Florida Cruise Ports: Helpful Tips and Things to Do Nearby

Cruising is a wonderful way to see the World, and a diverse collection of Florida Cruise Ports delivers a gateway to the Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Panama Canal.

This cruising capital of the World offers a ticket to exotic cultural experiences with the promise of delicious food, relaxation, and adventure.

Today, we will look at the big four: Port of Miami, Port Canaveral, Port Tampa Bay, and Port Everglades. These are the largest cruise ports that service the bulk of passengers coming in and out of the ports in Florida for cruise ships and cruise vacations.

Are you planning your next Florida vacation and facing the dilemma of which of the four main Florida cruise terminals to sail from? Or are you visiting one of the beautiful Caribbean islands, such as the Bahamas, and stopping in Florida for a layover? Then, we are here to guide you through the highlights of these incredible ports to help you decide and plan for your next cruise vacation.

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Navigating Florida’s Cruise Ports

Cruise Ports in Florida Include

  1. Port Tampa Bay (Tampa)
  2. Port Canaveral (Orlando)
  3. Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale)
  4. The Port of Miami (Miami)
  5. Jaxport (Jacksonville)
  6. Port of Palm Beach (Palm Beach)

1. Port Tampa Bay

Tampa is a popular departure and arrival point for cruise passengers, with its Port Tampa Bay serving as a gateway to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Port Tampa Bay homeports six vessels, including ships from Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean

If you’re staying in Tampa for a few days before or after your cruise, there are plenty of attractions and activities to enjoy. 

Getting to and From the Cruise Port

If you’re flying in or out of Tampa, the Tampa International Airport is well-connected and offers a range of transportation options to the cruise port and downtown Tampa. Tampa Airport is just 9 miles northwest of the cruise port. Transfers by taxi to and from the port to the airport take around 20 minutes. Plenty of taxis are available, but your cruise line may offer a shuttle bus transfer.

What To Do in the Cruise Port of Tampa

Tampa has many things to do, from crystal-clear beaches to exuberant neighborhoods and thrilling theme parks. These are some of the things you can do near Tampa Cruise Port.

Explore Tampa’s Neighborhoods 

Tampa has a variety of different neighborhoods; each one brings something different. It’s great to experience life with the locals, so be sure to explore these incredible areas. 

Downtown Tampa is a vibrant area with many restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions. Some highlights include the Tampa Riverwalk, which offers scenic views of the Hillsborough River, and the Tampa Museum of Art. 

Ybor City is another neighborhood in Tampa known for its historic charm, Cuban influence, and lively nightlife. It’s a great place to explore unique shops, dine on delicious Cuban cuisine, and experience the city’s cultural heritage. 

Other Neighbourhoods in this area include Historic Hyde Park and Davis Islands.

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a fantastic theme park with many attractions if you travel with family or enjoy thrill rides and animal encounters. The “Ultimate Theme Park” features various roller coasters and thrill rides, including some of the most famous ones, like SheiKra, Montu, and Cheetah Hunt. 

The park also has a strong focus on animal conservation and education. You can explore various animal exhibits and encounters, including a Serengeti Plain with African animals like giraffes and zebras.

Visit Clearwater Beach or St Pete’s Beach

Tampa is near some beautiful Gulf Coast beaches, including Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach. Clearwater Beach is known for its pristine, sugar-white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. These beaches are ideal for relaxation and water activities such as jet skiing, parasailing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and windsurfing.

In the beautiful St. Pete Beach, Pass-a-Grille is a historic and charming neighborhood with quaint cottages and bungalows that line its streets. The architecture reflects the area’s history, and several buildings date back to the early 20th century. 

Many Gulf Coast beaches are also home to various bird species, so bring binoculars and enjoy birdwatching.

2. Port Canaveral on the Eastern Florida Coast

Port Canaveral is located on the eastern coast of Florida along the Atlantic Ocean in Brevard County in Cape Canaveral. It is said to be one of the World’s busiest Florida cruise ports, with 4.1 million cruise passengers passing through each year. It is also known as the gateway to Central Florida and is the home port of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Wonder of Seas.

 It’s a popular Florida cruise port for those wishing to visit the magic of Disney and other main theme parks in the area. Port Canaveral is approximately 45 miles east of Orlando, making it easily accessible from these major tourist destinations in Central Florida.

