If you live in Florida, that’s amazing! The fact is, you’re within driving distance of two of the best cruise ports in the world! In this post, you’ll find all you need to know about cruising out of South Florida, whether your ship departs from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, or the Port of Miami.
I’m delighted to have an expert cruiser and travel blogger, Ilana from Life Well Cruised, share with us her top tips – from 10 plus years of experience – sailing in and out of the South Florida ports. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for cruise options by the end of the post. I know, I did! I’ll let Ilana take it from here…
Cruises Ports of South Florida: Fort Lauderdale vs Miami
Both Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) and PortMiami (Miami) are world class cruise terminals and the two busiest and most popular cruise ports in America. Let me assure you, despite being so busy, they are both excellent and run very efficiently.
So what are the differences between the two cruise ports and things to consider? Cruise ships, cruise lines, itineraries, ease of drive or commute for you.
Some cruise lines offer ships that leave from both cruise ports, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean. While others will only be sailing out of one, such as Princess which sails out of Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale. Taking a look at the cruise options available and your preferences should help you decide.
If you’re a Florida resident, you may want to consider which cruise port is easier for you to get to. Since they are only about 30 minutes apart, likely both should be good possibilities.
Are you driving to the cruise port? There is a nominal difference and Port Everglades is a bit less expensive to park per day. At this time on site parking is $15 per day at Fort Lauderdale vs $22 a day at the Port of Miami. Looking for cheaper parking options? I’ll have more choices for you below.
Why Cruise Out of South Florida?
By cruising out of South Florida, you’ll have access to some of the newest cruise ships from different cruise lines, great itineraries, and even some amazing cruise deals for residents. Whether you prefer to cruise in the winter, summer, or for the Holidays, you’ll find a HUGE amount of choice.
Popular Cruise Itineraries
Caribbean and Bahamas are the most popular cruise itineraries departing from either Port Everglades or MiamiPort. However, there are so many travel options.
Western Caribbean and Eastern Caribbean Cruises
Classic Caribbean itineraries are 7 day Western Caribbean and Eastern Caribbean cruises. These are most recommended for first-time cruisers. 7 days offers enough time on the ship to truly relax as well as enjoy all the activities the cruise has to offer.
Examples of cruise ports on a Western Caribbean cruise include Cozumel (Mexico), Falmouth (Jamaica), Grand Cayman, Roatan and Belize. These itineraries will usually have 3-4 stops, including one to the cruise line private island, which are loved by many cruisers.
An Eastern Caribbean cruise usually includes St. Maarteen, St. Thomas as well as private island. These ports are well known for their white sand beaches, stunning landscape and great shopping.
Southern Caribbean Cruises
If you can swing a little bit of a longer cruise, Southern Caribbean cruises are often between 8 and 14 days. Some favorite island cruise ports of call include Barbados, Aruba, St. Lucia, Curacao, St. Kitts and more.
Panama Canal Cruises
Lovely longer cruises include cruising through or into the Panama Canal. If you’d like to do the full transit, you can cruise right to California. However, if round trip is more convenient, there are Panama canal cruises that enter the first part of the canal, and then return to Florida, with some wonderful ports along the way.
Cruising to Cuba is a fairly recent itinerary option for Americans. While not all cruise lines offer this, you can find some shorter and longer cruises that have ports of call in Cuba. There are some rules to follow so please do verify with the cruise line.
If you have less time and would like a shorter getaway, consider a 3-4 day Bahamas cruise.
Cruise Tip: Something to keep in mind when choosing your cruise, is that cruise lines often use their older and smaller ships for shorter itineraries. Since the cruise ship is a large part of your cruise experience, simply keep this in mind.
Choosing the right ship for you
There are so many cruise ships, and many are quite different. So, choosing the best cruise for you is really a matter of taste and preference. However, there are some good guidelines to help you with your choice.
If you’re cruising with kids, you may want a ship that offers a lot of high energy activities and keeps everyone busy and happy. Do your kids love water-slides, zip-lines, or rope courses? Generally, family-friendly cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean will be a good choice.
Other cruise lines may still have good kids clubs and ship amenities, so don’t be deterred if a cruise ship doesn’t have a water-slide. There are often many other things to do, and various cruise lines do cater to families, especially during the holidays and during school breaks. Know your family and your preferences to make a choice that’s best for you.
Looking for a deal? Check out cruise prices during Kids Sail Free promotions. Keep in mind this will mean kids sail as 3rd and 4th passengers and cruise cabins are quite “cozy”. Here are some cabin hacks to keep a small stateroom organized and efficient.
Cruise tip: Do check the specific ship, as not every cruise ship in the fleet will offer the same ship amenities and activities. Newer ships tend to have more “bells and whistles” if that’s what you like.
