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NickyNewark, great suggestions! Yes, holidays and special events drive up hotel prices on the Island. There are some nice museums, restaurants, shops, bars, juice bars, historic homes, within an easy walk of the cruise port which does make Galveston a great place to arrive a day or two early if you can. For cheap hotels, that's a good suggeston for staying in Texas City. And hey, why not get on the ship as early as possible and start enjoying your cruise!!!

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UPDATED 23September 2020 Construction of Royal Caribbean's Cruise Terminal 3 is now planned to begin on April 1, 2021, and the Port of Galveston is continuing their ongoing design and constructio

This deserves to be a regular blog post on the homepage.

Some have asked where the new Terminal 3 will be located at the Port of Galveston.  First is a big picture view, followed by a more detailed view.  

Posted Images

i usually do Hotwire to see if I can find a deal on hotels on the island. Friends of mine have stayed in Clear Lake / Kemah location which is about 30mins from the island and have gotten good deals. I drive downthe day before and stay the night just to be on the safe side since never know what road closure you will run into in Houston. I do the official port parking and have never ran into any issues.

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The Liberty is between 90' to 95' longer than the Navigator.  It will be able to make the 180 degree turn.  The problem is the terminal size.  The current terminal has a hard time handling the passengers that get off/on the Navigator so with the additional passengers on Liberty it will be a challenge.  Hopefully the new terminal will be complete by 11/13/15 when the Liberty comes to town or shortly after that or by the end of the dry dock.. 

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It looks like the Port of Galveston is going to be some six months late in completing the expansion of Cruise Terminal 2. The port has a contractual date of September 30, 2015 to complete the expansion for Royal Caribbean, but won't complete the project until March, 2016. The expansion is needed to accommodate the arrival of the larger Liberty of the Seas, which arrives here November 13. According to the Galveston Daily News, Royal Caribbean is "disappointed" and has demanded that temporary measures be taken to relieve terminal congestion. The port is investigating the purchase or rental of a 10,000 square foot air conditioned tent.

 

The delay was apparently caused by unexpected soil conditions which forced the design/construct contractor to go back to the drawing board with their foundation design.

 

The 90,000 square foot existing terminal would be expanded by an additional 60,000 square feet. The expansion includes seating for 2,000 more passengers, expanded passenger screening, baggage handling, and customs enforcement. The expansion of customs enforcement capacity is a much needed improvement in my eyes.

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It is not Carnival that is being pulled out.  It is Princess (which is under the Carnival Umbrella) and NCL.  They will be there for the Spring and then that is it.  To long a distance to come from Houston Ship Channel to the Gulf.  You probably new not Carnival, but just typed what you were thinking.

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It is not Carnival that is being pulled out.  It is Princess (which is under the Carnival Umbrella) and NCL.  They will be there for the Spring and then that is it.  To long a distance to come from Houston Ship Channel to the Gulf.  You probably new not Carnival, but just typed what you were thinking.

 

Thanks for the clarification… Carnival has 3 ships in Galveston but I didn't remember any in Houston.  The Houston port has a nice facility but there is nothing there to attract people to come a day or two early since it's part of an industrial port area.  Galveston has a lot of tourist activity that makes it a natural place to arrive early and enjoy the island a little.

 

Galveston has been studying how it can add a third cruise terminal.  It sounds like they need to hurry up.

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Terminal Expansion Update... the Port of Galveston has authorized an additional $1.3 million to procure a large tent, portable restrooms, and other improvements to get Terminal 2 ready for the November arrival of Liberty of the Seas. This additional investment is in response to the delay in completion of the terminal building expansion (see the earlier post above). The other improvements include improved security screening and baggage handling areas as well as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection screening facilities. This is good news and should help make the embarkation and disembarkation experience much better leading up to the terminal expansion completion early next year.

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Mooring Improvements Update... the Texas Navy warship Zavala is believed to be the first steam powered warship in the western hemisphere. Built in 1836, she played a role in preventing Mexico's General Santa Anna from receiving supplies after his bloody slaughter of Texans at the Alamo. By preventing supplies from reaching the Mexican army, the Zavala helped Sam Houston defeat Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, avenging the Alamo slaughter and securing Texas' independence from Mexico. The Zavala later ran aground in 1842 in the Port of Galveston near the current Cruise Terminal. Installation of mooring bollards will be delayed until the Port can hire archaeologists to investigate the site and determine if remnants of the ship exist at the site of the new mooring bollards. This is a requirement before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will issue a permit to construct the new facilities. Galveston is rich in history, but this was not expected.

