Port Canaveral, Florida: TPG’s complete cruise guide for hotels, transfers and sightseeing

Feb 23, 2020

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Cruising out of Port Canaveral is so easy. There are four airports nearby, so no matter where you’re flying from, you can getting to your ship is a snap. But with the theme park capital of the world — Orlando — just up the road, it’s a no-brainer for cruisers to schedule some pre- and/or post-cruise vacation time. Make it a point to visit Walt Disney World, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando and Legoland.

Even if you aren’t a theme-park fan, the Space Coast deserves your time. You can visit Kennedy Space Center or spend a day lounging on famous Cocoa Beach. Both are just 20 minutes from the port. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is also worth a look. You can drive through the preserve while watching for alligators, river otters, wading birds and even Florida bobcats.

And then you still have your cruise to look forward to! Here’s everything you need to know about sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida.

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In This Post

Port Canaveral
445 Challenger Rd.
Cape Canaveral, FL 32920

Port Canaveral
(Photo courtesy of Port Canaveral)

Pro tip: Cruise lines can help passengers who need wheelchair assistance from the curb to check-in and onto the ship. Call your cruise line in advance to arrange for help. Or ask your travel agent to take care of these arrangements.

Related: Best credit cards for booking a cruise

Map courtesy of Port Canaveral
(Map courtesy of Port Canaveral)

Who sails from Port Canaveral?

Port Canaveral is a homeport for only four cruise lines but they are the four that really count for families and budget-conscious travelers: Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line.

From Port Canaveral, you can sail three- to 15-day itineraries to places in the Bahamas as well as Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean. In 2020, Carnival’s Mardi Gras, Breeze, Elation, Liberty and Radiance sail from this port. Royal Caribbean’s sailings are on the Harmony of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas. Norwegian homeports two ships here: Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Sun. (Norwegian Escape also sails from this port part of the year.) Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy sail from here.

Here are the ships sailing from terminals A and B. (Note: All addresses are in Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920.)

A Terminals

  • Cruise Terminal 1: Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas (9050 Discovery Rd.)
  • Cruise Terminal 3 (also known as The Launch Pad): Carnival Mardi Gras and Carnival Liberty (32 George King Blvd.)

B Terminals

  • Cruise Terminal 5: Carnival Elation (9245 Charles M. Rowland Drive)
  • Cruise Terminal 6: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Elation, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Radiance (9241 Charles M. Rowland Drive)
  • Cruise Terminal 8: Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy (9155 Charles M. Rowland Drive)
  • Cruise Terminal 10: Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Sun (9005 Charles M. Rowland Drive)
Disney Wonder at Port Canaveral. (Photo by Rennett Stowne/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)
Disney Wonder at Port Canaveral. (Photo by Rennett Stowne/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Note: Although it’s not the same cruise ship experience, Victory Casino Cruises also homeports here and offers gaming cruises twice daily.

Related: 10 things no one tells you about Orlando

Nearest airports

For cruising out of Port Canaveral, most people fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO), which is about 45 minutes by car from the cruise terminal. It’s the closest airport to the terminal with the most flights from gateways across America.

Airlines that serve MCO include Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, Sunwing and United.

The number of airlines offers plenty of potential for a good deal on airfare.

You can use the companion certificates that the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card (how to use Alaska’s companion fare) offers as well as several Delta cobranded credit cards.

JetBlue offers frequent flash sales, as does Delta on both cash fares and those purchased with Delta SkyMiles. Watch American’s Reduced Mileage Awards to see if MCO is on the current list.

Or if you’ve got Southwest’s Companion Pass, you can bring a friend to MCO with you for just the cost of taxes and fees. And don’t forget about Frontier’s Kids Fly Free and Friends Fly Free promotions.

Hyatt Regency MCO entrance (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
There’s a Hyatt Regency right inside MCO. (Photo by Summer Hull The Points Guy)

MCO isn’t your only option when it comes to flying in for a Port Canaveral cruise. Allegiant Air flies into Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), which is 40 minutes from Port Canaveral.

If you don’t mind an hour’s drive and you’re coming from Atlanta, Charlotte or Philadelphia, you can choose Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB). It’s got nonstop service from those cities on Delta and American. Or, if you’re flying in from Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando-MCO, Detroit, New York LaGuardia or St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, you can fly nonstop to Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) on Delta, American or Sunwing.

