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Ultimate Guide to 5 Florida Cruise Ports

florida cruise ports - Coco Cay
Cruise lines have their own ways to have fun with their own tropical islands like Coco Cay!

 The Cruise Ports of Florida

Welcome to our blog post, where we will guide you through Florida cruise ports. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time cruiser, exploring Florida’s cruise ports is an adventure. From the bustling port of Miami to the charming port of Tampa, the Sunshine State offers a variety of options for cruise enthusiasts.

In this guide, we’ll highlight the top cruise ports in Florida and provide you with essential information to make the most of your cruise experience. So grab your sunscreen and get ready to set sail in the beautiful waters of Florida’s cruise ports!

Florida is home to some of the most popular cruise ports in the United States. Whether you’re looking to explore the vibrant streets of Miami, soak up the sun in Port Canaveral, or experience the tropical beauty of Key West, Florida cruise ports offer an array of exciting destinations.

With top-notch amenities, diverse dining options, and a wide range of activities both on and off the ship, a cruise from Florida is the perfect way to embark on your next adventure.

Florida Cruise Ports - Miami
If you fly into Miami you may see cruise ships departing from the Port of Miami next to the airport.

Benefits of Choosing Florida as Your Cruise Departure Point

Florida boasts numerous advantages as a cruise departure point, attracting millions of eager travelers each year. Here are some key benefits to consider:

  • Accessibility: Florida is easily accessible from most parts of the United States, with major international airports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando. Moreover, a network of highways and interstates makes driving to Florida ports convenient for those within driving distance.
  • Florida Cruise Ports Offer Variety: Florida offers a diverse range of cruise ports, each with its own unique perks. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral are three of the busiest cruise ports in the world, catering to various cruise lines and offering numerous destinations. Smaller ports like Palm Beach and Jacksonville offer a more intimate atmosphere and unique itineraries.
  • Warm Weather and Tropical Atmosphere: Florida’s sunny skies and balmy temperatures are ideal for pre-cruise getaways and post-cruise relaxation. You can soak up the sun on pristine beaches, explore vibrant cities, or visit iconic theme parks before or after your cruise.
  • Caribbean and Beyond: Florida’s location grants convenient access to numerous Caribbean destinations, making it a popular jumping-off point for island cruises. Popular itineraries include the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean, and Southern Caribbean. Additionally, some cruises depart from Florida cruise ports for destinations further afield, like Central America, South America, and even Europe.
  • Family-Friendly Options: Many Florida cruise ports cater to families with kids, offering entertainment facilities, kid-friendly cruise lines, and convenient amenities. Theme parks like Disney World and Universal Orlando are often just a short drive from the ports, making Florida an ideal starting point for a combined cruise and theme park vacation.
  • Value for Money: Florida often offers competitive cruise prices due to the high volume of cruise departures and frequent deals. Additionally, compared to other departure points, flights and accommodation in Florida can be more affordable.
  • Cruise Line Variety: Florida cruise ports host a vast array of cruise lines, each with its own unique style and offerings. From budget-friendly lines to luxury brands, there’s a cruise line to suit every taste and budget.
Florida cruise ports - Ship
Cruise ships are evolving into floating theme parks for family fun.
  • Cruise-Themed Activities: Many Florida cities and towns embrace the cruise culture, offering pre- and post-cruise activities themed around different destinations. You can find Caribbean-themed restaurants, live music nights with island vibes, and even shopping experiences tailored to cruise passengers.

Overall, Florida’s combination of accessibility, diverse port options, warm weather, convenient Caribbean access, family-friendly environment, value for money, and cruise line variety make it a truly compelling choice for your next cruise departure point.

Remember, the best option for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Consider factors like your desired destination, budget, preferred cruise line, and whether you want a pre- or post-cruise vacation when making your decision.

Port 1: Miami

cruise ports in Florida - Port of Miami
The Port of Miami can be a very busy place on a Sunday afternoon when all these ships are leaving port.

The Port of Miami, often referred to as the “Cruise Capital of the World,” is a major seaport located in Miami, Florida. It is one of the busiest cruise ports globally, attracting millions of passengers each year. Here’s a comprehensive overview of the Port of Miami:

  • Location:

The Port of Miami is situated in Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida.

