Best US Departure Ports For Cruises
Whether you’re sailing out of Florida to the Caribbean, the Northeast to New England, or the Northwest to Alaska, you’re going to find that you often have a choice of multiple departure ports. Some US departure ports excel at smooth embarkations, some are more easily accessible, and others are well worth spending a few days exploring before or after your cruise. Here’s our round up of every major US Departure port along with some tips and recommendations to help you choose the right one:
Overall Rating: 4.1/5 Embark Rating: 3.9/5 Debark Rating: 3.8/5
- Manhattan: 711 12th Ave, New York, New York 10019
- Brooklyn: 72 Bowne St, Brooklyn, New York 11231
- Manhattan: $40 per night for cruises up to 10 nights, $400 for 11-30 nights
- Brooklyn: $25 per night in a secure parking lot
Airport Access: A taxi is your best bet, but most cruise lines also offer a shuttle service, depending on which airport you fly into.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: The sheer number of options in New York can be downright paralyzing, so we’ll keep it as simple as possible: Grab burgers from Shake Shack in Madison Square Park or a few slices from Lombardi’s in Little Italy, then burn off those calories with a stroll through through Central Park. Then, head to Museum Mile on the east side of the park, or to the Museum of Natural History on the west.
If you’re staying in Brooklyn, get a taste of some amazing Italian at Roberta’s, Grimaldi’s, or Totonno’s, or BBQ at Dinosaur BBQ, Fette Sau or Arrogant Swine. You can easily spend an entire day at the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (conveniently located right next door). And for those of you cruising with kids, Coney Island’s Luna Park is an excellent family-friendly option.
Overall Rating: 3.9/5 Embark Rating: 4.5/5 Debark Rating: 4.2/5
Address: 4 Port Terminal Blvd, Bayonne, NJ 07002
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking is guaranteed in a secure parking garage and is $20 per day. For vehicles taller than the 7’4” height restriction of the garage, there is an adjacent parking lot.
Airport Access: Coach transfer service can be arranged through your travel agent, the cruise line, or directly onboard, and is the way to go. Taxis or the PATH train are other options, but can be a hassle, especially coming to or from New York City.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Staten Island or the Staten Island Children's Museum. For lots of things to do, take the train into Manhattan.
Overall Rating: 4.4/5 Embark Rating: 4.5/5 Debark Rating: 4.3/5
Address: 1 Black Falcon Ave, Boston, MA 02210
Parking Availability/Cost: The port’s Congress Street parking garage is located 5 minutes from the terminal, via a complimentary shuttle. If you purchase parking in advance, it’s $21 per day on most dates for the Congress Street garage. Parking paid day-of is $30 for the EDIC lot at 12 Dry Dock Avenue.
Airport Access: A good option from the airport to the terminal is to board an SL1 bus at one of the airport’s passenger terminals, get off at Silver Line Way, cross over from the inbound side to the outbound side track, and get on an SL2 Bus. Once on that bus get off at the Dry Dock Avenue stop and the cruise terminal is right nearby.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the Old North Church, Paul Revere House, Boston Children’s Museum, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, and the New England Aquarium.
Sailing out of Manhattan or Brooklyn is your best option if you want to sightsee in New York City before or after your cruise and have an easy journey to/from your ship.
Overall Rating: 4/5 Embark Rating: 4.7/5 Debark Rating: 3.7/5
Address: One Waterside Drive Norfolk, Virginia 23510
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking and guest drop-off is at Cedar Grove Parking, and complimentary shuttles run regularly to the port. The cost is $15 per day, and the lot has security 24/7.
Airport Access: The airport is just 20 miles from the cruise port, and a shuttle is your best bet.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the Nauticus maritime-themed museum and science center, the Norfolk Botanical Garden, and the battleship Wisconsin. Other fun activities in Norfolk include taking sailing lessons or going on a craft brewery tour.
Overall Rating: 4.3/5 Embark Rating: 4.4/5 Debark Rating: 4.5/5
Address: 32 Washington Street Charleston, South Carolina 29401
Parking Availability/Cost: Both covered and non-covered parking is available, and is patrolled by the Port Police. The cost is $20 per vehicle or $50 for oversized vehicles such as buses, RV’s, and campers. Complimentary shuttles take you from the parking areas to the terminal building.
Airport Access: Carnival has shuttle transfers from the airport to the cruise port, or you can hop into an Uber or Lyft.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Fort Sumter, the South Carolina Aquarium, and one of the many beaches. You can also take a historic carriage, boat, or walking tour or do a fishing excursion.
Overall Rating: 4.1/5 Embark Rating: 4.1/5 Debark Rating: 4.4/5
Address: 2001 E McComas St, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Parking Cost: The secure parking lot costs $15 per night. For RV’s under 30’, parking is $30 per night and for 30’ and over it’s $40 per night.
Airport Access: The two lines that sail from this port, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, both offer shuttles to and from the airport. Another easy option is taking an Uber or Lyft.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the Fort McHenry National Monument, National Aquarium, Inner Harbor, the Maryland Zoo, and Port Discovery Children’s Museum. Don’t forget to eat some crab and try local brews, too!
