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Cruising a great family holiday

‘I know that cruising has had a bad rep lately due to the fall-out from Covid-19,’ writes Rebecca Leader, ‘but honestly a cruise is well worth doing. It’s very cost-effective, especially if you’re travelling with family. It allows you to visit different ports and perhaps stay a while to explore the port of departure before or after the cruise.That’s what we did in Galveston, Texas.’

Cruising is like a vacation that mums actually get to have. There is no organising what to eat or when, or trying to find food the kids will actually eat, as the choices on board are endless and there's something for everyone. There are kids clubs for the kids and they get to hang with kids their own ages, while the parents do whatever they want — laze by the pool and read or people-watch while waiting for the waiter to deliver pina coladas, then go to the gym and work off the beautiful breakfast/lunch.

Other options are — climb the rock wall; whisk down the water slides; take a cooking class or a dance class; do a whisky tasting; have a swim, sauna and spa; and get a facial, haircut or massage.

Or you can go to the casino and waste some money (something I have never done, nor will I ever do); play the arcades; ice skate if you're brave enough to try it out on a moving ship; play basketball or football; join in on a quiz or play bingo; and watch a movie by the pool under the stars on the big screen.

The choice is yours — do all of it or nothing at all. Of course, not all cruise liners have all these experiences on board — some have less and some have many more.

A new ship by Norwegian Cruise Lines has a go-cart race track on board while Carnival Cruises' new Panorama of the Seas has a trampoline park and a sky track, which is kind of like biking in mid-air high above top deck. It also has its own craft brewery and smokehouse on board.

Our last cruise set sail from Galveston, on Liberty of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship. Galveston is a little island roughly 100km to the south of Houston, Texas. Houston was a direct Air New Zealand flight and it hopefully will be again one day.

The Liberty isn't a new ship but has been well maintained and had all the above activities on board. Our room was a large internal family suite which means we had no portholes or balcony. However, we did have massive windows with window seats over- looking the central promenade of the ship which was filled with shops, cafes, bars and a 24-hour pizza place. The master room of this cabin also had a walk-in wardrobe.

To the left of the cabin windows, high above the promenade floor, was a specially-designed boardwalk where shows and music were performed. We had a great view from our cabin.

We had seven stops on this two-week cruise (we did two cruises back-to-back) through the western Caribbean, meaning we didn't need to get off the ship and back on between cruises. We just stayed in the same cabin.

Galveston is a fantastic location to cruise from. It's also a very beautiful place full of interesting history.

Tropical storm one of the highlights

We stayed on in Galveston for a few nights after our cruise. We travelled at the very end of August so we didn't pay a premium price for a summer cruise (I like to get bargains when I travel) but also trying to avoid the hurricane season which starts in September. After we disembarked our cruise a massive tropical storm blew in. The cruise that was meant to set sail on the same day as our return had to stay docked at the port.

I have never seen a storm like this. We just don't get weather like that in New Zealand. But this was commonplace in Galveston. There was thunder and lightning all night long.

Next morning I had a class scheduled at CrossFit Tidalwave, Galveston. I got up early, got ready and caught an Uber. I was picked up in a little Honda Civic. On the way to CrossFit, an alert came through to my phone saying to watch out for flash-flooding. By the time I was dropped off the water was almost to the floor of the car. The driver had to drive up a ramp to the building so I could get out.

I did my CrossFit class which was an hour of sweating in the 100 percent humidity. When we were finished, the water had risen so much it was lapping under the framing of the building, which was built a lot higher than the road. The black mats on the floor were floating in the water. I could no longer exit out the door I had entered through and had to leave through a side door and wade through mid-thigh-high water.

This was nothing new for the others in the class and many graciously offered to return me to my hotel which I gratefully accepted. I had a feeling no Uber would be collecting me.

The next day we went into town. The gutters in Galveston are about 500mm high. This is to accommodate the massive volume of water that floods the city regularly. Stores have raised platforms within the shops to avoid being flooded. While we were in town we stopped for lunch and as I talked to the waiter, telling him about my exciting adventure the previous morning, he told me that water moccasins (pit vipers) were common in that area. I'm so pleased I wasn't aware of that fact as I waded through that deep water. Water moccasins are known to be very aggressive and will attack unprovoked. For some reason this tropical storm became one of the ‘highlights' of our holiday — it's a great story and I love telling it.

Galveston is said to have been the home of Blackbeard the Pirate. He is said to have put a curse on the island so that once you have lived there you will always return.

There are craft breweries galore with some bars having up to 100 different beers to try. Texas is the place that created my love of IPA. Rib joints are common and the people are friendly. There's also a Tanger outlet shopping centre a short drive from Galveston on the mainland.

What more can anyone want. Great food, great beer, fantastic people, incredible shopping, adventures . . . and that is not all Galveston has to offer.

The Leader family — Mike, Fletcher, Peter and Rebecca — with the Liberty of the Seas docked at Cozumel, Mexico, in the background.
Rebecca rock climbing on board the Liberty of the Seas.
So much to do — pools, gym and a giant waterslide on board the Liberty of the Seas.
‘Galveston is a fantastic location to cruise from,' says Rebecca. ‘It's also a very beautiful place full of interesting history like this home dating back to the early 1900s.'
Rebecca and Peter dressed up for a formal evening on the cruise.