 

The new moorings are required to satisfy RCCL's requirement that the dock accommodate 41 knots of off-the-dock wind for the larger Liberty of the Seas. This situation would typically only occur during a hurricane, but since hurricane season is essentially over before Liberty arrives in November, the Port says this will not be an issue. I'm not sure RCCL would agree. We will see.

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Steve really has put together a super great post here, and it is very helpful to all.

 

I'm going to give the 20 second version.  We drove to Galveston and drove right into the port mayhem.  Arriving around 11:00 a.m., we found the traffic to be in total gridlock.  We couldn't move an inch.  Signs that said "drop off your luggage first and then park" just confused us.  Who would take our luggage?  Would we be leaving it on the curb?  Should one of us stay with it?  How and where would we park afterwards - swimming upstream against this massive crush of cars?  Finally, in desperation, we swerved off down a side street and eventually into one of the private parking lots several block away.  It was almost full.   They took our money and we boarded a bus with our luggage in tow.  They dropped us off at the port.

 

IMO, RCI needs to include explicit parking and luggage drop off instructions along with the (otherwise great) pre-boarding info they send to everyone.  They do a bang-up job with ship and excursion organization - so the lack of port organization is a wonder.

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cruise-y, you have some really good points, and I will update my original post with some suggestions... My recommendation is to pre-reserve your parking at one of the private lots in Galveston (see my original post above). When arriving on the island, if you turn off at the "Cruise Terminal" exit (Harborside Drive) you will hit the back-up that you refer to. Instead, continue straight on Broadway as the interstate ends, and then turn left on whichever street will get you directly to your pre-reserved parking space (26th, 27th, 28th, or 29th Streets). Note: you can not turn left on 25th Street. Then take the parking lot shuttle, with your luggage, to the cruise terminal.

 

If you want to drop your luggage at the terminal first, or if your parking company says to drop your luggage at the terminal first, then continue on Broadway to 22nd street and turn left. Follow 22nd and it will dead end at the entrance to the cruise terminal. This route will normally avoid the lengthy backup on Harborside Drive that you likely experienced.

 

For people flying in a day or two early, staying at the Tremont House Hotel or Harbor House Hotel allows you to walk with your luggage directly to the cruise terminal on departure day... avoiding the traffic altogether.

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Steve,

 

I'm considering reserving parking and Park N Cruise based on reviews; however, I also see a parking structure on Google Maps at the corner of Harborside Dr. and 25th St. that has an elevated pedestrian walkway from the parking structure across to the terminal complex.  Do you happen to know the name of this structure and if it's open yet?  I suppose it could also be an employee lot, but wasn't sure.

 

Thanks!

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Steve,

 

I'm considering reserving parking and Park N Cruise based on reviews; however, I also see a parking structure on Google Maps at the corner of Harborside Dr. and 25th St. that has an elevated pedestrian walkway from the parking structure across to the terminal complex. Do you happen to know the name of this structure and if it's open yet? I suppose it could also be an employee lot, but wasn't sure.

 

Thanks!

Doc, this is a parking garage for day use and does not offer cruise parking (I checked into it on my cruise last year). They have just built a new parking garage adjacent to it but it's not open yet and I don't believe they will offer cruise parking either. The elevated walkway is interesting and was refurbished about a year ago but it doesn't make much sense since it doesn't directly connect to cruise parking. By the way the elevated walkway leads to the terminal used by Carnival. The RCCL terminal is to the west of that.

 

You will be happy with Park N Cruise. I have used them a couple times. Friendly folks, the only indoor option I know of, and the best location to just walk across the street to the ship. Having a prepaid reservation is the way to go.

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Terminal Expansion Update... the Port of Galveston has authorized an additional $1.3 million to procure a large tent, portable restrooms, and other improvements to get Terminal 2 ready for the November arrival of Liberty of the Seas. This additional investment is in response to the delay in completion of the terminal building expansion (see the earlier post above). The other improvements include improved security screening and baggage handling areas as well as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection screening facilities. This is good news and should help make the embarkation and disembarkation experience much better leading up to the terminal expansion completion early next year.

 

The large temporary tent is installed at the Port of Galveston and being readied for passengers at Terminal 2. The tent is connected by a connecting tent to the main terminal and is surrounded by a security fence. No word yet when it will open to passengers but it looks certain to be ready for Liberty's arrival on Nov 13.

 

Tent%20Port%20of%20Galveston.jpeg

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Here are some photos from Liberty of the Seas maiden voyage from Galveston on Nov 13, 2015.

