As everybody knows, things are bigger in Texas—including the number of options its residents have when it comes to travel. Or at least Cruise Planners —an American Express Travel Services Representative Agency and one of North America’s largest cruise retailers—sees it that way, and the network of home-based agents is promoting that message to its clients in the Lone Star State.
“One of the best things about living in Texas is that travel options from here are plentiful and growing,” says Leslie Richardson, a Cruise Planners franchise owner in Fort Bend County, Texas. “Being centrally located gives Texans easy access to some of the best vacation options available.”
Unlike those who live on the East or West Coasts, Texans aren’t forced to spend six hours flying from coast to coast. Instead, flying to other parts of the country is an easy two-hour flight to the Midwest or 3- to 4-hour flight to either coast as well as many destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.
With two major international airline hubs (Continental in Houston and American Airlines in Dallas), the flight options to the rest of the world are abundant. Since Continental will soon merge with United Airlines, and five of the largest 20 U.S. cities are in Texas (Houston #4, San Antonio #7, Dallas #9, Austin #15, and Fort Worth #17 according to the U.S. Census Bureau), flight options will continue to grow.
In addition to flights from major carriers, there are charter flight options available to popular vacation destinations as well. Charter flights are usually a much better price and offer ideal travel times for travelers. Combined with a hotel or resort package, charters offer a huge value to travelers, often saving hundreds of dollars over purchasing air and hotel separately. Some of the charter flights that leave from Texas include Houston to Cancun and Dallas to Cancun and Cozumel.
Other affordable options that aren’t necessarily charter flights include AirTran from Houston to Cancun, Montego Bay, Jamaica; Nassau, the Bahamas and San Juan, Puerto Rico; JetBlue from Austin to Nassau and San Juan; and Continental from Houston to locations worldwide, including Hawaii and Europe. Southwest Vacations, which offers vacation packages from most cities throughout Texas, also offers great deals on domestic vacation destinations including Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Galveston, Oh Galveston
But flights to faraway destinations aren’t the only vacation options for residents. Texans are lucky in that there is a major cruise port conveniently located in Galveston. From there, Carnival Cruise Lines offer four- and five-night sailings to Mexico and seven-night sailings to the Western Caribbean and Bahamas year round. Royal Caribbean also offers seven-night sailings to the Western Caribbean and Central America from November through April.
Beginning in 2011, the new Carnival Magic will be making Galveston its home port for cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico
Recently, both cruise lines announced big changes with their Galveston sailings starting in fall 2011. Royal Caribbean is replacing its current ship, Voyager of the Seas, with a slightly newer ship, the Mariner of the Seas, starting in November 2011. Likewise, Carnival announced it will be replacing both of its current Galveston-based ships—the four- and five-night Mexico cruises will be on the Carnival Triumph. Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Magic launching in 2011, will call Galveston home by continuing the seven-day Caribbean and Bahamas sailings starting in the fall of 2011 after its inaugural Summer 2011 season in the Mediterranean. The current Galveston-based Carnival ships (Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy) will both be redeployed to New Orleans in order to finally bring the Big Easy cruise options back to pre-Katrina capacity.
“The announcement about the Carnival Magic is huge news in the cruise industry,” says Richardson. Historically, the smaller embarkation ports (including Galveston) are given older, smaller ships. The newer ships—which are typically bigger and offer more innovative amenities—are usually limited to Florida embarkation ports. So, for Texas and area residents to consistently fill to capacity the current Galveston ships in order for Carnival to allocate a brand new ship to the region is significant.
In addition, several Galveston hotels offer great deals on pre- and post-stay/cruise packages that include free or discounted parking as an added convenience and bonus. The greater demand for Galveston cruises will surely increase the year-round cruise options over time.