The port city of Galveston serves cruise vacationers who do not have easy access to the major ports on the East and West Coasts, at least if one is looking to sail to the Caribbean (the only destination of cruises from Galveston). Located right below Houston, Texas, the Port of Galveston is easier and cheaper to get to for many in the central United States. For this reason, you might find yourself in the port city of Galveston before or after you cruise, so below we have compiled some things to see and do while you are there. While there aren’t as many things to see and do in Galveston (a small city) as there are in major U.S. cities with cruise ports, you nevertheless won’t have any trouble finding things to do before you cruise or after you return.
We should begin by mentioning that the Port of Galveston is not a major cruise port. You still need to travel to states like California or ports like Fort Lauderdale to have access to the full range of cruise vacations out there. That said, Galveston isn’t a small port either. Carnival operates two major ships out of the port – the Carnival Magic and the Carnival Triumph – and Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas is also based out of Galveston. Not long ago, there were several Disney cruises from Galveston, but now the Disney Cruise Line operates exclusively out of Florida. Even with the loss of Disney, there are probably a hundred or so cruises from Galveston every year. They are offered throughout the entire year as well, so Galveston is always a live option for a cruise to the Caribbean.
Given that the population of Galveston is about 47,000, you aren’t going to find major art museums of international renown or large amusement parks in the city. What you are going to find is a pleasant, small city with great beaches and a thriving nightlife. A lot of people travel to Galveston only to relax and enjoy themselves – Galveston draws tourism unrelated to the cruise industry – making it a bit like Fort Lauderdale. (Both are popular Spring Break destinations, for instance.) So, if you have some free time in Galveston, you might be inclined to simply lay on the beach and not bother with any of the sights.
If you do want to see Galveston, you should focus your energy on its beautiful downtown, of which the Strand Historical District is a major part. This part of the city has one the largest selections of 19th-century buildings in the country. Several attractions are in this part of the city, like the Grand 1894 Opera House, perhaps the most famous building in the city. The Port of Galveston is also right in this area of the city, so you could easily check out the historical district even if you only have a couple hours to spare. This is, in fact, essentially true of Galveston in general. It’s on a small island and the city itself is only about one mile by two miles. If you want the full Galveston experience, you could show up a couple days before your cruise. Spend the first day seeing the sights of the city, and then go out that night for a few drinks (if you’re into this type of thing). The next day could then be spent relaxing on the beach, “easing” you into a leisurely cruise to the Caribbean.
So, although Galveston isn’t a major city with an endless number of things to do, it is definitely a nice place to spend some time before or after your cruise. You can dedicate yourself exclusively to relaxing, or you can try to spend some time touring the city (especially the historical district), and either way you’ll likely enjoy your time.