Galveston, Pre-Cruise

The Disney Magic will leave from Galveston and head to Barcelona. (Photos by Kelly Monaghan)

Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of articles from Intrepid Traveler publisher Kelly Monaghan as he makes his way from Galveston to Barcelona on the Disney Magic (and beyond).

As a travel agent, I always advise cruise clients to fly in to their port of departure a day early, because if you miss the sailing you’re pretty much screwed. (Unless, of course, you buy the somewhat inflated airfare option from the cruise line, in which case they have to look after you if the airline screws up.) The one-day-early rule is especially important in the winter when bad weather can really throw a monkey wrench into air travel plans for us northerners. But it was spring. What could go wrong?

Well, with a 15-night Disney cruise in the offing and the “sequester” threatening chaos in air travel (Thank you, Congress!), I decided to add an extra layer of insurance and fly to Galveston, Texas, the Disney Magic’s home port (at least for now), two days early.

“Flying into Galveston,” of course, means flying into Houston. And getting from Houston to Galveston is no easy feat. (Maybe that’s part of the reason Disney will abandon the port soon.) Rent a car? Nice idea except finding a place to drop it off in Galveston is pretty nigh impossible. So I opted for a town car.

The limo fare from Houston’s George Bush Airport was more than the price of a ticket from JFK to IAH — $150! And that represented something of a bargain.

I booked with Mack Towncar & Limo and was greeted at the airport by owner Mack Williams himself. Mack’s a charmer and the hour-plus drive to our hotel sped by. A generous tip later and the fare had become $180, almost the cost of two airline tickets.

Harbor House Hotel

Mack dropped us off at the Harbor House Hotel and lingered to make sure we were settled in before heading home. The Harbor House has three things going for it — location, location, and location. It’s actually walking distance to the piers, although with the kind of luggage most cruisers drag along, it’s a good idea to avail yourself of the hotel’s free shuttle service.

The rooms are large and comfortable (although the bathrooms are tiny) and some have great views of the port channel. Ask for corner room 201 or 202 (301 and 302 would work, too). That way, you’ll be able to see your ship sail into port in the early morning hours from the comfort of your room. Just remember to set your alarm for 6 a.m. so you don’t miss it.

Unfortunately, location aside, Harbor House has its drawbacks. There’s a slight muskiness about the premises, although I suspect the humidity that makes the Houston area one of my least favorite places to visit affects other properties in a similar fashion. The “complimentary Continental breakfast” (7 to 9 a.m.) is meager and has few healthy options. Get there early! The breakfast room is small and the blaring TV is impossible to avoid. We found going out for breakfast was a much better alternative. More on that anon.

The free Internet access is so anemic and spotty that it is effectively useless. This might not be a problem for some, but for those forced to take care of business while traveling, it is a major drawback. If that’s you, book elsewhere!

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