As islands go, it’s a small one—32 miles long and 2.5 at its widest point—but thanks to the grit and determination of visionaries who dug in 109 years ago, it’s still on maps. Mother Nature almost eliminated Galveston Island during the Great Storm of 1900. Winds peaked at 145 MPH; the entire island was covered by raging flood waters seven feet deep.Nature’s calling card of carnage marked the nation’s deadliest natural disaster. Fatality estimates range from 6,000-12,000, with most figures pegged at some 8,000. About 20% of the island’s residents died, and many thousands fled, most never to return.Within two years, remaining stalwarts didn’t change the order of galaxies or alter the earth’s orbit. But with grit and determination, they methodically took on two seemingly impossible tasks—to build a 17-foot seawall and to increase much of the island’s surface by up to 17 additional feet above sea level. Their hope and prayer was that such herculean efforts would eliminate future historic disasters….*****Visionaries remain strong. In 2002, the Port of Galveston, hoping to tap growing tourism interest, convinced Carnival Cruise Lines to add Galveston to its list of homeports. It was done, and the years since have been history-making, with leapfrog jumps in boardings each year. More than a million people will board cruise ships in Galveston in 2011.So confident are Carnival leaders that their newest, most innovative vessel, the Magic, is assigned to the Port of Galveston on a year-round basis. (With another vessel, the Carnival Triumph, also in Galveston, the cruise line expects to carry a record 450,000 cruisers in 2012.)The arrival of the Magic in Galveston for its inaugural voyage resulted in unprecedented news coverage. Indeed, November 13-14 were red-letter days on cruise calendars….*****On the 13th, more than two dozen media folks, several from out-of-state, were taking notes and shooting photographs during a 20-hour preview blitz of local attractions arranged by the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. At the same time, the Carnival Magic was completing a 16-day trans-Atlantic voyage from Barcelona, where its initial cruises of the Mediterranean began May 1.The $830 million vessel docked in Galveston hours before daylight on the 14th, and with day’s first light, motorists were slowly driving by. Children were eager to see the twin water slides atop the 15-deck vessel. Adults’ imaginations whirled at recollections of innovations dominating the cruise conversation grapevine. (“Laid-back” describes the ship’s ambiance. One example: “Gangway” signage is complete with definition—the “thingy” we use to get from ship to shore.)Soon, U.S. immigration officials boarded as expected to check credentials of 1,400 crew members from more than 100 countries. Then came U.S. Department of Public Health officials. “Oh, no, the government is occupying Carnival,” one writer exclaimed. (It is worthy of note that the Magic received a grade of 100 from the health officials.)…*****Dockside for some 36 hours, the Magic got once-overs—even twice-overs—from some 2,500 travel agents and tour directors on an overnight visit to check out the ship. And 4,000 fans gathered for a Maroon 5 dockside concert of celebration.Before lifting anchor, Carnival officials exchanged plaques, plaudits, promises and pleasantries with Port of Galveston leaders. Enthusiasm abounded concerning the future of what is now the nation’s fourth-busiest homeport—#1 outside of Florida, where the modern-day cruise industry began….*****Throughout the cruise, “oohs and ahhhs” reached record levels.Truly, this 1,000-foot vessel is a marvel, already duly noted by national cruise writers. Galveston Island is a marvel, too, the latter likely unknown by most Texans. It is rich in history, offering attractions to augment cruises.Prospective visitors will do well to visit www.galveston.com for details on an array of attractions. An additional three days tacked on either end of cruises can be well spent….*****Until this century, Texans rarely included cruises in vacation conversations. Now, it is commonplace. Carnival claims that one of its 19 North American homeports is within a day’s driving distance of about half of all Americans.Galveston CVB leaders say that 30 million folks live within 300 miles of their port. With the recent addition of the Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas—plus Disney’s Magic and Princess’ Crown Princess scheduled for seasonal cruises in 2012—Galveston is destined to become one of the world’s most popular cruising homeports. The Carnival Magic, in a class by itself, defies description. It must be experienced….*****
Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.