The upcoming cruise seasons are bringing quite a few new ships and cruise lines to the Texas Gulf Coast, allowing Texans the ability to travel aboard Princess Cruise Lines, a Disney cruise ship, or the newest Carnival vessel, the Carnival Magic, without having to pay for airfare! How do you decide which line and itinerary is right for you? This guide lays out what is coming to Galveston and how to pick your perfect vacation right out of Galveston.
The Crown Princess comes to Galveston!
THE ITINERARY: The 3,070-passenger Crown Princess will move to Galveston for the winter of 2012-13, offering 19 seven-night sailings to the Western Caribbean. Ports of Call include Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. The voyages will kick off on Dec. 22, 2012 and continue through April 27, 2013, though sales have already begun for this limited run.
THE SHIP: The Crown Princess was unveiled in 2006 and has all of the classic touches Princess-lovers require – flexible dining options, the three story Piazza featuring a casual street café atmosphere, and Movies Under the Stars to name a few. Not to be missed are the fitness center, spa and the adults-only Sanctuary on the top deck. It is a is a shaded Zen-like retreat, complete with extra-cushy lounge chairs and waiters who deliver Bose headphones with pre-programmed tunes and spa menu items. For entertainment, there are four lounges, Gatsby’s Casino, Skywalker Nightclub and a variety of events and entertainment in each of the spaces. Crooners (overlooking the Piazza) features a pianist and music trivia contests. Explorer’s Lounge is primarily an events lounge for everything from art auctions to Wii sports tournaments, plus magician and comedian shows.
DINING: There are eleven restaurants, and options 24-hours a day. For dinner, you have the option of picking early or late seating or electing to do a week of less-structured “Anytime Dining” in one of two restaurants. There are also the traditional buffets, poolside eateries, a pub-style lunch menu, the Crown Grill, a wine and seafood bar Vines, and a more casual pizza and ice cream bar to keep passengers full and happy during the cruise.
WHO IS THIS BEST FOR: Princess generally caters to a more mature, sophisticated audience than the other two lines. The ship accomodates 3000 guests and is
Mickey Mouse Docks in Galveston!
THE ITINERARY: Beginning in September 2012, the Disney Magic will sail out of Galveston on 12 7-day itineraries featuring three sea days and stops in Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel.
THE SHIP: The cabins on board the Disney Magic are built for families. The standard cabins would be called a mini-suite on many other ships, with a distinct bedroom area and a living room separated by a pull curtain. Families of five even have options to book into slightly larger rooms that can accomodate the whole family! Bathrooms on the Magic also feature a small tub for washing up kiddoes who are too young to shower. Disney is known for its deck parties which inspire the whole family to get involved, sing and dance. The productions on board are some of the best at sea, each with a different Disney theme. For adults wanting to take a little grown-up time for themselves, Disney provides an adults-only pool, some nightly entertainment, a spa featuring a Tuscan-inspired sauna room, or three different adults only programs focusing on Disney behind the scene, lectures about the ship, or cooking demonstrations. It is important to note that there is no casino onboard Disney ships, but passengers often insist they never missed it.
DINING: Disney has taken a different approach to dining and the change is well received by travellers. Instead of arriving to the same dining room for each dinner, Disney has passengers rotate between three different restaurants and guarantees a lively experience night after night with four theme nights including a Pirates of the Caribbean dinner. The food is made from scratch and benefits from being prepared by three smaller kitchens to ensure freshness. There are plenty of options throughout the day available on board the ship – Topsider’s Casual Dining, Pinocchio’s Pizzeria, Pluto’s Doghouse, and Scoops Ice Cream Bar – including some poolside favorites. One of the nice amenities offered gratis by Disney is Coca-Cola products – free at meals and from the 24-hour beverage bar on Deck 9.
WHO IS THIS BEST FOR: Obviously, Disney caters to families and the family experience. Every detail of the cruise considers its youngest passengers and engages them – from dinner, to pool parties, to the layout of the stateroom. That being said, groups looking for a more balanced vacation (or requiring a casino) may prefer to travel on a kid-friendly but not kid-centric ship. Whether you choose Princess or Carnival depends on the atmosphere you seek on board.
Carnival’s Newest Ship Comes to Texas
CARNIVAL IN GALVESTON: Not only is the Carnival Magic becoming the largest ship to have a year-round dock in Galveston, Carnival is also bringing its Carnival Triumph to Galveston starting October 6, 2011 for short 4 or 5 day cruises in the Western Caribbean. These two ships will take 450,000 passengers yearly out of the port of Galveston.
ITINERARY: Carnival Magic, which debuted just this month out of Barcelona, will feature two different seven day itineraries out of Galveston. The western Caribbean voyage travels to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and the week-long eastern Caribbean itinerary cruises to Nassau, Freeport, and Key West.
THE SHIP: Carnival has outfitted its Dream Class ships – the Magic and Dream – with all of the bells and whistles. The ship features updates to some Carnival favorites – 11,250-square-foot adults-only Serenity area, Seaside Theatre, a massive “Cloud 9” spa, WaterWorks aqua park with two water slides, and special family cabins designed to accommodate five passengers (featuring two bathrooms!). A new feature on board the Dream class is a Ropes course on the well-equipped sports deck. From 7 a.m until 3 a.m., something is always going on, from casino play to cooking demonstrations to Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance classes to Champagne art auctions. For entertainment, two main productions are put on most nights and the Burgundy Lounge, which seats 425, is devoted mainly to comedy, with 24 performances each week. The ship also features Ocean Plaza with a small stage, seating area and adjacent bar, as well as a specialty coffee cafe, Dream Bar in the atrium, and Caliente Club to keep passengers entertained indoors.
DINING: For Dream Class ships, there is now more flexibility for dinner-time dining. The ship features traditional early and late seating in two gorgeously outfitted dining rooms but also offers the option for dine-anytime dinner upstairs in the Crimson restaurant from 5:45 to 9:30. Carnival’s food traditionally gets good but not stellar reviews, but while some dishes may miss the mark this ship makes up for it by providing an unsurpassed variety of dining options. The Lido deck features options from 5:30a.m. until 1:00a.m. with specialty buffets such as Mongolian Wok, Tandoor Indian Cuisine, and a Pizza Bar operate during lunch hours. The Magic has the first ever at-sea pub, featuring a private label beer made just for the ship and traditional bar games. Carnival also features multiple smaller eateries including a sushi spot, a New York-style Deli, Taste of Nations International Buffet.
WHO IS THIS BEST FOR: Carnival is an ideal option for those looking to travel out of Galveston in the Spring and Summer months, as neither Princess or Disney will remain docked in Texas year-round. Carnival is also ideal for those travellers or families looking for a budget-friendly vacation. If food is your number one concern, you are best to try a Princess or Disney vacation, depending on your family situation.
These ships and itineraries sum up what week-long options are coming to Galveston’s shore later this year. Which one is just right for you? For more help booking your vacation, contact Tahira Mammen at 214-494-9965 or on her website.