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The Cruise Boarding Process: What to Expect at the Port of Galveston

You’re all packed and set to go on your trip. Now what?

We know you have questions on where to go, how to check in, and what to expect when boarding your cruise. That’s why we’ve put together an easy guide to walk you through the process.

Arriving at the Terminal

Galveston Cruise Terminal

At this point, you’ve had the good sense to find the best parking options in Galveston or figured out how to get to the port from the Houston airports by using our handy guides here and here.

From there, you will make your way toward the Galveston Cruise Terminal. Terminal #1 is located right in front of 25th Street and is used primarily by Carnival. Terminal #2 is located just to the west and is served by Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines.

To keep it simple, just look for your ship and walk toward it. Or if you are being shuttled to the terminal, the bus will drop you off in the appropriate place.

Dropping Off Luggage

As you approach, you will see signs pointing two different directions. One sign will direct you where to check your luggage. The other sign will direct you where to check in.

If you have luggage to drop off, simply head in the direction of the luggage drop-off. Better yet, there are plenty of porters around (the guys and gals in the Hawaiian shirts) that can help carry your luggage for you.

If you let them take your bags, they can help you get your luggage taken care of. Be sure to tip them for the help. Traditional guidelines are for $1-2 per bag.

You want to be sure to keep with you a carry-on that has anything you’ll need for the first day — including passports, medication, and a change of clothes. For more on luggage and baggage rules, click here.

Checking In

Once you’ve dropped off luggage, you’ll make your way toward the check-in area. You’ll need your ID out to access this area, and you will likely be asked to show it several times.

Before you check-in, you’ll have to go through a metal detector and pass your carry-on through an X-ray machine. This has a very “airport” feel, however, you don’t have to worry about liquids or taking off your shoes.

Once through security, you’ll enter a large departure hall. You’ll get in line and wait for an available check-in agent.

As we’ve told Galveston cruise passengers before, we find it best to wait until about an hour before the end of the boarding window (usually 2.5 hours before departure) to go to check-in.

Many people like to check-in right when the boarding starts. That leads to enormous crowds and lots of waiting in line. Waiting until closer to departure time lets the crowds die down and means you can usually check-in quickly.

Once you’re with an agent, the process if relatively straightforward. They will check your travel documents and fill out any needed paperwork, including a credit card to link with your room account and a health questionnaire to make sure passengers with noroviruses are not boarding. The agent will also give you your most important item — your credit-card style room key that is linked to your onboard spending account.

From there, it’s time to board the ship.

Boarding the Cruise Ship

ship sign

After meeting with an agent, you’ll be ready to board the ship. In Terminal #2, which we’re more familiar with, this process involved walking down a long hallway. Along the way, you are asked to stop and take a photo with one of the ship’s photographers.

These photos are optional, and there is no obligation to buy the picture. If you want to buy a copy, then you can view and buy it onboard the ship.

Once your “fun” photo is taken, you’ll move to an electronic kiosk that will take your boarding photo. This photo is not optional. It is used by the security team to confirm your identity as you embark and disembark from the ship.

This photo also marks the end of the boarding checkpoints. From here, you’ll walk the gangway to board the ship.

Once aboard you will be greeted by a crew member that can answer any questions about finding your stateroom, where you can get a snack, or just general directions around the ship.

That’s it for boarding. However, we do have lots of information and tips about getting off the ship. Click here to read more.