2016 Cruise to Mexico - Disembarking and the Beach at Galveston

If you have been following along with the 2016 Cruise to Mexico Trip Report, the cruise was starting to wind down. But there’s still more of our trip left!

Thursday, July 21, 2016 - Galveston

It is always a little sad to wake up on the last morning of your cruise. But we weren’t all that sad, because we had been having a great time, so we were happy for all that we had gotten to do. And besides, we still had some fun things ahead of us, or so we hoped.

On our previous Disney cruises, we always had two options: put your suitcase out in the hall on your last night, or carry all your luggage with you on the morning you leave. The downside to the first option was that you had to plan well enough to make sure that you had everything you needed for the next morning, and you usually still had a good bit to carry yourself. The downside with the second option was obviously that you had to carry everything you had, taking it to breakfast with you that final morning.

On this Carnival cruise, we were presented with the same two options. However, things were a little different. The leaving time for Carnival was not nearly as early as the leaving time for Disney, meaning we had a little more time on the ship. And if you carried all of your luggage with you, you could leave earlier than everyone else.

We weighed our options, considering the weight of all our luggage, as well as when we might want to leave the ship. After some discussion and some changing of our minds a few times, we finally decided to go with the carry it all ourselves option. If you are wondering why, and I know you are, that decision was driven by two main factors: the inconvenience of trying to keep out everything we would need for the last night and the next morning, and the later port arrival time. The later time might have been the bigger factor, because that meant that we would be able to go to breakfast and then come back and get all our luggage instead of having to take everything to breakfast with us. Once we figured all of that out, the decision was pretty easy. And besides, we had packed relatively lightly (especially for us), and we hadn’t bought all that much stuff.

So we were up and headed to breakfast at a reasonable time, once again going to the buffet at Emile’s and enjoying the quiet area out by the adult pool. From our seats by the windows, we watched as the ship approached Galveston, passing by all the industrial looking things that must have to do with oil rigs and such. And a passing shrimp boat being attacked by lots and lots of birds. Were they throwing off the occasional shrimp to attract the birds, or had the birds just figured out what their cargo was? Either way, they were being swarmed by them.

Watching Galveston come into view, we figured out why we didn’t have to be off of the ship as early as what we were used to from our past cruises. We had traveled a long way, and the ship didn’t get to the port as early as when a ship goes from the Bahamas to Florida. Although we had plans for the day, we didn’t mind the not as early time at all.

After breakfast, we were back at our room by 7:45, gathering up all of our things so that we could be out of the room by the appointed time, which was 8:30. As it turns out, we were leaving at 8:25, so we had 5 whole minutes to spare.

There were a few areas where you could go to wait, so we chose Deck 5 near the Venetian Palace Theater, mainly because we didn’t want to take all of our stuff up the stairs, only to have to bring it back down when we would be leaving. Guests were dismissed from the ship based on what deck your room was on, so we waited around for them to call us. We knew from the schedule we had received the night before that we had some time to kill, so we tried to make ourselves comfortable while we waited.

We also took the opportunity to turn our phones off airplane mode to start seeing what all we had missed in the way of text messages, emails, voice mail messages, and whatever else. As usual, we had missed a good bit, and it was obvious that a lot of people didn’t know we were going to be out of town. That’s fine, because we don’t care to tell all that many people before we go. Don’t want to brag too much or anything.

We got caught up with what all Jaylin had done during the week, caught up with all of the problems that had come up at work while I was gone, and caught up on everything else as well. We would stop what we were doing expectantly each time Frankie would come over the intercom and call another group, but it wouldn’t be ours. It didn’t take long to realize that they weren’t calling the decks in numerical order, but rather probably in order of how much the average stateroom on that deck had cost. I suppose I could have pulled out the guide to see what deck was going to be called before ours, but I didn’t want to bother with going through my stuff. So we just waited it out.

Frankie did eventually call our deck number, and we didn’t scream and shout for joy or anything. After all, it wasn’t like we really wanted to leave, because we had enjoyed our time there. But since it was time to go, we were ready for it. So we made our way down to the main deck with all of our luggage and said goodbye to all of the crew members who were standing there as we left. We walked back up the gangway and into the terminal building for our trip through customs.

Getting to the actual customs line was really pretty easy, because we didn’t have to stop and find our luggage since we had it all with us. Since we had gone through our whole box of Cokes that we had taken on board with us, that was one less thing we had to carry. And since we hadn’t bought an incredibly large amount of stuff, we didn’t have that many extra bags. So we were able to move around pretty easily.

The line had several people in it, but it moved pretty quickly. We ended up standing in line behind an older couple who had just gotten their passports before the cruise. The wife was a little upset that she wouldn’t have a stamp in her passport after the cruise, and I remember that feeling well after our first cruise. It seems like they should stamp it somewhere along the way, but they don’t. Maybe that’s a sign that you didn’t get into any big trouble, though, since they don’t usually do that on cruises.