There’s no clear winner among the mid-Atlantic ports, as all are relatively small terminals with limited cruise choices. Go with the port that’s the shortest drive and offers the itinerary you’re looking for. Keep in mind that Charleston isn’t all that far from more cruise options in Jacksonville and Port Canaveral in Florida.
Overall Rating: 4.1/5 Embark Rating: 4.1/5 Debark Rating: 3.7/5
Address: 9810 August Dr, Jacksonville, Florida 32226
Parking Availability/Cost: The secure parking lot costs $17 per day for normal vehicles and $34 per day for oversized vehicles that need to use two parking spaces.
Airport Access: There are shuttles to and from the airport, and taking an Uber or Lyft is also a good option.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit Amelia Island Plantation, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, and Amelia Island. You could also take a Budweiser Factory Tour and stop by Jacksonville Landing.
Overall Rating: 4.1/5 Embark Rating: 4.3/5 Debark Rating: 4.2/5
Address: 9005 Charles M Rowland Drive Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking is $17 per day (including RV’s) in secure facilities.
Airport Access: There are a number of shuttles available between the Orlando Airport and Port Canaveral. Many cruise lines also have their own shuttles. If you’d prefer to take something private, Uber or Lyft is also an option but it can be pricey.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: If you’re staying along the coast, Kennedy Space Center is fun, especially with kids, and consider a visit the original outpost of the world-famous Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. If you’d rather spend time in Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort is a more compact, quicker visit than Walt Disney World. If you just have a short time to explore, check out iDrive 360 for the ICON Orlando observation wheel, Madame Tussauds, and SeaLife Aquarium.
Overall Rating: 4.1/5 Embark Rating: 4.4/5 Debark Rating: 4.2/5
Address: 1850 Eller Drive Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking costs $15 per day for regular vehicles, $19 per day for oversized vehicles. Both parking lots and garages are well-lit and patrolled by security.
Airport Access: The airport is very close to Port Everglades, so getting a taxi, Lyft, or Uber is your best - and most economical - bet. There are shuttles available, too.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, the Museum of Discovery and Science, Butterfly World botanical garden, and The Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum. Also consider spending some time at one of the beaches, such as Fort Lauderdale Beach, shopping on Las Olas Boulevard, or strolling along the Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale.
Overall Rating: 4.1/5 Embark Rating: 4.3/5 Debark Rating: 4.3/5
Address: 1015 North America Way Miami, Florida 33132
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking is secure and costs $22 per day, and for vehicles longer than 20’, $44 per day.
Airport Access: Independent shuttles as well as cruise line shuttles are available from the Miami airport and Fort Lauderdale airport to the cruise port, and Uber or Lyft are also good options - especially from the Miami airport which is much closer.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami Seaquarium, Jungle Island, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, the Venetian Pool, and one of the many Miami-area beaches.
Overall Rating: 4.2/5 Embark Rating: 4.2/5 Debark Rating: 4.0/5
Address: 1101 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida, 33602
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking is secure and monitored 24/7. The cost is $15 per day.
Airport Access: Getting an Uber or Lyft from the Tampa airport is the best option, because they are cheaper than a Taxi. Cruise line shuttles are also an option, but they can be pricey, too. If you’re flying into Orlando, a one-way car rental is the most inexpensive option.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit The Florida Aquarium, Adventure Island, Busch Gardens, the Glazer Children’s Museum, Tampa Riverwalk, and historic Ybor City.
While Miami is the world’s largest cruise port, we think flying into and sailing from Ft. Lauderdale offers a much better experience and a hassle-free transfer to the port. If you’ve got kids in tow, Port Canaveral has attracted a number of new, big ships in recent years and is just a stone’s throw from Orlando’s attractions.
Overall Rating: 4.2/5 Embark Rating: 4.2/5 Debark Rating: 4.1/5
Address: 1350 Port of New Orleans Pl, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Parking Availability/Cost: The parking garage starts on the third floor of the terminal building. It costs $20 per day and is secure and well-lit. Oversized vehicles use a parking lot next to the terminal, which costs $40 per day.
Airport Access: Ubers are the most economical way to get from the airport to the cruise port, but there are also cruise line and independent shuttles if you prefer to use those.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the French Quarter, Garden District, The National WWII Museum, Audobon Aquarium of the Americas, Audobon Zoo, and the French Market.
Overall Rating: 4.2/5 Embark Rating: 4.2/5 Debark Rating: 4.1/5
Address: 201 Water St, Mobile, Alabama 36602
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking is secure and costs $18 per day for regular vehicles, $36 per day for RVs and campers, and $54 per day for busses.
Airport Access: Mobile does have a regional airport, but the closest major one is Pensacola International Airport. Assuming you’re coming from Mobile Regional Airport, Taxis, Uber, or Lyft are your best bet for getting to the cruise port.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the USS Alabama aviation museum, The Fort of Colonial Mobile, Mobile Carnival Museum, Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, and the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico.
Overall Rating: 4/5 Embark Rating: 4.4/5 Debark Rating: 4/5
Address: 2502 Harborside Dr. Galveston, Texas 77550
Parking Lot Rates: (If you pre-pay before arriving at the port, you get $5 off.)
