During most of the year, vacationers can cruise from the Port of Galveston, located on a scenic barrier island 50 miles southeast of Houston, Texas. Cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines (carnival.com), Royal Caribbean International (royalcaribbean.com), Disney Cruise Line (disneycruise.disney.go.com) and Princess Cruises (princess.com) take guests on 4-, 5- and 7-day cruises to Mexico and the Western Caribbean that sail from this convenient location. But before you show up on departure day with a packed bag, hoping to grab rock-bottom rates, you might consider that "last minute cruising" is a bit more complicated than in the past.
Post 9/11 Influence
For years, it was easy to book a cruise at the port on the day of departure. And you could usually count on getting that cruise for a good bit less than early planners paid. But fallout from 9/11 included much closer security scrutiny of passports and other identification, so it's a good idea to book at least a few days in advance so you don't hit snags. Make sure you passport is current since it's required now even for Caribbean and Mexican cruises.
Home Port Cruise Demand
Galveston is a year-round home port for two Carnival Cruise Lines ships, including the newer megaship Carnival Magic. This means cruises embark and disembark there. Royal Caribbean, Disney and Princess are also offering cruises from the port. Since many vacationers from surrounding states consider a Galveston cruise a good opportunity to drive, rather than fly, to the port, cabins often sell quickly, so waiting until the last minute may not be the best plan. And since the demand is fairly high for home port cruises, even if you get a last-minute berth, you can't count on the kind of low rates you can grab in Florida where the competition is greater.