Its location is convenient, being close to downtown Miami and providing easy access to major highways and Miami International Airport.

  • Cruise Terminal Facilities:

The port has multiple cruise terminals, each serving different cruise lines and destinations.

Terminal facilities are equipped with check-in counters, security screening, customs, and immigration services to facilitate smooth embarkation and disembarkation processes.

things you need when flying
  • Cruise Lines and Destinations:

The Port of Miami serves as a homeport for numerous major cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, and others.

Cruises departing from Miami offer a wide range of itineraries, including the Caribbean, Mexico, Bahamas, and other popular destinations.

  • Cruise Terminals:

The port has dedicated cruise terminals, such as Terminal A (specifically designed for Royal Caribbean International) and Terminals D and E (used by Norwegian Cruise Line).

Each terminal is equipped with modern amenities, including lounges, baggage handling facilities, and transportation services.

  • Port Infrastructure:

In addition to cruise terminals, the Port of Miami has extensive infrastructure to handle cargo and container shipments.

The port is a major hub for trade and commerce, playing a crucial role in the import and export of goods.

  • Parking and Transportation:

The port provides parking facilities for cruise passengers, with both short-term and long-term options.

Various transportation options are available, including shuttles, taxis, and rideshare services, making it easy for passengers to access the port from nearby hotels or airports.

  • Shopping and Dining:

The terminals and surrounding areas offer shopping and dining options for cruise passengers. From duty-free shops to restaurants and cafes, passengers can find a variety of services to enhance their pre- or post-cruise experience.

  • Economic Impact:
Florida cruise ports - Port of Miami Terminals
Many cruise lines have their own designated terminals. Watch the boarding process at different cruise lines as the process can be complicated.

The Port of Miami significantly contributes to the local economy, generating employment opportunities and supporting businesses related to the cruise and maritime industries.

The Port of Miami’s strategic location, state-of-the-art facilities, and diverse cruise offerings contribute to its reputation as a premier cruise destination and a key player in the global cruise industry.

Where to Stay in Miami Before a Cruise

We can recommend a couple of places to stay in Miami before a cruise. However, nothing is easy around the cruise port. Traffic, congestion, transportation and information make Miami one of the cruise ports to have solid plans. The Doubletree by Hilton on Biscayne Bay is the best place to stay before a cruise in Miami. A more affordable option is Comfort Inn and Suites but the amenities are much different.

Miami International Airport is near the cruise port. To find the best airfares to Miami check here.

Our thoughts about the Port of Miami: If you want a very wide selection of cruise options, Miami is the place to consider. If you can avoid the area and find a similar cruise at another Florida port that makes sense to you, take it!

Port 2: Port Canaveral

cruise ports in Florida- Port Canaveral
Port Canaveral is becoming the busiest port in the world with cargo, LNG and cruise ships scattered throughout the port.

Port Canaveral, located on the east coast of Florida, is one of the busiest cruise ports in the United States. It serves as a gateway to various popular cruise destinations and is known for its proximity to Orlando and the Kennedy Space Center. Here’s a comprehensive overview of Cruise Port Canaveral:

  • Location:

Port Canaveral is situated on the Atlantic coast of Florida, approximately 45 miles east of Orlando.

The port is strategically located near popular tourist attractions, including the Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach.

  • Cruise Lines and Destinations:

Port Canaveral hosts a diverse range of cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line, among others.

Cruises departing from Port Canaveral offer itineraries to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Mexico, and other popular destinations.

  • Terminals and Facilities:

The port has several modern cruise terminals, each catering to different cruise lines and ships.

Terminal facilities include check-in counters, security screening, baggage handling services, and customs and immigration facilities.

  • Terminal 3 – The Cove:

Terminal 3, also known as “The Cove,” is a state-of-the-art facility designed for Carnival Cruise Line. It features modern amenities and streamlined processes to enhance the passenger experience.

  • Parking and Transportation:

Port Canaveral provides parking facilities for cruise passengers, including both short-term and long-term options.

Transportation options to and from the port include shuttles, taxis, rideshare services, and rental cars.

  • Cruise Terminal Renovations and Expansions:

The port has undergone various renovations and expansions to accommodate the growing cruise industry.

Investments have been made to improve terminal infrastructure and increase the port’s capacity to handle larger cruise ships.

