Complete guide to cruising from the Port of Miami
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If you love cruising, you’re probably acquainted with PortMiami. It’s the busiest homeport in America, with more than 5.5 million passengers embarking on ships there each year (based on 2018/2019 statistics).
It’s the perfect place from which to set sail to the Caribbean, Panama, Mexico and beyond. Twenty-two cruise lines sail from PortMiami, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a ship and itinerary that works for you. The port is easy to get to — with both Miami International Airport (MIA) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL) airports close by — and there are plenty of points hotels for a pre- or post-cruise stay.
Sailing out of Miami is a rite of passage and the sail-away is truly one of the most beautiful in the world. As your ship sets off timed with the setting sun, the city’s high-rises and golden beaches glisten as they bid you a bon voyage.
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1015 North America Way
Miami, Florida 33132
The port consists of nine cruise terminals: Terminal A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and J. Disney will soon cruise out of a new terminal (K), as will Virgin Voyages (V).
We’ll discuss the port’s parking garages and lots below. (You can download a PDF of the below PortMiami map.)
Pro tip: If anyone in your party needs a wheelchair to transfer from the cruise terminal entrance to the ship, call your cruise line in advance to arrange — or have your travel agent do so, if necessary.
Who sails from PortMiami?
Home to many major cruise lines and capable of berthing 34 ships, PortMiami is the gateway to Mexico, the Caribbean, the Bahamas and beyond. The “Cruise Capital of the World” caters to a wide range of cruisers, from family and budget cruisers to luxury cruisers.
The following cruise lines have ships that homeport out of PortMiami: Azamara, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Viking and Virgin Voyages. It’s also a port of call for AIDA, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Hurtigruten, P&O Cruises, Phoenix, Princess Cruises, Saga, Scenic, Seabourn, TUI, Windstar Cruises and Amadea.
Related: Getting to Miami on points and miles
Reported today at the State of the County, #PortMiami set a new record year in 2019 with a 3.4% gain in cargo traffic at 1.12 million TEUs, and a 22% increase in cruise with 6.8 million passengers! Mayor Gimenez congratulated CEO Juan Kuryla & his team for such a prosperous year! pic.twitter.com/e0gCXog1ni
— PortMiami (@PortMiami) January 14, 2020
The Miami International Airport (MIA) is just a short drive — about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic — from the cruise port. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is an alternative and the drive to PortMiami from there takes about an hour.
Tons of airlines fly to MIA, including American, Delta, Frontier, Sun Country and United. If you’d prefer to fly through FLL, your choices include Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest, Spirit and United.
There are sometimes buy one, get one free airfare opportunities when flying to these airports. Consider Frontier’s periodic Friends Fly Free or Kids Fly Free offers if you’re a member of the airline’s Discount Den. Or sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card and get a companion certificate on the card’s anniversary. The certificate allows a companion to fly with you for $121 ($99 fare and the cost of taxes from $22). You can also bring a companion along for free (actually, just the cost of the ticket’s taxes) if you have the Southwest Companion Pass.
Related: Best airline credit cards
Outbound flight times don’t always dovetail perfectly with your cruise line’s disembarkation time, so you may find yourself with time to kill at the airport.
Make sure you carry a credit card with airport lounge access as a benefit. The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you access to Priority Pass lounges and participating restaurants while The Platinum Card® from American Express will open the door to the Amex Centurion Lounge at MIA.
How to get to the port
Cruise line transfers
You can often buy a transfer between the airport and the cruise terminal (or your hotel) directly from your cruise line. Sometimes this is reserved for travelers who’ve purchased their airfare from the cruise line, but you can call to ask if you can buy the transfers a la carte.For example, Carnival Cruise Line offers transportation between MIA ($16.99 per person) and FLL ($31.99 per person) and PortMiami on embarkation day.
If you’re staying at a hotel near the airport (like the Hampton Inn & Suites Miami-Airport South-Blue Lagoon), it may offer complimentary shuttle service. Other hotels may offer a free or paid shuttle from the hotel to PortMiami. Inquire when you make your reservations. For example, the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Miami Brickell Downtown offers a shuttle to PortMiami for $8 per person.
Independent van and car services
There are also a variety of local companies that operate shared and private van shuttles and limo services from MIA and FLL to area hotels and the port. Research vendors like Port of Miami Shuttle, GO Airport Shuttle or Metro Shuttle Service. Prices vary depending on if you select a shared or private ride, the number of passengers in your party and the type of vehicle requested (i.e., sedan, SUV, van, etc.).
Nationally known services like Groundlink also offer private car service pick-up and drop-off. The fare from MIA to PortMiami is about $70 for a standard vehicle that accommodates three people. Add $20 if you need a child car set. A van accommodating up to 10 people priced out at $144.