Once we got up to the customs agent, he just asked us a couple of really quick questions and then sent us on our way. That was the fastest I have ever been through customs. And I’m not complaining about not having a more chatty customs guy, because I know better than to try to crack a joke or two with them. Those folks are really, really serious. Seriously.

We briefly thought about trying to walk to our car, but it would have been a really long walk without our luggage. So we decided to just take the bus. There were actually two bus lines, one for those with bags and one for those without bags. Obviously, we got in the line with bags, and of course that was the longest line because everyone had brought their luggage with them. I suppose I could have gotten into the no bags line and left Laura there with the luggage and then brought the car back to pick her up, but we just stayed together. The line moved fairly quickly anyway, since they had several buses running. And once we got into some shade, the length of the line didn’t matter quite as much any more.

There was a lady who was frantically searching for her partner, and she said they had gotten separated as they were going to the car. She had tried to call his cell phone, but it just went straight to voice mail. She ended up in the line behind us, worrying loudly the whole time.

As it turns out, we ended up with the same bus driver that had taken us from our car to the terminal when we arrived. I was happy with that, because he was still happy to do his job, just as he had been the last time we had seen him. He said, “Just tell me what kind of car you drove and what color it is, and I’ll find it.” And he did. Quickly. I was amazed at his car finding abilities. It got down to the lost lady and us. He found the car for the lost lady, but her friend wasn’t anywhere around. She got out anyway, hoping to see him or get in touch with him somehow. I wonder whatever happened there?

The driver soon delivered us to our car. Great service from the time we got there until the time we left. We thanked him greatly for making the bus rides fun, and then we loaded up our car. Always nice to see that your car is fine after leaving it sitting in a strange place for several days. I don’t usually think that anything will happen to it theft-wise, but I wonder what the weather might throw at it. But ours was fine, and it started right up. The bus driver had told us that you would be surprised at how many people leave their cars running when they leave, and then they wonder why the battery is dead and they have no gas when they get back. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to us because we are smart enough to turn off our car engine before we leave.

From the cruise terminal parking lot, we proceeded to our next stop, the friendly neighborhood Walmart that we had visited before we left, because we needed a few supplies for the rest of our day. Because after a good cruise like that, who wants to just get in the car and drive home? Not us.

We had kicked around all of our options before the cruise and even during the cruise, and we eventually decided to spend a day at the beach at Galveston. We had driven all along the beachfront before we left, and it looked like a pretty nice place. Plus, the weather was absolutely beautiful. Actually a little warm, but that is just fine for a day at the beach. So we bought some lunch supplies and some ice at Walmart and went to claim our spot on the beach.

There are several miles of beach at Galveston, and it all looks about the same. So we eventually just pulled up to a spot that didn’t have many people, deciding it would be a good one for us. Since Laura had already signed up for the pay-for parking app on her phone before we left, parking was a breeze. We decided to just pay for a couple of hours, since it would be easy to add some more from her phone without having to go back to the car.

Before we left home, we had actually tried to prepare for the possibility of a beach visit, just to keep our options open. But it didn’t quite work. We had remembered the cooler, but we forgot our beach umbrella and anchor thing to keep it in the sand. Fortunately, we remembered that before we dropped Jaylin off at my parents’ house, so that we could borrow their umbrella. But because they usually borrow our anchor thing, so we were out of luck there. Since they sell them at Walmart, we bought a new one there as my parents’ souvenir of our trip, and so that we could test it out for them, too.

There was plenty of open space at the beach, so we didn’t have any trouble finding our spot. Because of space and the uncertainty of an actual beach visit, we hadn’t brought our beach chairs, but we figured we could make it one day without them. So we spread out our beach towels and just sat on them instead. After just a few minutes of sitting and not having anything to lean back on, I was very thankful for my beach chair for our longer beach visits. There were some nearby chairs that we could have rented, but we are just too thrifty for that. And we made it just fine, anyway.

How many beaches can we visit in one trip? There is no such thing as too many!

How many beaches can we visit in one trip? There is no such thing as too many!

Because we were getting hungry, we went ahead and ate lunch soon after we got there, right after we had applied sunscreen. Sun safety first, after all. Lunch on the beach is always good, more for the surroundings than for the food. And today’s was no different.

We followed our usual pattern of getting in the water for a while, going back to our umbrella, getting hot, and the going back to the water to cool off. That worked well here just like it always does at Cocoa Beach, so that was good.

Laura was chilling at the beach. Actually, we were sweating some. But that’s what the water is for.

Laura was chilling at the beach. Actually, we were sweating some. But that’s what the water is for.

One time, I went back to the car for something, and I saw an interesting guy going down the street. This guy was riding a bicycle along the extra-wide sidewalk, which isn’t all that unusual. But he had a large snake draped over his shoulders, which definitely was unusual. And yes, I looked twice to make sure it was a real live snake, which it was. I can only imagine why he was riding a bicycle along the beach by the sidewalk with a large snake. Maybe there was a snake convention at the nearby convention center, and he was out getting a sun break. Maybe the snake is a big beach fan, and he talked the guy into going out for a ride. Maybe lots of people around Galveston have big snakes that they take around to places with them. If that’s the case, then I definitely don’t want to live in Galveston. Fortunately, the guy didn’t stop but just kept on going, taking the big snake far away from where we were.

