Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
U.S. - Canada

U.S. Cruise Ports to the Caribbean, Mexico and Beyond

Ships line port of Miami. Credit Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Ships line port of Miami. Credit Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Choosing a U.S. cruise port as the starting point of a Caribbean cruise vacation is an important decision that can save time and money.

Anyone who lives within a reasonable distance of a cruise port will find that driving there often is less expensive than flying there.

The price of airline tickets depends heavily on the distance between the starting point and the embarkation port. The closer the port, the cheaper the price.

The Caribbean is the most active cruise region in the world, and the Florida cruise ports are the most active embarkation ports in the world. They also have benefits before and after a cruise such as more beaches, more warm weather and plenty of their own attractions for travelers who have extra time available.

The best time to visit Florida for good weather is in the spring because rainfall increases quite a bit in the summer. But the cruise ports are busy most of the year except for September during the peak month of the Caribbean hurricane season.

Many newcomers to cruises don’t often know that major cruise lines also embark from many cities along the Gulf Coast and East Coast in addition to Florida as the starting point for a Caribbean cruise.

Florida Cruise Ports

Florida has three major cruise ports at Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral near Orlando. It also has two smaller ports at Tampa and Jacksonville. Ships embarking from Florida often go to all three major regions in the Caribbean—eastern, western and southern.

Miami is the busiest cruise port in the world and home to ships of the largest cruise lines, including Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. The city also has a wide range of cultural activities and offers plenty of beachfront as well.

Fort Lauderdale is the next busiest and has many departing ships from the Princess and Holland America cruise lines. Like Miami, Fort Lauderdale is known for its beaches and also has many cultural attractions.

The Florida port with the most famous and popular nearby attractions is Port Canaveral on the east coast. It lies close to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and is about a one-hour drive from Orlando, home of Disneyworld and Universal Studios. Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean have ships that embark from there.

Tampa is the only cruise port on the western coast of Florida and is becoming more active as a starting destination. Cruise lines operating from there include Carnival, Norwegian, Holland America and Royal Caribbean.

Jacksonville is the most northern port in Florida—located near the border with Georgia—and has a limited number of Carnival cruises that embark from there. Most of the cruises are short-term visits to the Bahamas, especially Nassau.

Gulf Coast Cruise Ports

Tampa is both a Florida and Gulf Coast cruise port. Besides Tampa, New Orleans, Mobile Alabama and especially Galveston Texas are active embarkation ports for Caribbean cruises.

Their location makes them more appealing to anyone living in western Canada and the United States who will find that driving or flying there takes less time (and is cheaper) than going to Florida.

Galveston is home to ships from Carnival and Royal Caribbean. A large number of cruises go to western Caribbean ports such as Cozumel, Costa Maya, Jamaica, Roatan, Belize and Grand Cayman.

New Orleans is active mostly with Carnival Cruise Lines and offers quite a few shorter cruises to the western Caribbean.

East Coast Cruise Ports

Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach is a popular destination and embarkation port. © 2019 Scott S. Bateman

Some of the largest cities on the eastern coast of the United States are active cruise embarkation ports for Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, New England and Canada.

Caribbean cruises from those destinations usually go to the Bahamas and the northernmost islands in the eastern Caribbean, such as Turks and Caicos.

The east coast cruise ports include Baltimore; Cape Liberty, New Jersey; New York City; Norfolk, Virginia; and Savannah, Georgia.

Baltimore has ships from Carnival and Royal Caribbean. New York City has cruise ships from Carnival and Norwegian. Cape Liberty has a limited number of cruises by Royal Caribbean. Norfolk and Savannah also have a limited number of cruises.

Baltimore, New York City and Cape Liberty, which is right by New York City, all have easy access to major cultural attractions. Norfolk is known for its nearby Virginia Beach and closeness to Washington D.C. and major historical attractions in Virginia.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
September 01, 2021

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