Taxis and ride-hailing services
Hailing a taxi to take you to PortMiami is simple and it’s a flat fee of $27. Taxi stands are on the arrival (ground) level of the airport (outside baggage claim). If you’re going somewhere other than the port, the metered rate is $6.90 for the first mile and then $2.40 for each mile thereafter. Waiting time is $0.40 per minute.
Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are also an option. An Uber Pool from MIA to PortMiami can be less than $6, UberX can be around $11 and UberXL can be around $21. Premier and SUV cars can run around $30–$50 and all prices can vary during traffic or high-demand times. The Uber ride from FLL will be more expensive: about $30 via Pool, $36 for Uber X and $70 for UberXL. Premier and SUV cards run from $80–$160 from FLL.
Related: Best credit cards for Uber
Public transportation from MIA
Board Metrorail’s Orange Line (look for signs to the Metrorail Train Station) to Downtown Miami, which will take less than 30 minutes. The fare is $2.25 per person. It’s about a 1.5-mile-walk from the Freedom Tower station to the port, so you’ll want to grab an Uber or taxi from there. Or take the Miami Trolley Coral Way route (free) all the way to the port. You can track the location of the trolley in real time with this handy, interactive map.
Public transportation from FLL
Take the Tri-Rail commuter train to MIA ($3.75 per person on weekdays and $5 per person on weekends). Then board Metrorail’s Orange Line ($2.25 per person) and head downtown to the Freedom Tower stop. Finally, board the free Coral Way Route Trolley and disembark at PortMiami.
There are four parking garages and a handful of lots at which you can park if you’re arriving at PortMiami via car. If you’re driving an over-length vehicle (RV or vehicle with trailer), head to Lot 2 (across from Terminal E), which is set up with extra-large spots. Extra fees apply (see below). On embarkation day, the garages and Lot #2 are open and staffed by a parking attendant from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You may drop off your luggage at the terminal before parking. There is also a free shuttle from each parking facility to the terminal. Security patrols all parking garages and lots.
All cruise terminals have associated parking lots, starting at $22 per night. Royal Caribbean’s Terminal A Garage charges a higher rate of $25 per day, and vehicles longer than 20 feet (e.g., oversized vans, recreational vehicles and vehicles with trailers) incur an additional $22 per day. Those with a disabled parking permit or license tag receive two hours of complimentary parking, after which they will incur standard parking rates.
Note that cash, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and major U.S. traveler’s checks — but not debit cards — are accepted modes of payment. However, Garage J is prepaid only (pay when you arrive), and vehicles need to display a special decal throughout the duration of the cruise.
Where to stay near the port
This is The Points Guy and there is thankfully no shortage of points hotels in Miami. Your toughest job is deciding which one is best for your needs. That will depend on how long you’re staying, what you’d like to see while you’re in town and how many hotel points you have to spend.
Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Miami/Brickell Downtown
For a quick overnight before a cruise, we like the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Miami/Brickell Downtown (38,000 to 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night).
Related: Best Hilton credit cards
It’s in a fantastic location with easy access to the free Metromover that can take you places like the Bayside Marketplace (which is also walkable). The hotel has several on-site restaurants and is near plenty of others plus it has a shuttle to the port for $8 per passenger. And, the chain’s free breakfast is a great way to start the day and hold you over until you get aboard your ship and can enjoy a leisurely lunch before sail-away.
Pick up the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and earn 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of membership. Plus, you get complimentary Hilton Diamond status, a $250 Hilton resort credit and a Weekend Night Reward with the new card and then again on every card renewal anniversary. The card comes with an annual fee of $450 (see rates & fees).
In the same neighborhood as the Hampton Inn, you’ll find the upscale, full-service JW Marriott Miami. It’s a Category 5 property, which means you can book a night with 35,000 points or an annual reward night certificate like the one you get on your card anniversary with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card during standard dates.
Depending on your elite status tier with Marriott Bonvoy, you may be eligible for free breakfast at this hotel.
If you have your heart set on a South Beach hotel, look to The Confidante Miami Beach in the Unbound Collection by Hyatt. It’s a steal at just 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night (or a Hyatt Category 1 – 4 award certificate.). Even the top 710-square-foot Confidante Suite with a corner balcony and sweeping Atlantic Ocean views only cost around $385 on some pretty peak winter dates.
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Hyatt account or boost your World of Hyatt points balance with the welcome bonus from the World Of Hyatt Credit Card. Earn 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 points after you spend $6,000 total on purchases within the first six months of account opening.
Where to shop near the port
If you need to stock up on some last-minute cruise supplies, PortMiami is near two major shopping centers, Bayside Marketplace and Brickell City Centre.
