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We Took a Carnival Cruise from Galveston. Here’s The good, the bad 😢, and the perfect. Part 1

carnival cruise galveston
We took a Carnival cruise from Galveston - Here's How it Went

Carnival Cruise from Galveston

What’s not to love about a cruise ship? You get to wake up to new colorful locations without having to drive or pass through gruesome airport screening at every destination. You get to disconnect from the world – even from the Internet if you choose to do so! You get to experience the joy of fine dining every night. And you’re caressed by a fresh breeze while lying on a lounge chair on the deck. You get to sing your heart out at night with the cast of professional performers in lively musical shows. You might even prove your brother wrong about your “two left feet” while dancing the “Electric Slide” at the command of your Cruise Director. (We see you MarQ!)

Now, let’s talk about our Galveston cruise journey. The good, the bad 😢 and the perfect.

cruise parking galveston tx

A view of the Carnival Dream from our Cruise Parking at Galveston TX

Where do you park when you cruise from Galveston?

There are various options, including hotels that will let you park in their lots and take a shuttle to the port. We parked at a covered parking garage across from the cruise ship. We got there earlier than needed and paid $113.66 from Sunday to Saturday. We recommend that you make a reservation. You can do that here. The less stress you pack into your day of boarding your cruise, the better.

How was the onboarding process to your Carnival cruise from Galveston?

We were boarding the Carnival Dream. There were a lot of people already at the port and a pretty long line. We checked luggage first but I personally kept an over-the-shoulder bag with me. That was an unnecessary weight that I had to carry with me for a good hour or so. I suggest you check it all. They will then leave your luggage in front of your room door. Be sure to keep with you some essentials such as IDs, snacks for kids and water.

Also Read: South Padre Island Texas: The Perfect Beach Retreat

Any hiccups?

There was only one part that put a dent in our experience. Our lead photographer’s passport was expired. So we called Carnival’s customer support to find out exactly what he would need to board the cruise. They assured us he only needed a valid US ID, such as his driver’s license. “Just like at the airport.” This is not true, you need an additional proof of citizenship, such as his birth certificate. And we weren’t the only ones who were misinformed by customer service. Others were told they could take a photo of a particular document for verification purposes and/or print it out to use as evidence. This was not our case. Our photographer was not able to board the cruise. Did it sour the experience? Absolutely. Regardless, the rest of us decided to leave our troubles at the Galveston dock and embrace the rest of the adventure.

carnival cruise leaving galveston

Bittersweet cloudy day one as our Carnival Dream cruise left Galveston TX minus 1 crew member

First impressions on board the Carnival Dream

Once you board the cruise ship your whole world changes. We took it all in knowing that this was going to be our home for roughly the next week. The lobby deck of the Carnival Dream was beautiful with tropical music running in the background and multiple seating areas, including a bar. Everyone greets you with a smile. The area you walk into is very close to the customer service area and elevators. You’ll also find the doors to “Encore!” the theatre where you’ll get to experience live shows throughout the week. Because my onboarding took a bit longer than expected, I was told I could head to my room drop off my things and come down for a security presentation at our *Muster Station. The station, which was preassigned on our check-in documents, is where you are assigned to go in the event of an emergency. Once I got that out of the way, I went up to the Lido deck to meet the rest of the crew to say goodbye to Galveston. I must admit, even after the onboarding experience “from hell,” the farewell was super incredibly exciting!

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*It is recommended to go to the Muster Station first.

What about your cruise ship rooms?

We decided to save a couple of hundred dollars by choosing rooms that were not on the balcony side. Did we feel we were missing out? I personally didn’t. I know I would have isolated from others a lot more if I got to see the sunshine from my room and that would have defeated the purpose of being there, documenting and being with friends and family. But I will probably try a balcony room next time. I was surprised at how comfortable the room was. The bedding was impeccable, the bed sheets were fresh, I had enough pillows to keep comfortable and the housekeeping crew did a wonderful job of sprucing up the room every day. And the bathroom, although small, was creatively planned to be all the space you need.

carnival dream from galveston at costa maya mexico

The beautiful blue waters of Costa Maya, Mexico while docking in from the Carnival Dream

Which destinations did the Carnival Dream take you to?

