9 Cruise Homeports That Are Just As Good As Your Destinations

best cruise departure ports venice italy
Some ports are well worth arriving a few days early for. - Photo by Princess Cruises

It’s always a good idea to arrive into your cruise embarkation port the day before your cruise, in case of travel delays. If all goes well, you’ll have an afternoon or evening to explore the city and rest up before your cruise begins. But sometimes, you find there’s so much to do you wish you had more time. To help you plan ahead, we’ve identified some of the most popular cities our members have said they love to explore before their cruise.

1. Barcelona

barcelona spain cruise departure port vacation
Photo by Thinkstock

Barcelona is the second most populated city in Spain, and its vibrant culture and colorful architecture draw tens of millions of visitors each year. A number of ships sailing in the western Mediterranean homeport here.

Sites to See:

Don’t miss the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, as well as the Gothic Quarter, Boqueria Market, and the Picasso Museum.

Things to Eat:

  • Paella - a rice and seafood dish often served at parties 
  • Escalivada - grilled eggplant and peppers on toasted bread,
  • Crema Catalana - Spanish creme brulee
  • La Bomba - potato balls stuffed with ground pork served with two sauces

 

2. New Orleans

new orleans louisiana french quarter cruise
Photo by f11photo/Shutterstock

Cruising from The Big Easy? If you’ve never been to the city before, the perfect chance to explore is before you set sail from the Port of New Orleans. You’ll find all kinds of Caribbean cruises from the Louisiana port, as well as voyages through the Panama Canal and even some US-based river cruises up the Mississippi.

Sites to See:

Aside from the must-visit French Quarter and the Garden District, consider taking a swamp tour. There are lots of different tours available to take in the swamplands, including kayaking, airboating, and sitting back on a passenger boat. Other neat places to visit include Preservation Hall, Audobon Aquarium, and Audobon Zoo. If you’re into music, consider taking a jazz history tour — the genre originated in New Orleans. Always been curious about Louisiana Voodoo? There are tours centered on that, too.

Things to Eat:

  • Beignets - deep fried pastry dough topped with powdered sugar and Chickory Coffee from Cafe du Monde 
  • Gumbo - seafood or meat stew over rice
  • Po’Boys from Johnny’s - sandwich usually with shrimp or crawfish 
  • Shrimp Creole - saucy dish made with shrimp, tomatoes, onion, and bell peppers

 

3. Seattle

seattle washington alaska cruise departure port
Photo by emperocosar/Shutterstock

If you’re sipping Starbucks coffee on a rainy day with a mountain behind you and the water in front of you, chances are you’re probably in the Pacific Northwest city of Seattle. Nearly all cruises from Seattle are northbound to Alaska and Canada, but occasionally you’ll also find cruises to the Pacific Coast, South America, and Hawaii from the Emerald City too.

Sites to See:

The Space Needle and Pike Place Market are givens, and if you consider yourself a wine connoisseur head to nearby Woodinville for plenty of wineries that offer tastings. For more active activities, try hiking at Tiger Mountain, rock climbing at the Seattle Bouldering Project, or renting a bicycle to ride the Burke-Gilman trail. The offbeat Museum of Pop Culture can also fill a rainy afternoon.

Things to Eat:

  • Pike Place Chowder
  • Pho - hot Vietnamese broth-based soup
  • The Seattle Dog - hot dog with cream cheese on top
  • Fran’s Chocolates
  • Craft Beer - from one of the many microbreweries
  • Grilled Fish - there are lots of varieties

 

4. Venice

venice italy europe cruise departure port
Photo by sborisov/Thinkstock

Venice, Italy is one of the most unique cities in the world, made up of 118 islands separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. A variety of cruises around Italy and the Adriatic Sea originate from Venice, as well as voyages that stop in Greek ports. Arrive as many days ahead of your cruise to Venice as you can, because your time there will be well worth it. 

Sites to See:

Venture over to St. Mark’s Square, which is the side of the city opposite the cruise port, and check out St. Mark’s Basilica while you’re there. Other things to see include Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and the many little shops on every street and alley. If you want to see something different, consider Murano which is known for glassmaking, or Burano which is known for lacemaking. These separate islands are essentially smaller versions of Venice with their own canals and bridges, and tend to be less chaotic.

Things to Eat:

  • Sarde in Saor - fried, marinated sardines
  • Squid Ink Risotto - a risotto rice dish with black squid ink
  • Baccala Mantecato - creamed, dried cod
  • Bellini cocktail - prosecco sparkling wine and peach puree
  • Bigoli in Salsa - pasta with onion and salt-cured fish

Tip: Don’t be afraid to get lost in the little side streets and quieter residential areas of the city - Venice is an island and it’s almost impossible to get lost.