Related: Best airline credit cards 

How to get to the port

Cruise line transfers

Purchasing a transfer from your cruise line is an easy way to get from the airport to the cruise terminal (or your hotel). However, transfers are often only for cruisers who’ve purchased airfare from the cruise line. Call your cruise line to inquire about purchasing transfers. Carnival Cruise Line sells transfers from MCO and MLB airports to Port Canaveral and back. The per-person, one-way prices are $35.99 and $39.99, respectively.

Hotel shuttles

If you plan to stay near the airport the night before your cruise, you’ll find plenty of hotels that offer free shuttle pickup service from the airport. But because of the distance from the airports to Port Canaveral, you won’t find free shuttles to the cruise terminal (there are some paid options). For free airport transfers, you need to stay at a hotel close to Port Canaveral.

There are also points hotels offering paid shuttle service to Port Canaveral. They include:

  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach: 40k Hilton Honors points per night; $6 per person shuttle to the port; a park-and-cruise package includes on-site parking and round-trip shuttle transfers to the port
  • Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral: 44k–50k Hilton Honors points per night; $7 per person shuttle to the port ($12 round-trip)
  • Residence Inn Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach: 35k Marriott Bonvoy points per night on standard dates (Category 5); $8 per person shuttle to the port plus discounted long-term parking if you want to leave your car in the parking lot during your cruise
  • Radisson Resort at the Port: From 38k Radisson Rewards points per night; $6 per person shuttle to Port Canaveral (kids 6 and under are free); there is also a Cruise & Park package for those driving in the day before a cruise

GoPort is an interesting option for transport, hotel and parking packages that dovetail with your Port Canaveral cruise. It’s available for travelers flying into and out of MCO, SFB and MLB as well as those driving into the Port Canaveral area the day before their cruise. Select from two options: Fly Snooze Cruise, which includes airport transportation, hotel accommodations and transfer to the cruise terminal, and Snooze Park Cruise which packages hotel accommodations and cruise parking in one price.

Independent van and car services

From MCO, there are several shuttle services, including Busy Traveler Transportation, Cocoa Beach Shuttle, Melbourne Airport Express (also out of MLB) and Mears. To get an idea of price, we asked for a quote on a one-way trip from MCO to Disney Cruise Line at Port Canaveral. A luxury sedan for a family of four cost $160. Upgrade to an SUV for $188.

There are also plenty of car services to hire. Look locally or go with Groundlink. The estimated cost from MCO to Port Canaveral is about $114 one-way for a standard vehicle that accommodates three people. Add $20 if you need a car seat for a child. A van accommodating up to 10 people priced out at $161.

Related: The ultimate guide to GroundLink’s car service

Taxis and ride-hailing services

Taxis are plentiful at airports and can be a simple way to get to Port Canaveral. The one-way price from MCO is $115.

Uber and Lyft operate out of MCO, MLB, SFB and DAB. An UberX ride from MCO Airport to the port costs about $62. The ride from Orlando Melbourne airport costs about $75. You’re looking at about $83 from SFB and $119 from Daytona Beach airport.

Related: Best credit cards for Uber

Image courtesy of Google Maps

Public transportation

There are a few ways to arrive at Port Canaveral via public transportation but none of them are attractive. Amtrak’s Silver Service (New York-Washington, D.C.-Charleston-Savannah-Jacksonville) stops at the Auto Train Station in Sanford, Florida, about an hour from Port Canaveral. Take a taxi or Uber from there.

You could also theoretically take a Greyhound bus to the area but the closest station is in Titusville, about 25 miles from the port. Not a great solution.

Port parking

Each cruise terminal has plenty of parking. CT1 has 1,007 covered spaces and CT3 has 1,800 covered spaces. CT5 has a brand-new garage with a covered walkway on the second floor that brings passengers directly into the terminal. CT6 is a covered parking garage right next to where your ship docks.

The parking situation at Port Canaveral
The parking layout at Port Canaveral’s Cruise Terminal 3. (Image courtesy of Port Canaveral)

Note that CT8’s 1,000-space parking garage is exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests. CT10’s parking was recently upgraded so you can pick between outdoor parking or a six-level parking garage.

You can pay for parking with credit cards from American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover.

Tip: Parking is free in certain cases. If you have a disability and a vehicle equipped with ramps, lifts, foot or hand controls, parking is complimentary. That also holds true if you have a Florida Toll Exemption permit or a Florida Disabled Veteran license plate.

