I just returned from a travel agent fam weekend in Galveston, TX as guests of Carnival Cruiseline to inspect the Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Conquest.
Here are some updates:
1) Galveston is recovering nicely from Hurricaine Ike. Almost all of the commercial areas have recovered, and all the beaches are restored and open. Also, the historic and art districts have been completely restored and are open. There are still a few houses that are gutted and boarded up, but most have finished their restoration and are being lived in again. About 3/4 of the residents have returned to Galveston.
2) Only 3 hotels remain closed; The Flagship, the Sandpiper, and the Ramada. The Flagship was recently sold and it is unknown if it will be torn down or renovated, The Sandpiper will be torn down but no hotel will be built in its place, the Ramada will be renovated and reopened, but may be reflagged by a new chain. All other hotels have been renovated and restored and are open.
3) I learned the best way to get to Galveston from Houston and around Galveston is to rent a car. Enterprise has a car turn in with a free cruise shuttle in Galveston, and many of the hotels have a park and cruise package.
4) If sailing out of Galveston, get to the pier early! When we arrived around noon both days, the lines were very short and very fast boarding. When we were exiting around 2:30pm, the lines were very long and I would estimate at least a 1 hour wait in line. Our guide told us that in Galveston, most cruisers arrive later and lines are typically long after 2pm.
5) The Ecstasy will be in drydock for her major refit starting in October for 4 weeks. On the Conquest, during her last refit they replaced the large floor to ceiling glass windows in the family staterooms with a balcony.
6) The trolley system in Galveston has not been resotred. The trolleys were taken away to be restored and won't return until at least next spring or summer.
7) All the attractions, including the museums, aquarium, amusement parks, stores and restaurants are all restored and open again.
8) The cruise pier is fully restored and working. They renovated the upstairs and all the facilities are very nice, with new elevators, modern restrooms, large open spaces with chairs and the A/C works everywhere except in the hallway that leads up to the gangway from the checkin area, but they did set up nice big fans to keep everyone cool.
9) The Ecstasy and the Conquest sail out of Galveston year round. RCI Voyager OTS will sail a western Caribbean Itin from December to April. They are trying to get some other cruielines to sail from Galveston, but so far no other takers.
That's it. Galveston was a real nice place to spend the weekend and look at cruiseships. I stayed at the Hotel Galvez and it is a really nice hotel just across from the beach.
Happy cruising everyone!