First completed in June 2020, Cruise Terminal 3 (also known as CT3) at Port Canaveral is the port’s newest addition, but it may be best known as the new home of Carnival’s newest — and largest — ship, Mardi Gras.
While many are anticipating sailing Mardi Gras in the years ahead, they won’t be able to board before making their way through the new terminal. And after being given a, exclusive tour of the new $155 million facility, we think that the new building is not only a great place to start your cruise, but also one of the more impressive cruise terminals we’ve ever visited.
If you have a cruise coming up that’s departing from CT3, here’s what to know and what you can expect.
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CT3 Location at Port Canaveral
Port Canaveral is among the busiest cruise departure ports in the world, but thanks to its size and location, it can feel much smaller — and much easier — to navigate on cruise day. As for CT3, the terminal is located on the eastern end of the port, closest to the end of the channel. The closest cruise terminal is CT1, used by Royal Caribbean, which is still a considerable distance to the west.
Thanks to this location, it should be easier to get to without the traffic you might encounter on a busy day near other terminals clustered closer together.
Arriving at the Terminal on Cruise Day
Arriving at the terminal, you start to get a sense of the size of the facility. Given the size of Mardi Gras, a large terminal was needed to service the ship and the more than 10,000 passengers that could be embarking and debarking in a single day. To handle that traffic, the terminal is 185,000 square feet, making it the largest at Port Canaveral.
Adjoining the building is a nearly 1,800 parking spot garage, ensuring plenty of parking right next to the ship even if there are multiple ships sailing from the terminal at once. (For reference, Port Canaveral says the number of cars needing parking totals about 10% of a ship’s capacity. So a 5,000 passenger cruise would see roughly 500 cars parking at the port.)
When passengers arrive to cruise, they have two options to get to the terminal entrance, which is located on the second floor. First, those parking or people needing an elevator can enter through the parking garage. Here there is a walkway from the garage right to the front entrance of the terminal.
Passengers not entering through the garage can walk up the wide staircase that leads from the ground up to the main entrance. There is also a sloped ramp alongside for those with luggage or people with mobility issues who can’t take the stairs.
CT3 Check-In, Security, and Waiting Area
Enter the main doors, and you’ll now be in the debarkation hall. During our tour, the room was empty, giving extra emphasis to its size. As well, the high ceilings give even more space.
Given the new terminal and health protocols, the layout looks to be a bit different than you might be used to. There will be kiosks near the entrance of the terminal for check-in for most passengers (in addition to completely online check-in already available from Carnival), then a pass through security. For those that need more help there will still be check-in stations staffed, but the emphasis on the traditional method of check-in seems diminished.
After checking in, passengers will then head through security, where we counted at least 10 x-ray machines for carry-on luggage. If fully staffed, any security lines should be short for boarding.
While the initial check-in area and security screening is fairly utilitarian, passing through security you get a better feel for the style of the new terminal.
First, you’ll notice a large compass rose sitting on the floor in the center of the building, along with the image of the famous Carnival “whale tail” at its center. Above, you see the modern halo lights throughout the waiting area along with the large circular video board that scrolls through messages.
On either side of this you’ll find numerous alcoves, each with a large curved image of the ship. These spots are for getting that “welcome aboard” photo that is a classic cruise staple.
Past the compass and the photo sets is the general waiting area. If you come to the terminal and it’s not quite ready for passengers, CT 3 has room for 1,200 cruise passengers in this area, on either side of the main hallway.
Seating options include a number of curved metal and wood benches, row after row of airport-style seats with armrests and seat backs, as well as some small tables surrounded by movable chairs. Your wait here likely won’t be long but if you are looking for comfort, check out the soft bench-style seating that wraps around the outside of the VIP waiting area.
Fortunate enough to be a guest with access to the VIP waiting area? You’re in luck. The terminal features seating for 500 in an area that is sectioned off from the general boarding waiting room.
Step inside and you’ll see what looks similar to the general waiting, but definitely more luxurious. Here there are no rows and rows of airport-style seats. Instead, you’ll find much more comfy chairs and padded seats, with a center bar area in the middle of the room for refreshments. (Fun fact, the tile in the center bar matches the tile you’ll find on Mardi Gras.)
Outside of the center seating area of the VIP section you’ll find more benches and a large window at the end of the terminal that looks back out over the rest of the port. Need a charge for your phone? Try to find a seat next to one of the lamps, which feature a spot to plug in your cord.
No matter whether you’re a VIP or just a regular Joe, you’ll definitely be comfortable while you wait. And when it’s time to board, you’ll head through the large double doors into the boarding hallway to the gangway.
Debarking at CT3
As with most terminals, the experience when you get off the ship is different than when you board. While the boarding side of the terminal is filled with modern style, the debarkation area is decidedly more utilitarian.
After getting off the ship, you’ll head down the stairs, elevator, or sloped walkway to the luggage pick-up area. One smart detail of the terminal is the introduction of large stainless steel tables, greatly increasing the amount of luggage that can fit in the terminal. During our tour we were told that CT3 can hold up to 10,000 pieces of baggage.
Whether you pick up your bags here or simply carry them off the ship, you’ll then proceed through customs/immigration and then exit the facility back near the parking garage for transportation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have a question about sailing from CT3? Let us know in the comments below. We’ve also tried to answer some of the more common questions you might have below.
How Much is Parking at Cruise Terminal 3?
Parking costs $17 per car at the port, and this includes both the day you arrive and the day you leave. (So a 7-day cruise actually pays for 8 days of parking.) All major credit cards are accepted.
One thing to note is that you pay as you enter the garage the day your cruise departs. This way the lines to exit at the end of the cruise are shorter since there is no payment processing, getting everyone home more quickly.
Are There Elevators at the Terminal?
Yes. Elevators located in the parking garage take you up to the entrance level of the terminal. There are also stairs up and sloped walkways if you choose to walk instead of taking the elevator.
What’s the Best Spot for a Photo?
In front of the building is a great place to get a photo before heading into check-in. On either side of the terminal are groups of palm trees framing the signage on the front of the building. While it might be busy with other passengers and cars on cruise day, this area as a backdrop makes a memorable spot to grab a picture.
Are There Things to Do Nearby?
Unlike some ports, Port Canaveral isn’t just a place to get on the ship. There are a number of nearby restaurants that sit on the port channel (giving a great view of ships in port). There is also nearby Jetty Park that provides beach access.
A little farther away from the port is the nearby Kennedy Space Center to the north as well as the town of Cocoa Beach to the south. Cocoa Beach is a classic beach town with a large pier and plenty of “beachy” activities like putt-putt and go-karts, along with a number of restaurants.
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