Galveston cruise port is the fourth busiest in the USA after Miami, Port Canaveral and Port Everglades, Florida. It is well positioned for cruises with an estimated 30 million people living within a 300-mile radius.
Galveston cruise port has many benefits for those living in Texas, Louisiana and the central and northern states. It is convenient, easy to reach, and offers a wide range of cruise itineraries with four major cruise lines.
Despite being on an island, the port is within an hour’s drive of Houston (50 miles north), which has two international airports for cruisers to fly into. Regular shuttle transport, limos or private taxis complete the smooth transfer to Galveston Island in about one hour.
For those who prefer to drive, there are many affordable hotels and cruise parking options around Galveston cruise terminals.
Galveston cruise terminals currently serve 2.2 million cruise passengers annually. Ambitious plans are already underway to create a third terminal at the port. This is expected to double the number of cruisers departing from the port from late 2022.
If you’re thinking of cruising out of Galveston, read on to find out more about the port facilities, cruise parking option, airport transfers and terminal info. We also offer an insight into hotels and things to do in Galveston before or after your cruise. But first…
In This Article…
- Where is Galveston Cruise Port?
- History of the Cruise Port
- New Developments
- Galveston Cruise Port Facilities
- Getting to Galveston Cruise Port
- Galveston Cruise Parking Options
- Checking in for Your Cruise
- Disembarkation Process
- Things to Do in Galveston
- Where to Stay on Galveston Island
- Which Cruise Lines Sail from Galveston?
- More About Galveston Cruise Terminals
- Which Galveston Cruise Terminals Serve Each Cruise Line?
- Cruise Itineraries from Galveston Cruise Port
Where is Galveston Cruise Port?
The Port of Galveston, Texas sits on the north side of Galveston Island. It is located at the extreme northeastern tip of this 27-mile-long barrier island. The cruise port is in sheltered waters at the entrance to Galveston Bay and the start of the Houston Ship Channel. It is just a short 30-45 minute sail to reach the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Galveston cruise terminals are within walking distance of the historic downtown attractions and hotels on The Strand. It’s also less than a mile from the pier and sandy beaches lining Galveston Seawall which runs along the Gulf-facing side of the narrow island.
History of the Cruise Port
The Port of Galveston dates back to 1825 when it was actually part of Mexico! It began as a thriving commercial port for imports and exports.
The Port has steadily grown since it was earmarked by settler and Texas founding father, Stephen F. Austin, as the “best natural port that I have ever seen”.
RCI in conjunction with Galveston cruise port is currently developing a larger third terminal. It is expected to be completed in Fall 2022 at a cost of $125 million. It will have state-of-the-art technology, facilitating security checks and making check-in quicker and easier.
The new 161,300 square-foot terminal will cover 10 acres at Pier 10. It will be at the easternmost area of the port on Galveston Island. The new development will also include a new cruise parking lot at the terminal for 1800 vehicles.
Galveston Cruise Port Facilities
Galveston Port covers 840 acres with an enviable infrastructure serving commercial, cargo and cruise terminals. It currently employs 14,103 people.
The cruise terminals (1 and 2) currently cover an area of 220,000 sq. ft. and include onsite cruise parking on open parking lots and in a parking garage.
Getting to Galveston Cruise Port
Getting There by Air:
The closest airports to Galveston cruise port are both in Houston, TX. They are the Bush-Intercontinental (IAH) Airport, 75 miles north of Galveston Island, and William P. Hobby (HOU) Airport, 41 miles northwest of the cruise port.
Getting There by Car:
Galveston Cruise Terminals 1 and 2 are located on Harborside Drive. If you are driving to Galveston cruise port from the north, take I-10 east from Houston to Baytown. Join Hwy 146 South and then take I-45 south to Galveston. Take Exit 1C to reach Harborside Drive (Hwy 275). Continue 4.7 miles to Kempner/22nd St and follow signs into the cruise port.
