disability cruising, Handicap, Traveling with disabilities

Visiting Galveston, TX for the Disabled Cruiser

I have always been in love with the sea and cruising is one of the ways I enjoy the sea. But my wife and I have taken numerous vacations and side trips to visit and photograph lighthouses. Because, where there is water and navigation, there are beacons of hope — lighthouses. Over the years we have visited and photographed over 200 lighthouses climbing the stairs to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy the beautiful view of the sea. And while I am now unable to make it up the stairs I still enjoy visiting and taking pictures of lighthouses.

On a recent trip of exploring lighthouses we spent some time in Galveston. Since this is a major port for cruise ships, we explored the area to see how well the disabled cruiser could enjoy the area.

If you are planning a cruise to the Caribbean Islands one of the departure ports for the cruise is Galveston, TX. Port Galveston is located on mainland Texas’ upper coast and on Galveston Island’s eastern end. The port is about 9 miles from the open sea. In 2017, Galveston was ranked USA’s 4th largest cruise port with most departures from Galveston being operated by ships from the fleets of the cruise lines Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney.

The Port of Galveston was established in October 1825, making it the oldest Gulf of Mexico port. During the late 19th century, the port was considered to be the USA’s 2nd busiest – following NYC New York. Unfortunately, on September 8, 1900, the port was devastated by the “1900 Galveston hurricane”. The storm with strong winds up to 145 mph resulted in 6000-8000 deaths, ranking it the USA’s deadliest hurricane ever. Although recovered, the port’s market position was soon overtaken by Houston and other deep-water US ports in the Caribbean Sea.Disability Cruising-Galveston-1

Galveston cruise port has 2 terminals. “Cruise Terminal 1” serves vessels of Princess and Carnival. “Cruise Terminal 2” is utilized by Disney, Celebrity and RCI Royal Caribbean. Both passenger terminals are modern, with efficient customer facilities. The cruise terminals are handicap accessible and the disabled cruiser will have no problems in the cruise terminal area. The parking area is guarded, lighted, with 24 hour surveillance and police patrol.

During your stay, Galveston can offer plenty of activities for any age. You can enjoy tropical rainforest adventure, rest at the sunny beach or if you prefer, you can visit amusement places or shopping near the Galveston cruise port terminal.

Unfortunately, once you move away from the cruise terminals, handicap accessibility drops off dramatically. Galveston is an old city and the cruise terminals are located in the old portion of town. Around the cruise terminals we visited the Galveston Railroad Museum and the Tall Ships Galveston Seaport Museum. While they were very nice and the Texas Seaport Museum was worth visiting to learn about the history of Galveston, access to certain areas is limited for the disabled guest.Disability Cruising-Galveston-2

Shopping around the cruise terminals is very limited for the disabled cruiser, not for the lack of shops, but the downtown area is not very handicapped accessible. The sidewalks have limited ramps down to the road which are about a foot below the sidewalk. The stores have steps above the sidewalk and even those that we visited that was even with the sidewalk were not designed for wheelchairs as the aisles are too narrow to navigate or there are stairs in the store within 10 feet of the entrance. We did go into one store that had recently remodeled and the store owner was very proud of the fact that it was fully accessible including what he claimed was the best handicapped accessible restroom in all of downtown Galveston.

We stayed in a hotel that was across the street from the beach and located close to Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, and while the pier was fully accessible, the beach would have been difficult to access. The beach is about 10 feet below the sidewalk and was accessed by stairs, no ramp was available. Maneuvering on the sidewalk along the beach was easy, but the side roads were hit or miss for accessibility.

Overall, our time in Galveston was very enjoyable. Even though the city could do some things to improve conditions for the disabled cruiser, it is certainly a city worth visiting before or after your cruise.

Chris J LeBlanc

For additional information on cruising with disabilities, please click here

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