I wrote this because these are the things I wanted to know about what to do at the Port of Galveston for boarding the ship. I hope this helps you understand what will happen and how to prepare.
Taking a cruise out of Galveston is great for us, because we can drive there in about 4-5 hours! That’s better than flying, since you can leave and return on your schedule, not the airline’s schedule. Not only that, since you have to drive to the airport, be there an hour before your flight, get your luggage after landing, then get transportation to where you are going – you’ll already have hit 4-5 hours.
When we took a Disney cruise out of Galveston, we decided to arrive the day before and spend the night in a hotel. There are a number of choices in Galveston, however, there are a number of choices outside of Houston, too. We stayed near NASA. You can decide which is the best deal for you. If you plan to keep your car at the hotel, there are a number of them that have special cruise deals where you can leave your car at the hotel and they will take you to your ship, then pick you up when you return. Just be sure to schedule your times with the hotel, and as soon as you are able, so you get the time you want/need.
We decided to park at the port. If you choose the official parking lot, you can pay ahead of time online and save a few dollars. That’s what we did. Just print out the receipt they give you online to give them when you get to the lot. They have a shuttle that runs between the lot and the port.
We decided it would be easiest for my husband to drop me off, with the luggage, and then he would go park the car. That way we didn’t have to lug the bags up the steps into the shuttle, then back off the shuttle.
When he dropped me off with the luggage, a porter was there to help us get the bags out of the car. Even if all the porters were busy, it was easy enough for us to get the bags out of the trunk. Wayne took off while I took care of the luggage with the porter so they would magically show up outside our stateroom later. I took our carry-on bags so Wayne wouldn’t have to worry about anything but parking the car and hopping on the shuttle. I went to the entry and decided to wait outside, since the weather was so nice. I sat down and enjoyed watching as others were coming to the port. I also noticed that those who took the shuttle, with all their luggage, were dropped off at the entry, so they had to take their luggage all the way to the other side to check them in. It made me realize we chose the best option.
It wasn’t long before Wayne showed up and we went inside to check in. After someone making sure we had our cruise documents and our passports, we went through the line to the security scanners. They aren’t as strict as they are at the airports. You can have liquids, nail files, and the like.
After we got through security, we went to the line to check in. The line moved quickly. We had an earlier check in, but decided to arrive early afternoon. After being on a previous cruise, we realized that if you arrive early, you end up having to sit and wait until it’s time for your group to board. Then you can’t get to your stateroom, so you have to lug your carry-on(s) around with you. Once on board, though, you can go have lunch, hit the pool, or explore the ship. However, if you are there before you can go to your stateroom (usually 1:30 pm), you’ll have to keep your carry-ons with you. So, if possible, choose wheeled luggage or backpacks. Backpacks are better.
Since we had an earlier check in time, our group had already been called before we arrived at the port. This meant that after we checked in, we were able to walk right onto the ship. Others were still waiting to board.
We went right to lunch, since it was still a little before 1:30 pm. While there is typically one of the sit-down restaurants available for lunch, we prefer the buffet lunch, because my husband can’t get enough of the peel and eat shrimp. The buffet is on the pool deck in the aft part of the ship. Just find the elevator to get there.
After lunch, it was after 1:30, so we could go to our stateroom. We dropped off our carry-on bags and unpacked them while exploring the room. Well, I unpacked while my husband explored. We also checked to see where we had to report for the muster drill. It is shown on the door. If your stateroom attendant sees you, they will come to introduce themselves. You can tell them about any concerns, what you will need for sleeping (if you need the top berth, the pull out bed, etc.), or any questions you may have.
Then we headed out to explore the ship. There is a tour offered, but just know that it is not a behind the scenes tour. They will show you the areas of the ship you are most likely to need to use, like the restaurants, the theaters, the children’s areas, and some of the main meeting locations. If you arrive early for the tour, you’ll be able to talk to the cast members who will be leading it and get a few extra tips from them.
Eventually it will be time for the muster drill. Yes, everyone must attend. Sometimes you have to stand outside on deck (which happened to us the first cruise – and that sun was shining right on us the whole time), sometimes you have an inside location where you can sit down in air-conditioned comfort (which happened to us when we left out of Galveston). I encourage everyone to arrive on time, because you don’t want to be the one everyone is waiting for. They do not start with the instructions until everyone has shown up. Don’t be that person who makes everyone else have to wait!
Once muster drill is over, the elevators will be very crowded. So, if you are able, take the stairs. If not, be patient. Almost everyone will want to go to the pool deck for the Sail Away Party. My husband and I prefer to watch from our balcony. Leaving from Galveston allowed us to see dolphins swimming alongside the ship, and to see the pilot leave the ship. You can find our videos on these by clicking here.