If you are driving from the east, take SR87 west to Galveston Island. Hop on the free Port Bolivar Ferry (allow for waiting times and possible delays). Exit onto Hwy 87, turn right into Harborside Drive and follow the signs into the cruise port.
If you are heading directly to the drop-off point at the cruise terminals, program your GPS with the address: 22nd Street and Harborside Drive.
If you are heading to the onsite cruise parking lots, program your GPS with the address: 33rd Street and Harborside Drive.
Getting There by Uber/Taxi or Private Car
Another option for getting to Galveston Island is by taxi, Uber or by hiring a private car service. If you are cruising as a family or group, these options can sometimes work out cheaper than paying a price per person for the shuttle.
All these options allow you to sit back and enjoy the ride while the driver navigates right to the drop-off point ship-side. Drivers are also happy to assist with your luggage. It starts your luxury cruise in a relaxed and comfortable way.
Galveston Cruise Parking Options
Galveston cruise port has its own onsite cruise parking. It is the most convenient and secure parking for cruisers, just a short walk or shuttle ride from the cruise check-in. Cruisers are advised to book ahead as parking is limited. Once your prepaid reservation is complete, you will have a reserved parking spot on the official parking lot or in the port garage.
Prices for parking at Galveston cruise port start at around $85 for 7 nights if you book ahead. The price rises to $90 if you turn up without a reservation. Garage parking at the port is around $115 for 7 days. It is in a secure covered parking lot a short walk from the ship.
There are several other cruise parking companies that operate off-site and include free shuttle transport between the port and the parking area. They are more competitively priced. Expect to pay around $50 for 7 days cruise parking with Discount Cruise Parking or $69.55 plus tax with Cruise Park.
The above article also covers a good range of hotels offering Stay, Park and Cruise packages which can be the best priced options. They also allow cruisers the chance to relax before or after their cruise and enjoy sightseeing on Galveston Island.
Checking in for Your Cruise
Checking in for your cruise is much easier than checking in at an airport. While security remains a top priority, you’ll find cruise terminals are well staffed with knowledgeable and helpful personnel who will assist you at every step.
On arrival at your ship, drop your check-in luggage and it will be taken directly to your stateroom and left outside the door. Don’t worry if it hasn’t arrived as you sail away; staff have to transport thousands of suitcases around the ship and it may take time. However, it will certainly be delivered well before you need to dress for dinner.
Keep paperwork, passports, medication and other items of value with you in your hand luggage as you board. If you’re keen to get out on deck, you might want to keep your swimsuit or change of clothing handy so you don’t miss a moment’s fun.
Place your hand luggage on the conveyor belt for scanning and then walk through a security scanner/checkpoint. After that, you may have to wait in the lounge area until boarding begins. There are usually drinks available (complimentary champagne and canapes for elite, VIP and guests with top loyalty points). There will also be toilets nearby.
At the check-in desk, you will need to present your passport and ticket info, along with any visa/ESTA required. You will also be asked to provide a credit card for the settlement of your account during or at the end of your cruise.
Once the staff have processed your information, they will take your photo and issue you with a stateroom pass. This not only acts as your room key, it is also your means of paying for everything while onboard. Gift shopping, drinks (and tips), specialty dining and tours can all be charged to your stateroom. Your daily recommended tips will also be charged to your account.
You will then be invited to board the ship. A photographer will take an informal photo of you and your group, the first of many! You can view them later online or in the photo gallery onboard. There is no obligation to buy but they do make great souvenirs of your cruise.
NB. One feature of the high-tech new Terminal 3 will be facial recognition technology. This will make security checks much quicker and easier than before. There will also be mobile check-in, making the check-in process even faster.
On your return to Galveston cruise port, the disembarkation process is highly organized. The ship needs to be thoroughly cleaned and re-stocked with food, water and fuel ready to depart in just a few hours. Consequently, arrival back at Galveston is usually early in the morning. The night before, you will be given colored luggage tags, a meeting point and a specific time for disembarkation.
