The Cruise Port of Galveston, Texas
About the Cruise Port of Galveston:
Being within driving distance of millions of people in Texas and Oklahoma as well as parts of Louisiana, the city has become one of the more popular cruise ports (fourth or fifth depending on what statistics you read).
A bit of history is in order: although today it is over-shadowed by its much larger neighbor, Houston; Galveston was once the major population and economic center of the Texas Gulf Coast.
Some times called the “Wall Street of the West” due to its’ tremendous economic activity, it also had another nickname: the “Ellis Island of the West”. It became a major center of immigration from countries such as Germany, Austria and what later became Czechoslovakia.
It was these immigrants who went on to establish many ethnic communities farther north in Texas, whose churches remain a tourist destination today (see The Painted Churches of Texas). It is also why you will find a German influence in several of the major churches in San Antonio.
The economic engine that was the port of Galveston was practically wiped out the by the hurricane of 1900—still on record as the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Weather men in Cuba reported the storm, with a probably track through the Gulf of Mexico, but The Weather Bureau (predecessor to the National Weather Service) predicted that the storm would pass over Florida and travel up to New England. This proved to be a fatal mistake by this relatively young agency.
So the morning of September 8 appeared normal
It was a category 4 hurricane ( The highest measured wind speed was 100 mph just after 6:15 p.m. on September 9, but the Weather Bureau’s anemometer was blown off the building shortly after that measurement was recorded and so there were estimates that the speed was higher.
As with most hurricanes, it was the storm surge that did the most damage, not the winds. In this case, the storm surge was 15-20 feet high on an island whose highest point was only 8.7 feet, and no seawall for protection (Earlier proposals to build a seawall had been dismissed by the city as unecessary since it was believed a hurricane of that size would never hit Galveston).
Although the final death toll was never really known, estimates ranged about 8,000.
Among those killed were 10 Sisters of the Congregation of Charity along with 80 children, whom they had tied to the cinctures on their waists to keep them from being swept away. You can read more details here.
Amazingly, some buildings did survive the storm, but the city itself was destroyed to such an extent that there was talk of just abandoning it. However, the locals had other ideas, and re-building began with the erection of a giant seawall over 17 feet tall as well as raising the level of the city itself. You can read more about that here.
Although it never regained the financial and immigration status that it once had (most activity moved a bit inland to Houston), Galveston has become a popular tourist destination as well as a popular cruise port.
About Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Galveston:
Named the mother church of the Galveston-Houston Diocese by Pope Pius IX in 1847, Saint Mary’s is perhaps the most famous church in the city. At that time the Diocese encompassed the entire state of Texas.
During Hurricane Ike in 2009, Saint Mary’s Cathedral was extensively damaged and closed for a period of over four years. It finally re-opened to services beginning with the Easter Mass of the Resurrection in April 2014, but on a limited basis.
Another of the historical churches here is Saint Joseph’s Church, the oldest German Catholic Church in Texas (built 1859-60) and the oldest wooden church building in Galveston.
The entire city of Galveston consists of one parish, Holy Family Parish, with services held at 6 different churches throughout the city. Depending upon the day and the time, you will need to find which church is have Mass that day. Click here for the Mass schedule of Holy Family Parish in Galveston/Bolivar.
None of the cruise lines currently sailing from Galveston normally have a priest on board (there are a few exceptions: notably Christmas and Easter cruises).
If traveling around Christmas time (Advent, actually), Galveston has “Dickens on the Strand” and prior to Lent, the Mardi-Gras is a favorite as well. There is a variety of hotels and restaurants, which make it a great way to start your cruise experience.