Carnival Freedom Sets Out On Her First Voyage From Galveston

With nearly a full day in Galveston before we set sail this evening, we took the chance to explore the oddly-appealing city of Galveston, Texas. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Sunday, February 15, 2015
I’ve learned much today here in Galveston, Texas aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom. Since today marks the official start of our six-day Western Caribbean cruise, those of us staying onboard were given “In Transit” guest passes and turned loose on Galveston this morning around 9:00 a.m for a half-day of explorations before our all-aboard call of 3:00 p.m.

Carnival Freedom docked in Galveston on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The large yellow crane at left is removing pieces of the stage from the Martina McBride concert.  Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Freedom docked in Galveston on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The large yellow crane at left is removing pieces of the stage from the Martina McBride concert. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

To start with, I discovered Galveston has the third-largest Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States, with numerous parties running in town last night and again tonight, culminating with Fat Tuesday.
Of course. Fat Tuesday. I should have known that.
Do you know I had to Wikipedia “Fat Tuesday” to figure out what the heck it was? Now, everyone in the South – and indeed, perhaps the whole United States – is probably laughing at me, but hear me out: I’m Canadian. Generally speaking, we know not of your Fat Tuesday rituals. Spoiler Alert: it’s actually called Shrove Tuesday in many European countries. Frankly, it sounds a lot like indigestion. Pass me the antacids…
“Fat Tuesday” is simply the English translation of Mardi Gras from the original French. This year, it falls on Tuesday the 17th of February, though celebrations tend to run either before or through that date. At least, I think.

Exploring the historic streets of Galveston, largely deserted at this early hour because of Mardi Gras celebrations the night before!  Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Exploring the historic streets of Galveston, largely deserted at this early hour because of Mardi Gras celebrations the night before! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

What I do know is this: Galveston’s a pretty darn cool city. It doesn’t have the sexy reputation of, say, Miami but in many ways, cruising to the Caribbean from Galveston is a real winner. It’s served by two airports (George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby); is accessible on a single flight from places like Western Canada and most of the United States and even parts of Europe; and the cruise pier actually borders the historic old town of Galveston, now collectively known as The Strand.
Did I mention Starbucks is literally right across the street?

The tall ship Elissa, with Carnival Freedom in the background.  Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The tall ship Elissa, with Carnival Freedom in the background. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Freshly caffeinated and Wi-Fi’d, it was time to set out and explore Galveston. To be frank, it wasn’t a city I’d ever considered cruising out of. I had it pegged as a gritty container port situated on the Gulf; one of those places that cruise lines used because of its accessibility to the ocean rather than because of its charm.
But Carnival sees something very special in Galveston. It’s why they’ve repositioned Carnival Freedom from her longtime port of Fort Lauderdale over to the Lone Star State. Having spent the better part of the morning playing tourist, I can understand why.

On-deck aboard the Elissa, which can be toured top-to-bottom as part of the Texas Seaport Museum.  Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

On-deck aboard the Elissa, which can be toured top-to-bottom as part of the Texas Seaport Museum. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

First, there’s a plethora of activities and adventures that you can take part in that are located right around the cruise pier itself. Today, I took in both the Texas Seaport Museum, which houses the century-old tall ship Elissa; and the Ocean Star Offshore Rig Museum. Both are located less than 15 minutes walking distance from the pier, and both are great fun.
At the Texas Seaport Museum, guests can tour the Elissa – a magnificent sailing ship that was originally constructed in Scotland in 1877 and rescued from the breakers in Piraeus, Greece a century later. The City

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