Traveling to Cruise Ports

How to travel to a cruise port

Are you thinking of going on a cruise? Traveling to cruise ports may seem daunting but with some planning and organization, you can turn this task into an additional stop on the itinerary!

We’ve got some tips and tricks for traveling to cruise ports including what to expect with your cruise package, how to find flights, and what paperwork you’ll need.

What’s Included in Your Cruise Package?

When booking your cruise, be sure that you understand what is included in your package. Most packages for cruises are per person, based on double occupancy per room, and include a room on board with basic onboard activities, meals, and drinks. Dining experiences and wine tastings can be extra.

Cruise Ship Dining

Most dining options and snacks are included in cruise packages. However, some dining experiences and restaurants are not included in the general price of your cruise package. You can pre-purchase drink packages. You may get ‘sticker shock’ when you get home if you are not careful with onboard meals. Be careful when you charge drinks and dining to your room as these can add up.

Some shore excursions include lunch or snacks and others do not. Be sure you know what you are getting with your paid excursion before you head out for the day. You may be able to take your own snacks but be mindful of local and international laws regarding fruits and vegetables.

Some drinks are included in the basic cruise package. This usually includes water, tea, and coffee. Drink packages for sodas and cocktails can be purchased beforehand or a la carte once on board.

TIP: Some cruises allow you to take wine aboard which you can enjoy with dinner. You may also be able to purchase duty-free wine or liquor when visiting the port. Purchasing drinks and food a la carte can add up so be sure to think about what you need before boarding.

Cruise ships have a lot of onboard activities that are free. These activities and events range from comedy shows to formal night to art gallery viewings. You should receive an itinerary each morning which lists all activities, including free ones.

Destination activities vary from self-guided adventures to cruise ship sponsored outings. There are also independent tour options. These activities vary in price and are usually added on to the base cruise package.

Required Paperwork

If you are traveling outside of the United States, you will need a passport (you can also use it as an ID to get through airport security). Be sure to check Travel.State.Gov for all the information you need regarding passports.

Suggested Paperwork

Be sure to have a copy of all your reservations. This includes hotel room reservations, flight itineraries, cruise paperwork, and excursion reservations. Some people prefer to have printed copies as smartphones may not work at all times.

Medical Paperwork
If you have a severe medical condition or need proof of vaccines for any reason, be sure to take documentation with you.

Port Information

If the cruise you have your eye on departs from a city that isn’t close to you, don’t rule it out – you can find cheap flights to many of the cruise port cities! Finding flights, either one-way or roundtrip, is simple when you use an airfare comparison site, plus it’s the only way to be sure you’re getting the best deal.

What’s crucial to keep in mind as you plan and shop for flights is leaving with enough time to get to port before the ship departs. For example, let’s say you plan to fly in two hours before the ship leaves but will that really be enough time? What if there’s heavy traffic on the roads to the ship or what if the plane is delayed? Consider flying in the day before the cruise – and staying in a hotel or with friends or family – so you can be at the boat bright and early. Plus, if you are traveling to your departure port anyways, why not make it part of your trip and see what the city has to offer? Departure cities such as New Orleans, Seattle, Miami, San Francisco, and San Diego are all destinations in themselves!

It is important to note that some cruises begin at one port and finish at another port. Be sure to carefully review your cruise itinerary to verify which port you leave from and arrive at when your adventure is over. If your itinerary has different ports for your departure and arrival, you will need to plan accordingly.

Cruise Tours

One of the best things about a cruise is the opportunity to explore new destinations and experience new adventures. There are many ways to tour stops and see what each destination has to offer.

A glacier tour in Alaska, USA

Cruise Company Tours
There are a few pros and cons to booking your tours with the cruise company. Cruise companies offer a variety of activities at each destination but they can fill up fast and can be more expensive than other options. You can book these excursions before the trip and sometimes you can book the tours once you board the ship. Cruise company sponsored tours will never abandon you and your group so this option is the safest bet.

Tour Companies
You can also book tours through trusted cruise company partners or travel companies. Booking with third-party companies is a great way to be a part of a smaller group, to get off the beaten path, and to have more diverse experiences with activities. You can usually book third-party tours online through a trusted site or if you’re more adventurous, you can find a tour in the visiting port.

Explore Solo
If you’re more adventurous, you can head out by yourself once you dock. Some travelers enjoy renting a car for the day, dining and shopping by the ship or going out to experience local experiences. If you venture out alone, you better set a watch to get back to the ship on time!

Ready to get planning?

We’ve pulled the best upcoming flight deals from the FareCompare database. You can see upcoming flight deals to popular United States Cruise Ports here or search for your custom dates and destination.

Popular U.S. Cruise Departure Port Deals


For hotel accommodations, you’ll want to check out deals before you go. If you need help with finding a hotel deal, check out this article on how to find a hotel deal.

Jodi Robbins
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