Complete Guide to Cruising From Port Canaveral

While Miami might take the title of “Cruise Capital of the World,” many people don’t realize that Port Canaveral near Orlando is right with it in terms of popularity. In total, the port sees more than 4 million passengers each year (with a record 4.6 million in 2019, likely eclipsed in 2023), making it among the busiest cruise ports in the world.

Port Canaveral sign and tower
Port Canaveral is one of the busiest and most popular cruise ports in America. Here’s what to know before you sail from the spot.

Meanwhile, the port continues to grow. With a new terminal recently constructed to serve Carnival’s largest ship (Mardi Gras), the capacity of Port Canaveral simply keeps increasing. All told, each year sees hundreds of cruise ship departures from the port. That’s not to mention the ships that dock here during their cruises to allow passengers to visit nearby Orlando.

But as with any major port, first-time cruisers (or those who simply haven’t visited recently) may have lots of questions about sailing. To help you out, we’ve covered everything you need to know about cruising from Port Canaveral, along with tons of information about parking, terminals, navigating the port, and much more.

Have more questions about Port Canaveral? Let us know in the comments below.

Fast Facts

  • Distance from Orlando Airport: 45 miles
  • Number of Cruise Terminals: 6 (plus one casino ship terminal)
  • Passengers Carried Each Year: ~5 million
  • Cruise Ship Dockings Each Year: ~ 800+

Port Location

Map showing location of Port Canaveral and Orlando Airport
Sitting about 45 minutes from the airport in Orlando, it’s a bit of a drive. Still, it is a straight shot and relatively easy to get to with a number of transportation options. Map data: Google

Port Canaveral is located in eastern central Florida, approximately a 45-60 minutes from Orlando. Just south of the famous Kennedy Space Center, the area surrounding the port offers a lot to see and do within minutes. Nearby are the towns of Cocoa, as well as Cocoa Beach and Titusville.

The port itself is a large, “L-shaped” complex with a number of cruise terminals on the far western edge. In addition, there are cruise terminals along the southern end of the port.

Map of Port Canaveral Terminals
A total of six cruise terminals are located at Port Canaveral. Views of Terminal 1& 3 are below in this article. Map data: Google

While each terminal has a slightly different address, they are all in the same complex. If you plan to drive in, you can use the following address for navigation:

9241 Charles M Rowland Dr
Port Canaveral, FL 32920

Once in the port area, you’ll see signage directing you to each individual cruise ship in port that day.

If you are flying into the Orlando area, then the chances are good you’ll be spending some time in the area, perhaps at the numerous attractions and theme parks. Here are the distances and times to get to Port Canaveral from a number of popular spots in the region.

  • Orlando Airport: 45 miles | 45 minutes
  • Disney World: 67 miles | 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Universal Studios: 60 miles | 1 hour
  • Downtown Orlando: 55 miles | 55 minutes
  • Kennedy Space Center: 18 miles | 30 minutes
  • Cocoa Beach: 5 miles | 10 minutes

Not sure how to get the Port Canaveral from Orlando? We outline your choices below.

Getting to Port Canaveral (Transportation)

The bad news about Port Canaveral is that it’s not extremely convenient to get to if you are flying into or staying in the Orlando area. The good news? There’s a thriving industry that caters to cruise passengers, including transportation options to get you back and forth between Orlando and the cruise terminals.

On our Port Canaveral transportation page, we’ve covered the main transportation options in depth. Below, we hit the highlights of how you can get to the port.

If driving to the port, there is plenty of signage to direct you where to go. It is helpful to have a passenger navigate while the driver focuses on the road, which can twist and turn in the port area.

Driving to Port Canaveral
If you live in the area, then driving to the port is convenient. Driving allows you to arrive whenever you want and head home on your schedule without waiting on anyone else. As well, given the distance between Orlando and the port — along with the number of things to do in the area — driving is especially nice as an easy way to get around.