If you need to debark ahead of your designated time, you must see the Customer Service desk and arrange a new debarking time/group. If you try to disembark ahead of your group, you will be turned away by security. Even if you do reach the terminal, your luggage will not be offloaded until your group is called.
Once you have identified and collected your luggage, you will need to produce your passport at immigration to re-enter the USA. If you are importing alcohol and tobacco, dues will be collected by the TABC (Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission) as you pass through the terminal.
Taxis and buses (book ahead while onboard) will be lined up to take you to your onward destination.
Things to Do in Galveston
If you’re cruising out of Galveston Cruise Port, you’ll find the island has some amazing attractions and unique things to do. Here are a few attractions to tempt you to stay a few nights and enjoy this top resort.
Window on the Waterfront
The excellent Window on the Waterfront has a collection of attractions close to Galveston cruise port. It has many unusual maritime attractions and museums that may interest cruise visitors including:
The Elissa is a 141-foot long sailing ship built in 1877. It is now permanently docked at Pier 21 as a maritime museum attraction. Tour the decks and imagine life as a sailor 150 years ago.
Built by Henry Fowler-Watt, the Elissa was named after a Phoenician princess. After many years transporting cargo, she was brought to Galveston to be restored. This fully-functional antique vessel makes for a popular and interesting attraction.
Pier 21 Theater
If you want to escape the heat or chilly wind, there are several theaters and art galleries including Pier 21 Theater. It shows three movies about Galveston Island history. These include “The Great Storm” about the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900.
Another movie tells the story of “The Pirate Island of Jean Lafitte” and finally, “Galveston – Gateway on the Gulf”, a movie about the immigrants who arrived in Galveston to start a new life.
Texas Seaport Museum
The Texas Seaport Museum is packed with local history about the hundreds of ships that brought thousands of immigrants to Galveston to make a new life for themselves between 1840 and 1920. Many Americans have family connections with this port so consider browsing the Galveston Immigration Database for any ancestors during your visit. You may be surprised at what you find!
Ocean Star Drilling Rig Museum
Few of us can visit a drilling rig, so the Ocean Star Drilling Rig Museum is a great opportunity to learn about offshore drilling and exploration, seismology and much more.
With so much going on around Galveston cruise port, you might want to seriously consider Galveston for your next cruise.
Where to Stay on Galveston Island
Galveston Island is a popular vacation destination. It has many hotels and resorts to choose from if you want to extend your cruise with a few nights at the beach. Check out our recommendations for Hotels Near Galveston Cruise Port With Shuttle. If you want a hotel close to the beach on Galveston Island, here are more ideas – 15 Galveston Hotels on Seawall Blvd for Cruise Passengers.
Which Cruise Lines Sail from Galveston?
Currently Galveston cruise port is the home port for several ships within Royal Caribbean International (RCL), Disney and Carnival with Norwegian (NCL) operating from the new terminal from late 2022.
The latest ship to be based at Galveston cruise port is RCI Adventure of the Seas. It began its inaugural cruise season on Nov 8, 2021, embarking on a 5-day Western Caribbean cruise itinerary. It made history as the first Voyager-class ship to home port in Texas.
The port anticipates an average of 3,100 passengers per cruise once it reaches full operating capacity from the new third terminal. This will be able to accommodate the larger Oasis-class ships carrying over 5,000 passengers per sailing.
More About Galveston Cruise Terminals
Terminal 1 is located at 2502 Harborside Drive, Galveston and east of Terminal 2. It currently serves Carnival and Disney Cruise Lines with parking right across the street. This original terminal was modernized in 2010.
Terminal 2 is located at 2702 Harborside Drive, Galveston. It is mainly used by Royal Caribbean until Terminal 3 opens in late 2022. It is within walking distance of the terminal and parking. There is also a shuttle service.
