Getting to the port: Southampton, England

I’ve been lucky enough now to sail three times out of Southampton, England. Two of these were on Norway cruises and one was on a transatlantic from the UK to New York.

Southampton is a port city located about 80 miles south of London. It’s a popular departure port for cruises to the British Isles, Norwegian Fjords/Iceland, Northern Europe, and even the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.

As an American, I love taking cruises out of Southampton because it affords me the opportunity to build in a few days of sightseeing and traveling before I board my cruise — and sometimes even after! The city is easily accessible by rail, bus, and even has a small airport for flights from Europe and other parts of the UK. You can also drive to Southampton, of course, but if you’re like me and driving on the “wrong” side of the road freaks you out, you don’t have to!

If you’re flying in to the UK for your cruise out of Southampton, the first thing you should know is that there are technically six (!) London airports. If you’re planning to go straight to Southampton when you arrive in the UK, you want to fly into Heathrow or Gatwick Airports, because Southampton is located south and a little west of London. (If you’re planning to stay in the London area for a few days first, you have a little more flexibility to use the other airports to get a lower price – although most flights from the US land in either Gatwick or Heathrow.)

Image result for map of london airports

In my opinion, the easiest way to get from the airport to Southampton is the bus – it will pick you up directly at the airport (Gatwick or Heathrow) and take you to Southampton’s bus station, which is close to the cruise terminals. The National Express buses run frequently and they’re very affordably priced. This is a good option if you’re planning to fly in and head straight to Southampton to stay a day or two before your cruise. You can actually wait until you land, then head to the bus station and buy tickets for the next bus departure to Southampton.

If you’ve planned to do some sightseeing in London before you head down to Southampton for your cruise, you should look into taking the train. Direct trains to Southampton leave from London’s Waterloo station, so keep in mind that you’ll need to get you, and your party (and all of your luggage!) to this station. You can find timetables and buy tickets at the National Rail website. With the train, you do want to plan and buy tickets ahead of time, as they can get more expensive as your trip gets closer.

Southampton’s bus and train stations are conveniently located to the cruise terminals, and there are plenty of cabs to take you from one to the other if you’ve planned to go straight to your cruise ship. But I definitely recommend taking a day or two to explore the city of Southampton first! I’ll write more about things to do in the city in a later post.

Getting to the port: Parking for cruises out of Fort Lauderdale

I was no stranger to Port Everglades, the giant cruise port just a few miles from Ft. Lauderdale airport (FLL). In fact, I’d cruised out of it many times, and I could tell you in one sentence how to get to that port from the airport: Land, pick up your bags, get in a taxi (or Lyft/Uber), go to the port. But that wouldn’t be much of a blog post, would it?

Because I’m taking some time off work right now, I was lucky enough to go on not one, not two, but three cruises out of Port Everglades in just a couple of months’ time. Rather than make three plane trips, my husband and I decided to take some time as “temporary snowbirds,” and we drove our car down to Florida. Hey, it was February and March – we wanted some warm weather!

We tried three options for parking, and the good news is that I felt like all of them were pretty good options that I would use again.

  1. Park N Fly at the Fort Lauderdale airport was a great experience. We prepaid and used a deal on my American Express card to get $15 back on our reservation. Using the lot was simple: We entered and were directed to the side of the lot where cruisers were parked, then a van shuttle picked us up right at the car and delivered us to the cruise terminal. When we came back from the cruise, we called the number we’d been given and a shuttle came to the terminal and picked us up, then dropped us right back at the car.
  2. We arrived at the Park N Go at the airport on a particularly busy day – there were 7 ships at Port Everglades, including the Royal Caribbean mega-ship Harmony of the Seas. On that day, they were using a valet-type system where you dropped off your car at a central location, then hopped on a shuttle to the appropriate cruise ship’s terminal. When we returned from our cruise, the shuttle picked us up and dropped us right off at our car, which had been parked in the lot. One quirky thing about this lot is that an area next door is populated by monkeys, which are pretty darn cute! (but don’t feed them – for your own safety!)Photo Mar 04, 8 25 51 AM.jpg
  3. On one of the cruises, we talked to some folks who sang the praises of the on-site parking at Port Everglades, so for the final of the three cruises, I decided to give it a try. The price is a little bit higher, $15/day versus $10-$13 for the other places, so it made more sense for a shorter, 5-day cruise. My experience here was a mixed bag: Our cruise ship went out of the inconveniently-placed Terminal 29, for which we had to take a shuttle to and from the midport parking garage. However, if we’d been out of one of the closer terminals (18 and 19 are especially close), this garage would have been incredibly convenient. Here you can see the Celebrity Summit docked at terminal 19 in a picture I took from the garage where I parked our car.Photo Mar 10, 10 28 48 AM

If your cruise is leaving out of Port Everglades, you can use the Cruise Terminal app (link will take you to the Apple store) to determine what terminal your cruise will be departing out of.

