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TravelThe best cruises from Galveston for every type of traveler

The best cruises from Galveston for every type of traveler

What are the best cruises from Galveston, Texas? I’ve been on nearly all the cruise ships that sail out of the fast-growing cruise port (and visited all the places they go), and I know which one I would pick: a seven-night sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima.

I’m a big fan of the 20-month-old Norwegian Prima’s stylish design and upscale feel, and I love its luxurious Haven suite complex. It also offers a solid itinerary out of Galveston that visits several of my favorite ports in the Western Caribbean.

That said, a seven-night Norwegian Prima sailing out of Galveston isn’t necessarily the best Galveston cruise for you.

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Whether you’ll have a better time on one of the other cruise ships that regularly sail out of Galveston will depend a lot on the type of traveler you are. The best ship for a family cruise out of Galveston might not be the top pick for a couples cruise or girlfriend getaway.

Nearly a dozen ships currently set sail from Texas. Here we list our top picks for the best cruises from Galveston for five different types of travelers.

Best for families: Harmony of the Seas

The Ultimate Abyss on Harmony of the Seas. SBW-PHOTO/ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL

Looking for the best family cruise from Galveston? It’s hard to go wrong with a sailing on Royal Caribbean’s giant Harmony of the Seas.

Designed specifically to appeal to families, the world’s fourth-largest cruise vessel offers more family-friendly activity zones than just about any other cruise ship at sea.

Thanks partly to its enormous size — it’s 18 decks high and nearly 1,200 feet long — the 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas has room for three separate main pool areas, a water park, a kiddie splash zone, surfing simulators, a miniature golf course, a basketball court and even a zip line. And that’s just on its top decks.

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Inside Harmony of the Seas, you’ll find all sorts of family attractions, including counselor-staffed play areas for kids, a teen club and an indoor ice skating rink. The ship also has lots of family-friendly performances, such as ice skating shows at the rink and acrobatic and diving performances at an outdoor “Aquatheater.” At the back of the ship, a New Jersey boardwalk-themed fun zone features rock climbing walls and a hand-carved carousel.

In short, whether you have toddlers in tow or command a troop of teens and tweens, you’ll find all sorts of activities to keep them squealing with delight — more than on any other ship that sails out of Galveston, including Disney Cruise Line’s family-focused Disney Magic.

Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean cruise ships and itineraries

Harmony of the Seas sails out of Galveston every Sunday on seven-night voyages to the Western Caribbean. The ship stops at Roatan, Honduras, and Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.

Harmony of the Seas is part of Royal Caribbean’s groundbreaking Oasis Class vessels, which are among the biggest and most amenity-filled ships in the world.

In addition to Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean operates two smaller vessels out of Galveston: the 3,344-passenger Mariner of the Seas and the 2,110-passenger Jewel of the Seas. The former ship mostly sails four- and five-night trips to Mexico, while the latter vessel sails longer voyages to the Southern and Western Caribbean.

Best for Disney fans: Disney Magic


As noted above, our pick for the best family cruises out of Galveston are the sailings available on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. But we say that with one big caveat. If your family is Disney-obsessed and you can’t imagine a vacation that isn’t infused to the extreme with all things Disney, there is only one choice for your Galveston-based cruise: a voyage on Disney Magic.

Based in Galveston seasonally from November to March, Disney Magic offers the best cruises out of the city for Disney fans. It is, for the record, the only Disney Cruise Line ship that sails from Galveston.

Disney Magic isn’t a new ship. It dates to 1998 and is the oldest cruise ship regularly sailing out of Galveston. That said, it still feels modern thanks to major makeovers in recent years.

One overhaul to Disney Magic not too long ago brought such cutting-edge features as the AquaDunk — a 37-foot-tall body slide that careens over the side of the vessel — and a new outdoor kiddie fun zone called AquaLab.

Disney Magic is also home to multiple pool areas and indoor children’s zones that cover almost an entire deck, plus multiple themed restaurants that Disney fans will love. (In Disney Cruise Line tradition, passengers — and their waiters — rotate each night among three main restaurants.) The ship also has a large showroom for nightly Disney-themed shows.

Like all Disney ships, Disney Magic has many cabins with split bathrooms — a boon for families. That’s not something you’ll find on any of the other Galveston-based cruise vessels.

If you’ve tried Disney’s newer Disney Wish or two Dream Class ships (Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream), you will notice that the 1,754-passenger Disney Magic is noticeably smaller — about 42% smaller than Disney Wish and 35% smaller than the Dream Class ships. That results in fewer and smaller attractions than the other vessels. On the flip side, it has a much more intimate feel on board.

Related: The 3 types of Disney Cruise Line ships, explained

Disney Magic sails a mix of four- to six-night voyages from Galveston to Mexico. Four-night voyages typically visit Progreso, Mexico, while five-night sailings add a stop in Cozumel. Six-night sailings typically visit Cozumel and Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.

Fares for off-peak sailings on Disney Magic often start at more than $1,000 per person for a four-night trip — significantly higher on a per-night basis than the lowest-cost sailings on many of the other ships sailing out of Galveston.

In other words, you’ll pay a premium for that Disney magic.

Best for budget travelers: Carnival Breeze


Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Breeze is the Galveston-based ship to pick when you’re looking for a quick and affordable getaway — something that isn’t a big commitment and won’t break the bank.

Based in Galveston year-round, the 12-year-old vessel operates short four- and five-night voyages to the Western Caribbean that are often on sale for under $500 per person. For off-peak travel, we sometimes see five-night sailings for sale for around $400 per person — or just $80 a night. This is a third of the cost of similar five-night sailings on Disney Magic.

