Galveston Texas is a waterfront vacation town and barrier island, but it’s also home to a cruise port where you can set sail on some popular cruise lines. Recently, Royal Caribbean celebrated the opening of its brand-new, $126 million cruise terminal (pier 10 terminal 3), in Galveston. We were there to watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony and experience sailing on the largest cruise ship to sail out of Texas.
The opening of the 161,334-square-foot terminal on Galveston Island was attended by executives, port officials, and government and business partners, including Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley, U.S. representative Randy Weber, Federal Commissioner Louis Sola, City of Galveston Mayor Craig Brown, and Port of Galveston Director Rodger Rees.
Disclosure: My trip to Galveston TX and sailing on the Allure of the Seas was complimentary. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links and a purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no cost to you.
Galveston Cruise Port: What We Learned Sailing Out of the New Terminal
Getting to Galveston
Galveston Texas is located along the Gulf of Mexico, south of Houston. If you are flying into the Houston area, the nearest airports are either Hobby or George Bush. Houston’s Hobby Airport is about 45-60 minutes away, while Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport is about an hour and a half away from the Galveston cruise terminal.
I always recommend that guests who are flying into the port stay overnight. Even if the weather isn’t bad, the risk of flight delay is just too high.
I arrived the night before my flight and flew into Houston’s Hobby Airport at almost midnight. I opted to stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Houston Hobby Airport. While I wasn’t there for very long, I found the hotel to be extremely comfortable and convenient. There’s a hotel shuttle right from outside the airport, and I was in my room within 15 minutes of landing.
If you do arrive early in the day, I’d recommend going directly to Galveston to spend the night. It’s a beautiful island with lots of great hotels and restaurants.
It’s not necessary to rent a car unless you have vacation plans beyond your cruise. It’s easy to get transportation to the port. While I took a ride share, there are also shuttles that can take you directly to the port.
Driving to the Galveston Port? The Galveston Wharves also offer plenty of parking spaces, including parking lots and a parking garage. Free parking shuttles are available for the lots that are not within walking distance. Cruise parking can be reserved online.
Highlights of the Royal Caribbean Terminal
The new Royal Caribbean Terminal – Terminal 3, is expected to bring 800 new jobs to the area. It’s the first zero-energy cruise terminal in Texas and is on track to achieve U.S. Green Building Council’s Lead Gold in 2023.
The terminal is 100% solar powered with 30,000 square feet of on-site solar panels. Electric vehicle charging stations are available in the parking area.
Upon entering the new cruise terminal, you’ll immediately see how much work was put into making it an effective way to board your cruise. There is plenty of seating in the waiting area if you need to wait before being called to board, and there is a lot of capacity for check-in. As you walk to the end of the terminal, you’ll pass the Galveston Beach Trio sculpture, which was designed by Texas-based Brad Oldham Sculpture.
In addition to the brand-new Royal Caribbean terminal, there are two additional existing cruise terminals (Terminal 1 and Terminal 2) on Harborside Drive.
Cruises Sailing Out of Galveston
Royal Caribbean has brought one of its iconic Oasis-class ships to cruise from Galveston as its new homeport. The Allure of the Seas, one of the world’s largest cruise ships, is now the largest ship to set sail from Texas.
This beautiful, family-friendly ship is currently sailing out of Galveston, Texas on 4, 5, and 7-night Caribbean sailings. While itineraries do vary, ports of call in the Western Caribbean can include Cozumel, Puerto Costa Maya, and Roatan, Honduras. The Allure of the Seas accommodates 5,484 cruise passengers (double occupancy), or 6,780 (total).
Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas also sails from Galveston on a Western Caribbean itinerary. In addition, other major cruise lines sail from the port. You can see the schedule on the Port of Galveston website.
Embarking in Galveston (at the new Terminal 3)
Upon entering the cruise terminal exterior, I was greeted by a number of porters. Because my bag was heavy, I decided to check it and received it in my stateroom a few hours later. Keep in mind that these porters don’t work for the cruise line, so be prepared with small bills for a well-earned tip.
I’d already completed mobile check-in and received my SetSail Pass on the app, so I showed that and my passport to the nearest cruise employee. Then, after a quick picture, and confirmation of my health details, I was guided to the upper level of the terminal.
There is plenty of seating if your group hasn’t yet been called to sail. I was cleared to go up right away, so I was able to pass through and enter the ship.
Disembarking at Galveston (at the new Terminal 3)
I decided not to receive luggage assistance on disembarkation day, so I was able to leave at my leisure. Otherwise, groups are called when luggage is ready and available in the terminal. They are easily labeled, so you can walk right over to where your luggage is and grab it.
The new Terminal 3 utilizes facial recognition software. So, if you are traveling with a passport, you are able to go into a separate line and walk up to the facial recognition machines. After a quick scan of your face, you should be cleared to leave. It’s a very simple process that gets you out of the ship and where you need to be as soon as possible.
Once you exit the terminal, you’ll find ground transportation options and parking shuttles.
See more information on the Port of Galveston website.
Considering a family cruise? Check out our guide to family cruising, with posts about popular cruise terminals, cruise ships, and cruise lines, as well as tips for cruising.