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 a 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.
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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.
- Companies: Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity, Costa, MSC, Oceania, Crystal, Azamara
- What to Do: Villa Vizcaya, Wynwood Walls, The Wolfsonian
- Where to Eat: Islas Canarias, Yardbird Southern Table, Pubbelly
- Where to Stay: The Freehand Miami, Circa 39, Life House Little Havana, The Sagamore
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, Courtyard Cocoa Beach Cape Canaveral
Book your Shared Port Canaveral Round-trip Transfer here.
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, Tampa Museum of Art, Weeki Wachee Springs, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Henry Plant Museum
- Where to Eat: Bern’s Steak House, Oxford Exchange, The Refinery, Ulele, Columbia Restaurant
- Where to Stay: Epicurean Hotel, The Current Hotel, The Westshore Grand, Quality Inn Cruise Port
Book your Tampa Cruise Port Transfer from Tampa International Airport here.
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Fort Lauderdale is like Venice , surrounded by water, so it’s 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.
Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess 7 Nights Eastern Caribbean Cruise, Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam Western Caribbean 14 Night Cruise, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Majesty of the Seas Western Caribbean 5 Night Cruise are three options.
- Companies: Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Carnival, Holland America, Silversea
- What to Do: Sawgrass Recreation Park, Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
- Where to Eat: The Tipsy Boar, Canyon Southwest Cafe, Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill, O-B House, Louie Bossi’s
- Where to Stay: The Atlantic Hotel & Spa, Pelican Grand Beach Resort, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina
Book your Port of Miami or Port Everglades Arrival Transfer here.
Although Jacksonville has a smaller port, is the most accessible to most of the South’s Atlantic coast. The city has a 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
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, Cake Cafe and Bakery, Johnny’s Po Boys
- Where to Stay: Hotel Monteleone, The Quisby, The Pontchartrain, Omni Riverfront
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.
- Companies: Carnival
- What to Do: Charleston City Market, Charleston Museum, Firefly Distillery
- Where to Eat: Husk, Bowen’s Island Restaurant, Poe’s Tavern, Fleet Landing, The Glass Onion
- Where to Stay: Charleston Not So Hostel, Charleston Harbor Resort, Meeting Street Inn, The Dewberry