If you do drive, keep in mind you’ll need to park your car. Parking at the port is convenient, but costs $17 per day. There are independent lots that are cheaper. See more details in our parking section below.

Independent Shuttles
Not driving? As we mentioned earlier, there’s an entire industry that’s popped up catering to cruisers. Case in point: There are a number of companies offering shuttles back and forth between Orlando and Port Canaveral. The most convenient place to catch one of these shuttles is from the airport, however many will pickup from other spots like Disney. Expect to pay $40-60 per person roundtrip for the shuttles, which isn’t bad considering the distance.

Click here to see our article on port transportation to see a list of shuttle companies offering rides to the port.

Hotel Shuttles
With so many hotels around Port Canaveral, there are several that will provide a plum service — they will pick you up at the airport with a shuttle, take you to the hotel, and then give you a ride to the cruise port. When you return, they will offer the same in reverse. It’s a nice perk for those flying in and planning to stay at a hotel the night before their cruise.

You can see our full list of hotels with airport and cruise shuttles here.

Other Modes
Interested in other modes of transportation to Port Canaveral like taxis, Uber/Lyft, and cruise line shuttles? They can all get you to the port, but are typically more expensive and/or less convenient than the ways listed above. Still, you can read about all your options on our Port Canaveral transportation page.

Hotels in the Cruise Port Area

Hotel in Port Canaveral
With the town of Cocoa Beach nearby, there are a lot of places to stay near the cruise port. Nearly all will offer some sort of shuttle service to the terminals.

Given the location of Port Canaveral — about 45 minutes from the Orlando Airport and an hour from the city proper — it’s a good idea to head to the area the day before your cruise and stay the night. That way there’s no rush on embarkation day and you can relax before your cruise starts.

And Cocoa Beach, right next to the port, offers a ton of options on where to stay and things to do. Many hotels include shuttles to the port and/or cruise parking, making them especially attractive for cruise passengers.

Here are a few hotels in the area that are near the port:

You can see a more complete list of hotels here. For the most part, the hotels near the port are well-known, reputable chains. Nearly all will have a shuttle available to take you to the cruise port. 

Things to Do Near the Port

One of the good things about Port Canaveral is that the port complex and the surrounding area have a number of things to do nearby.

Royal Caribbean ship in Port Canaveral
There are lots of restaurants at the port, including many by CT 1, giving you a great view of Royal Caribbean ships in port.

In the port area are several restaurants that sit right on the water. Not only can you get a bite to eat or something cold to drink, but you can also have a first-rate spot to see the ships in port. If you aren’t sailing, then the cruise ships also pass right in front of you as they head out to sea. Places to eat include Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar and Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill (along with many others).

Exploration Tower
When you arrive at the port, you can’t miss the tallest structure in the area that looks like the sail of a ship. It’s the Exploration Tower — an observation deck with exhibits about the port area on each floor. It offers a great view of the area and a unique vantage point where you can see all the ships in port.

Kennedy Space Center
Of course, being on Cape Canaveral you are right near the Kennedy Space Center. Here you can see rockets launch (if they match your schedule) or visit the center to get up close an personal with NASA’s history with tons of exhibits. They even have the retired space shuttle Atlantis on display for visitors.

Cocoa Beach
While you are headed to the beach on your cruise, why not get it started early? Cocoa Beach is just a short distance from the port. There you can hit the beach or explore the area where there are a ton of tourist activities, shops, and restaurants. Check out the area near the Cocoa Beach pier for one of the most popular hangouts.

Cruise Terminals

All told, Port Canaveral has six terminals that serve cruise ships, including Terminal 3, which is the newest addition that was built during the pandemic.

Terminal 1 & 3 Port Canaveral
Terminal 1 is home to Royal Caribbean, while Terminal 3 offers service for Carnival. Map data: Google

Located on the south bank of the port and to the east of most of the other terminals, CT1 is home to Royal Caribbean. There’s a small retail area and a parking garage right at the terminal. If you’re into ship spotting, there are restaurants right near the terminal that can give you an up-close look at the ship in port.

