When it comes to cruising, Miami is the 800-pound gorilla. No port has the flash — and the notoriety — as a cruise port than does Miami.
Whether you want to head out on a three-day cruise to the Bahamas or you are embarking on a trip around the world, these types cruises (and hundreds more) all set sail from the Port of Miami.
Truth is that if you aren’t familiar with the world’s busiest cruise port, then there is a lot to learn. From exactly how to get there, to where to park, and even some tips on saving money, we have a dozen things to know about sailing from the Port of Miami.
(First time sailing from Miami? See our complete guide to the port here.)
Flying in? Check Both Miami and Fort Lauderdale Airports for Flight Deals
The South Florida area is home to millions of people, from Homestead all the way up to West Palm Beach. With so many people, one of the perks is that there are two major airports — Miami International and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood.
While the Miami airport is about 10-15 minutes from the port, the Fort Lauderdale airport is about 45-60 minutes. In other words, Fort Lauderdale is a bit farther, but still reasonable distance. This means you can search for flights to both airports.
Why would you want to fly into Fort Lauderdale, which is farther away? Serviced by airlines like JetBlue and Southwest, the airport offers more choice for schedule and price. Sometimes you can save a considerable amount or find a better flight into the area by looking at both airports.
Book a Hotel with a Shuttle to the Cruise Port
If you are flying into Miami, then that means you will need a ride to the cruise port. In this case, we suggest looking for a hotel near the port with a cruise shuttle.
As a way to attract cruise passengers, many hotels offer perks to those about to set sail. One of the big ones is a shuttle to the cruise port. In exchange for a night’s stay, the hotel will take care of your ride.
Some hotels offer rides for free. Others charge a small fee of around $5-10 per person. Either way, it’s an easy way to take care of your ride to the port. See our full list of Miami hotels with cruise shuttles here.
Use Uber/Lyft to Get to the Cruise Port
Not sure how to get to your cruise ship? If you aren’t staying at a hotel with a shuttle, then we’d recommend using Uber or Lyft to get to the port.
The rideshare services are convenient in that they pick at at both major airports and the entire South Florida area. Best of all, they are inexpensive. You can catch a Lyft from the Miami airport to the cruise port for $20. A ride from Fort Lauderdale to the cruise port will run you $35.
Keep in mind that this is for the entire car, not per person. Most shuttles may charge less on a per-person basis, but when you ride with two or more people, the total cost often ends up higher than Uber or Lyft.
You Can Ride for (Nearly) Free to the Cruise Port
If you have the time, there is public transportation to the Miami cruise port. This can save you a ton as the ride is only about $2.25 from the Miami airport and $7.25 from Fort Lauderdale. Be forewarned it can take some time.
To get there you’ll take the Orange or Green Line (depending on where you are) to the Brickell Station stop. At this point you’ll transfer to the Coral Way Trolley that offers free rides and drops off at the cruise port.
For full details, see our article here.
Parking is $22 per day… or $25 if sailing Royal Caribbean
Want to park at the port? Prepare to open your wallet. Unlike some other ports around the country, the Port of Miami sits on its own island, meaning there aren’t a lot of parking options right near the ships (although there are a few).
Instead, you largely have to go with the official port parking, which can be pricey. The port charges $22 per day to park a regular vehicle.
If you are taking a Royal Caribbean cruise, the parking price is even more. That cruise line’s new terminal in Miami charges $25 per day to park.
Miami Is the Busiest Port in the Country
When we say that Miami is a busy port, we aren’t kidding. It’s the busiest in the country, and in 2019 it saw 6.8 million passengers come and go — a 22% increase over the year before.
What does that mean for you? When you are sailing out (especially if on a weekend) then expect the port to be plenty crowded and bustling. That’s not to say that it’s a complete traffic jam. With so much experience, the port does a good job in handling the crowds.
Instead, just know there are going to be a lot of people so it might seem a bit chaotic on cruise day. Simply pack a little patience and follow the signs to get where you need to be.
Don’t Schedule a Flight Home Before Noon
Yes, if everything goes right you might be able to fly earlier, but we’d suggest not booking a flight home before noon after your cruise.
Most cruise ships get back to the port early in the morning — 6-7 a.m. The issue is that it can take several hours to get everyone off the ship and through customs. So some people will be off the ship at 7:30. Others won’t get off the ship until 10 a.m.
From there you still have to get to the airport (which can take up to an hour if flying from Fort Lauderdale) and get through security lines.
Bottom line: We suggest no flights before noon if flying from Miami and no flights before 1 p.m. if flying from Fort Lauderdale.
Passports Can Get You Through Immigration Faster
Want to save time getting off the ship? Be sure to sail with a passport.
Most cruises don’t require a passport. Many trips that depart and return to the same port allow you to sail with a birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID.
Still, having a passport is much better. Not only does it offer more flexibility should you need to cut your cruise short, but it can also get you off the ship faster.
That’s because some terminals in Miami have facial recognition technology. You walk up to a machine that scans your passport and takes a photo. For most people the entire process takes seconds. But if you don’t have a passport, then you still have to wait in line to be screened by an officer, which takes much longer.
There is Free Parking for Those With Disabilities
If you are disabled, you might be able to save a fortune on cruise parking. Florida law says that state agencies can’t charge a fee for parking if you meet certain requirements.
Simply having a disabled parking tag isn’t enough. To be eligible for free parking at the port, your vehicle must have “specialized equipment such as ramps, lifts, or foot or hand controls, for use by a person who has a disability” or have a State of Florida disabled veteran license plate. You can also get free parking if you have a Florida Toll Exemption permit.
With parking at $22 per day, if you fall into one of these categories, then take advantage. It can save you more than $100 on parking fees. You can call the port at 305-347-4800 if you have questions about qualifying.
Terminals Are Becoming Works of Art
If you’re used to boring cruise terminals that are basically warehouses designed to get passengers checked-in and on the ship, then Miami will be a change.
As cruise lines have competed against each other in building bigger and better ships, now that battle has moved to cruise terminals.
Royal Caribbean has already completed a striking Terminal A that’s the jewel of the cruise line. Norwegian has its “nautilus” inspired Terminal B (under construction in the picture above). Virgin Voyages is also building a terminal as home to its new cruise line.
Not every terminal is an architectural wonder, but Miami offers the most beautiful terminals of any port in the world.
Be Sure to Spot Fisher Island as You Sail Out
There’s a lot to see as you leave on a cruise from Miami. As you leave the port, to the north you will see the famous South Beach area, with its coastline that stretches for miles.
To the south is also a spot that you should see — Fisher Island. This island has a population of about 400 people and is accessible only by boat, helicopter or ferry.
Why is it so special? Fisher Island has the highest per-capita income of any place in the United States. It’s now home to a number of celebrities, including Andre Agassi, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Herjavec (from Shark Tank), and more.
Take a look while you’re sailing by to see how the top of the 1% live.
Board Later in the Day, If Possible
We’ve mentioned how busy the Port of Miami can be. On weekends especially there can be tons of ships in ports, with tens of thousands of people getting off their cruises, followed by tens of thousands more getting on.
If that’s enough to make your head spin, you aren’t alone. That’s why we suggest looking to board later in the day if you can.
Most cruise lines have a window of several hours to board (e.g. 12-4 p.m.). When the boarding starts, there are usually long lines as people are excited to start their cruise. But after a couple of hours the lines thin out.
We like to board about an hour before the window closes. This gives you plenty of time to make it to the ship, but the rush of traffic and people has still had time to clear out before you get there. Plus, boarding later gives more time for cabins to be ready by the time you board.