 

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Let’s start with our Carnival cruise itinerary, which consisted of the following:

  • Day 1 – Leaving Galveston 
  • Day 2 – Fun Day at Sea
  • Day 3 – Costa Maya, Mexico
  • Day 4 – Belize City, Belize
  • Day 5 – Cozumel, Mexico
  • Day 6 – Fun Day at Sea
  • Day 7 – Back in Galveston. Go home! 🥲
costa maya view at the port arriving from Carnival Cruise

Costa Maya, Mexico view at the port arriving from Carnival Dream Cruise

Let’s start with the first destination. How was Costa Maya?

Wow. Costa Maya is beautiful. We made sure we were up in the Sky deck as we docked into this beautiful Mexico destination. I couldn’t help but smile as the Carnival Dream made its way to the dock and embraced one of the most beautiful hues of blue I’ve ever seen on the ocean. It reminded me of the water at the island of Capri in Italy. As we walked through the long dock towards the port, we encountered a musician playing the harp, simply playing for tips. There were also trolleys that will take you from the dock to the port for tips as well, if you have any mobility restrictions, you are carrying more than you would like to because you are with your kids, or simply want to save your energy, that is an option.

carnival cruise from galveston at costa maya port

Photo Op at Costa Maya Port – Carnival Cruise from Galveston TX

The port is beautiful if you decide you just want to stay in that area. You will find multiple photo ops. People are friendly. There are restaurants, a gorgeous pool you can use that has a view of the ocean, restrooms, shops, and piraña pedicures if you want pampering.

If you have not pre-purchased a tour through Carnival (which is always your best and safest option), you can purchase one there. One heads up: If you purchase as soon as you step into the dock, you will be paying a lot more.

Beach in Costa Maya Mexico

Beach in Costa Maya Mexico

Where do you go in Costa Maya if you did not purchase a tour?

The beach of course! One of our crew members had done some research on Costa Maya and found out that they would charge us $4 each for a taxi to go to the closest beach. So when they offered to take us to the beach for $50 at the beginning of the port, we cordially declined, and kept walking towards the end of the port area.

Here’s where we fell into a bit of a tourist trap. While getting to the cab area, there were some vendors who offered us a trip to beach for $15 that included a lounge chair, a margarita (a lemonade if you don’t drink), and wifi. We paid them, were given a branded wristband and they escorted to the cabs a few steps away.  We then proceeded to pay another $4 each in cash for the shared cab/van ride to the Costa Maya beach. We could have simply paid for the cab to get to the Costa Maya beach.

The drive to the beach takes you through some rural areas. You don’t see enormous resorts. A member of our crew sat up front and asked the cab driver about the area in Spanish. He was very friendly and gave us what became a guided tour of Costa Maya for the next 10-15 minutes. Once at the beach area, one of the vendors we purchased from took us to some lounge chair right in front of the beach. The wifi did not have signal and we were offered lemonade in lieu of margaritas. (We declined). I personally did not drink it as I was avoiding local water. The other crew members forgot about our no local water oath and drank them. Thankfully they were fine, although I am not recommending that you not do this. Please bring a water bottle with you if you decide to venture to the beach on your own.

Carnival Dream from Galveston TX at Costa Maya

View from the Costa Maya port to the Cruise Ships

How was the beach at Costa Maya?

Ahh. Soothing. You get to see such a serene view once you are there. You get to breathe in the salty air and you have the option of swimming. Once you find yourself on a lounge chair at the beach, you will have multiple local vendors come to you to sell you everything from massages to bracelets and sunglasses. They are usually very sweet and will move along with a simple, “No, thank you,” and a smile. We even ended up chatting for a while with one of them telling us about his journey and how he makes a living selling sunglasses.

We also chatted with a snowbird from Canada. He and his wife own a house in Ontario, which they Airbnb during the cooler months for income. They then find a short term rental at a fraction of the price in Costa Maya from November to May every year. They’ve been doing this since the 80s. It surely got our wheels turning and daydreaming of this work and play nomad life. Later we reflected on how grateful we are to live in the great state of Texas.

Ready for more of our Carnival cruise adventure? Stay tuned for Part 2 coming next week.

Until next time,

Keilah

Founder and Sr. Editor

A Texas Guide

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