Cruise Terminal 3 is home to Carnival Mardi Gras — the cruise line’s largest class of ship to date and the first in North America to run on cleaner-burning LNG. The terminal is the largest single project in the port’s history and measures a staggering 185,000 square feet. It also includes a parking garage right next to the terminal.

Located in the northern part of the port, CT5 is home to Royal Caribbean ships. As with other ports, a parking garage is just a few steps from the cruise terminal.

Terminal 6
Whether you want to sail Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, MSC, Disney or others, they all sail from Port Canaveral.

Right next to CT5, this terminal is home to Carnival. It’s also in the middle of the northern part of the port, giving great views of any other cruise ships in port on embarkation day.

As you might expect given the relatively short distance to Disney World in Orlando, Disney Cruises has a large presence at the port. CT8 is the Disney terminal, where you’ll find its ships embarking to take families on cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean.

The last cruise terminal on the western side of the port is CT10, which serves Norwegian ships and MSC. From here it’s a nearly straight shot down the channel and out to sea.

Dropping Off/Picking Up Passengers

Are you taking someone to the cruise port? Or maybe you are picking up someone after their vacation? That can save a lot of money in parking fees, and make it much easier for them to start their cruise.

Dropping off passengers at Port Canaveral
If you are driving someone to the port or picking up, just follow the signs to the loading area in front of the terminal.

If you do plan to drop off or pick up, then just know that it’s a relatively simple concept. Just follow the signs to the appropriate terminal. From there, you will see signs pointing you to the drop-off and pick-up areas, which are clearly marked.

The procedure is much like the airport. You can pull up, let passengers out and they get their bags. In all, it should only take you a few minutes.

One word of warning — the port area (especially the western terminals) can be a bit confusing to get around. There are lots of signs, but also lots of twists and turns. It’s helpful to have a passenger to focus on the signage to direct you where to go while driving.

Parking for a Port Canaveral Cruise

If you are driving into Port Canaveral, then there is the question of what to do with your car while you are on your cruise. Given the size of the port, there are a number of parking options. We cover all your options on our Port Canaveral cruise parking page — including prices and locations. Below, we cover the main options — parking at the port, independent lots, and hotels with cruise parking.

Official Port Parking
Looking for the most convenient parking for your cruise? Look no further than the official port parking. Each terminal has a parking garage that’s right at their respective terminals. In other words, you can park and be at the terminal. When it’s time to head home, you have only a short walk back to your car. Most garages offer more than 1,000 spaces, meaning there are plenty of spots.

Parking garage at Port Canaveral
Each cruise terminal features plenty of parking, literally steps from the ship. It’s the most convenient option by far, but costs $17 per day.

It it hard to beat the convenience of parking right at your ship. The port charges $17 per day for most vehicles (card only, no cash). Oversized vehicle parking is also available.

One thing to note is that the garage charges for days of arrival and departure. Say you have a three-night cruise that departs Friday afternoon and gets back Monday morning. In this case, you’re charged for four days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday), even though your ship gets back first thing Monday morning.

If you’re a disabled cruise passenger then you may be able to park for free at the port. If your vehicle has accommodations such as ramps or lifts, or you have a Florida Toll Exemption permit, or a Disabled Veteran plate from Florida, then you can get free parking. If you think you might be eligible, then call the port at 321-783-7831 for more details.

Independent Parking Lots
One of the great things about sailing from Port Canaveral is that there are a number of independent parking lots near the cruise ships. The lots may not be right at the port, but they are close and offer shuttles. Best of all, they offer cheaper parking rates that can be around $10-12 per day (and in some cases even less expensive).

Similar to the cruise port, these lots usually charge by the day instead of the night. So a three-night cruise will have you paying for four days of parking, even if you get your car back early in the morning.

