Savvy Traveler: Galveston Island, a surprising vacation treat

Galveston Island, just south of Houston, Texas, has been a haven for ships for several hundred years. Today it’s luxury cruise ships; yesterday, it was a haven for ship captains such as the notorious Jean LaFitte and his brothers who plundered the Gulf Coast as, depending on which side you were on, either privateers or pirates.

The island’s busy port is about to receive a return from one of the major family oriented cruise lines, Disney Cruise Lines. Disney will use Galveston as a port of embarkation for cruises to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean. It will also be the final port for a 14-night cruise that traverses the Panama Canal after leaving San Diego.

The Disney people must know something because they choose their ports and itineraries very carefully. In this case, they made the right choice. There’s something for everyone and is a grand family destination as well.

The most prominent name throughout Galveston is that of the Moody family. William L. Moody began his connection to the island in the early 1800s and subsequent generations made their mark and impact.

Today, Moody Gardens is a testament to what the family has meant. Pre or post-cruise, one of the most convenient places to stay is the Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center located in the heart of some major attractions. The hotel itself is beautiful and modern with comfortable rooms and killer views.

Within walking distance are three huge glass pyramids that contain an aquarium, a rain forest and a Discovery Museum. With little difficulty, a visitor could easily spend a day going through each one; especially the rain forest with its free-roaming animals, birds and butterflies. Take your time and enjoy.

If you are a fan of the Travel Channel, no doubt you’ve seen The Schlitterbahn Water Park on one of its Extreme Water Park shows. If your room is on the right side of the hotel, you can watch people zooming down the waterslides, relaxing as they tube the Lazy River, pulled along by the current, or just sit and relax at Palm Beach.

For hardy thrill-seekers, the complex has a zip line that flies over much of the park ending at the Rope Course where you can try your hand and skills on a variety of courses designed to test your balance and nerve.

Take the tram that circles the property to the far end of the jogging trail for a ride on The Colonel, a paddlewheeler that looks as though it came straight out of a Mark Twain book on the mighty Mississippi.

One of the more spectacular exhibits is now under construction and will open to the public shortly. Ice Land is a spectacular city of ice in a covered 28.000 square-foot tent. A crew of more than 80 workers from Harbin, China was brought in to hand-carve the entire exhibit.

Harbin is known world-wide for the intricate ice carvings created there every year. In Galveston, the carvers are creating a maze of 20 holiday-themed carvings decorated in colors, with some standing 30 feet tall.

Characters will range from Sponge Bob Squarepants, familiar to the younger set, to intricate works of art, all created from more than 900 tons of ice. The display will be open from November 15 through January 4.

The Festival of Lights will brighten up nearby from November 15 through January 3 with a mile-long trail of some one million lights. Visitors can enjoy great views of Galveston Bay and the area’s only outdoor skating rink, and relax with a cup of hot chocolate, live entertainment and more.

This only scratches the surface of what Galveston has to offer and offers a glimpse into why the island has become one of the prime destinations not only for the South, but for the entire country. For more information, check out or

Bob and Sandy Nesoff are members of the American Society of Authors and Journalists.

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