Looking for a hotel to stay before (or after) your cruise? That’s a smart idea. Instead of a mad-dash from home to the port on the day your cruise departs, staying in the port city the night(s) before your cruise can make things much easier.
Not only do you not have to worry about driving or flying in before your cruise, but port cities are usually destinations within themselves. Places like Miami, New Orleans, Seattle, Los Angeles and countless other departure ports offer an amazing amount to see and do. So by finding a cruise hotel and staying an extra night, you can make your vacation even better.
But before you simply pick a hotel, there are some things to know about selecting the right hotel before your cruise. From tips that can save you money on your stay to finding the perfect location for your hotel (hint: closest to the port isn’t always best!), here’s our best advice on selecting a cruise hotel…
Note: This article contains affiliate links to KAYAK. We earn a commission for clicks made on their website, at no charge to you.
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Use a Aggregator Site Like KAYAK
How do you find your hotel in the first place? These days there are dozens of websites that can help you search across all your options at once. Simply put in the port city and dates of travel, and you can see pricing for all the hotels in the area.
One of our favorites personally to search for a place to stay is KAYAK.com. You might know the site for searching flights or car rentals, but it is also handy for hotels. You can enter your search and then sort by price, review score, and even distance to ports. There’s also a map that shows all the options, so you can see exactly where your hotel would be before you book.
But one reason we like KAYAK is that it searches all the sites — Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, and more — to bring you the best deal. Most sites charge the same (or very similar) rates, but it saves a lot of time being able to search one spot and do the work of visiting a dozen different websites for pricing.
If you’re looking for a hotel, you can use the search box below or visit KAYAK directly:
Close to the Port Usually Means Pricier
It’s not always the case, but we’ve often found that if you want to stay right near the port, then you will likely have to pony up a little more cash.
For one, staying close to the cruise ship offers a lot of convenience that many passengers are willing to pay extra to enjoy. But also you’ll find that cruise ports are near downtown, which pushes prices higher.
Cities like New Orleans, Miami, and Seattle all have ports near the heart of the central business district, meaning that even if there weren’t a port nearby, the hotel prices would likely be high.
If you want to stay near the port and don’t mind the higher prices, then it’s no issue as it also puts you near lots to do. Want to save money? Look for spots that are just a few miles away and can offer lower rates.
Check the Calendar for Other Events
One other side effect of cruise ports being in the middle of popular cities is that other events can drive up hotel prices. For instance, New Orleans has events like Mardi Gras, major football games and Jazz Fest. Miami has Art Basel, Super Bowls, and Miami Fashion Week.
The result is that if you are coming in for a cruise on a weekend that one of these events is happening, you might be competing for hotel space with thousands of other visitors. The result is higher hotel prices that can catch you by surprise.
A quick Google search should be able to tell you about any events during your cruise dates. If it turns out to coincide with something big, then you can often save by just searching for a hotel that’s a little farther from the action.
Flying In? Hotels Near the Airport Aren’t Glamorous, but Very Convenient
Many people fly in for their cruise, especially when headed out from departure ports like Miami or Seattle that are considerable drives from most parts of the country.
If you are flying in, then it’s a smart idea to look for hotels near the airport. Now, if you’re wanting to explore the port city and be in the heart of the action, then staying near the airport isn’t ideal. However, it’s hard to beat the convenience.
After a long day of traveling, it’s nice to have a hotel that’s right nearby. As well, many hotels near airports offer free shuttles to the hotel for their guests. So you can get off the plane and have a shuttle waiting for you to take you to the hotel.
It may not be glamorous, but it’s hard to beat the ease of staying near the airport.
Traveling With Family? Suites May Be Ideal
Are you traveling in a group or with family to where you have three or four people in your party? If so, then it’s a smart idea to look at booking a hotel offering suites. These spots offer more space, usually meaning some sort of living room area and then a bedroom. So mom and dad can have the bedroom while the kids sleep in the other room.
When you’re on the cruise ship, you’re going to be in closer quarters than what you see on land. There are larger suite cabins on ships, but they can be much more expensive. It makes sense to get a little extra space before your cruise just to give everyone some elbow room before you’re packed in tighter on the ship.
