Galveston Continues Expansion of Cruise Products

The Liberty of the Seas sails year-round from Galveston

For the Port of Galveston, the major news for 2018 is the continued expansion of cruise products and related services available, according to Interim Port Director Peter Simons.

Carnival Cruise Line is moving the Carnival Vista to Galveston later in the year replacing the Breeze. The Vista will sail alongside the Liberty and the Freedom.

“To accommodate the Vista we are in the process of doing some infrastructure upgrades in Cruise Terminal No. 1,” said Simons.

Last fall, the port also welcomed the Vision of the Seas, and Simons explained that while she was originally intended to be a seasonal product, she is replacing the Enchantment of the Seas on a year-round basis.

“We will have three Carnival and two Royal Caribbean ships year-round, and Disney seasonally from October to January,” he added.

The current scheduling has two ships in port on Saturdays, two on Sundays, one each on Mondays and Thursdays, and Disney on Fridays.

Terminal Expansion

“We have completed the expansion of Cruise Terminal No. 2, and when we did the design for that, we planned for larger ships and more passengers. Both of our terminals are able to handle bigger ships and more capacity,” he said.

“What we are doing though on the channel side is adding mooring structures to accommodate the longer Carnival Vista, and we are also finishing a mooring improvement project at Terminal No. 2 that will enable us to handle even larger ships in the future. We are upgrading the main mooring to be 200-ton bollards – the longer dock will also allow us easier access to the loading doors.

“We are also in the conceptual stage, looking at the designs and options for a third cruise terminal. There is definitely demand to sail from Galveston on weekends and we want to be able to accommodate what we see as future growth in that market.”

Simons said the port is talking to cruise lines about how to fund the new terminal. He said the port’s options were either bank financing or teaming up with a cruise line.

Meanwhile, he is also looking at how to provide the next generation of ships with LNG.

Team Effort

At press time, Galveston projected just short of 1.9 million passengers embarking and disembarking on some 258 sailings for 2017, up from 1.7 million passengers for 2016. For this year, the forecast is for 308 sailings and more than 2 million passengers, according to Simons.

“We see a lot of people coming down a couple of days early for special events, so there is a fair amount of extra local spending in connection with the cruise traffic. The vast majority of the passengers are drive-ups regionally and usually from the lower Midwest, but even as far north as Illinois and South Dakota. The fly-ins are typically from the West Coast.

“There is also a wide variety of things to do both on Galveston Island and in the vicinity that we are working with the cruise lines on for pre- and post-stays,” he added.

Simons, who joined the port in 2012 and was director of operations before being named interim port director, credited the port staff, the longshoremen and the stevedores for Galveston’s growing cruise traffic. He said it was a team effort with very attentive and hard-working people, making the cruise lines feel comfortable here and helping to grow their business.

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Disney’s Magical Private Caribbean Island

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Imagine having your own private island.

Well, Disney has done just that with its enchanted Castaway Cay. This tranquil retreat is just for Disney cruisers and embodies the perfect island paradise.

I’ve often said I’d take a Disney cruise just for a stop on this magical isle. The rest of the family heartily agreed after we returned from our 3-night sail on the Disney Dream, celebrating our grandson’s birthday.

The cruise itself was one fantastic experience. Food, service, staterooms and entertainment were all top-notch Disney-esque.

Our first port of call was Nassau— a fun place we’ve visited in the past—teeming with Bahamian and British flavour, miles of spectacular beaches and stretches of vivid coral reefs perfect for snorkelling.

Excitement, however, started to build as our ship slowly approached Castaway Cay. The tropical island hideaway located just 225 nautical miles from Port Canaveral, Florida is a stop on all Disney’s Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.

There’s no shortage of things to do here. (Actually, we found it impossible to do it all in a day.)

Ships dock right on the island, allowing Disney cruisers to disembark directly onto the pier. A short 15-minute walk leads to unbelievable amenities, including our first stop: powdery white and sandy Castaway Family Beach. The beach area is quite extensive with points and coves along the shoreline.

Trams are available for those who need them (or want to get to the beach faster) and traverse all Castaway Cay amenities. Beach towels are provided by cruise line members at the pier, so no need to pack those in your suitcase or beach bag.

Beach and Water Fun

After securing our chairs and umbrellas, the kids scurried to the bay’s turquoise crystalline waters. Snorkeling is available to those wanting to explore the Caribbean’s undersea marine habitat in Snorkeling Lagoon just off Castaway Family Beach.

Two submerged submarines from Magic Kingdom’s retired 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction add an element of adventure for intrepid snorkelers.

We found it impossible to resist Pelican Plunge, the 2,400 square-foot floating platform with two bending twisting water slides dropping squealing riders directly into the lagoon. A giant “bucket dump” of water delivering hundreds of gallons brought more anticipation and laughter. Four water cannons provided sharp-shooting fun with floating nautical targets.

Game pavilions near the Family Beach offer a variety of sand and shaded games like volleyball, tetherball, foosball, ping-pong, pool, shuffleboard and basketball. And there are also places where each age group can hang out with their peers that include planned activities like Teen Hideout or Scuttle’s Cove kids club for the younger cruisers.

Inner tubes, snorkel masks and fins can be rented from Gil’s Fin and Floats or Flippers & Floats on the beach, while kayaks, paddle boats, paddle boards and Aqua Trikes can also be rented for use in this water wonderland.

Hammocks are located beachfront and very popular with visitors. And while my husband was clowning around in one with our grandson, that wily, notorious pirate Captain Jack Sparrow snuck up on them, grabbed our camera and started snapping photos.

Disney bringing back Star Wars Day at Sea in 2018

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Photo Credit: Matt Stroshane/Disney Enterprises

Disney Cruise Line will continue to put on its Star Wars Day at Sea in 2018, holding the event on 15 Disney Fantasy sailings to the Caribbean from January through April.

There will be 15 sailings with the Star Wars Day at Sea this year. Disney introduced the event in last year.

The event features a deck party with a fireworks display, character meet-and-greets, and Star Wars-themed family and youth activities.

Disneys said that Star Wars-themed beverages, snacks, dinner menu items and desserts “please the palates of everyone from Padawans to Rebel pilots to Tusken Raiders.”

The western Caribbean cruises depart Port Canaveral on Jan. 6 and 20; Feb. 3 and 17; March 3, 17 and 31; and April 14. The itinerary includes Cozumel, Mexico; Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, and Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay.

The eastern Caribbean cruises depart Jan. 13 and 27; Feb. 10 and 24; March 10 and 24; and April 7. The itinerary includes Tortola, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay.