Travel Industry Proposes, Royal Caribbean Disposes

One of my favorite quotes comes from “The Imitation of Christ” by the German-born Thomas à Kempis (c.1380-1471): “For man proposes, but God disposes; neither is the way of man in his own hands.”  We in the travel agency community are a little like that.  We propose all sorts of brilliant ideas, at least in our own humble estimation, yet we face the reality that in most cases we have zero power to dispose.

Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the SeasI recently interviewed Vicki Freed,  the Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Services for Royal Caribbean International, right here on this incomparable little blog and one of my queries was, for her at least, this very familiar and possibly tiresome question:  “When will Royal Caribbean start sailing year round out of the port of Galveston?”

For a little context, travel agents throughout Texas and surrounding states have for a few years now  been clamoring, cajoling, carping (and various other exertions too embarrassing to mention in print) for Royal Caribbean to position a ship in Galveston year round.  We travel types are nothing if not annoyingly persistent.

I have big news!  Let me share a brief excerpt from a press release issued today.  “Royal Caribbean International, the cruise line known for first at-sea innovations, announced today that it is basing 3,114-guest Navigator of the Seas year-round from the Texas port city of Galveston.”   Unlike when mighty Casey struck out, there was great joy in Mudville today. More than one of our travel agents was observed doing the happy dance on their desks!

Navigator of the Seas cabin

Since by design, these “Hear It Here First” posts are intended to be short and sweet, you can click here to read all the details.One exciting aspect of the news is that not only will Navigator of the Seas begin sailing year round from Galveston beginning this November but also will be emerging from an extensive drydock revitalization in February of 2014.  

This is absolutely going to be a very popular ship and departure port so start making your plans now.   Click here if you would like a full schedule of departure dates and itineraries and reach out to me for prices and to secure space.

Remember, you heard it here first.  And, if you didn’t, then clearly you aren’t as devoted a follower of this blog as you should be!  Come on, let’s muster a little fanatical devotion here.

How To Select A Fine Texas Port

For those credulous souls who found their way to this post assuming they were going to be the first in their snooty wine circle to discover a classic Texas port wine to rival Quinta

Fonte do Ouro and thereby pique the envy of their fellow enthusiasts, my apologies.  Keep in mind, this is a travel blog . . . or purports to be anyway . . . so when we toss the term “port” about we have something entirely different in mind.  We are thinking of a facility from whence one launches one’s dream cruise.

While Texas may not have yet solidified its position as the port wine capitol of the world, we are rapidly making a name for ourselves as one of the great cruise departure points.  Recently I wrote another of my little literary gems called “Galveston oh Galveston:  I See Your Cruise Ships Sailing” in which I shared a little chart that explains the current options from Galveston.  Since that post, there have been a couple of exciting announcements.

In a recent article in USA Today, it was revealed that “Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises on Thursday both announced plans to begin voyages out of Houston’s Bayport Cruise Terminal, which has been mostly vacant since being completed in 2008. Princess says the 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess will offer seven-night sailings to the Western Caribbean out of the terminal starting in November 2013.”

“Norwegian says the 2,374-passenger Norwegian Jewel will begin seven-night sailings to the Western Caribbean out of the terminal starting in the fall of 2014.”

Since the cruise terminal has been empty for so long, this is important news for both the city of Houston and the cruise lines.   But I suspect it will also raise a lot of questions in the minds of the seafaring public about this new option.  Not to worry, dear soul.  As usual, your intrepid guide to all things travel related is here to dispense the fog, evaporate the mist, dispel the darkness, shed the light . . . you get the idea.

So the two choices that will soon be available to you in Texas are the Port of Galveston or the Bayport Cruise Terminal. Now I realize that a lot of factors will go into your cruise decision such as cruise line, the specific cruise ship, length of sailing, itinerary and ports of call.  But once you weight the pros and cons of each port, you may well want to add the port of departure to your list of considerations.

Bayport Cruise Terminal

Bayport Cruise Terminal

Bayport Cruise Terminal

One of the most obvious advantages of sailing from Bayport is the availability of numerous flights into both George Bush International Airport and Hobby Airport.  While there will be a cost in getting to the pier, unless the cruise lines should decide to provide transfers, it will be less time and money than getting to Galveston from Houston.   If your travel plans include either a pre or post overnight stay, Houston of course offers a wide array of hotels in various price ranges.

I have not personally been to the new terminal, apparently an experience I share with close to 100% of the population, but I understand it is very modern, roomy and well designed to service cruise customers.

Port of Galveston 

Port of Galveston with two Carnival ships

Port of Galveston

One of the chief benefits of sailing from Galveston is the number of local attractions such as the brand new Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.  There are plenty of places to stay such as the historic Galvez Hotel & Spa or The Tremont House. The Strand offers lots of shopping options and contributes to Galveston being a fun place to spend an extra day or two.

Having choices is always a good thing.  Now you can pop over to the Port of Galveston and very soon you will be able to bop over to the Bayport Cruise Terminal.  The most important thing is to flop down a deposit on your next cruise.  OK, this is getting sappy even by my exceedingly low standards so I’m going to . . . yes, you guessed it . . stop.

Galveston oh Galveston: I See Your Cruise Ships Sailing

I have always liked the haunting, Vietnam-era melody penned by Jimmy Webb and popularized by Glen Campbell called “Galveston”.   I love the alliteration and especially the vivid imagery woven through the lyrics by the phrases “seawinds blowing”, seawaves crashing” and “seabirds flying”.

In keeping with the alliteration but totally devoid of any of the poetry, this blog post is alDisney Magicl about “ships a sailing” . . . from Galveston, of course.  I am writing this post based on the assumption that some of you lost souls floating around out there in cyberspace are :

1) thinking about taking a cruise ship out of Galveston over the next few months and

b)  find yourself as easily confused as I am regarding what options are available.  My condition actually used to be a lot worse back when I was dyslexic.  Fortunately, now I am K.O.

Carnival Cruise Lines MagicAnyway, here is the pop quiz question for this post.  How many cruise ship depart this fall and winter from Galveston?  If you answered “seven ships a sailing” you obviously have the song “Galveston” confused with “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  If you answered five you are either in the travel business or have Google set as your home page.  If you had no clue, you may be a little surprised, as frankly I was, to discover that there are so many options

Just to make it as easy as possible for you to reach out to me with your next cruise booking, my team of crack researchers (and no, before you ask, we do not research crack around here) have crunched the algorithms, or whatever the heck you do with algorithms, and come up with the simple chart below.

Cruise Ships sailing from GalvestonThis will get you started but you are still going to need expert guidance regarding the differences between these cruise lines, the characteristics of the various ships, the pros and cons of the various itineraries, whether it is appropriate to wear your Tommy Bahamas shirt on formal night, etc.  Fortunately,  that’s why we skilled cruise specialists spend all those grueling hours sailing through the Gulf and the Caribbean.  It may have appeared self-indulgent but we were really fueled by altruism and perhaps the occasional foo foo drink.

While we are on the subject of  Galveston, it just so happens that this sea port is a very pleasant spot to spend a day or two pre or post cruise.  If you are feeling a little too euphoric, you can always visit Moody Gardens and mellow out a bit.  Conversely, if your life has been a little humdrum, schedule a visit to the newest attraction in town, the brand new Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

I don’t know about you but I am having one heck of a time getting that tune out of my mind.