5. Fort Lauderdale/Miami

miami florida south beach cruise port
Photo by Ugo Lora/Thinkstock

We're lumping Fort Lauderdale in with Miami because their ports are only 30 miles apart, meaning it’s relatively easy to do fun things in both cities prior to your cruise. With Port Canaveral (see below), they make up the top 3 busiest cruise ports in the world. You’ll find mainly Caribbean voyages from these cities, but there are lots of other itineraries sailing from the south Florida ports, too. 

Sites to See:

In Miami, visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Wynwood Walls outdoor graffiti art museum, South Beach, and Ocean Drive, of course. In Fort Lauderdale, hit up Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, Las Olas Boulevard, Everglades Holiday Park with alligator shows and airboat rides, and the Museum of Discovery and Science.

Things to Eat:

  • Cuban Sandwich - ham, pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and more good stuff
  • Cafe Con Leche - like a latte with Cuban coffee
  • Chicharrón - fried pork skin
  • Stone Crabs
  • Key Lime Pie

 

6. Orlando

orlando florida lake eola cruise port
Photo by Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

While Orlando is technically an hour away from the closest cruise port, Port Canaveral, most cruisers will fly into Orlando for their voyage if they don’t live locally and may want to extend their trip in the theme park-heavy central Florida city. There are also some attractions right in Cape Canaveral that many families enjoy, like Kennedy Space Center and the Manatee Sanctuary Park.

Sites to See:

Theme parks are the main attraction, and there are many to choose from: Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Fun Spot America Orlando, Gatorland, and The Holy Land Experience. If you’re not into theme parks, check out Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Orlando museum, Lake Eola Park, Discovery Cove with marine animal encounters, and the ICON Orlando 360 observation wheel and shopping complex.

Things to Eat:

  • Dole Whip, found at multiple locations in Disney World including shopping complex Disney Springs
  • Subs at the grocery store chain Publix’s deli counter (they are delicious!)
  • Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal

Tip: If you want to go to the port and watch ships leave (before or after your own cruise!), head over to Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill at about 3 pm and stake out a table outside with prime viewing of the water, where the ships will pass right by on their way out to sea.

7. Vancouver

vancouver canada pacific northwest cruise port
Photo by Thinkstock

Vancouver is in the Canadian province of British Columbia, on the west coast near the state of Washington. It’s the jumping-off point for a lot of Alaska cruises, or a port stop on the way to Alaska for cruises coming from the United States. There’s something for everyone here, from mountains to beaches to museums and live music spots.

Sites to See:

If you’re into zip lining, skiing, or a number of other outdoor activities be sure to look into Grouse Mountain. Other points of interest include Stanley Park; the Gastown neighborhood with little shops, art galleries, and eateries; the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and the Vancouver Aquarium. 

Things to Eat:

  • B.C. Rolls - British Columbia’s signature sushi roll with salmon skin
  • Dungeness Crab
  • Spot Prawns
  • JapaDogs - Japanese-inspired hot dogs with seaweed flakes, teriyaki, miso, wasabi, and kimchi
  • Anything with Albacore Tuna

 

8. London

london england big ben cruise port
Photo by Pajor Pawel/Shutterstock

London isn’t technically where the cruise ports are located; ships actually set sail from Southampton and Dover which are both around 80 miles away in nearly opposite directions. However, if you’re flying in for your cruise from one of these ports, you’ll most likely arrive in London and then transfer to the port. This is a great opportunity to spend a few days in the big city prior to embarking. 

Sites to See: 

London is full of must-sees; here are some top choices: Big Ben clock, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, and the London Eye.

Things to Eat:

  • Fish and chips
  • Sunday Roast with Yorkshire Pudding
  • Pie and Mash - a pot pie filled with meat and mashed potatoes on the side
  • Full English Breakfast - sausages, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, mushrooms, blood pudding, potatoes, and toast

 

9. Honolulu

honolulu hawaii oahu cruise departure port
Photo by emperorcosar/Shutterstock

Usually when travelers think of Hawaii, they think of big beachside resorts and land-based vacations. However, some cruises actually leave from - or stop in - Honolulu. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America is the only cruise ship that sails roundtrip from Honolulu around Hawaii, but a number of other cruise lines use Honolulu as a starting point for transpacific and south Pacific cruises, too. If you’re sailing from the tropical port on Oahu, arriving early is an excellent way to explore a bit of the 50th state.

Sites to See:

Two historical landmarks that visitors shouldn’t miss are the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor. If you’re looking to explore the outdoors, head to Diamond Head State Monument and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, and of course make a stop at the famous Waikiki Beach for posterity.

Things to Eat:

  • Poke - seasoned and cubed raw fish
  • Ramen
  • Poi - pudding-like dish made from the starchy plant’s stem
  • Shaved Ice
  • A Pig Roast - usually found at a luau

Join The Discussion

Do you plan to arrive early to the city of embarkation before your next cruise?

2 Comments

Posted by christhecruiser

Where is New York City???

Posted by meinkephotos

Yes. Barcelona

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