Tampa: Getting to the Port

I had read that it was pretty convenient to get to the Port of Tampa from the airport, and a quick Google mapping seemed to confirm this to be true. But there was a wrinkle in my plans: Due to our same-day travel and tight connection, we’d be carrying our bags on the plane with us, which meant I couldn’t pack my usual 2 bottles of wine for the cruise. (What a first-world problem, right?)

Fortunately, a fellow travel blogger was kind enough to alert me to the presence of a Publix grocery store fairly near to the cruise port. (Thanks, Michael!) It’s not quite walking-distance close, so we took an Uber from the airport to the Publix, where we picked up our two bottles of wine as well as a snack (as we’d now been traveling since very early in the morning) and rested a bit before taking a second Uber to the cruise terminal.

Tampa’s port area is pretty spread out, and so it’s important here (honestly, this is a good idea at many larger ports) to take a look at your cruise documents and look for the specific terminal you’ll be departing out of. You can access the Cruise Docs online at the cruise line’s website, or if you book with a travel agent, he or she will usually send you your documents before the cruise.

It was only a short Uber ride from Publix to Terminal 2, where we boarded Empress of the Seas. It was time for our Cuba adventure to begin!

Getting to the port: Seattle Terminal 91

Warning: If you have a friend who lives in Seattle, you might NOT want to ask her to drive you to the cruise port in Seattle. Unless she’s a good friend (fortunately, mine was!).

There are two ports in Seattle; Royal Caribbean and Celebrity both leave from Terminal 91. (We were in port along with the Celebrity Solstice.) You’ll use this port if you’re on any cruise line other than Norwegian Cruise Lines, which departs from the more centrally located Pier 66.

As I mentioned, my friend offered to drive us to the cruise port. After a quick stop to buy two bottles of wine to take on our cruise, we followed the fairly straightforward Google Maps directions to the port. That’s when it got a little…annoying.

We arrived a little before 1 pm for a 4 pm departure and frankly, I thought maybe we were late enough to avoid the majority of the day’s traffic. I was wrong, but not necessarily for the reason I expected. See, the person who designed the traffic flow at this terminal must not have been thinking about have two large cruise ships’ worth of passengers arriving at the same time: Right smack in the middle of the flow of traffic is a cross walk through which every arriving passenger must walk!

Yep, that’s right: The cars trying to enter to drop people off – taxis, Ubers, private cars, Lyfts – all have to stop for pedestrians to walk across the road. Unsurprisingly, this caused quite a backup, and the whole drop off process took a good 15-20 minutes, a lot of which was spent sitting around.

So my take away to you is this: When you arrive at the Terminal 91 drop off, expect that you’ll be slowed down, maybe to the tune of 15-30 minutes. And if you’re going to have someone drive you, maybe ask a person you don’t really like? 😉

Port Canaveral: Getting There (And Back)

To be honest, I’d avoided booking cruises from Port Canaveral in the past due to the distance between the airport and the cruise port (about 45 miles, according to Google Maps). I’ve been spoiled by cruising out of Fort Lauderdale (less than 5 miles from the cruise port!) and Miami, and sometimes San Juan.

But I’d been hearing a lot about Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas – some good things, and some bad – which offers 3- and 4-night cruises out of Port Canaveral. Finally, my curiosity was piqued. So I booked my husband and I on a 3-night Bahamas cruise, and off we went.

We flew into Orlando the night before the cruise – something I always recommend, if you can swing it – and stayed at the Hilton Doubletree by the Orlando Airport. A free shuttle (you just need to call the front desk when you arrive) from the airport made this a perfect spot for us, especially since we arrived into Orlando late.

In the morning, we used Uber to get to the cruise port. We left around 11:30 am on a Friday, and with little traffic we made the 45-mile trip in just about 45 minutes. Our fare, adjusted for tolls, was $46.98. This was definitely a quick and convenient option, as taking a standard cruise port shuttle would have required that we go back to the airport in order to pick up the shuttle.

One word of advice about Uber (and its counterpart, Lyft): These companies use a system called dynamic pricing, which means that prices for rides aren’t fixed and may change at any minute. For instance, when I checked the app to determine return fares once we landed in Port Canaveral, I was quoted fares nearly twice as much – probably because the return of two cruise ships increased the local demand for these services dramatically.

Fortunately, we had already booked our return transport on GO Port Canaveral’s shuttle service, which I found through doing some online research before the cruise. Price-wise, this option saved us a little money – we paid a total of $29.90 for two people. The shuttle buses (large tour-style ones) were comfortable and – importantly – well air-conditioned, and the staff made the process nearly painless (well, except for the pain of leaving behind vacation and going back to reality).