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- #1Disney Cruise Line#1 in Best Cruises from Galveston
The 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder first debuted in 1999 and was updated in fall 2016, rolling out new family-oriented amenities and entertainment offerings like meet and greets with Disney characters and Frozen, A Musical Spectacular.
The ship offers plenty of onboard activities, with 10 designated family areas, six youth clubs and seven adults-only spaces. While younger passengers play at age-appropriate clubs, grown-ups can relax at the adults-only Quiet Cove Pool. Infants and toddlers in swim diapers are limited to specified kids' wet play and splash areas (this is a requirement by the United States Public Health Service, not a Disney-specific rule).
In terms of dining, Disney Wonder offers six options, including one adults-only specialty restaurant. At night, adults can unwind and enjoy After Hours, a section of the ship that features three nightclubs and lounges.
Like the majority of the ship, staterooms are designed with families in mind. Interior staterooms can accommodate up to four passengers, while larger Suites can sleep up to seven. All cabins come equipped with flat-screen TVs, seating areas and classic Disney designs. Recent cruisers noted the expensive cost of a trip on the Disney Wonder, but most felt the quality of service was top-notch.
In 2018-19, Disney Wonder departs from a range of ports, including Galveston, Texas, Port Canaveral (Orlando), Florida, Canada and California. It sails to destinations in Alaska, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and more.
- #2Royal Caribbean International#2 in Best Cruises from Galveston
Most recently updated in 2016, Liberty of the Seas houses up to 4,960 guests and 1,360 crew members. Recent cruisers praise the food, which includes four complimentary options and six specialty eateries for an extra fee. The ship also boasts line staples like a surf simulator, a rock climbing wall and an ice skating rink.
When kids aren't playing in the three pools, zooming down the ship's waterslides or going airborne on Tidal Wave, the only boomerang slide at sea, they can mingle at age-specific youth clubs or meet DreamWorks film characters. Meanwhile, adults can grab a cocktail at one of 12 bars and lounges, try their luck at the casino or participate in the Mystery Dinner Theater.
Like other ships in the fleet, Liberty of the Sease features four stateroom categories (Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite). While Interior cabins range from 150 to 327 square feet, Suites measure to up 1,358 square feet. All cabins are outfitted with flat-screen TVs and vanity areas, but Suites receive additional perks like concierge service.
- #3Royal Caribbean International#3 in Best Cruises from Galveston (tie)
Launched in 1997, Enchantment of the Seas was last upgraded in 2012 to offer imaginative features, such as a poolside movie screen, bungee trampolines and additional cabins. Other ship highlights include three pools, a rock climbing wall, a video game arcade and Broadway-inspired shows in the main theater.
For families, the ship offers age-appropriate kids clubs and a splash deck. And for adults, there are six bars and lounges on board, as well as a casino. When it comes to dining, the ship houses five venues and offers 24-hour room service and several other specialty food shops.
As far as lodging goes, only about 20 percent of the ship's cabins offer balconies, while Interior cabins make up about 40 percent of the staterooms. While the 2,730-passenger ship maintains a 1-to-3 crew-to-guest ratio with 852 crew members on board, recent cruisers still say all the Royal Caribbean employees – from the room stewards to the wait staff – were pleasant and accommodating.
- #3Royal Caribbean International#3 in Best Cruises from Galveston (tie)
Most recently updated in 2013, the 2,514-passenger Vision of the Seas offers Royal Caribbean staples like diverse dining venues and nonstop entertainment. Past cruisers especially praise the ship's appealing decor and the Solarium, an adults-only pool and lounge area.
In terms of food, travelers can choose from the main dining room, the buffet and several casual eateries. Cruisers recommend springing for a meal at the ship's specialty restaurants, which range from the Chop's Grille steakhouse to the Izumi Asian venue. Food in the main dining room received mixed reviews, but travelers praised the service around the ship.
When it comes to daytime activities, guests can try rock climbing, swim in the pools (which can become crowded) or play games in the casino. There are also sushi- and cupcake-making classes available.
In terms of lodging, Vision of the Seas touts four staterooms categories: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite. Interior cabins range from 136 to 256 square feet, while Suites on the opposite end of the spectrum range from 243 to 1,087 square feet. Opt for a balcony-equipped Suite and you'll enjoy cushier extras like whirlpool bathtubs. All cabins include amenities like flat-screen TVs and vanity areas.
In 2018-19, Vision of the Seas departs from Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Puerto Rico and Barcelona. It features itineraries in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and Europe.
- #5Carnival Cruise Line#5 in Best Cruises from Galveston
Thanks to a major facelift in 2014, Carnival Freedom features all of the “Fun Ship 2.0” amenities, including Guy’s Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina. The nearly 3,000-passenger ship offers plenty of daytime activities, from four swimming pools to a mini-golf course.
While parents relax at the Serenity adults-only retreat, children ages 2 to 17 can enjoy age-appropriate youth clubs. Other family-friendly activities include the interactive Hasbro, The Game Show and the Seuss at Sea program. Recent guests note that shows at the Punchliner Comedy Club can be a bit raunchy, so they may not be appropriate for children.