Cruise Lines sailing out of Port Canaveral include major cruise lines, such as Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises.

Getting to and From the Cruise Port

How far is Port Canaveral from Orlando Airport? The closest major airport to Port Canaveral is Orlando International Airport (MCO), 45 miles away. You can take a taxi, Uber, or a shared shuttle from the airport. There are no public transport options that travel directly from Orlando Airport to Port Canaveral.

What To Do Near Port Canaveral Cruise Port in Florida

Even though it is close to Orlando’s beaches and theme parks, including Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando, it also has many things to do nearby, making it a popular stop for tourists before or after their cruises. These are the top things to do near Port Canaveral:

The Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is what Cape Canaveral is best known for. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is operated for NASA by Delaware North, which offers an educational and interactive experience about space exploration. Here you can see the history of NASA, from live rocket launches to interactive exhibits such as the shuttle launch experience and the Rocket Garden.

Cocoa Beach

The Port of Canaveral is near one of the best beaches in Florida, Cocoa Beach! The beach is known for drawing in the surfers with its significant surf breaks. It is also where you can find the famous Ron Jons surf shop. You can also visit the Florida Surf Museum, which traces the sport’s local history. 

Nearby, Cocoa Beach Pier has lots of restaurants, bars, and shops. 

Lori Wilson Park is located in the heart of Cocoa Beach and is a seaside natural oasis. It is a beautiful park with sand dunes, hammocks, and boardwalks. The park has many amenities, including a children’s playground, sports courts, lifeguards, picnic areas, barbecue spots, and drinking fountains. It also has popular biking paths and attracts local wildlife and birdlife. 

The Wizard of Oz Museum

The Wizard of Oz Museum is a true gem of an experience you will not want to miss. Explore movie memorabilia and go back through time to the Movie The Wizard of OZ. You will find props from the movie, figurines, books, and a ‘live feel’ video experience here. Located on Cocoa Beach, there are many other things to do nearby.

3. Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale

Port Everglades is the home port to Disney Cruise Lines’ newest ship, Disney Wish, thus a popular destination for cruising families. It’s the fourth busiest cruise port in the World and the third-busiest cruise port in Florida, with over 1.7 million cruise passengers visiting in 2022, and home to many wonderful activities and nature reserves. 

Port Everglades may be a cruise port gateway to Disney magic, but it has much more to offer on its doorstep. 

Getting to and From the Cruise Port

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is 2.6 miles, and Miami Airport (MIA) is 28 miles from Port Everglades. Booking an Uber is easy to do from Port Everglades. However, there are also many options for shared shuttle services or private transfers. 

Things to Do Near Port Everglades Cruise Port in Florida

Visit the Beach at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port

Fort Lauderdale has a 24-mile stretch of coastline known for its white sand, crystal clear waters, and vibrant beach scene. You can swim, dine, sip cocktails, sunbathe, and even participate in water sports like paddle boarding and jet skiing.

If beaches aren’t your thing, book a private beach club; these will give you access to a pool but still have the luxury of beach access should you want it.

Book an Everglades Tour

The Everglades is a little over an hour from Fort Lauderdale; thus, booking a tour is easy. 

The Florida Everglades is a vast and diverse wetland ecosystem in southern Florida, known as the “River of Grass” due to its unique water flow. It’s home to various species like alligators, American crocodiles, and endangered Florida panthers. 

Everglades tours include paddle boarding and canoeing, airboat rides, and zip lines. And while many want to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Centre, it’s essential to research and book a tour that works with the Everglades Foundation. Thus, to ensure the safety of the animals and ecosystems, it’s wonderful to enjoy nature; doing so responsibly is vital.

Book a Jungle Queen Riverboat Tour

Fort Lauderdale’s intercostal waterways form an extensive network, earning it the title “Venice of America.” These canals and rivers serve as vital navigation routes, connect neighborhoods, and provide access to the ocean. 

Lined with luxurious homes and yachts, they are a key part of the city’s upscale reputation. 

These waterways offer recreational activities, contribute to the economy through tourism and boating, and define Fort Lauderdale’s cultural identity. 