Check-in was very quick with no crowd when we arrived around 10 am.
Checkin.jpeg

Inside the new temporary tent, used as a waiting area for Crown and Anchor members. Boarding began at 11 am on this day.
Tent_Waiting_Area.jpeg

View of the construction of the terminal expansion from the passenger loading bridge.
Construction.jpeg

Terminal expansion construction as viewed from the ship, with the 10,000 square foot temporary tent in the background.
Construction_And_Tent.jpeg

Royal Promenade with a large Texas flag.
Promenade_Flag.jpeg

Edited by Steve
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We took the maiden voyage for Liberty of the Seas from Galveston on Nov 13th, a special 9-night cruise.  It was a great ship and here are a few observations from the largest cruise ship ever to sail from Texas:

 

Embarkation

  • We arrived by car at 9:30 am and dropped our luggage at the pier.  When we returned to check in at 9:45, we walked right in to the terminal, breezed through security, and had a very short wait to check in.
  • We waited in the new temporary tent, a 10,000 square foot air conditioned waiting area with nice restrooms.  This tent is temporary while they finish construction on the new terminal expansion (see photos in the post above).
  • Boarding commenced at 11:00 am starting with Pinnacle Crown and Anchor members, then working their way down to Diamond Plus, Diamond, etc.
  • Walking up the passenger loading bridge to the ship, we had a great view of the terminal construction (see photos in the above post)

Ship Impressions

  • Liberty is a beautiful, very large ship.  She is in excellent condition, even with a full dry dock refurbishment coming in January.  It will be interesting to see her after the refurbishment.
  • As with most ships, we observed a lot of routine maintenance, painting, and cleaning during our voyage.  RCI really takes care of their ship assets.
  • We also observed that a contract crew had begun installing the stack scrubber during our cruise.  The work did not seem to be interfering with any ship activities as it was being done forward of the rock climbing wall and above the Adventure Ocean area.  The new scrubber will remove sulfur dioxide particulate from the exhaust to improve the environment.

Promenade Stateroom

  • We had booked an interior Promenade Stateroom because we got a great price, and we liked that there would be a window overlooking the Promenade to make the cabin feel more open.
  • We had been in much larger Junior Suites on our most recent three cruises.  Although we knew the interior stateroom would be small, my wife was shocked at the lack of space.  Moral of the story: once you taste a larger stateroom, you can't go down in size!  By the end of the cruise we were accustomed to the smaller cabin and I was happy we had saved the money.
  • Our main complaint on the stateroom was the lack of storage space compared to the Junior Suite.  Maybe they will address this during the refurbishment.
  • We heard almost no noise from the Promenade during our cruise.  During the Dreamworks parade we could hear the music a little bit.  We opted to watch the other events from the Promenade itself instead of from the cabin.  This gave my wife a better view of the "macho men" during the Village People songs on 70's night.

Dining

  • When traveling as a couple, without other friends and family, my wife and I have gravitated away from the Main Dining Room.  It gives us more flexibility to "go with the flow" depending on the events of the day.
  • We did My Time Dining but only two evenings.  The service was good and the food was good as well.
  • We ate at Chops for my birthday and really enjoyed it.  We also tried Portofino since we had never done that one before and may never get the opportunity again.  On this cruise we actually liked the food in Portofino a little better.  I think Chops could have done a better job of searing the steak to give it a nice crust, but maybe we have been watching too many cooking shows.  
  • RCI says to allow at least 2 hours for specialty restaurant dining.  Our waiters seemed to be overloaded with too many tables and no assistant waiter.  Our service was slow because of the staffing level in the restaurant and kitchen, not because our waiter lacked any skill or motivation.
  • We also tried Johnny Rockets twice for lunch.  This is a fun alternative for lunch or a snack.  Love their burgers and fries!
  • You really can't go wrong in the Windjammer.  This buffet has so many amazing choices that we ended up here for most dinners on Liberty.  I am amazed at the consistently high quality of food in the Windjammer across all the ships we have been on.
  • We brought two bottles of wine on board.  We brought them to the specialty restaurants where the waiter took care of opening and pouring it for us.  No problem.

Entertainment

  • As usual, the Liberty of the Seas Orchestra was fantastic!  They opened the Welcome Aboard Show with Maynard Ferguson's Gonna Fly Now. This included several trumpet solos by the music director, and that blew me away!  Each of the musicians in the orchestra took several turns at solos throughout the cruise and they were all great.
  • There was also a "Cirque-Style" show with singing, dancing, and flying artists that was amazing.  We really enjoyed this.
  • The musical Saturday Night Fever was good, but not great, in my opinion.  Dining and entertainment are all very subjective and depends on your own likes, dislikes, and opinions.
  • There were also several amazing guitarists on board.  They did some solo shows in various venues that drew a large following of fans.

