Note: With the opening of a completely new Royal Caribbean cruise terminal in Galveston and the introduction of its largest ship ever to sail from Texas — Allure of the Seas — Cruzely was invited to sail on the inaugural trip from the island. The four-day cruise leaves Galveston, headed to Cozumel. I’ll be live-blogging the experience each day to share what it’s like.
You can read our other days here:
- Allure of the Seas Galveston Inaugural (Live Blog Day 2): Doing it All on a Day at Sea
- Allure of the Seas Galveston Inaugural (Live Blog Day 3): This Much Fun in Mexico… Without a License?
While I have cruised from all over North America, departing everywhere from Seattle to Los Angeles, Miami to New York, it’s a spot in Texas that’s my homeport. Not only is Galveston the closest cruise port to where I live, but I also grew up in the area before cruise ships even called on the island.
And over the years, I’ve watched as the port has evolved from a spot with a ship or two sailing seasonally from Galveston to the largest cruise port outside of Florida. In 2023, Galveston expects to see more than 1 million passengers and 360 ship departures — breaking all previous records.
One major reason for that expected record-breaking status? The addition of a brand-new dedicated cruise terminal to Royal Caribbean and the arrival of one of the cruise line’s largest ships.
Royal Caribbean, which has sailed from Galveston for years from Cruise Terminal 2 (now dubbed Cruise Terminal 28), has worked with the port for years on the design and construction of a dedicated terminal.
With this inaugural sailing, it marks the first time that the new terminal welcomes passengers. And for those that are sailing on Royal Caribbean, starting the trip from the new Cruise Terminal 10 should make for a nice start to their cruise.
First Time in the Brand New Galveston Terminal
If you sail from Galveston, the new terminal is located a few blocks east of the other cruise ports. That actually seems like it’s going to make it much easier to navigate to the ship. In this case, we were able to simply hang a turn into the terminal area and park in the south lot.
From there, the port has a shuttle that will take you to the terminal, but my wife and I opted just to walk. It’s a short five-minute walk and there are covered walkways to keep you out of the sun or rain. Compared to trying to walk from the parking lots to the other terminals, it’s much, much easier.
Those that have sailed from Galveston know that the older terminals are pretty utilitarian. There isn’t much design or luxury put into them. That’s not the case when you arrive at the new Royal Caribbean terminals.
Walk in the doors and you’re greeted by a massive Royal Caribbean logo with two huge screens running promo video to get you excited about what you’re about to experience. And hanging from the ceiling are two enormous ship propellers. On either side are stairs and escalators up to the security and screening area.
Because the ship seems to be sailing only partially full for this trip, check-in was a breeze. There were no lines; we simply scanned our boarding documents, took a photo and then headed through security. From there, we passed through a large embarkation hall with tons of space and seating and some artwork of a music band made up of sea life that’s really fun.
It’s hard to emphasize just how big of a jump this terminal is compared to the older terminals in Galveston. And while no one wants to spend a ton of time in a cruise terminal, it is a nice start to your vacation.
Stepping Aboard Allure of the Seas
Of course, while the terminal is a great addition to the island, perhaps the even bigger draw is the arrival of Allure of the Seas. This ship, part of the Oasis-class from Royal Caribbean, is one of the largest on the planet. It also marks the largest ship to ever sail from the island.
If you’ve sailed Royal Caribbean but haven’t sailed on the Oasis-class ships, then you should know that it’s a completely different experience. The size of Allure of the Seas can’t be overstated. And because of that size, there is so much more packed onto the ship that no matter what you like to do when you cruise, it’s possible on these ships.
The first thing I like to do whenever I sail a new ship is simply get acquainted with what’s onboard. So we did the muster drill on our phones and checked in at the station right as we boarded to get that chore out of the way (having muster moved to digital is SUCH a better experience). Then, it was up to our cabin to drop off our bags and then off to get a feel for the ship.
Allure is actually the second Oasis-class ship I’ve sailed. I sailed her sister-ship (and the first ship in the class), Oasis of the Seas, last year.
So far exploring Allure of the Seas, I’m finding that it’s very similar to Oasis. There’s the Aqua Theater, Central Park, the Solarium, and the Boardwalk. And in most cases the same amenities are located in the same spots. That’s actually made it much easier to get my bearing on such a large ship. I feel like I’ve got the test answers in advance.
That’s not to say they are the exact same. Oasis of the Seas was refurbished just before the pandemic, and has a number of things that Allure doesn’t. This includes the twin dry slides at the back of the ship, a Playmakers (this spot is Sabor — a Mexican-food restaurant — on Allure) and it also doesn’t have the waterslides that are on Oasis. So similar, but not identical.