- 4 days: $55
- 5 days: $60
- 6 days: $70
- 7 days: $85
- 8 days: $90
- 14 days: $170
Parking garage rates:
- 4 days: $65
- 5 days: $75
- 7 days: $105
- 14 days: $210
Oversized vehicles pay double the price in both parking facilities.
Airport Access: If you’re flying in, you will be arriving at one of Houston’s two airports. Many cruise lines offer their own shuttles, and there are a number of independent shuttle companies that are much cheaper than taxis or ridesharing services. They include Galveston Limousine, Galveston Express, and The Galveston Flyer.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit Pleasure Island Pier, Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston, the Rainforest Pyramid aquarium, and the Galveston Railroad Museum. If you’d like to go shopping, hit up the Strand Historic District.
New Orleans is the clear winner if you’re looking for pre- or post-cruise fun. Galveston, while home port to a number of large and impressive ships, is some distance from Houston’s airports and probably works best if you’re driving in.
Overall Rating: 4.2/5 Embark Rating: 4.5/5 Debark Rating: 4.2/5
Address: 231 Windsor Way Long Beach, California 90802
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking is available in a secure parking garage for $22 per day. If an oversized vehicle takes up more than one space, the cost is double. Some RVs may be too tall for the garage, so they can be parked in an adjacent lot.
Airport Access: Carnival offers shuttles between the port and Los Angeles International Airport or Long Beach Airport. Other good options include independent shuttles, Uber, or Lyft.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Tour the historic Queen Mary, which is permanently moored right next to the cruise terminal; or visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Bolsa Chica State Beach.
Overall Rating: 3.8/5 Embark Rating: 4.1/5 Debark Rating: 3.9/5
Address: 100 Swinford St, San Pedro, California 90731
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking costs $18 per day, and there are free shuttles between the parking lots and the cruise terminal.
Airport Access: Uber or Lyft are your best bets, but there are also cruise line and independent shuttles, too.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the LA Zoo, Universal Studios Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier, and Griffith Observatory. You could also hike up to the Hollywood sign, stroll along the Venice Beach boardwalk, go shopping on Rodeo Drive, and swim at one of the many beaches.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 Embark Rating: 4.2/5 Debark Rating: 4.3/5
Address: Pier 27 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, California 94133
Parking Availability/Cost: The secure parking garage is located across the street from the terminal, and costs $18 per day.
Airport Access: Take an Uber, Lyft, Taxi, or independent shuttle to the cruise port from San Francisco International Airport.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Park, the Walt Disney Family Museum, Ghirardelli Square, Alcatraz Island (be sure to book in advance), and Pier 39. Don’t forget to take a ride on a cable car, too!
Overall Rating: 4.3/5 Embark Rating: 4.1/5 Debark Rating: 4.4/5
Address: 1140 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, California 92101
Parking Availability/Cost: There are several different parking lots, and the cost varies. They are Park N’ Fly, ABM Parking, Wyndham San Diego Bayside, and BRIC (Springhill Suites and Courtyard Marriott).
Airport Access: Getting an Uber, Lyft, or taking a cruise line shuttle are the best options.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, the Gaslamp Quarter neighborhood, the USS Midway Museum, Point Loma, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, and Belmont Park - a beachside amusement park.
San Francisco offers a cruise port right in the center of the city, and can easily occupy your time for two or three days before or after your cruise.
Overall Rating: 4.4/5 Embark Rating: 4.6/5 Debark Rating: 4.5/5
- Bell Street Cruise Terminal at Pier 66: 2225 Alaskan Way South Seattle, Washington 98121
- Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91: 2001 West Garfield Street Seattle, Washington 98119
Parking Availability/Cost: Parking at Pier 66 is $22 per day and $27 per day at Pier 91. Both facilities are secure.
Airport Access: Uber or Lyft are our recommended options, but you can also take a cruise line shuttle or independent one such as Seattle Shuttle or Shuttle Express.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Capitol Hill, the Space Needle, REI flagship store, Nordic Museum, Pike Place Market, and the Museum of Flight. Also see if you can catch a Mariner’s baseball game, or go hiking on the trails near Issaquah if you like being outdoors.
Overall Rating: 4.4/5 Embark Rating: 4.3/5 Debark Rating: 4.4/5
Address: 999 Canada Pl, Vancouver, BC V6C 3E1, Canada
Parking Availability/Cost: The parking cost is around $20 CAD per day, plus taxes and a convenience fee.
Airport Access: The Canada Line train is the most inexpensive option, and is easy to navigate. Taxis are another good option.
What to Do Before/After Your Cruise: Visit the Bloedel Conservatory, VanDusen Botanical Garden, Science World, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and the Museum of Anthropology.
Your port choice here is likely dictated by your cruise itinerary, as Seattle only offers round-trip cruises. If you’re sailing one way to Whittier or Seward, taking a cruisetour after your cruise, or want an extra day in Alaska (rather than a short, legally-required stop in Victoria), Vancouver is your only option. Both cities, though, are great to explore before or after your cruise, though Vancouver tends to be pricey.
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What's your favorite port to sail out of?