The Jungle Queen Riverboat Tour takes you through the waterways network, highlighting the biggest and best mansions the area has to offer, super yachts, and a peek at what life living on these glorious waterways is like. 

4. Miami Cruise Port

The port of Miami is the World’s second busiest cruise port, with 4,022,544 cruise passengers enjoying Caribbean cruise vacations in the last 12 months. This gateway to the Caribbean offers a diverse cultural experience. Miami embraces cultural diversity with strong connections to Latin America and the Caribbean. Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, NCL, and Disney Cruise Line all home port from this popular Florida cruise port.

The tropical monsoon climate brings warm winters and humid summers, characterized by a distinct rainy season in summer and a dry season in winter, making it a year-round tourist favorite for cruise passengers worldwide.

Getting to and From Miami’s Cruise Port

Use a porter to navigate the port; it’s worth the tip to get out of the port quicker. And unless you have a transfer booked, book an Uber. We traveled with a group of friends and split into two groups; one got a local taxi, and one of us got an Uber. The local taxi cost double. So, have your Uber app ready to book transfers to your hotel at Miami International Airport, which is 15 miles away.

What To Do in Miami Cruise Port

Miami Cruise Port is a major embarkation port, and we strongly advise a pre-cruise stay to appreciate the wonders Miami has to offer. However, if time is of the essence and you are squeezing this Floridian paradise into a day, we have a list of places you can’t miss in Miami. 

Wynwood Hills

This modern urban street art museum set in the projects is around 20 minutes in an Uber from the Miami cruise port, and this alone makes Miami a must-visit cruise port in Florida. Artists have transformed this struggling working-class neighborhood by decorating walls, shipping containers, and a museum with street art to create a glorious sea of color. The site has become a vibrant market with delicious street food and live music. 

Top tip: take a buggy tour to avoid missing the highlights; this is an area where you don’t want to miss a thing.

Wander South Beach 

Before visiting Miami, I always assumed South Beach would be overrated. How wrong can a person be? South Beach is everything you see in the movies and more. We started down at North Beach and walked the whole strip, and it’s worth doing so to take in all the sights. 

South Beach is people’s spotters’ paradise. From the stereotypical skaters with fluffy dogs running alongside. You won’t know where to look first, from perfectly patterned pavements and candy-colored beach huts. 

What started as a quick stroll became a 7-hour walk, stopping at art deco bars and cafes, spotting the odd street lizard and classic car. Anything goes in South Beach; you will want to take in every second. 

We advise spending the day going with the flow and enjoying it. But wear comfy shoes; we covered miles.

Visit the Miami Design District

Renowned for its elegance and style, the Miami Design District boasts a collection of upscale fashion brands, boutiques, art galleries, and sophisticated restaurants. This collaboration of shopping, dining, and the arts creates the perfect spot for exploring, shopping and people-watching. 

It is situated directly north of downtown Miami; this once run-down neighborhood has recently experienced a revitalization project. Thus evolving into a nucleus for art, design, and cultural experiences.

As such, it houses over 130 art galleries, showrooms, museums, and renowned luxury fashion brands such as Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton.

Setting Sail and Choosing Your Next Sunshine Adventure at One of Florida’s Cruise Ports

As you can see, these Florida cruise ports offer a gateway to an array of sun-soaked destinations and adventures. From the vibrant culture of Miami to the enchanting beaches of Tampa Bay and the tropical allure of the Caribbean. The choices are as diverse as they are exciting. Selecting the perfect destination is like crafting your own dream voyage, where each port promises new experiences and memories waiting to be made.

We hope we have given you some inspiration to help you plan your next journey and let Florida’s cruise ports be your ticket to an unforgettable adventure.

This post originally appeared on Savoteur. Featured Photo Credit: [@ml12nan/Depositphotos.com]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Florida Cruise Ports: Helpful Tips and Things to Do Nearby
Donna Vallance and Sarah Christie

Sarah Christie and Donna Vallance are experienced travel writers and cruise enthusiasts specializing in cruising. They have a passion for exploring new destinations and have dedicated themselves to sharing their knowledge and insights with fellow travelers. They provide valuable information, tips, and recommendations for all cruisers. They strive to make cruising accessible and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of their interests, budgets, or accessibility needs.