Some people say all beaches like this look the same. But I know the difference.

Some people say all beaches like this look the same. But I know the difference.

And besides, this beach had a cool wall with some interesting paintings on it.

And besides, this beach had a cool wall with some interesting paintings on it.

Besides the bicycle snake guy, nothing remarkable happened, other than a jolly good time at the beach. As if anyone seriously says “jolly good” any more. We did add some more money to the parking meter app thing a few times, because we didn’t want to leave. But eventually we did have to leave, because we still haven’t figured out how to be beach bums and still live the life that we have grown accustomed to living. So we packed up and went to the car.

The view from on top of the beach wall.

The view from on top of the beach wall. In case you were wondering what it looked like from up there.

Of course, you can burn some serious calories at the beach, and our lunches were long gone. So since it was supper time, we went to Subway, which was just across the street from the beach and down a short way from where we had spent the afternoon. While we were eating, I kept hearing an occasional “THUD” that seemed to come from above us. Then I started noticing the exercise attire of the people that were going up and down the stairs outside the Subway window, and I finally figured out there was a fitness place right up above us. That thud must have been when someone would put down some heavy weights. So don’t worry, the sky wasn’t falling, even though it might have sounded like it.

We had thought about going back toward home through Houston, just like we had planned to go through Houston on our way to Galveston. But we had so much fun riding the ferry on our way there (seriously, that’s the kind of people that we are) that we decided to go back that way and ride the ferry in the daytime this time to be able to see more of the surrounding area.

As we were making our way to the ferry, I was preparing myself for the possibility of a longer wait than what we had before, when we were able to drive onto the ferry after waiting just a few minutes. After all, this was in the prime driving time of the day (around 6:00 PM), and there would be lots of cars out. They would most likely have more ferry boats running, too, but would it be enough to keep up with the demand of cars?

As we approached the ferry dock, I could see that a boat was there loading cars, and I told Laura, “We aren’t going to make it on this one, but there’s another one coming.” As I was preparing to turn off the car for our inspection, the crew waved us on ahead quickly, getting us onto the waiting boat before it left. I’m not really sure what that says about safety, but fortunately we weren’t carrying anything dangerous in our car, since they didn’t bother to check. No complaints from me, as we were ready to enjoy our ferry ride and then be on our way.

Off one boat and onto another boat. Although the previous boat wouldn’t let us bring our car.

Off one boat and onto another boat. Although the previous boat wouldn’t let us bring our car.

We had thought that it would be a much different ride during the day, and it definitely was. We could see dolphins in the water out away from the boat. We could see other boats in the area. We could see the area. It was really cool! Even more people than before got out of their cars to look around, so we weren’t the only ones who thought it was cool. The seagulls were out hoping for a bite to eat, but I don’t think they got much from our crowd. It didn’t stop them from trying, though.

I actually didn’t know that ferries had names. But that’s pretty cool.

I actually didn’t know that ferries had names. But that’s pretty cool.

Soon, we had reached the opposite ferry dock, and we were on our way down the road. Things certainly looked different in the daytime versus at night as we drove along the shore. For one thing, we were able to actually see the shore, and we could also see more of the houses built up on stilts along the shore as we wondered what it would be like to live there. Before too long, we turned north and headed back up to the Interstate Highway, as they apparently call them in Texas.

Just riding along on the ferry with a nice view of the sun.

Just riding along on the ferry with a nice view of the sun.

We stopped in Beaumont, Texas, for some gas for the car. While we were trying to get to the gas station, which took a couple of trips around the block, Laura spotted a Chick-Fil-A. So after filling up with gas, we went there for a Peach Milkshake, since that is one of Laura’s favorite treats. I don’t mind them all that much, either, and since you can only get them in the summer, we have to get them while we can.

From there, we drove on for a while, entering into Louisiana, passing all the truck stops there with casinos inside. That’s something we don’t see back home. But since we aren’t the gambling type (except for things like life insurance and driving in Memphis), we didn’t feel the need to stop.

Because it had been a long day, we were getting pretty tired, so we didn’t try to push it too hard for driving far. We stopped at Lafayette, Louisiana, settling on a Motel 6. It looked like it used to be a pretty fancy place, with jazz murals and statues all around. It still really wasn’t all that bad, I guess, especially for the price that we were paying. We just wanted a place to sleep for the night, and we didn’t need much besides that. Not the fault of the motel, but there seemed to be a lot of people talking loudly in their rooms, and there was a crying baby in a room somewhere near ours. But we were tired enough that it didn’t keep us up all that long.

So although it wasn’t a cruise ship cabin with someone to turn down our bed at night, we still slept well. Once the baby stopped crying, of course.

Check back soon for the final installment of the 2016 Cruise to Mexico Trip Report!

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.