Shore Excursions

  • Falmouth: We did the Falmouth Food Tour, which we arranged separate from RCI based on a recommendation elsewhere on these message boards.  This was well worth the time and a safe and fun way to see Falmouth on foot without feeling "out of place" in a developing country. Our two knowledgeable guides provided a history lesson along with the local cuisine, and they seemed to know everybody in town.
  • Grand Cayman: we like walking around George Town, so we stopped at a coffee shop to catch up on the internet and pay my American Express bill.  Then we went to a favorite restaurant, Guy Harvey's Restaurant, and ended the afternoon with some shopping.
  • Routan: we were going to stay on the ship here, but we ended up missing this port because of a medical emergency that had us returning to Grand Cayman to save someone's life.  We had a nice day at sea instead.
  • Costa Maya: we did a Mayan Ruins tour through RCI.  There isn't much to do in Costa Maya except shopping in the port area or arrange an excursion or beach visit.  The Ruins tour was pretty good with air conditioned busses and an excellent guide.  It's an hour ride to the closest Ruins, and another tour was two hours.  I'm glad we went to the nearest one because the bus ride was boring with not much to see.
  • Cozumel: I guess this was our food tour cruise, and we did the Cozumel Food Tour which we also arranged separate from RCI based on a friend's recommendation.  They have a couple options for tours or cooking classes.  Highly recommended!  We visited several family-owned restaurants, a bakery, the market, and the chocolate factory.  Food, drinks, and dedicated taxi transportation were included.

Other

  • We took Matt's advice and booked a NextCruise onboard (balcony on Liberty in 2017)!  We had to pay only a $100 deposit, but received $100 onboard credit for our current cruise plus $300 onboard credit for the NextCruise.  I was happy to take the extra $400 just for booking onboard!  Will definitely do that every time from now on!
  • Several big NFL Football games were shown on the big screen by the pool.  Thursday night, all day Sunday, and Monday Night Football were all on the big screen which made a fun way to watch the games.

Disembarkation

  • We did the self-assist disembarkation and rolled our own luggage off.  We met at the appointed location and they started disembarkation at 7:30 am.  It was an easy walk to the terminal where we walked right to an open Customs and Immigration officer.  By 7:40 am we were outside and headed home.
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Have to point out on this foggy day on the Texas coast (it's that time of year). Liberty of the Seas and Carnival Magic arrived on time this morning, did their turnaround, and have now sailed and are in the Gulf of Mexico headed to the Caribbean.

 

Meanwhile, it's after 5 pm local time and Caribbean Princess was due in Port of Houston early this morning. Due to the fog she has been, and remains, anchored offshore waiting for the chance to make the 30 mile run up to Houston.

 

Wondering whether to sail from Houston or Galveston? I've seen this repeated many times and the Galveston ships come and go on time while the Houston ships see delay after delay.

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This is a really useful thread, and original post, thank you! We're from the UK and normally sail out of Fort Lauderdale when doing Caribbean itineraries, so our Jan 3rd cruise on Liberty will be our first from Galveston. We were worried about customs lines when getting off (had this problem before in LA) so definitely planning to self disembark - can anyone advise the latest we should aim to get off, to guarantee not getting stuck too hideously? Thank you.

 

On a separate note, we have two nights beforehand in Galveston and we're thinking of hiring a car from IAH. It's almost cheaper than a shuttle, even if we leave it at the hotel while on the cruise - and gives us more flexibility beforehand and on the last day! Has anyone done this? We're staying at the Galvez, so a bit further from the port as well, so could be useful there too in terms of getting about.

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I'm also on the January 3rd sailing and have rented a car for the same reason. It's roughly the same price as paying for transfers. In addition, it gives you the flexibility that you mentioned.

Definitely seems to be the way to go - though I wouldn't have thought of it I don't think unless I'd seen someone else suggest it on another forum!

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Definitely seems to be the way to go - though I wouldn't have thought of it I don't think unless I'd seen someone else suggest it on another forum!

I agree. It seems odd to pay for a car that's going to be parked for a week. But private transfers would have cost us about $240 round trip and we also needed a car for our two days precruise. Thus, it's a little bit more, but worth it for ft he flexibility.

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