  • Cargo Operations:

In addition to cruise activities, Port Canaveral is a major cargo port, handling various goods and materials.

The cargo operations contribute to the economic vitality of the region.

  • Tourist Attractions Nearby:

Port Canaveral’s proximity to Orlando makes it an attractive option for cruisers looking to extend their vacations with visits to theme parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and others.

The Kennedy Space Center, a popular space exploration visitor complex, is also located nearby.

  • Economic Impact:

The cruise industry at Port Canaveral contributes significantly to the local and regional economy. It creates jobs, supports businesses, and drives tourism-related activities.

Port Canaveral’s strategic location, modern facilities, and accessibility to popular tourist destinations make it a key player in the cruise industry, attracting millions of passengers each year.

cruise port Florida port canaveral disney
Port Canaveral is well on its way to becoming the largest Florida port and cruise lines like Disney are building terminals like this one.
Where to Stay Near Port Canaveral for a Cruise

 You have a number of options for hotels to stay at Port Canaveral for a cruise. Many travelers stay in Orlando and make the hour-long trip to the Port. However, allow plenty of time for parking, customs, port entry, and all the lines for a particular cruise. One nearby hotel that is highly rated for pre-cruise stays is the Home2 Suites by Hilton. It’s our favorite.

Nearest Airport to Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal – The nearest major airport to Port Canaveral is the Orlando Airport (MCO) about an hour away (45 miles). For the best airfares to Orlando check here.

Our thoughts about Port Canaveral cruise port: This is our second favorite place to leave for a Florida cruise. We believe it is a great place to come prior to a cruise because of the wide range of things to do near the port. As the busiest cruise port in Florida, Port Canaveral handles traffic well.

Port 3: Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale)

Florida's cruise ports - Port Everglades
Port Everglades takes a lot of patience to move the cruise ships and their passengers in and out of the port. It is our favorite cruise port.

Port Everglades, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a major cruise port and one of the busiest in the world. It is well-known for its proximity to the city’s airport and its accessibility to various popular cruise destinations. Here’s a comprehensive overview of Cruise Port Fort Lauderdale (Everglades):

  • Location:

Port Everglades is situated in Fort Lauderdale on the southeast coast of Florida, approximately 25 miles north of Miami.

It is conveniently located near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, making it easily accessible for cruise passengers.

  • Cruise Lines and Destinations:

The port hosts a wide range of cruise lines, including Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, and others.

Cruises departing from Port Everglades offer itineraries to the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and other popular destinations. We believe Port Everglades is one of the best Florida cruise ports.

  • Terminals and Facilities:

Port Everglades features multiple cruise terminals, each catering to different cruise lines and ships.

Terminal facilities are equipped with check-in counters, security screening, customs and immigration services, baggage handling, and lounges to facilitate the embarkation and disembarkation processes.

  • Terminal 18 – Cruise Terminal of the Americas:

Terminal 18, also known as the “Cruise Terminal of the Americas,” is a prominent facility at Port Everglades. It serves as a homeport for several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean International.

  • Parking and Transportation:

Port Everglades provides parking facilities for cruise passengers, offering both short-term and long-term options.

Various transportation options are available, including shuttles, taxis, rideshare services, and rental cars.

  • Cargo Operations:

In addition to its cruise operations, Port Everglades is a major cargo port, handling various goods and containers.

Cargo operations contribute to the economic activity and trade in the region.

  • Nearby Attractions:

Fort Lauderdale offers a variety of attractions for cruise passengers, including beautiful beaches, shopping districts, cultural venues, and dining options.

The city is often referred to as the “Venice of America” due to its extensive canal system.

florida cruise ports - port everglades hilton
The Hilton Marina near Port Everglades is our choice for a hotel.
  • Economic Impact:

The cruise industry at Port Everglades plays a significant role in the local and regional economy, creating jobs, supporting businesses, and contributing to tourism-related activities.

Port Everglades, with its strategic location, modern facilities, and strong transportation connections, continues to be a key player in the global cruise industry, attracting millions of passengers annually.

Places to Stay in Fort Lauderdale for a Cruise

Our best recommendation for a hotel to stay at prior to a cruise is the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina less than 10 minutes to the Port. It is waterfront on the Intracoastal and they have shuttles to the port.

