Over 1.7 million cruise passengers leave the Port of Galveston, Texas each year. In order to navigate the terminals safely and efficiently, consider the following tips:
Some cruisers say that the Port of Galveston is one of the most difficult (read frustrating) points of embarkation for cruising. This is particularly true if you are arriving to the area by air. There are basically two airports to choose from – George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and Houston Hobby (HOU).
IAH is north of the city and about 70 miles from Port. This translates into a long and costly ride from the airport, past the metropolis, and to the cruise terminal. Throngs of traffic swirling around Houston at most any hour of the day can make this a difficult ride when you’re under time constraints. This airport, however, offers the greatest number of choices for airlines and flights.
HOU, on the southeastern side of Houston, is closer to Port. However, it can still take up to an hour to arrive at the cruise terminals. This airport is primarily a destination for Southwest Airlines (which does not fly to IAH) with a few other airlines in residence.
The third option, if you own your own plane, is to land at Scholes International Airport (KGLS) in Galveston. It is a general aviation reliever airport for business and personal aviation (no commercial airlines).
Regardless of your plans, leave a substantial padding of time between arrival and cruise ship boarding for the least amount of stress. The ship will leave without you! So this is the moment to exercise your inner scheduler and pay close attention to the clock.
If you’ve flown into the area, you will likely arrive at Port of Galveston via taxi or shuttle from the airport. (Each cruise line runs a shuttle between the points, but you may have to wait since the ride is a long one.) They will deposit you and your luggage at the correct Texas cruise ship terminal, and you can check-in and board from there.
If you’ve driven to Galveston or rented a car, you’ll need to stop at the terminals first. There are porters to assist with luggage and passenger drop-off, and the officials will give your directions on where to park. You can pre-purchase parking passes for the length of your cruise for around $10/day. All parking lots are secured on a 24-hour basis.
There are free shuttles (both luggage and non-luggage) that will return the driver to the terminal.
The demand for taxis upon your debarkation at the end of the cruise will be high. Keep this in mind if you are headed back to the airports to catch a flight home.
Although there are technically no ‘sails to set’ to catch the wind, it’s still a nice phrase for beginning your cruise vacation! And, if you are traveling from Galveston, you can board 1) the Carnival Freedom for seven nights in the Western Caribbean or the Bahamas, 2) the Carnival Valor for four- or five-day Caribbean destinations, 3) the Carnival Breeze for seven days in the Eastern Caribbean, 4) the Disney Wonder for seven nights in the Bahamas, or 4) the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas for seven nights all over the region. For a complete schedule of these cruise calls, have a look at the official Port of Galveston calendar.
On a final note, if you are returning to Port of Galveston to disembark from your cruise and you have purchased duty free alcohol or cigarettes, you will have to pay a tax as you come through U.S. Customs. It is based on the amount of each (with limits on the alcohol). Only cigarettes are mentioned; so it’s unclear if those other tobacco products (Cuban cigars) are subject to the Texas code.