Sailing on a trip aboard Royal Caribbean that leaves from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale)? Then chances are you will sail from one of the largest and most efficient cruise terminals in the world — Terminal 18.
Terminal 18 serves as the home to Royal Caribbean’s largest ships, including the massive Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas. Both ships measure nearly 1,200 feet and can carry more than 6,000 passengers each. In addition, smaller ships from Royal Caribbean — Independence and Serenade of the Seas — also call the terminal home.
For those that have never sailed from Port Everglades or Terminal 18, the size of the port and the activity that surrounds it can be overwhelming. The good news is that the port caters to out-of-town cruisers, so navigating the area and getting onto the ship is built to be as simple as possible.
What’s more, we’ve recently visited the port and terminal, including an exclusive tour to provide pictures and guidance on what to expect come embarkation day. Below, we offer all the details you need to know about cruising from Terminal 18 at Port Everglades.
Arriving and Parking at Terminal 18
Before you can set sail, you have to get to the ship. If you are flying into Fort Lauderdale, the port is a quick 10-minute ride from the airport.
Terminal 18 is located in the “midport” section of the port. There are two ways to access the port. If you are coming from the north, you’ll turn from 17th street (A1A) onto Eisenhower Boulevard. You’ll then follow Eisenhower, through security gates, and to the terminal. If coming from the south or the airport, you’ll approach on Eller Drive.
If you are driving your own vehicle to the terminal, then you’ll obviously need a place to park. Parking at the terminal is available for $15 per day. Parking is paid when you leave the lot after your cruise. Cash and credit cards are accepted.
Parking at the port is convenient and close, but also the most expensive option. (There are independent parking lots outside of the port that will offer you cheaper rates and provide a shuttle to the terminal.)
Port Everglades offers a number of parking lots and garages. There are several choices near the terminal, including Parking Lot 18 and the Midport Garage.
Entering the Terminal & Security
When it was designed, Terminal 18 had a clear goal — to get passengers from the door of the terminal to the ship in 15 minutes or less. Considering that it’s one of the largest terminals in the world, that’s an ambitious goal. Yet, it is one that the terminal seems to have achieved.
Upon arrival, you’ll see the electronic signs for guest drop-off and check-in — as well as the several sets of double doors to enter into the terminal.
As you enter the terminal, you’ll see why you are able to check-in and get to the ship quickly. The terminal is large, airy, and open. On your left and right, you will see roped sections leading to the security check-in. Security is your first stop through the terminal on your way to the ship.
If you’re used to the strict security seen at airports, then going through security at Terminal 18 will be considerably easier.
The security features metal detectors and an X-ray machine for your carry-on luggage. Unlike an airport, you don’t have to remove liquids or take off your shoes. There is also no “nude scanner” to enter. You simply walk through the metal detector and then proceed to check in.
If you’re wondering how a cruise terminal can get you from the door to the ship in 15 minutes, then Terminal 18’s check-in counter should help you see why. Put simply, it is the largest check-in counter we’ve ever seen and includes dozens of agent stations to ensure the line moves quickly.
The counter sits in a “U” shape at the middle of the terminal’s first floor and serves both sides of the security line. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you decide to go left or right when you enter the building and head through security. You’ll end up being served the same.
When you arrive at the counter, you’ll work with the agent to finalize your boarding paperwork and receive your room keys. Assuming you’ve filled out your pre-boarding paperwork online ahead of time (highly recommended) then the process with an agent should take only a few minutes.
Once checked-in, you’ll follow signs saying “To Ship” with an arrow to where you should go. There are large openings in the check-in counter where passengers can go through to get to the ship.
You’ll walk through these openings and head toward the ship, which boards on the second floor. You can take the stairs, or there are also escalators and elevators for those who prefer.
Once on the second floor, you’ll see a massive waiting area. We were told during our tour that passengers rarely have to wait in this area and most proceed directly to boarding. Even so, if you do have to wait here, there is a VIP area for suite guests as well as a small playground for kids to entertain themselves.
It’s not much fun to get off the ship, but it’s something we all have to do eventually. When you return, you won’t see the embarkation area you went through to board. Debarkation is a separate area of the terminal.
As you depart the ship, you’ll follow signs and a walkway to customs and immigration. Along your way you’ll see large red trash cans called “Amnesty Cans”. It’s illegal to bring in things like plants and food from foreign countries and doing so can result in fines or jail time. Instead, if you’ve accidentally brought something in, you can deposit it in these cans on your way and not get in trouble.
Continue down the walkway and escalators and you’ll find the area for processing on the first floor. The room is massive, with luggage organized by tag number. You’ll grab your bags and then wait in line to go through immigration.
Unfortunately, while the embarkation at Terminal 18 is designed to take 15 minutes or less, debarkation could take longer. That’s because everyone must pass through immigration and there are only a limited number of agents working at any given time.
In fact, while there are numerous stations that were constructed with the terminal, we were told that due to federal staffing decisions, only a portion of them are open upon debarkation.
Want to speed things up? There’s good news. Port Everglades is the only seaport in the country using the Mobile Passport App. With this app, U.S. and Canadian citizens with valid passports can complete their customs declarations and immigration paperwork ahead of time. Then, they will show an electronic receipt to the immigration officer, along with their travel documents. Doing this paperwork electronically ahead of time helps speed up the time spend processing debarking cruise passengers.
After exiting the immigration checkpoint, you’ll step outside and find your transportation or return to your car. The debarkation and embarkation areas of the terminal are also separate outside, so you won’t have to worry about fighting through arriving passengers to depart the terminal.
Have other questions about Port Everglades or sailing from Terminal 18? Let us know in the comments below!