain the same as they were , and no , to refill the Gray guess with water or the whiskies with teas does not count . The cat should still be alive. Not too complicated as I said, good we have insurance (and his grandmother to spy on him from a distance). Here is the cat reaction after understanding we are again going to cruise without him . Tomorrow visiting Harry Potter (I hope).
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