Bayside Marketplace (401 Biscayne Blvd.) is an open-air shopping and entertainment complex on the waterfront that buzzes with energy and offers stunning views of Biscayne Bay and the cruise port. If this is your first time cruising out of Miami, a visit to the marketplace is a must. In addition to shopping and live performances, the waterfront marketplace offers numerous dining options including a Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Segafredo. This is also the place to book sightseeing tours and even a thrilling speedboat tour if you’re in town before or after your cruise.
If you’re already at the port and want to do some last-minute shopping at Bayside Marketplace, get on the free Coral Way Trolley and disembark at the Biscayne Blvd. stop. You can also walk to the mall; it takes about 15 minutes from the port.
From Downtown Miami and the Brickell area, take the free Metromover Inner Loop to the Bayside stop.
If you have high-end shopping on your mind, head on over to Brickell City Centre (701 S. Miami Ave.), where four floors and more than 120 stores are dedicated to designer labels and luxury. The Saks Fifth Avenue here is 107,000 square feet! There’s also a dine-in movie theater, CMX. For restaurants, there are many to choose from. We like Luke’s Lobster, Pubbelly Sushi and Quito la Huella (Latin American farm-to-table organic fare).
To get to Brickell City Centre, take the free Metromovers Brickell Loop and exit at the Brickell City Centre station. Or, board a free Miami Trolley: the Brickell Trolley if you’re coming from the south or the Biscayne Trolley if you’re coming the north.
Where to eat
Restaurants near PortMiami are aplenty and feature various international cuisines. Versailles in Little Havana is a 15-minute taxi ride from the port and is a local legend serving excellent Cuban cuisine. For affordable Italian food, head to Macchialina in Miami Beach (a 12-minute cab ride) and for some Peruvian fare, CVI.CHE 105 — about 10 minutes from the port — has great reviews online and is worth a try. Of course, for modern American cuisine, there’s the Rusty Pelican with great views of the Miami skyline (15 minutes from the port).
Sights to see
Miami is both a major urban center and a jumping-off point for some of Florida’s most pristine nature reserves. You could spend weeks here and still not see everything. Here’s where to start if you want to tack on some time to your cruise.
You can’t visit Miami without spending some time in South Beach. You’ve seen it on TV and heard about it from your friends — now it’s your turn to explore the neighborhood yourself. Stroll along Ocean Drive and get lost in the Art Deco Historic District, or enjoy some shopping, dining and gallery-hopping at the famous pedestrian Lincoln Road Mall. To get that perfect selfie with Miami as the backdrop, head to South Pointe Park and Pier, where you can get a view of not only South Beach but also Fisher Island, PortMiami and Downtown Miami. This is also the place to experience Miami’s nightlife at its best.
Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
A roughly 10-minute ride from the port is the Frost Museum of Science (1101 Biscayne Blvd.). Here, kids and kids at heart can marvel at the 500,000-gallon aquarium, kid-friendly touch tanks and the 250-seat 3D planetarium. There are also exhibits on the solar system, physics of flight, biology, light and lasers, and more. Tickets cost $27.95 for adults, $18.95 for youth ages 3–11. Admission is free for kids 2 and under. (Ticket prices are a few more dollars if you purchase them on-site instead of online.)
Related: Best activities in Miami with kids
Perez Art Museum Miami
Just next door to the Frost Museum of Science, the Perez Art Museum (1103 Biscayne Blvd.) showcases modern and contemporary art exhibits. Admission is $16 for adults and $12 for seniors 62 and older and kids 7–18. Children 6 and under are free. There are also complimentary museum tours available daily. Afterward, leave time to admire the museum’s sculpture garden and take in the views of Biscayne Bay.
Wynwood Arts District
The Wynwood Arts District is an excellent spot to visit if you’re into art and you’ve got inquisitive kids. This is basically an outdoor museum with a variety of colorful wall murals. As you walk and discover the neighborhood’s art, stop at craft breweries, art galleries and trendy restaurants and cafes.
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Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
If you have time in Miami and want to enjoy the outdoors, you couldn’t do better than a visit to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (1200 Brandon Blvd., Key Biscayne); open 8 a.m. through sundown. Located at the tip of Key Biscayne, it has 400 acres of nature hemmed in by a one-mile-long beach. You can rent bikes ($9/hour) to ride the trails, go swimming and tour a lighthouse from the early 1820s. Admission is $8 per car (2–8 people), $4 for a single-occupant car and $2 for pedestrians or bicyclists.
Related: The best times to visit Miami
Miami is a vibrant city that caters to a wide range of interests, and it’s worth spending some time here pre-cruise, post-cruise or as part of a port-of-call excursion.
Featured image by Art Wager/Getty Images.
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