Food options are also versatile, including two main dining rooms, a steakhouse, and the Lido Deck which offers everything from pizza to the popular Mongolian Wok.
As far as cabins go, cruisers can choose from Interior, Ocean View, Balcony or Suite category rooms, all of which offer flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service. Recent passengers note that thanks to the 3-to-1 passenger-to-crew ratio, service is above par.
- #6Carnival Cruise Line#6 in Best Cruises from Galveston
The 2,980-passenger Carnival Valor features a mix of activities and amenities geared toward a variety of traveler types and age groups. Introduced in 2004 and most recently renovated in 2016, the ship offers all the “Fun Ship 2.0” features, including the BlueIguana Tequila Bar and the Cherry on Top candy shop. Plus, the ship houses a nightclub, a comedy club, the Alchemy Bar and more.
While the ship can hardly be considered small, Carnival Valor boasts an approximate 1-to-3 staff-to-guest ratio, and past cruisers compliment the service they received. As far as meals are concerned, the ship offers two main dining rooms, BlueIguana Cantina, Guy's Burger Joint, Rosie's Restaurant, a steakhouse and more.
In terms of lodging, cruisers can choose from Interior, Ocean View and Balcony cabins, as well as Suites. Higher category staterooms offer more space and amenities, such as VIP check-in and balconies with Jacuzzi tubs. Recent cruisers report the rooms were generally clean.
- #7Carnival Cruise Line#7 in Best Cruises from Galveston
The 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze was Introduced in 2012 and last updated in 2017. On board, cruisers will find outdoor activities like a water park and a SportsSquare with games like mini-golf, as well as supervised (and free) age-appropriate programs for kids and teens. While the younger passengers play, adults can relax at the adults-only Serenity retreat, get treatments at the Cloud 9 Spa and sip cocktails at one of the ship's six bars.
As far as dining goes, cruisers can choose between a number of food options, including sushi, Indian, 24/7 pizza and more. Guy's Burger Joint, in partnership with celebrity chef Guy Fieri, is a passenger favorite. Nighttime entertainment ranges from karaoke to the Punchliner Comedy Club to Lip Sync Battle: Carnival, a cruise line adaptation of the Paramount Network television series. Guests can also take part in Hasbro, The Game Show, which features giant versions of Connect 4, Yahtzee and more.
Carnival Breeze offers a variety of cabin categories, all of which include flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service. The ship maintains a nearly 1-to-3 crew-to-guest ratio. While some recent cruisers appreciated the family atmosphere, others were disappointed by long lines and wait times during dinner service.
- #8Carnival Cruise Line#8 in Best Cruises from Galveston
Carnival Dream features the Punchliner Comedy Club, nightly stage shows, age-appropriate kids clubs (for ages 2 to 17) and an onboard water park – all hallmarks of the line's "Fun Ships." Other family-friendly entertainment includes movies at the Seaside Theatre and the Seuss at Sea program.
Those more interested in relaxing can enjoy the Cloud 9 Spa and the adults-only Serenity Retreat. In terms of lodging, cruisers can stay in budget-friendly Interior staterooms (185 square feet) or splurge for more room (up to an extra 245 square feet) with an Ocean View or Balcony stateroom or Suite. All cabins are appointed with flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service.
The ship added quite a few dining options in its most recent revamp in 2017, including Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina and Bonsai Sushi. Overall, the food quality on the ship gets mixed reviews. Carnival Dream carries 3,646 passengers and offers a nearly 4-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio, so public areas may be crowded and service can slow at peak times. Recent travelers also warned against choosing a room directly above any of the restaurants or bars, as noise travels easily through the walls.
- #9Carnival Cruise Line#9 in Best Cruises from Galveston
Introduced in mid-2016, Carnival Vista is one of the cruise line's newest and largest ships, welcoming up to 4,977 passengers and 1,450 crew members. The ship offers unique dining, entertainment and cabin options not found on other ships in the fleet. In addition to staples like kids clubs, an adults-only retreat and a waterpark, new activities include the SkyRide suspended bike course, the first IMAX theater at sea and a Dr. Seuss-inspired library.
Recent passengers were most impressed with the accommodations. Typical cabin categories (Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite) are available, but cruisers recommend splurging on one of the new cabin types: the Family Harbor or Havana staterooms and suites. Those who select Family Harbor cabins receive exclusive 24-hour lounge access with free breakfast and kid-friendly movies and games. Plus, children staying in these rooms enjoy free meals at most specialty restaurants and a free night of babysitting. Havana category rooms cater to adults, with access to a private bar and pool, as well as extra-large outdoor spaces and rainfall showers in suites.
Dining options are just as diverse. While the Lido buffet offers everything from pasta to stir-fry to salad, other complimentary venues include BlueIguana Cantina and Guy's Burger Joint. A number of specialty restaurants are also available for an extra fee, such as JiJi Asian Kitchen and Cucina del Capitano.
Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship’s Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship’s Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.