Galveston's Pleasure Pier

The beachy port of Galveston sits on the Gulf of Mexico, about an hour from Houston. While it's not as large as Miami in terms of ship choice, there are a few ships that call Galveston home, especially during the winter months. You'll find lots of options for cruises to the Western Caribbean as well as the Bahamas, and even one ship that does the Panama Canal if you are looking to cross that off your bucket list. The fares are also reasonable (you can find seven nights for as little as $387 per person), which can offset having to add airfare to your vacation budget if you live farther afield. Here are the five best cruises from Galveston to consider.

1. Carnival Breeze
The 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze gives you multiple options out of Galveston, with three different Western Caribbean itineraries on the docket. You can head really south to Cozumel, Belize City, and Roatan, Honduras, or choose the sailings that hit Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Montego Bay. There is also a Bahamas itinerary that includes Freeport and Nassau as well Key West. Families will find a lot to love about the ship, which has casual poolside restaurants BlueIguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint, a WaterWorks aqua park, and Seuss at Sea activities. Those not traveling with kids in tow can head to the ship's Serenity adults-only retreat or one of the eight bars on board.

2. Liberty of the Seas
Royal Caribbean's 3,798-passenger Liberty of the Seas underwent a full refurbishment in 2016, adding new restaurants including the modern Mexican spot Sabor and the Italian Giovanni's Table. You'll also find the active pursuits the line has become known for — rock climbing wall, ice skating rink, surfing simulator — plus an extensive aqua park and the Perfect Storm waterslide. The ship has two options for Western Caribbean cruises out of Galveston, including a seven-night cruise to the ancient Mayan ruins of Cozumel in Mexico, the pristine beaches and playful stingrays of Grand Cayman, and the lush tropical landscape of Falmouth, Jamaica. Or you can mix jungle and beach adventure on a seven-night trip that includes Cozumel plus Roatan and Belize City.

3. Carnival Liberty
Cruisers looking for an inexpensive getaway should check out the four- and five-night Western Caribbean cruises on this Carnival ship. The short sailings include a lot of time at sea (the four-night cruise only stops in Cozumel while the five-night adds a stop in Progreso), but these cruises are less about time on land and more about the party on board — expect thumping music from the DJ and lots of antics like poolside contests. While it is not as updated as other ships cruising out of Galveston (Carnival Liberty's last major renovation was in 2011), there are half a dozen bars on board. You might want to take the money you saved on the fare and sink it into the $50-a-day drink package.

4. Disney Wonder
If fun in the sun is your goal and your kids are crazy about Disney, the 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder cruises out of Galveston for stops in Key West, Nassau, and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. The ship comes out of dry dock in November 2016 after a renovation that added fun for both kids and adults. The Oceaneer Club will now have a Marvel Super Hero Academy, families can eat at New Orleans-themed Tiana's Place, and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is the place for princess and pirate makeovers. Parents can make reservations for the adults-only Palo or head to the English pub. Act fast if you want to take one of these cruises, though. Disney Wonder will relocate to Port Canaveral in February 2017.

5. Carnival Freedom
If you've got more time (and vacation days) on your hands, you can book a two-week cruise on the 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom that cruises from Galveston and through the Panama Canal. This itinerary covers a lot of ground even before heading west through the famed waterway. You'll get time on the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Aruba, and Curaçao, plus port stops in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia. During the six sea days you can head to the pool to have burgers and tacos, hit the waterslide, and watch movies under the stars. The ship also has a pub, tequila bar, and the cocktail-focused Alchemy Bar.

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