When it comes to history, few cities compare to Charleston, South Carolina. For decades the city’s rich culture and history have drawn visitors worldwide to the charming city.
These days, add cruising to the list of reasons to visit Charleston.
Today you can sail year-round from the port city, with trips headed to the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean. Trips range from 4-day getaways to the Bahamas to 10-day tours with stops in St. Thomas, St. Kitts, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
If it’s your first time sailing from Charleston, you likely have a few questions about your cruise… how to get there, where to park, where to stay, and even more. So to help you get started, we’ve covered the basics of the port to give you a better idea of its location and layout and cruising from there. The links below should also help you answer some of the common questions about sailing from the port.
Port of Charleston Cruise Terminal & Location
The cruise port is situated near the southern tip of Charleston, almost directly across the river from Patriot’s Point and the USS Yorktown. The terminal sits about 12.5 miles from the Charleston International Airport (about a 25-minute drive).
If coming from points farther, the port is roughly two hours drive from Savannah and 4.5 hours from Atlanta.
Distance to Airports:
Charleston International – 12.5 miles | 20-25 minutes
Hartsfield Jackson (Atlanta) – 311 miles | 4.5-5 hours
Greenville-Spartanburg International – 214 miles | 3-3.5 hours
Charleston has only one cruise terminal, which makes it easier to navigate on cruise day than busier ports in Florida. That said, the current layout is a little funny compared to major ports. For instance, you drive in, pay for parking, drop off luggage, and then enter one building to check-in and head to another across the port to get through security and board the ship.
As of now the Charleston terminal only serves as homeport to Carnival, but a number of other ships call on the port to offer passengers a chance to tour the historic city.
Getting to the Port of Charleston (Port Transportation)
Taking a cruise from Charleston? You need to get there first. These days you have a number of options on getting to the port. We have full details and costs on our Charleston port transportation page. Below we cover the major modes of getting to the cruise ship.
Driving to the Port
Many people simply choose to drive to the cruise port on embarkation day. The drive is manageable from a number of cities nearby, including Savannah, Augusta, Columbia, Atlanta, and Charlotte. Keep in mind that if you drive, you’ll need to park your car while you cruise. Parking at port is $20 per day (more details in our parking section below). Here are the distances/times of travel to the port from major cities in the area:
- Savannah – 110 miles | 2 hours
- Augusta – 150 miles | 3 hours
- Columbia – 115 miles | 2 hours
- Atlanta – 300 miles | 5 hours
- Charlotte – 210 miles | 3.5 hours
Flying in for your cruise? Or maybe you simply are in the area and want to avoid the cost of parking at the port. In that case, Uber and Lyft can get you around Charleston, including the airport. It’s cheap, easy, and a convenient way to get to the cruise ship without spending a fortune. You can see rates for most locations around Charleston here.
Cabs are available in Charleston and can be convenient. You should expect them to cost a little bit more than Uber/Lyft. As well, there are companies offering private rides if you want to arrive to the port in style.
For more on all your options and costs, see our port transportation page.
Parking for Your Cruise
As a small port, Charleston doesn’t have the wide array of parking options you will find at larger spots like Miami or Port Canaveral. However, that doesn’t mean it’s tough to find parking for your cruise. There are three main options.
Official Port Parking
The port offers parking right at the ship. It’s convenient, but also a bit pricey. Rates are $20 per night. If you have a handicap placard or license plate, then parking is free. Credit and debit cards (as well as money orders) are accepted. For all the details on parking at the port, see our Charleston cruise parking page here.
Given the price of parking, it’s no surprise that independent lots have sprung up to offer cheaper rates. One lot right near the port recently closed, leaving you with only one other option that we know of — Park & Go. The lot is an airport lot, so it’s about 15 minutes away from the cruise port. Still, they offer parking for $10 per day — half of what the port charges. You will need to get a ride to and from the lot to the cruise terminal. An Uber/Lyft would run around $10-15 each way.
Hotels with Cruise Parking
Planning to stay in the area the night before your cruise? Look into a hotel with a park and cruise package. There are a number in the area that offer this perk to cruise passengers. Stay a night and you can park your car while you’re away. Considering the price of parking at the port is $80 for a 4-day cruise, it can save you a bundle. See our list of Charleston park and cruise hotels here.
Where to Stay
Charleston is a great city with a lot to see and do before your cruise. We’d highly suggest adding on an extra day to your trip to spend some time in the city.
Of course, that means you need a place to stay. Fortunately, the location of the port near the heart of Charleston means there are a number of hotels right nearby. As well, many hotels in the area offer perks to cruise passengers like parking packages that let you park your car while you cruise.
Here are a number of hotels within a short distance of the cruise port. Here are a few highly rated:
Dropping Off, Check-In, & Security
Things are done a little differently in Charleston than seen in other ports. First is drop-off.
If you’re dropping off passengers, you’ll use a different entrance than if you’re parking. For dropping off, you’ll want to use this address:
32 Washington Street
Charleston, South Carolina
Note that Google Maps shows this as a building northwest of the port. It’s actually along the western side of the port. See the map below…
Once you arrive at the port, whether it’s being dropped off or parking, you’ll want to head to “Building 324.” (Check-in Building in the map above.) Whereas most ports have you go through security, check-in, and then board, Charleston has you check-in, then go through security, and then board.
Building 324 houses the check-in process. You’ll enter the building, meet with an agent, show your boarding documents and get your onboard spending account ready to go.
After checking in, you’ll get on a shuttle to head over to the boarding terminal to get on the ship. At the terminal you’ll enter security before being allowed to board.
Have more questions about sailing from Charleston? Let us know in the comments below.
Getting to the Port of Charleston — Transportation options from airports and the Charleston area to the cruise port. Everything you need to know to get to the port and start your vacation.
Charleston Cruise Parking — Parking at the port? We’ve got you covered with all your parking options, including costs and discounts.
Dropping Off at the Port — Dropping off passengers? Not sure where to go once you get to the port? We have turn-by-turn directions to find your cruise terminal.
Charleston Cruise Hotels — Getting in late? Leaving early? Simply need a place to rest your head? We’ve rounded up the options for places to stay near the port.