Tips for First Time Cruisers in Galveston

Galveston’s ideal location makes it a homeport to several different cruise lines.

It’s the perfect port to embark on your first cruise vacation. Here are some tips for those considering taking a cruise.

Aerial photo of a large white cruise ships sailing into Galveston, Texas

pictured: Carnival Cruise

Sit down and figure out your budget. Once you come up with a dollar amount, find a knowledgeable travel advisor who specializes in cruises. That advisor will tell you if your budget is realistic and help you select a cruise that suits your needs and budget. Keep in mind that while the cruise fare includes many components of your cruise, there are some items that will require additional fees.

Choosing the wrong cruise, cabin or itinerary can negatively influence your vacation as can traveling without insurance. Although all cruise lines do sail to many of the same destinations, each cruise line has a specific personality. Your travel advisor will help you find the best match for you.

Once you have decided on a ship and sail date and put down a deposit, it’s time to prepare for your cruise adventure. Many of the pre-cruise preparations may be done electronically. Cruise lines have apps to help you get everything in order to board your ship. Don’t worry if you don’t have the app; the cruise line website or your travel advisor can help you through the registration process.

During pandemic times, be sure to carefully read the requirements necessary for boarding a ship. A passport is highly recommended and makes everything easier, but cruises that do a roundtrip from Galveston can be boarded with alternative documents. Again, ask your travel advisor.

If you are nervous about getting sea sick, talk to your health care professional. Cruise ships come equipped with technology that helps control the motion of the ship. Don’t assume because you get car sick or sick on a fishing boat that you will experience the same on a large cruise ship.

Read the terms and conditions of the cruise line to avoid misunderstandings.

If flying to Galveston, arriving a day early relieves much stress by allowing for any travel delays. It so much more relaxing spending the night before your cruise near the port. If flying on the same day, be sure to arrive early allowing plenty of time to get to the pier. The two main airports are Houston Hobby and George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

If driving to the port, arriving the night before is also recommended as is arriving early if coming on the day of departure. Parking is available at the pier and several hotels have park, stay and cruise packages.

Galveston currently has two terminals with a third to open soon. Be sure you know which pier you are going to! Many cruise lines now have you select a boarding time when you complete your registration. Be sure to arrive at that time.

Have your checked luggage tagged. (Be aware that the luggage that you leave with a porter may not get to your room for several hours. Keep out medications, bathing suits or anything that you might need immediately in a carry-on bag.) The porters will take your tagged luggage from you before you enter your designated terminal. It’s a good idea to have $1 bills for tipping porters and other service people throughout your journey. Be sure to have all of your registration documents with you along with your government ID, proof of vaccination and COVID test results.

Once you enter the terminal, you will again show your documents and then go through security. Open liquids may be confiscated. Check with your cruise line for their policy for bringing wine, beer or liquor on board.

Depending on the cruise line, you may receive your keycard when you register in the terminal or it may be in your stateroom door. It might not even be a key card, but a wearable. Device. Keep this safe at all times as it is your identification, key and expense account.

Your room may not be ready when you board, but a dining venue should be open. Crew usually directs you to the buffet, which will likely be bustling. If you prefer another dining option, check to see what else might be available.

At some point, you will need to watch a safety video or join a muster drill. Many cruise lines now offer a video demonstration followed by the guest reporting to the assigned muster station.

A daily service fee is either pre-paid or added to your onboard account. No need to carry cash for tips. Some people tip extra on top of the daily service fee to reward extraordinary service.

Know what your cell phone company may charge for usage when out of the country. Many guests put their phones on airplane mode when cruising or buy a daily international package.

If you travel with children, be sure to sign up for the kids’ club on boarding day. Spots are limited in these complimentary clubs.

Check the daily program, which may be hard copy or on the ship’s app to see which activities and events happen throughout the day. Some shows require advance reservations. Specialty restaurants usually require reservations and a fee. The app makes booking these reservations simple.

Many cruise lines offer a choice of assigned or independent dining. If assigned, be on time. It’s a good idea to check out where your assigned table is as some ships have multiple dining rooms. Dining preference is chosen when you book your cruise.

If you need assistance with luggage, you will put it outside of your stateroom by a certain time on the evening before departure. Be sure that you have the proper tags on it. Most importantly, be sure that you leave out clothes to wear on departure day! You will find your luggage organized by color when you reach the terminal and before you go through customs and immigration.

If you don’t need assistance, you may opt for a self-assist option. You keep all of your luggage with you and take care of getting it off the ship yourself. Disembarkation is organized by luggage tag color. Self-assist guests usually leave first.

Leave plenty of time to reach the airport if you are flying. A good rule of thumb is to book flights after noon, especially if the airport is not close.

Enjoy your cruise!


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Theresa Russell Editor

Theresa Russell believes that the world would be a better place if everybody traveled. Her travels have taken her to many places around the world. Cruising is a favorite mode of travel because her hotel and restaurants move along with her. She enjoys sharing different places, cultures and styles of traveling with her readers.