Parking rates are as follows:

Regular Vehicle Oversized Vehicle
3 nights/4 days $68 $116
4 nights/5 days $85 $145
5 nights/6 days $102 $174
6 nights/7 days $119 $203
7 nights/8 days $136 $232
8 nights/9 days $153 $261
9 nights/10 days $170 $290

Cruise Terminal 8 for Disney Cruise Line is considered “Preferred Parking,” so you’ll pay $20 more than the standard rates listed above.

Parking at Port Canaveral is the most convenient, but you can save a few bucks by parking in nearby lots, like Park Port Canaveral ($10.95/day), Canaveral Cruise Parking ($8.95/day; also rents mobility scooters), Cruisetime Parking ($8/day), 528 Parking ($8.70/day) or Park N Cruise ($10.95/day).

Each of these lots offers free shuttles to Port Canaveral (at some lots, though, there may be a charge of a few dollars for more than five passengers in one car). And look online for promo codes that can reduce the costs even more.

Related: How to book a cruise using points and miles

Where to stay near the port

You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to booking a pre-cruise overnight hotel. You can choose to stay near whichever airport you flew into, book an Orlando resort for the night or head to the Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area and stay there. Here are three options near the port:

Hotel closest to the port

If the distance to the port is your No. 1 concern, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Port Canaveral, Florida, is your best bet. It’s about three miles, or a six-minute drive, from Norwegian’s cruise terminal.

Rooms have a microwave and a fridge. Book a cruise parking and shuttle package so you can leave your vehicle at the hotel during your voyage. Double rooms feature two queen beds — a bonus over hotels that only offer double beds, a less-than-family-friendly arrangement.

The hotel also offers a free hot breakfast (such as make-your-own waffles), Wi-Fi, cookies, coffee and tea.

Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Port Canaveral, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Booking.com)

Related: How to get free hotel breakfast

Stay on the cheap

There are plenty of inexpensive places to stay near the port, including Days Inn by Wyndham Cocoa Cruiseport West at I-95/524. We’ve seen rates around $60 to $95 per night there and that includes free Wi-Fi and a hot breakfast. It won’t be anything special, but it will give you somewhere to sleep the night before a cruise. The hotel is a 25-minute drive to the port and the Days Inn offers a shuttle.

With cash rates this low, you probably wouldn’t want to use your Wyndham Rewards points but you could if you’re flush with them. A night’s stay costs 15,000 points.

Full-service hotel

There aren’t any swanky luxury hotels nearby. Near the port, your best option is the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront (47,000 to 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night). It’s a full-service property with a restaurant, bar, beach grill and coffee shop so no matter what time you arrive, you should be able to grab a meal or a snack. The hotel is on the beach and many rooms have beautiful views. It’s a 15- to 20-minute drive to Port Canaveral.

Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront (Photo courtesy of Booking.com)
Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront. (Photo courtesy of Booking.com)

Where to shop near the port

If you need to pick up last-minute items before embarkation, there are a few stores nearby. At the cruise terminal, you’ll find the Seaman Centre Port Canaveral supermarket. It’s mainly designed for crew but you can get a toothbrush or snacks for your cabin. It’s about a three-minute walk from Cruise Terminal 5 and seven minutes from Cruise Terminal 6.

Closer to Terminal 1, look for Sunrise Marina, which has a bait-and-tackle shop that also sells some clothing, sandals and sunglasses, plus souvenirs.

If you need to do a lot of shopping, drive to Merritt Square Mall (777 E Merritt Island Causeway, Merritt Island) or Walmart (1500 E Merritt Island Causeway, Merritt Island). Both shopping centers are about 20 minutes from the port.

Where to eat

If you’re sailing out of Terminal 1, Royal Caribbean’s terminal, you can walk to a few waterfront restaurants, including Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar (500 Glen Cheek Drive, Cape Canaveral). It’s fun to sit on the deck with your cruise ship docked nearby. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  At lunch and dinner, expect specialties like tuna poke, fried shrimp and fish, jalapeño poppers, chowder and more. Plus, if you want to learn about the lionfish invasion of Florida’s waters, Grills can fill you in and serve it to you as well.

Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill (610 Glen Cheek Drive) is also walking distance (5-10 minutes) from Cruise Terminal 1. It’s open daily for lunch and dinner plus brunch on Sundays. Similar to Grills, Fishlips features a seafood menu with things like lobster bisque, spicy gumbo, shark bites, peel-n-eat shrimp, wings and more. The baked lobster dinner and fried seafood combo platter are especially popular.

