Cruise travelers at the Port of Galveston may be seeing some relief from the crippling traffic congestion along I-45, the Gulf Freeway that links Houston to Galveston Island and the port facilities, including the cruise terminals.
While the road construction continues, the bulk of the lane closures will now be overnight on weekdays, when there will be the least impact on traffic flow. This update comes after Carnival Cruise Line warned guests traveling to Galveston about traffic delays in a letter sent out on May 11.
Traffic Problems Easing
The intense road construction has been due to multiple projects along I-45, with closures leading to Galveston Island most heavily impacting cruise travelers.
Not only have nearby cruisers had much greater than typical driving times to reach their homeport, but travelers flying to Houston have faced driving times of up to several hours to reach the cruise terminal via cabs, shuttles, and ride shares.
Without road construction or other problems, the typical travel time is just 60-90 minutes from Houston’s airports to the cruise terminal.
The construction has involved emergency lane changes as well as drastic lane and bridge closures, including along the Galveston Causeway. This has been necessary to ensure that heavier vehicles and freight traffic could safely transit a critical bridge just north of the causeway.
Now, the Texas Department of Transportation has restored I-45 to three lanes both northbound and southbound, alleviating a great deal of the chaos and smoothing traffic flow to much more reasonable transit times.
“We will continue to work to minimize the impacts on the traveling public and the communities along the I-45 corridor,” the Texas Department of Transportation posted in a statement to its website. “It is our goal to expedite all I-45 projects in Galveston County and have them completed as quickly as possible.”
Good News for Cruise Travelers
This comes as good news for cruise travelers, just as the summer cruising season is heating up and the Port of Galveston is expecting more and more cruise ship visits.
Carnival Cruise Line currently has three ships sailing from Galveston: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream, and Carnival Vista. In recent days, Carnival has contacted guests on upcoming sailings to warn them of the traffic delays and advise travelers to be cautious about the timing of their travel.
Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas are also sailing from the popular Texas port, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Prima will arrive at the port in late October, along with additional ships from Royal Caribbean International and Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder later in the year.
Always Plan for Delays
Despite the traffic relief that the newly reopened lanes will provide, cruise travelers should always plan for delays as they travel to and from a cruise port.
Vehicle breakdowns or accidents, inclement weather, traffic signal outages, local emergencies, or other situations could always impact travel times, even without road construction.
This is especially critical as cruise lines have implemented arrival appointments at their terminals – including Galveston – that require guests to arrive within a designated window to board their ship
This measure was first introduced in limited, temporary ways years ago when individual ports had capacity problems due to crowded terminals or local traffic.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic and as the cruising industry has restarted, arrival appointments have become standard for all major cruise lines. This helps ease crowds and promotes greater distancing at cruise terminals, as well as smooths the embarkation process.
If guests are late for their arrival appointment, they must wait for the next available opportunity to check-in, which could mean lengthy delays for them to board.
Similarly, guests who arrive early are not typically permitted to board, and must instead leave and return to the terminal during their designated time slot.
Now, with the traffic easing around the Port of Galveston, cruisers in the Lone Star State should have less difficulty keeping their embarkation appointments and starting their cruises smoothly.