‘Sneaking’ Into an Exclusive Spot I’ve Never Been
With so much being familiar, I decided to try to check out an area I’ve never seen on any Royal Caribbean ship — the suite deck. It’s officially the Suite Sun Deck, and in this case it sits at the top of the entire ship. The spot is reserved for suite guests. And from outside the gated entrance, I could see that nobody was up there. Since I wouldn’t be intruding on anyone, my wife and I decided to open the unlocked gate and head up to check it out.
Maybe it’s for this trip, but there wasn’t another guest around, just a very bored bartender who seemed happy to see anyone. We ordered a mojito, chatted her up for a few minutes and then found an empty daybed to hang out.
Let me say, the people staying in suites on a cruise seem like they must have it pretty good! This spot was quiet, private, and very relaxing.
From there, it was continuing to explore the ship, including a stop at Central Park, which is my favorite area on any cruise ship I’ve been on. And then around 4:30 in the afternoon, history was made.
Making History as the Largest Cruise Ship to Sail From Texas
It was at that time that Allure of the Seas started to pull away from the dock, officially making it the largest cruise ship to ever sail from Galveston. In fact, we wanted to watch along the side of the ship but the rails on both sides were completely packed — along with everyone waving small Texas flags that were being passed out. Instead, we found a spot at the back of the ship, had a drink, and watched as the sun started to get lower in the sky and we began our trip to Cozumel.
With dinner reservations at Izumi (sushi) for late in the evening, we figured it was a good time to grab something to tide us over. Now, Allure of the Seas has a number of spots to eat but with the move of the ship to Galveston, casual Mexican food makes an appearance. (Mexican food in Texas? Yeah, that’s a must-have.)
Royal Caribbean fans will know El Loco Fresh, the spot serving tacos, nachos, and quesadillas for free. Allure of the Seas “technically” doesn’t have El Loco Fresh. But it does have The Wipeout Café, which has been transitioned over to serve the same food as El Loco Fresh. So yes, if you’re a Texan that needs your Mexican food fix, it is available.
The evenings are when you can really start to appreciate what a bigger ship can offer. Case in point: With our late dinner reservations, we decided to check out the ice skating show in Studio B. The show — “Ice Games” — featured a lot of good music, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t really something that we were into.
On most ships, that would be an issue finding something else going on. But on Allure, there was another show at the same time in the main theater staring a performer named Earl Turner.
On a whim, we stopped in and were immediately hooked. The show is hard to describe. It’s essentially Earl Turner playing a lot of snippets of songs you love while also throwing in stories, jokes, sing alongs, and generally having a good time.
We caught the act in the middle, when he was on stage with a guitar, playing riffs and singing everything from The Beatles to Elvis. But what stands out is the energy, including a closing number where he heads into the crowd leading an audience-wide performance of Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk.
If you have this performance on your ship and it’s a packed house, it is absolutely something you do not want to miss.
Dinner and a Show (More Like Dinner and a Show That’s a ‘Can’t Miss’)
Following the show, we headed to our reservation at Izumi, the Asian restaurant on the ship. One half is hibachi grill, the other half is a sit-down sushi and Asian restaurant. What’s offered is everything from sushi rolls to miso soup to poke bowls and ramen dishes. Prices range from about $13-$20 for an entrée.
I had the Spicy Miso Ramen and my wife the Spicy Crispy Shrimp Roll for our main dishes. Both of which were very good. It’s the first time I’ve tried Izumi, but I’d definitely eat there again.
Having woken up around 6 a.m., driven halfway across Texas, and walked for hours exploring one of the largest cruise ships in the world, it was tempting to call it a night after a late dinner. But there was one more thing that I knew I couldn’t miss…
One big difference with Allure of the Seas and other ships that have sailed from Galveston is that Allure offers the Aqua Theater. Located at the back of the ship, the open-air theater features a pool with a moveable bottom. It can be raised to be a flat, dry floor or lowered to be a pool that can be dove into by performers.
The shows put on here are nothing short of amazing. In this case, the performance is called Oceanaria. It features divers making acrobatic dives into the pool from up to 60 feet in the air (aboard a moving cruise ship, mind you), trampoline performances, water jets spraying everywhere, and performers making moves both in the water and out. It’s something that you won’t see anywhere else.
Oceanaria ended with a standing ovation, and that ended our first day aboard Allure of the Seas.
Day 2 is a day at sea on our way to Cozumel.
- The last Royal Caribbean cruise I took, the menu price for most cocktails was $13. I noticed today that the cost has been bumped up to $14. As well, when sailing from Galveston, there is a limited menu of drinks due to Texas alcohol laws. Once the ship is out of state waters, the full menu opens up.
- According to the person at the Internet desk, Allure of the Seas is already equipped with the new Starlink service, which the cruise line promises to be “faster and more reliable.” So far, I’m not noticing a difference. The service has been solid, but the tests I’ve run show connections speeds between 1-3 Mbps, which is on the slow end. Surfing the web is just fine, but a little sluggish.