Pay Attention to Review Scores
These days people have opinions and reviews on everything from new socks to the highest-end cruise cabins. That means you’ll have plenty of options for reviews when it comes to hotel.
Head to KAYAK, Google, TripAdvisor, or any other travel option and you’ll find that the hotel you’re searching will have hundreds — if not thousands of reviews. We recommend paying attention to these scores.
In our experience, they are a good primer for what you can expect from a hotel. But, we’ve also noticed that there is a relatively tight range of scores. On a range of 1-5 for average score, you won’t find many hotels with averages of 1 or 2. Instead, they seem to hover around 3.5 to 4.5.
However, there’s a big difference between a hotel that rates 4.5 out of 5 versus one that’s 3.5 out of 5. Our suggestion is to stick with hotels that are rated 4 or above. These seem to consistently offer a nice experience for guests.
Look for Cruise Parking Offers
Are you driving into port? If so, then you’ll need a spot to park while you’re on the ship. Cruise ports offer parking that’s convenient (usually right next to the ship), but it’s also usually the most expensive option. Instead, why not park for cheaper at your hotel?
As a perk to win your business, many hotels located in port cities will offer free or discounted parking. Stay with the hotel and they will let you leave your car while you sail. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting the front desk know you want to leave your car. Other hotels may require you book a parking package.
Either way, with these deals you can save potentially hundreds versus parking at the port. If you didn’t plan to stay at a hotel anyway, then the savings aren’t worth the cost of the room. But if you are staying the night before your cruise and need a place to park, then a hotel with cruise parking makes sense.
Look for Hotels with Cruise Port Shuttles
Similar to hotels with parking offers, some hotels will offer a shuttle to the cruise port as a way to win your business. So instead of having to figure out how to transportation to the cruise ship on the day you sail, it’s already taken care of for you.
Often you’ll have to pay a small charge (~$10 per person) for the ride. Other times you might need to buy a special package from the hotel. Either way, these shuttles offer a lot of convenience when looking for a cruise hotel.
Price Check With a Shuttle/Parking Package and Without
We’ve talked a bit about parking deals and shuttle transportation from the hotel to the cruise port. These can offer a lot of convenience and save you money… but not always.
We’ve noticed that for a handful of hotels offering packages with things like parking or a shuttle included, the rate for the hotel with the package is more than you’d pay if you simply arranged your own parking or transportation and bought the hotel separately.
In other words, it’s rare, but sometimes you’re actually spending more with one of these offers. So before you book, be sure to check the price of your cruise hotel with and without any packages included.
Keep Hotel Freebies in Mind
We’ve noticed a funny trend with hotels. It seems like the more expensive a hotel is, the less that seems to be included.
For instance, high-end hotels often charge for nightly parking while it’s almost always free at more budget-friendly spots. Things like wi-fi and breakfast may be a charge at nice hotel, but not at lower-tier stays. You also have to look out for dreaded “resort fees” in popular tourist places like Miami.
That’s why if you’re looking for a cruise hotel deal, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the extras if they charge more. On the flipside, it may be that a hotel that costs a little less comes with a lot more freebies during your stay, making it an even better deal.
Don’t Just Focus on the Cruise Port for Your Stay
It’s obvious that if you’re headed on a cruise, then that’s going to be the focus of your stay. And while cruise ports are usually near many things to do, we’d suggest keeping an open mind about your hotel’s location.
Think of your hotel stay as a chance to explore the port city. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or see there? If so, then it may be worth staying closer to what you want to visit instead of just making your decision based around the cruise port.
For example, visit Miami and you likely have pictures of South Beach in your mind. The area isn’t far from the port, but the hotels there usually don’t focus on cruise passengers. You won’t find things like parking and shuttles to the port offered. Even so, if you’re visiting Miami, then many people (including us) consider a stay near the beach a must-have.
Keep this in mind when selecting your cruise hotel.
Ready to start your search? Check out the links below:
- Search for Cruise Hotels on KAYAK
- Park & Cruise Hotels for Every Major Port in America
- Hotels With Cruise Shuttles For Every Major Port in America