Galveston, Texas is a popular homeport for cruise passengers. Located on a small barrier island along the Gulf of Mexico, the port is an easy drive for those living in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and other nearby states. The island's 32 miles of beaches and other attractions make it perfect for pre-and post-cruise stays as well.
Galveston-based cruises are also a good choice for those seeking flight options from a wide variety of air carriers. Two airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH - about 70 miles and roughly a 1.5 hour drive) and Hobby Airport (HOU - about 40 miles and about an hour's drive) serve the port of Galveston. Low-price carriers such as Southwest fly into Hobby Airport, while George Bush Intercontinental Airport has frequent flights from U.S. and international cities.
Cruise ships provide motorcoach transfer services from the airports to the cruise terminal, either individually or as part of an air and cruise package. Rental cars are available at both airports and Galveston Limousine Service provides daily scheduled transportation from both airports to the cruise port. Taxi service is another good alternative, especially for families and groups.
Galveston has attracted a number of cruise ships, including options from Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean. Disney Cruise Line will be bringing the Disney Magic to Galveston in the fall of 2012 and Princess will be basing a ship there late in the year as well. Galveston cruisers are in luck, as several cruise lines have positioned some of their best ships here.
For example, Galveston is home to one of the newest ships at sea, Carnival Cruise Lines’ 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic. This new Carnival ship is a real crowd pleaser with loads of innovative features that appeal to families, couples and singles alike. The Magic's huge WaterWorks area is one of the largest waterparks afloat with two huge curving waterslides: the 312-foot-long Twister and the huge funnel-type DrainPipe. There are also two small slides for little ones and a 500-gallon soaker bucket that fills and then dumps water on unsuspecting waterpark guests. Families with kids will spend hours here.
For adults, the Magic's RedFrog Pub is another place where it's easy to while away the hours. This Caribbean-style pub (think cool Caribbean/Key West beach bar at sea) features great live entertainment, yummy food, and its own private-label draught beer - ThirstyFrog Red. There's also a wide selection of Caribbean brews, frozen concoctions and rum drinks. The RedFrog also has its own assortment of tasty pub snacks, such as coconut shrimp, firecracker Jamaican chicken wings, grouper fingers and sliders.
For more incredible food, passengers should plan to spend an evening at Cucina del Capitano, Carnival’s first Italian specialty restaurant. The restaurant’s menu items – several made from favorite recipes contributed by the cruise line’s Italian captains – range from exquisite pasta dishes to hearty short ribs of beef. Prime Steakhouse is another exceptional specialty restaurant on the Magic. While high quality cuts of prime beef are certainly the main attraction here, other choices include lobster, lamb, chicken and sea bass.
Sports lovers and adventure-seekers on the Magic will want to head for SportSquare. This top deck area features some of the ship’s most innovative features, including a two-level miniature golf course, and outdoor weightlifting and workout area, and the first suspended ropes course at sea. There’s also a jogging track, a lighted basketball/volleyball court, ping-pong and foosball tables, and much more.
For those who prefer to relax, Serenity offers just the place. Located at the front of the ship, Serenity is a quiet adults-only area complete with double hammocks, comfy cushioned loungers and chairs, and two huge whirlpools. The ship’s Cloud 9 Spa is another great place for pampering.
While adults have plenty of places to call their own, kids and teens get special attention on the Magic. There's 19,000 square feet of space dedicated to kids and teens on the Magic, and kids ages 2-11 will be happy with Camp Carnival's full range of daily activities. Tweens and teens have their own rockin’ areas on this ship as well. Club O2 caters to older teens ages 15-17 and rivals many major city clubs in features and décor. Tweens ages 12-14 congregate at Circle C, another dedicated club-type space devoted to this age group. Kids will also love Cherry on Top, a new retail store featuring huge bins of colorful candies, specialty sweets, cards, gifts and more.
If you're cruising out of Galveston, plan to spend a few days before or after your cruise enjoying the attractions of this charming resort town. While the beaches are certainly one of the main draws, there's so much more to keep vacationers busy. The Schlitterbahn Water Park is a cool indoor/outdoor waterpark with a variety of adrenaline-pumping slides as well as a surf simulator, slides for little tykes, a lazy river, an adults-only pool, and so much more.
History buffs will enjoy touring Bishop's Palace, a mansion built in 1892 for railroad tycoon Walter Gresham. They'll also want to check out the wide variety of historic planes at the island's Lone Star Flight Museum. Then, of course, there's Moody Gardens, fresh from a $25-million dollar enhancement and one of the most popular attractions in Texas. This tropical destination features the Rainforest Pyramid, filled with an array of endangered plants and animals from the world's rainforests. Visitors will have the chance to experience a Penguin Encounter at Moody Gardens' Animal Pyramid, while the Aquarium Pyramid features 1.5 million gallons of water and more than 10,000 marine animals. Golfers may want to tee off at the Moody Gardens Golf Course and 3D/4D theaters are also located here.
However you choose to spend your time in Galveston, make sure to set aside a few hours to explore this charming city. It's filled with beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants, and well-preserved Victorian architecture along with art galleries, antique stores, and other delights. For more information while you're there, visit the Galveston Island Visitors Center at Ashton Villa at 2328 Broadway.
If You Go:
* For Galveston Island tourism information in advance of your cruise, visit http://www.Galveston.com or call 1-888-GAL-ISLE.
* Galveston Limousine Service: http://www.galvestonlimousineservice.com
* Carnival Cruise Lines: http://www.carnival.com
* Schlitterbahn Water Park: http://schlitterbahn.com/gal/
* Bishop’s Palace: http://www.galveston.com/bishopspalace/
* Lone Star Flight Museum: http://www.lsfm.org/
* Moody Gardens: http://www.moodygardens.com