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The South’s Best Cruise Terminals

cruise terminals

Cruises are gaining in popularity as a method of travel and the Southeast has many ports of debarkation. Each offers different cruise lines for different budgets and age ranges, as well as activities for your pre and post-cruise stay. Florida has the monopoly on cruise terminals due to its coastline and proximity to the Caribbean and Mexico, but there are ports more convenient to other states as well. Here is a short guide to the South’s best cruise ports, as well as where to eat, sleep and what to do.

Florida

Miami

cruise terminals

Miami is easily one of the busiest ports in the country and certainly the busiest in the South. Every cruise line imaginable passes through here and with good reason. It may be at the southernmost point of Florida, but there’s plenty for visitors to do while they’re here before and after, including soaking up rays on South Beach and shopping on Ocean Drive.

Port Canaveral

cruise terminals

Port Canaveral is the closest port to Orlando and its accompanying theme parks, as well as Cocoa Beach and the Kennedy Space Center area. You can plan your trip to Walt Disney World before hopping on a Disney cruise. The area also has lots of outdoor activities, like kayaking with manatees and visiting the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.

  • Companies: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney
  • What to Do: Kayaking with A Day Away, East Coast Paddle, Kennedy Space Center
  • Where to Eat: River Rocks Restaurant, TJ’s Full Belly Deli, Jazzy’s Mainely Lobster
  • Where to Stay: Cocoa Beach Suites, Four Points by Sheraton, Inn at Cocoa Beach

Tampa

cruise terminals

Tampa has lots of cruises to offer and much more things to do than many people realize. Its most notable attraction is Busch Gardens, which has dozens of roller coasters and thrill rides. The International Plaza area has the best shopping and restaurants, as does the downtown area near the Tampa Theatre.

  • Companies: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Holland America
  • What to Do: Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens, Weeki Wachee Springs
  • Where to Eat: The Pub, Samaria Cafe, Bar Louie, Bern’s Steak House
  • Where to Stay: Best Western Bay Harbor Hotel, Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Westin Tampa Harbor Island

Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)

cruise terminals

Fort Lauderdale is like Venice, surrounded by water, so its fitting that it would be an important cruise terminal. Not only does it host the big brands of ocean liners, but also smaller cruises and ferries to the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands.

  • Companies: Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Carnival, Holland America, Silversea
  • What to Do: SEA Experience snorkeling, Sawgrass Recreation Park, Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art
  • Where to Eat: The Tipsy Boar, Canyon Southwest Cafe, Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill
  • Where to Stay: Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Alhambra Beach Resort, W Fort Lauderdale

Jacksonville

Credit: Bill Lollar

Although Jacksonville has a smaller port, is the most accessible to most of the South’s Atlantic coast. The city has thriving nightlife, as well as cultural attractions and state parks.

  • Companies: Carnival
  • What to Do: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Little Talbot Island State Park
  • Where to Eat: The French Pantry, Maple Street Biscuit Company, Mojo Bar-B-Que
  • Where to Stay: Hotel Indigo Jacksonville, Omni Jacksonville, Fairfield Inn & Suites

Louisiana

New Orleans

cruise terminals

You’ll be sure to “let the good times roll” if you’re spending time in New Orleans before or after your cruise. Enjoy the city’s rich history, delicious food and great hospitality. You can even take a river cruise on an old fashioned paddle boat before spending a week on board another ship.

  • Companies: Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean
  • What to Do: Mardi Gras World, National World War II Museum, Lafayette Cemetery
  • Where to Eat: Cafe du Monde, Praline Connection, Cake Cafe and Bakery, Johnny’s Po Boys
  • Where to Stay: Omni Royal Orleans, Hotel Monteleone
  • See: Weekend Guide to New Orleans

South Carolina

Charleston

cruise terminals

Charleston is the area’s newest cruise terminal, which has been controversial to put it lightly. Cruises depart near the City Market, making it easy to see the sights of the city while you’re waiting for your boarding time or once you get off the boat. Just be sure to eat in one of the city’s highly rated restaurants during your stay.

What’s your favorite Southern cruise terminal?

Mentioned in this post
  1. Miami
    City in Florida

    Miami Florida
  2. Port Canaveral
    City in Florida

    Brevard County Florida
  3. Tampa
    City in Florida

    Tampa Florida
  4. Fort Lauderdale
    City in Florida

    Fort Lauderdale Florida
  5. Jacksonville
    City in Florida

    Jacksonville Florida
  6. New Orleans
    City in Louisiana

    New Orleans Louisiana
  7. Charleston
    City in South Carolina

    Charleston South Carolina

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One Response to The South’s Best Cruise Terminals

  1. Paul Scoropan February 27, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    The best cruise in the world starts from Miami

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