Two additional restaurants within the port complex are Rising Tide Tap & Table (523 Glen Cheek Drive), across from Exploration Tower (more on that below), for pizzas, salads, burgers and sandwiches, and Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, the place for Alaskan king crab legs and Key lime pie (628 Glen Cheek Drive). Both are open for lunch and dinner and are closest to Terminal 1.

Sights to see

There are a few tourist attractions near the port and some that are a short drive away. Here are a few spots that should be on your must-visit list.

Exploration Tower

Head to the indoor and outdoor observation decks at Exploration Tower (670 Dave Nisbet Drive, Port Canaveral) for panoramic views of the cruise port, Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. In addition to a cafe and gift shop on the first floor, the tower has exhibits about the port and Florida’s environment on each floor. There’s even a fun interactive experience where you can “pilot” a cruise ship into Canaveral Harbor.

Exploration Tower is an incredible place to be during rocket launches. Check the website for VIP rocket launch viewing tickets. General admission is $6.50 for adults, $4 for seniors or members of the military, and $3.75 for kids 3-10. Parking is free.

Exploration Tower. (Photo courtesy of The Cove Merchants Association/Visit Port Canaveral)

Manatee Sanctuary Park

This lovely 10-acre riverfront park is located at 701 Thurm Blvd., Cape Canaveral (about six minutes from the port). It’s got a boardwalk (you can see cruise ships in the distance from the path), a half-mile walking trail, a playground, 10 exercise stations, horseshoe pits, bike-share station, picnic tables and viewing platforms from which you can look for manatees in the Banana River. There’s no guarantee that you’ll see one but it’s a good place to try if you don’t want to drive up to Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. The sunset views from the park are spectacular.

Look for manatees in Florida. (Photo courtesy of Visit Florida)
Look for manatees. (Photo courtesy of Visit Florida)

Kennedy Space Center

If you’ve got a few hours or an entire day, Kennedy Space Center (Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island) is worth the visit. It’s about a 25-minute drive from Port Canaveral. Through exhibits, rides and interactive experiences, you’ll learn about America’s space program. You can even have lunch with an astronaut (for an extra fee). If you go, check out Space Shuttle Atlantis as well as the Rocket Garden and Kennedy Space Center bus tour.

Rocket Garden (Photo courtesy of Kennedy Space Center)
Rocket Garden. (Photo courtesy of Kennedy Space Center)

Admission is $57 per person for those 12 and older, $50 for seniors and military personnel, and $47 for kids 3–11.

Related: Why Florida’s Space Coast is just the break you need from the theme parks

Cocoa Beach

If you’re old enough to remember “I Dream of Jeannie,” you probably remember that Cocoa Beach was the home of Jeannie and her astronaut love interest. Cocoa Beach isn’t actually one beach but consists of a string of beaches that range 72 miles along the Atlantic Coast.

Here are just a few of the Cocoa Beach beaches you can visit (from north to south). Jetty Park and Cheri Down Park are closest to Port Canaveral.

  • Canaveral National Seashore, Playalinda Beach — secluded beachfront on a barrier island
  • Jetty Park at Port Canaveral — three acres of beach featuring the 1,500-foot Malcome E. McLouth Fishing Pier plus covered pavilions, picnic tables, showers and restrooms (you can rent chairs, umbrellas, kayaks and boogie boards from vendors on the beach)
  • Cherie Down Park — 200-foot boardwalk along the dunes
  • Cocoa Beach Pier — great for surfing and there are some restaurants and shops on the pier
  • Alan Shepard Park — five-acre oceanfront park with picnic areas and a bathhouse
  • Sidney Fischer Park — 10-acre oceanfront park that’s a hit with families because of the picnic pavilions, showers and restrooms
A sunny day in Cocoa Beach, FL. (Photo by tdhygino/Getty Images)
Cocoa Beach, Florida. (Photo by tdhygino/Getty Images)

Orlando’s theme parks

The major theme parks are further afield, but you probably are flying into Orlando anyway, so why not spend a few days exploring them? We are especially fond of:

Star Wars: Galaxy
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Related: 16 reasons to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort property

Bottom line

Cruising out of Port Canaveral can be an excellent value since you can often find terrific flight deals to MCO and hotels in the Port Canaveral area that are reasonably priced. Four of the industry’s most popular cruises lines — Carnival, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean — sail from the port. Take a look at the available itineraries and we bet you’ll be booking a cruise soon!

Featured image courtesy of Port Canaveral

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