If you’re looking for a casual and fun friend getaway, take a look at some of the cruise choices to see what seems like the best fit. Some cruise ships offer a party-like atmosphere by the main pool and good nightlife. Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line generally provide some of this.
Is cruise pricing a factor? If you’re looking for a lower cost cruise vacation consider shorter cruises as well.
Cruisers looking for a more refined experience where the focus is on dining, service, as well as quality entertainment, may enjoy cruising with Celebrity, Princess or Holland America. Lifestyle activities and enrichment lectures are offered during the day, while the evening can include headliners, production shows and live music.
Check out some of the cruise options which include perks such as all-inclusive beverages or wi-fi which can add to the enjoyment of your cruise.
If you are someone who loves cruise travel and would like to do so in greater luxury, consider cruising on smaller ships with cruise lines that focus on the destination, gourmet food, and more refined travel experience. Azamara Club Cruises, Oceania, Regent, Crystal, and Silverseas each offer some dreamy itineraries.
These cruise lines are mostly all-inclusive, eliminating the “nickle and diming” some cruisers have grown tired of.
How to get a cruise deal?
There are usually 2 ways to get the very best deal on a cruise.
1. Book early – this is usually the best as you can get extra perks, choose the cabin you like best and often benefit from early booking fares.
2. Book last minute – if you’re not picky and can pick up and travel with little notice, you can benefit from a great fare if there are unsold cabins, especially during off season. Don’t forget to check to see if there’s a resident discount.
Best months to cruise out of South Florida
Cruises leave out of Florida at any time of the year, so why limit yourself? However, if you don’t like very hot weather, perhaps avoid the summer months, when the Caribbean heat can be something else.
Fall is typically Hurricane season, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean its a bad time to cruise. Caribbean cruises are often less expensive during September and October, so it can be a great time to snag a great deal. What happens if there’s a hurricane? Cruise ships will divert and change their itineraries, avoiding any port where there is potential to be affected.
If you love the Holidays and would enjoy a “Christmassy” cruise, but want to be home for Christmas – consider a December cruise. Cruise fares are such a bargain and the ships are in full Holiday swing. You can take Christmas photos with a beautifully decorated tree and possibly even hear some Christmas music on board.
Finally, if you’d like to cruise from the Port of Miami or Fort Lauderdale and do something totally different, why not take a trans-Atlantic cruise? These cruises are not offered all the time, actually usually twice a year, per ship. The idea is that cruise ships that home-port in South Florida for a couple of seasons, will often head out to Europe (or elsewhere) for the late Spring and summer months, and return in late Fall.
If you want a great value and a relaxing and quite wonderful way to travel to Europe, why not consider taking a 12-17 day trans-Atlantic cruise. You’ll have about 6 sea days followed by 3-6 ports, depending on the cruise. Often deals can be found for about $60 per day. Keep in mind that the dates need to work for you and you shouldn’t be prone to sea-sickness.
Parking tips and suggestions
If you are driving into either Port Everglades or PortMiami, there is on-site, secure parking. This is the most convenient, safest and recommended.
However, there are alternatives. Firstly, if you are a local, consider the cost of a taxi or Uber. It may be worth it not to drive and to use a service instead. Secondly, can a neighbor or relative drive you to and from the port? Try and get to the ship early before the noontime traffic.
If you definitely want to drive, consider some parking lots and hotels that offer parking at a much lower cost than the cruise port, while providing a shuttle service to the port.
If you’re cruising from Port Everglades some alternative parking lots include FLL Park Safe, Park ‘N Go and Park by the Ports. If you’re sailing away from the Port of Miami a couple of options are Safe Cruise Parking and Premier Cruise Parking.
Please verify these and any other parking lots as they are not official cruise port parking.
Things to do in South Florida
Depending on your situation, if you’re more than a couple of hours away, you may want to add an extra day or two and take a little pre-cruise holiday and enjoy a South Florida event. Sometimes, we don’t visit areas that are closer to our home, and we should! Why not get a Park and Cruise Hotel and play tourist in your own city? Take a look at these amazing free things to do in Miami.
Recap: Tips for cruising out of South Florida
If you’re cruising out of either PortMiami or Port Everglades, you’re cruising from the biggest and most popular cruise ports in America and you truly have almost every cruise ship within your reach. With so many choices and reasonable cruise fares, why wait? Go out and cruise.
Ilana is a cruise enthusiast, freelance writer and travel blogger at LifeWellCruised. She has worked in the cruise industry for more than a decade, and believes that we can all have amazing travel experiences, all while enjoying ship life, of course!
Thanks, Ilana for your invaluable insight on cruising out of South Florida. This guide is sure to come in handy when planning my – and I’m sure many of our readers – next cruise adventures. Thank you!