Nearest Airport: Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL) is next to the cruise port. The best airfares into FLL are here.

Our thoughts about Port Everglades: While we live just a few minutes from the Port of Tampa and Fort Lauderdale is 4 hours away, Port Everglades is our favorite Florida cruise port. The wide range of cruises offered from this port makes the difference.

Port 4: Tampa

cruise ports in Florida - Tampa Bay Cruise Port
The Port of Tampa Bay is relatively small compared to a few others in the state.

Tampa is home to the Port of Tampa Bay, which is one of the most diverse cruise ports in the United States. Here are some key details about the cruise port:

  • Location:

The Port of Tampa is situated on the west coast of Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico.

It is located in downtown Tampa, making it easily accessible for cruise passengers.

  • Cruise Terminals:

The port has multiple cruise terminals, each serving different cruise lines.

Terminal 3 is primarily used by Carnival Cruise Line.

Terminal 6 is used by Royal Caribbean International.

Terminal 2 is utilized for various cruise lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line.

  • Cruise Lines:

Several major cruise lines operate from the Port of Tampa, offering a variety of itineraries.

Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line are among the key operators.

  • Destinations:

Cruises from Tampa typically visit popular destinations in the Western Caribbean, including ports in Mexico, the Cayman Islands, and Honduras.

  • Facilities:

The port facilities are equipped to handle large cruise ships, except for the few newest super tall ships.

Passengers can find amenities such as parking, check-in counters, and waiting areas in the terminals.

Florida cruise ports - Ybor City
Tampa is a great choice for a Florida cruise port because there are so many things to do near the port like visiting Historic Ybor City.
  • Accessibility:

The port is easily accessible from the Tampa International Airport, which is approximately 9 miles away.

Various transportation options, including shuttles and taxis, connect the airport to the cruise port.

  • Local Attractions:

Tampa offers a range of attractions for visitors, including the historic Ybor City, the Florida Aquarium, and the Tampa Riverwalk.

Cruise passengers often explore the city before or after their cruises.

  • Cruise Season:

Cruises from Tampa operate throughout the year, with a focus on the fall and winter seasons.

It’s advisable to check with specific cruise lines and the Port of Tampa for the latest information on schedules, terminal assignments, and any updates related to the port.

Places to Stay When Taking a Cruise from the Port of Tampa

We know the area. Our favorite place to stay near the Port of Tampa is the Water Street Marriott. The location is on Riverwalk and the Hillsborough River. A more affordable option is the Best Western Tampa about 3 miles away.

Nearest Airport: Tampa International Airport (TPA) is just 20 minutes from the Port of Tampa. Traffic is reasonable. The best airfares into TPA are here.

Our thoughts on the Port of Tampa: We love the Tampa Port and everything around it. However, the port is small compared to the three previous ports above. The number of cruises departing from Tampa is a fraction of the others. However, a small port means less parking hassles and fewer traffic problems.

Ports 5 & 6 – Key West, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach

Both Jacksonville and West Palm Beach cruise ports have limited sailings. However, they may fit your plans or needs when it comes to choosing the perfect cruise. It should be noted that Key West is a cruise port, but it is a destination and not a port for embarkation.

Jacksonville:

  • Jaxport: Officially named
    Florida's cruise ports - Jaxport
    Jacksonville handles a lot of cargo but limited cruises. Plans are to change that with a new cruise port.
    JAXPORT, Jacksonville’s port is primarily focused on cargo shipping. However, it also offers seasonal cruise departures throughout the year, mainly through Carnival Cruise Line. These cruises typically head to the Bahamas, offering short, affordable options for travelers in the Northeast Florida region.
  • Limited Options: While it does have cruise activity, Jacksonville doesn’t boast the same level of variety and frequency as larger Florida ports like Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
  • Development Potential: JAXPORT has plans to expand its cruise facilities in the future, which could increase the number of cruise lines and destinations offered.

Cruises from JAXPORT are here.

West Palm Beach:

  • Port of Palm Beach:
    Cruise Ports in Florida - West Palm Beach
    West Palm Beach Port is small and efficient.
    This smaller port caters to a more exclusive clientele, offering year-round luxury cruises through Margaritaville at Sea. The one-ship line sails two-night itineraries to Grand Bahama, perfect for a quick escape.
  • Boutique Experience: With just one cruise line operating, the Port of Palm Beach offers a more personalized and intimate cruise experience compared to larger, busier ports.
  • Limited Destinations: Currently, cruise options from West Palm Beach are restricted to the Bahamas.

