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Pending any delays due to the coronavirus situation, Allure of the Seas will sail from Galveston beginning 10 Nov 2021 and Royal Caribbean will invest $100 million in a new Terminal 3, with construction originally scheduled to begin in April 2020. The new terminal will have facial recognition technology for Customs and Border Protection operations and will be LEED Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Galveston is the fourth busiest cruise port in the USA and the 11th busiest in the world. Royal Caribbean is not alone in expanding operations in Galveston because Carnival will expand its Galveston fleet to four full-time ships in 2021. Cruise ships calling Galveston their home port include: Liberty of the Seas - 154,407 GT - 3,648 Passengers - 7 night sailings (Royal Amplification 10 Jan to 21 Mar 2021. Repositions to Miami 31 Oct 2021) Enchantment of the Seas - 82,910 GT - 2,284 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Repositions to San Juan Nov 2020) Jewel of the Seas - 90,090 GT - 2,191 Passengers - 7-11 night sailings (Arrives from Rome 11 Dec 2020, apparently repositioning to Europe 22 Mar 2021) Adventure of the Seas - 137,276 GT - 3,114 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Arrives 16 Nov 2020. Repositions to Copenhagen 21 Apr 2021. Returns to Galveston Amplified 13 Nov 2021.) Explorer of the Seas - 137,308 GT - 3,286 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Arrives Amplified 5 May 2021. Repositions to Miami 25 Oct 2021.) Allure of the Seas - 225,300 GT - 5,484 Passengers- 7 night sailings (Arrives Amplified 10 Nov 2021) Carnival Vista - 133,500 GT - 3,934 Passengers Carnival Dream - 130,000 GT - 3,646 Passengers Carnival Freedom - 110,000 GT - 2,980 Passengers Carnival Radiance (Formerly Carnival Victory) - 101,500 GT - 2,984 Passengers (Arrives 14 May 2021) 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 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. Uber - Uber and other ride sharing companies now operate in 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 Sunday from 8 am until 1 pm, so you can drop off on the weekends as well as week days. 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 Matt points out elsewhere on the message boards that if you just Google "Galveston cruise parking" you will see several parking options. I highly recommend researching on Google and then making a reservation on line with one of the parking companies, especially if you want an indoor or covered space as these sell out (especially now, with so many ships sailing from Galveston). Prepaying usually gets you about a 10% discount and a guaranteed parking space. Port Parking has several locations with indoor, outdoor, and indoor park & walk in historic industrial buildings. Located a few blocks from the terminal, they have shuttle busses to get you to the port, and they also have an indoor park & walk option. They also have electric vehicle chargers, including Tesla destination chargers. This has become my preferred parking choice due to the great service and plenty of electric vehicle chargers. I am personal friends with one of the partners in this venture and they are good folks who own other local businesses. The closest indoor option is also walkable to the ship: Galveston Park N Cruise. I have used them several times and they are very nice and helpful people. You can drop your bags and family at the pier and then go park your car and walk back to the ship. You can prepay for "official" Port of Galveston parking and receive a discount. The Port of Galveston offers covered, uncovered, and garage parking. I have parked at (or driven past) all of the private lots and the "official" lot and they are all fenced and gated. Some may be a little nicer than others but I would have no hesitation using any of them. Prices vary based on distance from the ship and whether the spaces are open, covered, or indoor. They are all only a short shuttle ride to the ship and some are walkable. Many of the private lots that provide shuttles now offer a discounted rate if you "park and walk" instead of riding the shuttle. We have done this a couple of times and enjoy walking a few blocks to the ship after dropping off our bags at the pier (if it's not too hot, humid, or raining of course). 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. 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 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. Some provide transportation to the port or offer park & cruise options. 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. 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." NEW! 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! I tried it for lunch in January and had 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 3 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. NEW! Texas Tail Distillery - 4116 Seawall - On-site distillery for whiskey, moonshine, 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! No food on site, but they will order tacos from the highly-rated Mr. Taco next door. The building has no curb appeal but the inside is nicely finished out. 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. NEW! 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 elevated 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. Taquilo's - 2101 Post Office - cool corner Tex-Mex restaurant on artsy Post Office Street. Can be crowded but they don't take reservations, so arrive early on weekends, or try them for lunch. Gumbo Bar - 2105 Post Office - New Orleans flair, Gumbo, cioppino, seafood, po' boys, huge beer selection. After dinner, have dessert across the street at Hey Mikey's Ice Cream or Mod Coffeehouse (see below). Try their outside seating for nice street views - a great place to people watch! 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, 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 The terminal is open at 9:30 am for check-in. We have dropped off our bags with the porters as early as 8:40 am. First you go through security (there are two lines: one for suites and upper level Crown & Anchor members, and one line for everybody else. After going through security there is a large check-in area with plenty of lines and agents with iPads to quickly check you in. The waiting area includes clearly marked areas by Crown & Anchor status level. Boarding commences around 11:00 am (depending on when the ship is ready to accept guests) starting with Pinnacle Crown and Anchor members, then working their way down to Diamond Plus, Diamond, etc. Disembarkation Experience Self-assist disembarkation has become so popular that the lines to get off the ship for self-assist are very long! You may want to relax and have breakfast in the Main Dining Room and disembark the ship in a more leisurely fashion. 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. Try the Cruise Cam, Pier 23 Cam, Strand Cam, Marina Cam, Emerald Cam for some cool live video.
We have the Deluxe Beverage Package for the Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston. We'd like to know where we can get alcoholic beverages on-board on Day 1? I've read that Texas laws prohibit the sale of certain beverages until day 2. What drinks are also available on Day 1 of the cruise? Is there a limited beverage menu? When we called RC, the person we talked to was very vague in her response.
Just in case anyone may not have seen, we've got a meetup happening in Austin, TX on August 5th! If you'd like to join us please feel free! All I ask is you fill out the RSVP form here: https://iamjohnbamber.com/rc-blog-tx-meetup/ I also have all of the logistics there showing the where and when.