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Galveston vs. Bayport: Which Port Should You Cruise From?

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The Bayport Cruise Terminal near Houston.

With the addition of cruises to the Bayport Cruise Terminal in Houston, the Port of Galveston now has some major competition for your cruise dollars.

As a passenger, that’s good. It gives you more options for your cruises and could mean cheaper fares. But it also raises some questions about which port you should sail from.

Truth is, there are some major differences between the two cruise terminals, even though they are only 25 miles apart.

So to help you make the decision on which port is right for you, we’ve decided to take a look at the features of both…

Cruise Options:

The most important factor to nearly every cruiser will be which port has the most options for their trip. In that case, Galveston easily wins for right now.

The Bayport Terminal just started welcoming cruises in 2013. That’s about a decade after Galveston, so it has to play catch up. Furthermore, Galveston currently has the ability to port two different cruise liners at once, compared to Bayport’s one.

That means there are a lot more cruises from Galveston.

cruise-terminal-with-shipsIn 2014, the Port of Galveston has two cruise lines — Royal Caribbean and Carnival — that will sail year-round from the port. In total, the port will have about 150 different departures during the year.

For comparison, Bayport only has Princess Cruises sailing from its port in the first half of the year. During the summer, no cruises will depart the terminal. Later in 2014 Princess will return and be joined by Norwegian Cruise Lines. In total, fewer than 40 cruises will sail from the port in 2014.

Ease of Getting to the Port:

If you are driving, then you’ll likely find getting to either port about the same. Galveston is a little further from the Houston airports (about 30 minutes), but nothing major if you have your own car.

If you are flying into Houston, however, that changes things. There’s not really an easy (or cheap) way to get from the airports to Galveston. A couple of companies run shuttles, as do the cruise lines. These can get expensive. The best bet is to hire a private car, which can still run hundreds of dollars.

It’s a bit cheaper and easier to get to the Bayport Terminal from Houston’s airports. If you are flying in, we would likely suggest a taxi. From Houston Hobby, it would run $70-90 round-trip. For that reason, we think many out of state cruisers would rather sail from Bayport.

Parking Convenience:

If convenience to the ship is important to you, then Bayport is your best bet.

The Bayport Cruise Terminal is conveniently setup. Parking is on-site, right at the terminal. There is barely any walk. Meanwhile, since the terminal only serves one ship at a time, there is less traffic and congestion on cruise day.

Galveston certainly isn’t bad, but the terminal is larger. It can get very busy during cruise days. Parking is also located at lots near the terminal, but not right at the port. Most people park and then use a shuttle provided by the parking lot to move them and their baggage to the terminal.

Things to Do Nearby/Places to Stay:

Both terminals offer a number of things to do within a few miles of the port.

Personally, we prefer Galveston. The island is a Texas treasure. Between the Strand, Schlitterbahn, Moody Gardens, the beach, the island’s many restaurants, and its history, there truly is something for everyone.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of places to stay on the island. And because the area caters to tourists, many hotels offer some pretty sweet cruise deals such as free parking and a shuttle for your stay.

In direct vicinity to the Bayport Terminal, there isn’t much to do. It’s in an industrial area. Kemah is a few miles away and offers some fun things to do — most notably the Kemah Boardwalk.

Of course, there are many things to do in Houston such as museums, sports, and NASA, but all of those are some distance away.

Unlike Galveston, Bayport doesn’t offer a lot of places to stay near the port. Both Kemah and LaPorte have quite a few options (mostly typical chain motels), but again, these are some distance away.

Overall Impression:

Frankly, we’d prefer to sail out of Galveston if we have the choice. While Bayport is a nice addition, Galveston is much more of a destination. The island has a nice feel that gets you in the mood for cruising and the port simply offers more choices for cruises. Plus we find the port easy to get into and out of, as the area has a decade-long head start in figuring out the cruise process.

Photos: ChrisCruises | roy.luck