Remember, the rates for Carnival Breeze mentioned above are not just for your room but for meals on the ship, too.

For would-be Galveston cruisers, Carnival Breeze serves as a sort of “test the port” ship. Its short sailings and low pricing mean you won’t lose a lot of time or money if you don’t love the experience. It caters heavily to first-time cruisers, as well as Texas locals and Southerners who can book on short notice and drive to the port for a quick escape.

One of three ships in the line’s Dream Class that date to the late 2000s and early 2010s, the 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze is no longer the newest or snazziest ship in the Carnival fleet. At around 130,000 tons, it’s about 29% smaller than Carnival’s newer Excel Class ships and has fewer bars, restaurants and entertainment spaces.

Related: The 8 types of Carnival Cruise Line ships, explained

That said, Carnival Breeze still has a huge amount to offer for all sorts of travelers, from couples to families with kids. The ship was, notably, the first Carnival ship to feature a 4D “thrill theater” and one of the first Carnival ships with a ropes course — attractions that appeal heavily to teens and tweens.

Carnival Breeze also offers a water park with waterslides on its top decks, a miniature golf course, a sports court for basketball and volleyball, and multiple pools.

Interior venues on Carnival Breeze include a comedy club, a piano bar, a casino and a showroom for big production shows. The dining options are similar to what you’ll find on many Carnival ships, including an extra-charge steakhouse and Italian eatery, Cucina Del Capitano, as well as no-extra-charge main restaurants. It also has a sushi restaurant and a version of Carnival’s Caribbean-inspired watering hole, RedFrog Pub.

Most Carnival Breeze sailings out of Galveston stop at Cozumel, with some adding a stop at Costa Maya and Progreso as well.

Carnival has two other vessels based year-round in Galveston: Carnival Jubilee and Carnival Dream. Both ships operate longer, generally more expensive sailings. Carnival Jubilee mostly sails seven-night trips out of Galveston, while Carnival Dream alternates between six- and eight-night voyages out of the Texas port.

Best for luxury lovers: Norwegian Prima

Haven sun deck on Norwegian Prima. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

None of the luxury-focused cruise lines, such as Silversea Cruises or Seabourn Cruise Line, sail out of Galveston. Still, you can get a luxury cruise experience on a voyage from Galveston by sailing on the one mainstream vessel based in the city that has a separate “ship-within-a-ship” luxury zone: Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Prima.

Hands down, the 3,099-passenger ship offers the best Galveston cruises for luxury lovers.

Unveiled in 2022, Norwegian Prima was the first of a new class of Norwegian vessel that the line designed to be “elevated,” in its words, as compared to earlier Norwegian ships. That is, it was designed to be more upscale.

The high-end turn included loading Norwegian Prima with an unusually large variety of suites (13 categories in all), including what the line said was the largest three-bedroom suites of any recently unveiled cruise vessel. If it’s swanky digs you’re after (and you have the money to spend), you’ll find plenty of options on this ship.

Notably, the entire back of Norwegian Prima is devoted to an upscale luxury enclave for well-heeled travelers called The Haven. Rising eight decks high, it’s home to 107 of the above-mentioned suites, a sprawling private indoor lounge area, private outdoor lounge and pool areas, and a private restaurant — all exclusively for the use of those who pay up for one of its suites.

Related: The best luxury cruise lines for elegance and exclusivity

Outside of The Haven, the entire ship has a more elegant feel than you’ll find on other Norwegian ships. It has an atmosphere more in line with the ships in the fleets of Norwegian’s higher-end sister brands, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises — albeit on a bigger scale.

Alas, Norwegian Prima only is based in Galveston seasonally for the winter, typically from January to March. For 2025, it’ll offer seven-night sailings to the Western Caribbean with calls in Roatan, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Harvest Caye, Belize. It’ll also operate two longer 14-night Caribbean sailings.

Best for retirees: Regal Princess


Looking for a cruise out of Galveston that isn’t full of families with children? Look no further than the sailings out of the city on Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess.

Unlike the other major cruise ships that sail out of Galveston each year — operated by family-focused Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and Disney — Regal Princess wasn’t built with families in mind as the core customer. As is the case with all Princess ships, it’s geared toward middle-aged and older travelers without kids, including lots of retirees.

Notably, the 3,600-passenger Regal Princess lacks nearly all the gee-whiz attractions for families found on other ships that sail out of Galveston. You won’t find big waterslides, kiddie splash zones, zip lines or go-kart tracks on this ship.

For the most part, the top decks of Regal Princess only offer pools, whirlpools and sunning areas, as is typical for Princess ships. As a result, it draws far fewer families than the vessels above and caters more to an older crowd of mostly couples.

Related: Best cruises for seniors who love to travel by sea

Regal Princess is based in Galveston on a seasonal basis from October to March. It operates some of the longest sailings from the Texas port, including 10- and 11-night trips to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. It also occasionally offers a 12-night sailing to the Southern Caribbean. These sailings generally appeal to a retired crowd because they require a long time away from home.

The shortest sailings that the 11-year-old Princess ship operates out of Galveston are six nights in length.

Bottom line

Galveston offers a relatively wide range of cruise ships and itinerary choices. Five different cruise lines currently sail four- to 12-night Western Caribbean voyages and visit ports in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. A sixth line — MSC Cruises — will be starting up cruises from Galveston in 2025.

What is the best cruise from Galveston for you? That’ll depend on your personal interests and travel style, as there are cruises from Galveston that appeal to everyone, including family travelers, budget travelers and retirees.

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