Hotels with Cruise Parking
A nice perk with such a tourist hotspot is that there are a lot of hotels competing for your business. And as a cruise town, that means many hotels in Cape Canaveral will allow you to park your car while you cruise in return for a night’s stay. Sometimes parking is free, but usually it’s part of a package or an extra charge each night. Hotels will also set up a ride to the port for you.

In general parking at the hotel is even cheaper than parking at independent lots. That said, if you don’t plan to stay in a hotel before you trip, the added expense of a night’s stay isn’t worth the savings on cheaper parking. You can see our full list of Port Canaveral hotels with parking here.

Check-In & Security

Ready to get on your ship? Before you can board, you’ll have to go through two things at the port: security and check-in. The good news is that both are relatively easy.

As you reach the port, the first thing you’ll do is drop any checked bags with a porter before you enter the terminal building. These bags will be taken, loaded on the ship, and arrive at your cabin later in the evening. You don’t have to check any bags if you don’t want to. It simply makes it easier to board the ship than having to carry all your luggage around.

For most passengers, they likely envision security like going to the airport — long lines, invasive searches and tight rules on liquids. Cruise security is more relaxed.

As you enter the building, you’ll have someone check your boarding documents. You’ll then place your bags on an x-ray machine while you walk through the metal detector. Unless something comes up, that’s it. From there you head to check-in.

These days many cruise lines have online check-in, which speeds up the process. If checked-in online, you simply have your documents checked and finish up any last issues that need to be cleared before you board. You then walk your way to the ship and your room keys will be waiting for you at your cabin door.

Normally there are dozens of agents working, making the line move quickly. Once at the agent’s desk, you’ll set up your onboard spending account (if you didn’t already online), get your room key and then head to the ship. That’s all there is to boarding your cruise.


Disembarking in Port Canaveral is relatively easy. The port uses facial recognition, meaning you walk off the ship, take a photo, and then you are on your way.

One of the funny things about cruising is that while everyone can’t wait to get on the ship to start their vacation, they are just as eager to get off the ship when it arrives back in port. And as a major and modern cruise port, the disembarkation of the ship at Port Canaveral is usually smooth and relatively quick given the number of passengers on a modern cruise ship.

When you get back to Port Canaveral, you’ll have the option of carrying all your bags off the ship yourself, or setting out the larger bags to be picked up and brought ashore by the porters. Many people opt to just carry all bags themselves as this means you can be among the first group to get off the ship.

Once you depart the ship, you’ll enter the terminal and pick up any luggage that you had the porters carry off the ship ahead of time. You’ll then enter the line to be checked back into the country by customs agents. All told, the process will vary in length of time depending on a few factors — most notably the number of agents working to process the ship and if there are automated kiosks.

If sailing with a passport, terminals have kiosks that allow you to quickly take a photo, and once confirmed via facial recognition, head on your way. If you have a birth certificate, then expect to wait in line to meet with a Border Patrol agent to review your documents.

Once cleared, simply head out the doors to find your ground transportation. If using a shuttle service or if someone is picking you up, be sure to make plans on where you’ll be picked up before you get back to port. This will make it much easier and faster to get out of the port area after disembarking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What About the Casino Cruise Terminal?
Not every cruise ship that calls Port Canaveral home heads to the Caribbean or Bahamas. Victory Casino Cruises operates out of CT2, next door to CT3 (the new Carnival terminal). The casino ship runs two daily trips (most days) to out-of-state waters where gambling is legal.

On board you will find slot machines, dozens of table games, sports betting, a buffet and more. Considering that gambling is localized to only a few spots in Florida, the casino ship is a big draw for those looking to get their fix for a few hours. For more details on the Victory Casino Cruises, see our article here.

What’s the Cheapest Place to Park?
As we mentioned above, parking at the port itself is convenient, but runs $17 per day. The cheapest spot we’ve found is parking with CruiseTime Parking. They actually allow you to park for as little as $10 per day. That rate is considerably less than what the port charges, though you don’t get the convenience of parking right at the ship.