Terminal 3 is currently under construction since an agreement was signed between the port and RCL in 2018. It will accommodate many more passengers and the larger Oasis-class cruise ships, bringing more revenue to the port.
Plans for the Galveston cruise terminal are for a new 200,000 sq. ft. complex on 10 acres of land at Pier 10, east of the existing terminals. The project has an estimated cost of $125 million and will provide a state-of-the-art cruise terminal in Galveston. It will be the home port for some of Royal Caribbean’s fleet including Allure of the Seas
This expansion is anticipated to create 800 new jobs and will create $1.4 billion in local business revenue as well as boosting state and local taxes. The $125 million project includes state-of-the-art technology.
It will be developed in line with the global Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) health, efficiency and eco-sustainable standards. It will encourage the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel for all cruise ships and other vessels calling on the port which is less harmful to the environment.
Which Galveston Cruise Terminals Serve Each Cruise Line?
The Port of Galveston currently has two cruise terminals with a third one scheduled to open in Fall 2022. Currently, Carnival cruises and Disney use mainly Terminal 1 (Piers 23-26) and occasionally Terminal 2.
RCL sails out of Terminal 2 (Piers 27-28). From October 2022, Norwegian (NCL) will also use Terminal 2. When Terminal 3 (Pier 14) opens in Fall 2022, it will be used exclusively by RCL cruise ships.
Cruise Itineraries from Galveston Cruise Port
Cruise itineraries change from season to season, but currently, these are the cruise itineraries offered out of Galveston cruise port.
Royal Caribbean Cruises
Royal Caribbean is heavily invested in the Galveston cruise port with the development of the new third terminal to accommodate the larger Oasis-class cruise ships.
Currently, Galveston is the home port to RCL Adventure of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, both offering Western Caribbean cruises.
Galveston cruise port has had a long association with Carnival Cruises. In fact, Carnival was the original cruise line that recognized the potential of Galveston as a home port. It launched year-round cruises out of Galveston back in 2000.
Carnival remains the top cruise operator out of Galveston, Texas. It is currently the only cruise line to have three ships offering cruises from there all year round.
Port Galveston is currently the home base for three Carnival ships: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream and Carnival Vista. Between them, they offer 150 cruises each year carrying 750,000 cruisers on luxury voyages.
In July 2021, after cruises had been halted for 15 months due to the Covid pandemic, the first ship to resume sailing out of Galveston was Carnival Vista, on July 3rd. Carnival President, Christine Duffy, marked the historic occasion with a “Back to Fun” ribbon-cutting ceremony in Galveston. Carnival Breeze set sail from Port Galveston two weeks later, on July 14, 2021.
Disney Wonder is currently based in Galveston cruise port and offers a choice of cruise itineraries for families. In 2018, Disney signed a new option for two additional 5-year periods and was projected to double its sailings out of Galveston by 2028.
Norwegian (NCL) Cruises
The cruise line will shortly have a base in Galveston cruise port. Norwegian Prima will begin with short round-trip cruises out of Galveston during October 2022. Following this, Norwegian Prima will home port out of Galveston for the 2023-2024 winter seasons.
Future Scheduled Cruises
In 2022, the award-winning Oasis Class ship, Allure of the Seas will be based at the new terminal. In 2023, Carnival Jubilee will be sailing out of Galveston cruise port. Now you have all the information about Galveston cruise port to confidently book a cruise from there!
Currently RCL, Carnival and Disney cruise lines sail from the Port of Galveston. From Fall 2022, Norwegian (NCL) will also home port in Galveston and offer regular Caribbean cruise itineraries.
The port of Galveston covers 840 acres. However, much of this is used solely for cargo and commercial shipping. The cruise port has 2 terminals (Piers 23-28) with a third 10-acre cruise terminal due for completion late 2022.
Galveston cruise port is the fourth busiest in the USA, after Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral in Florida.