Cruises from West Palm Beach are here.

Ultimately, the best choice for you depends on your priorities. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option with shorter cruises to the Bahamas, Jacksonville might be a good fit. If you prefer a more upscale experience with year-round sailings, West Palm Beach could be the better choice.

Hopefully, this information helps you decide which of our Florida cruise ports is right for your next cruise adventure!

Florida's cruise ports
Sometimes you choose a cruise ship because of what you can see like the Panama Canal.

Tips for Choosing One of the Florida Cruise Ports

Choosing the perfect Florida cruise ship port can make all the difference for a smooth and enjoyable start to your vacation. Here are some tips to help you navigate your options:

Consider your destination:

  • Caribbean: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral are major hubs for Caribbean cruises, offering a vast array of itineraries and lines. Smaller ports like Palm Beach and Tampa Bay may have limited Caribbean options.
  • Beyond the Caribbean: If you’re looking for cruises to Central America, South America, or Europe, Port Canaveral might be your best bet with its growing selection of longer itineraries.

Prioritize convenience and accessibility:

  • Distance: Choose a Florida cruise port that’s within driving distance or has easy access from a nearby airport if flying. Consider traffic patterns and potential delays when deciding.
  • Pre- and post-cruise activities: Do you want to spend time exploring a city before or after your cruise? Tampa, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale offer vibrant urban experiences, while smaller ports are ideal for a laid-back West Coast Florida vibe.
  • Family-friendly amenities: Check if the port has kid-friendly facilities like play areas, arcades, or dedicated family boarding lanes. Tampa has the Florida Aquarium within steps of the cruise port for a great way to start or end a cruise.

Match your budget and desired cruise line:

  • Price: Port expenses like parking and transportation can vary. Smaller ports may be more cost-effective, while larger ports might offer more competitive cruise deals.
  • Cruise lines: Research which cruise lines operate from your preferred port to ensure it matches your budget and desired style (luxury, budget, family-friendly, etc.).

Think about the overall atmosphere:

  • Busy vs. intimate: Larger ports like Miami can be bustling and overwhelming, while smaller ports like Palm Beach offer a more intimate and relaxed experience.
  • Seasonal variations: Consider the time of year and potential crowds. Some ports experience peak season congestion, while others are more consistent year-round.

Bonus tips:

  • Read reviews: Check online reviews of different ports to get a sense of passenger experiences and compare amenities.
  • Don’t forget the weather: Choose a port with favorable weather conditions, especially if you plan on pre- or post-cruise activities.
  • Research shore excursions: Some ports offer unique shore excursions like theme park visits or nearby island explorations. Factor this into your decision if it’s important to you.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The best Florida cruise ship port for you will depend on your individual priorities and preferences. Weigh the factors above and research your options carefully to find the perfect starting point for your unforgettable cruise adventure!

Any decision for a cruise port should be an informed opinion. We have expressed our opinion, but they were based on our objectives and priorities. A wider range of opinions and reviews from a source like Cruise Critic should be considered.

Florida's cruise ports - Welcoming island
Many Caribbean ports welcome cruise passengers with colorful native attire and song. For many islands cruise ship passengers represent a major portion of their economy.

Final Notes on Florida Cruise Ports

There is nothing like standing on the Promenade or top deck of a cruise ship leaving a port with a warm breeze prompting the anticipation of things to come. Cruising is a matter of preferences. How many places do you want to see in what period of time?

In our case, we have found many Caribbean locations through a cruise we may never have explored otherwise. That has led us to return to those islands for longer stays. Places like Bermuda, Aruba, St. Croix, St. Kitts and others have been targets for our return visits.

Cruising is the ultimate way to relax. In addition, many cruises are the ultimate affordable vacation. And, over a period of time, you may duplicate your experience on another cruise because a day in a particular port doesn’t do the destination justice.

Dream of a warm destination from the waterfalls and nutmeg of Grenada to the powdery white sand beaches St. Croix? A cruise from one of the Florida cruise ports can make that vision a reality.

Book your entire trip with one of these money saving partners!


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