What’s the Cheapest Way to Get to the Port?
Thanks to the competition between shuttle companies, there are a number of inexpensive options to get between Orlando and the cruise port. A hotel with a shuttle will likely be the cheapest overall way assuming you plan to stay anyway. Other shuttles can be around $40-60 roundtrip. See our article on inexpensive transport options here.

What’s the Earliest I Should Schedule a Return Flight?
Many people fly into Orlando for their cruise. That leaves the question of when should you schedule the flight back home? Cruise ships return to port early in the morning (6-7 a.m.), and then it can take 2-3 hours for everyone to get off the ship. That means you can get off the ship and on your way anywhere between 8-10 a.m. in many cases. Of course, you then have a 45 minute ride to the port, followed by security screening.

That’s why we suggest not scheduling a flight back until after 1 p.m. Yes, you may be able to get to the earlier, but this will allow plenty of time so that it’s not a mad dash to catch your flight. It’s also helpful if you have TSA PreCheck as the large number of families flying from Orlando can mean long security lines.

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Complete Guide to Cruising From Port Canaveral


  1. My husband and I will be doing back-to-back cruises on the Mardi Gras Aug-Sept 2023. How do we pay parking for both cruises at the same time of the 1st cruise in Aug?

  2. My husband has a handicap sticker because he has a bad hip. Can he park for free at the port? We are from South Carolina and parked free in Charleston earlier this year.

  3. Yes need to know is it that know you don’t need travel insurance for the cruises now I see that they have updated also unvaccinated people do they get their Covic testing where they reside at 72 hours in advance or where and is it that unvaccinated people cannot get off in the Bahamas nor in Dominican Republic Carnival Mardi Gras‘s ship

    • That will depend on your cruise line, not the port. Some lines have a limited number of tests at the terminal. Contact who you are sailing for more.

  4. I want to take a shared shuttle from Port Canaveral back to a Orlando. Is it necessary to prebook the shuttle or are there companies that allow walk on? I not in a hurry so would rather not commit to a 9:30 bus or 11ammif I’m processed very quickly.

  5. Hi Tanner, do you think a United flight (in first class, which hopefully makes airport procedures a bit quicker) at 12:20pm is doable after a cruise on Carnival Mardi Gras next year (back in Port Canaveral on Jan 9)

    • Ooof. That’s a tough one. I’d think you’d be fine, but Orlando is our least favorite airport to fly out of. It ALWAYS seems to be backed up at security. It’s a major reason why we got TSA Precheck. If you have precheck, I’d say no problem. If you don’t, I’d say it is tight but doable if there are no delays.

  6. Is there anyplace to store luggage if you get to the port early or in our case we have an entire day to explore the area between disembarking and going to the airport. We wont be renting a car.

  7. Thanks very much Tanner. The distances aren’t a problem. My concern was that PC is like Port Everglades-dangerous to navigate on foot,but it sounds like there are walkways or paths to the Tower and Park.

  8. My NCL ship will be at Port Canaveral for a day in Feb. If I want to visit Jetty Park and the Exploration Tower and eat at the port-are all of these easily accessible on foot from my ship’s pier?

    • That’s a great question. If you are in shape and used to walking, then yes, it can be done but it’s a bit of a walk. The port complex is fairly large. It’s about 1.5 miles to the Exploration Tower and then another 1.5 miles to Jetty Park. So you’re looking at about six miles roundtrip.

    • All the cruise lines will have an excursion to the KSC from Port Canaveral. They take place once your ship returns. On a recent trip Royal Caribbean had an offer for $120 that included an airport transfer to Orlando.

  9. I want to travel up the East Coast of USA to NY Brooklyn. What cruises do you have?
    I live in Parrish , FL about 80 miles away

    • Mary, we aren’t the port or a cruise line. We’re an information website about cruising. Check with your travel agent, online cruise retailers, etc. Just FYI, it’s likely there are no cruises that go from Port Canaveral to New York. Most cruises depart and return to the same cruise port.


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