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Embarkation Ports

Cruise from a city near you?

by Linda Coffman

"New" home ports are riding the cruising wave

Drive-and-cruise... will it replace air-and-sea?

With air-and-sea programs that make it possible to leave home in the morning and board a gleaming cruise ship by mid-afternoon, why would anyone want drive to their port of embarkation? 

Quite simply, air travel in the twenty-first century is more often viewed by travelers as time consuming and and inconvenient. It's no fun suffering through the myriad headaches of flying to port—from early arrival at the airport for security purposes to worries over lost luggage, flight cancellations, and delays. Plus, some potential passengers would love to take a cruise, but won't fly in an airplane for any reason.

Cruise lines recognize the traveling public wants better alternatives and the solution seems surprisingly simple. If passengers can't get to the ports easily, bring the ports to them! While it's unlikely that a cruise ship will ever dock in Boise, Idaho, there are splendid, underutilized port cities close to major population areas all along the United States' Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts.

Drive-up Cruising

In addition to the busiest embarkation ports of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York City, and Los Angeles, there are over a dozen less familiar port cities capable of handling passenger ships. Even ports that are more well-known for moving bananas than people are beginning to ride the cruise wave.

Ideally situated is Jacksonville, Florida's JAXPORT, where a temporary cruise passenger terminal was built with an eye to the future. JAXPORT conducted a two-year market survey to assess demand within a six-hour drive of the city. Not surprisingly, they discovered that many people from as far north as Charlotte and Atlanta have either never taken a cruise or don't cruise as often as they want to because of the expense and hassles of air travel, or because of the long driving distances to available embarkation ports. Many of those same people said they would drive to Jacksonville if a cruise ship were based there, stimulating a currently untapped “drive to” market.

A WIN-WIN Situation

The secret long held by Floridians is out... a close-by cruise port means lower transportation costs and the advantage of being able to snap up last minute bargain fares.

Plus, road trips are kind of fun. There's a lot to discover out there in “fly-over” country.

Port Web Sites: United States

  • Boston
  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • Baltimore
  • Norfolk
  • Charleston
  • Jacksonville
  • Port Canaveral
  • Miami
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Tampa
  • Port Manatee
  • Gulfport
  • New Orleans
  • Houston 
  • Galveston
  • San Diego 
  • Los Angeles
  • Long Beach
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle


Port Web Sites: Canada

  • Vancouver

(Note that in the case of "non-traditional" cruise ports, information can be somewhat vague; however, most port authority web sites include basic location and driving directions.)

Ports of Call — Where is your cruise going? shares information on the world's most popular cruise ports of call.

Great Ports A web site developed to provide important information on major cruise ports of embarkation and disembarkation especially for cruise passengers.

Image © Courtesy of Jacksonville Port Authority

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