Which Airport Should You Fly Into For Your Galveston Cruise?

While no one would mistake Galveston with Miami, the truth is that it has quickly grown into the busiest cruise port outside of Florida.

Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean have sailed from the island for years, with Royal Caribbean now homeporting one of its largest Oasis-class ships at the Texas port. Meanwhile, other lines including Norwegian and Princess are also bringing their ships to the port. And a new terminal for MSC is in the works.

Sailing from Galveston means you have to get to the port first! For many, that means flying in. So which airport should you use?

For tens of millions of Texans, the port is within a few hours drive. But as Galveston grows as a port, it’s only natural that more people fly in for their cruise.

The only real complaint about cruising from Galveston is that getting to the cruise terminal can more difficult if you need to fly in for your cruise. Unlike cities like Miami or Fort Lauderdale — which have airports just minutes from the cruise port — Galveston is a considerable distance from the closest major airport.

For most people, the option is to fly into one of Houston’s two airports. The city is served by Houston Hobby (HOU) and Bush-Intercontinental (IAH). That makes it even more confusing for cruisers who aren’t familiar with the area or the airports to decide which one they should fly into.

To help out those passengers trying to decide which airport is better for their trip, we have all the details about both as it relates to cruising from Galveston.

(Note: Galveston does have a small local airport minutes from the cruise ships. However, it does not offer regular commercial service at this time. If you are a pilot or want to charter a flight, however, it could be an option.)

Airport Distances from the Port of Galveston

Both Houston Hobby and Intercontinental are located far from the port. Houston Hobby is considerably closer, sitting on the southeast side of Houston, compared to Intercontinental’s location due north of the city. In total, you should allot between 45 minutes (Hobby) to an hour and 15 minutes (Intercontinental), at the very least. 

Houston Hobby
41 miles from Port of Galveston
45-minute ride without traffic

Houston Intercontinental
70 miles from Port of Galveston
75-minute ride without traffic

Houston airport map relative to Galveston cruise port
Both Houston airports are a considerable distance from Galveston. Hobby is closer, sitting on the southeast side of the city. Intercontinental is the larger airport, but a much greater distance. Map data: Google

One thing to keep in mind is that Houston is notorious for its traffic (even at odd hours) thanks to road construction. That’s why we suggest allowing up to double the “non-traffic” time just to give yourself plenty of time to get to the ship.

Given the distance, we would always suggest flying into Houston the day before you sail. If your flight arrives early enough on the morning of your cruise (typically before noon), you should have enough time to make it to the port. However, any delays could add unneeded stress.

Airline Service for Houston Airports

There is no doubt that Houston Hobby’s location makes it much more convenient for passengers headed to Galveston. Unfortunately, Hobby is considerably smaller in terms of airlines servicing the airport when compared to Intercontinental.

Houston Hobby is primarily a Southwest destination. The airline dominates service from the airport. However, there are occasional flights from Delta, American Airlines, Frontier, and Allegiant.

Houston Intercontinental is the city’s largest airport and also offers the most flight service. Here you’ll find nearly every airline available, including Southwest. If you are flying from an international destination, you will likely have no choice but to fly into this airport. In addition, IAH is a United hub, which serves airports around the country and the world.

Transportation Options to Galveston From Airports

Both airports will offer similar service for transportation, including taxis, cruise line shuttles, car rentals, and independent shuttles to the Port of Galveston.

The major difference is getting from Intercontinental to the cruise ships takes considerably more time and money than compared to Houston Hobby.

For example, the official Carnival shuttle between IAH and the cruise port runs $116 per person round trip, compared to $82 from Houston Hobby. Expect similar prices from the other cruise lines. Other services, including taxis will see an even larger price jump between the two airports.

Transportation options with prices to Port of Galveston from Houston airports.

Many people choose to use a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft or independent shuttles as they are the cheapest options available. Either way, expect to spend at least $100 for roundtrip transportation to Galveston for a couple taking a cruise. Read more about transportation to Galveston here.

Which Houston Airport Is More Convenient to Galveston?

While we live in the area, if we had to fly in for a cruise, then we’d pick Houston Hobby 10 times out of 10. The shorter distance between Hobby and the cruise port makes the airport much more convenient to get to the cruise ship. Also, we like that Hobby is a much smaller airport in general, making it easier to get in and out.

The only hang-up is that Bush-Intercontinental features many more flights. That means cruisers flying to sail from Galveston might find a cheaper flight into Intercontinental or one that better meets their schedule.

For us, we would have to save more than $75 per person on a round trip flight to make the extra distance and cost of getting to the port worth our while. That said, it’s smart to search for flights into both, just to make sure you’re getting the best price and time for your trip.

More on Cruising From Galveston

Getting to the Port of Galveston — Need transportation options from airports and the Galveston area to the cruise port? Here’s everything you need to know to get to the port and start your vacation.

Galveston Cruise Guide—  Sailing from the island for the first time? Read this guide to familiarize yourself with everything from location to transportation, hotels, cruise lines and more.

Galveston Hotels with Cruise Shuttle — Need a ride to the port? We’ve rounded up the options for places to stay near the port that also have shuttle service on cruise day.

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