ON THE HORIZON
By Bernadette Verzosa
Hundreds more families may be driving to Galveston this summer and fall. The port city is anticipating two monumental family entertainment events: the opening of the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier in May, and the docking of the Disney Magic cruise ship in September.
GALVESTON ISLAND HISTORIC PLEASURE PIER
The smells of funnel cake and cotton candy, and the sounds of coasters and carnival tunes, will soon waft over the waves along Galveston’s beaches. Landry’s, the owner of Kemah Boardwalk, is putting the finishing touches on the 60-million-dollar amusement park, Pleasure Pier. It’s slated to open on Memorial Day Weekend. With its entrance located on 25th Street and Seawall Boulevard, the 1,130-foot pier juts over the Gulf of Mexico.
“We hope to create fun and great family memories,” says Mark Kane, Regional Director of Landry’s Theme Park Division. “There’s a dynamic and emotional experience that happens between parents and their children at theme parks. They expect to have a good time, and we’ve got to deliver that.”
Visitors can choose between sixteen rides and classic theme park games. For younger children, there are the Bumper Cars, Texas Tea cups, and the Carousel. For thrill seekers, there’s the Texas Star Flyer, the tallest swing ride in the Lone Star state at 200 feet tall. There’s also the Iron Shark Rollercoaster with its four inversions and vertical drop.
The rides promise to transform the Galveston skyline. “It will become similar to the Santa Monica Pier. You’ll be able to see the 100-foot tall Galaxy Wheel for miles up and down the seawall. It’s got a beautiful profile especially with its lights on,” says Kane.
Historically, the pier was built in 1943 as a military recreational facility. The city took over its operation in the late 1940s, turning it into the family fun destination Pleasure Pier. Visitors enjoyed live entertainment, as well as movies and fishing, at the pier until 1961 when Hurricane Carla damaged it. In 1965, the iconic Flagship Hotel opened on the site. In 2008, Hurricane Ike battered the building. Landry’s originally planned to restore the hotel, but decided to restore the pier to its grandeur as a family fun destination instead.
“Much of our plans for redeveloping the pier are inspired by the people and places that define Galveston’s rich heritage. We intend to perpetuate that vision with Pleasure Pier and create a lasting legacy for future generations,” says Galveston native and Landry’s CEO Tilman J. Fertitta.
The pier will be able to hold 6,500 to 7,000 people. Classic theme park food like turkey legs and pizza will be available. For seafood lovers, the pier will feature the first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant in Texas.
Parking is available along the seawall, and a 450-space lot across the street. Pleasure Pier will also be running shuttles from the three Landry’s hotels: San Luis, Holiday Inn and The Hilton.
DISNEY MAGIC CRUISE LINER
For the first time ever, a Disney ocean liner will sail out of Galveston. The Disney Magic will arrive in September, and will stay through May 2013, offering 34 departure dates for cruises during that period. The biggest treat of these trips, of course, is mingling with Disney’s most popular characters.
In a statement to ParentsPost.com, Disney says “The Port of Galveston is centrally located and offers a great starting point for guests in the region. This itinerary gives us the opportunity to continue to explore new markets and at the same time provide guests with greater accessibility to Disney Cruise Line. The Galveston cruise will include a western Caribbean itinerary to Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel, giving more guests the opportunity to experience a Caribbean cruise with Disney Cruise Line.”
The 964-foot Disney Magic has the capacity for 2,700 passengers on board. It features swimming pools, youth clubs, theatres and restaurants. “Our ships are purposely built for families to reconnect, adults to recharge and kids to immerse themselves in worlds of fantasy only Disney can create. Disney Cruise Line offers an unparalleled family cruise experience with Disney’s trademark world-class family entertainment, incomparable guest service and focus on providing the perfect vacation for every member of the family,” says Disney.
Kids run into their favorite Disney characters all over the ship: at deck parties, during meals, while playing games and at the spectacular stage shows.
When the ship docks, families can sign up for port adventures. In Grand Cayman, dolphin encounters and a turtle farm visit can be arranged. In Costa Maya, Mexico, a guided snorkeling trip can be scheduled.
Rates for the 2012 seven-night cruises departing from Galveston start at $840 per person. Rates for the 2013 cruises start at $750 per person for six-night cruises, and $920 per person for eight-night cruises. The eight-night trips include an extra stop: Key West.