Without a doubt, South Florida is the cruise capital of the world. Between PortMiami and Port Everglades (in Fort Lauderdale), literally thousands of cruises and millions of passengers depart the area each year sailing around the world.
No matter which cruise line you want to sail, it almost surely has a ship departing from one of these two major ports.
And while tens of millions live within a few hours’ drive of the ports, lots of cruise passengers opt to fly in for their cruise. With so many cruise ships departing, the area is a magnet not just for cruise passengers hailing from the United States, but from all over the world.
But with three major airports serving the area, it can be confusing to figure out which one is best for your trip.
So which airport should you fly into for your cruise?
Understanding Your Options for Flying Into South Florida
When it comes to airports, there are three major locations where you can fly into — Miami International (MIA), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL), and Palm Beach International (PBI).
Miami International Airport (MIA): Located roughly seven miles west of Miami cruise port, Miami International is by far the closest airport to this port. It’s known as a large international hub, serving flights and airlines all over the world in addition to all over the country. Essentially no matter where you’re flying from, it’s likely that it will offer service to MIA with its more than 1,000 daily flights.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL): Sitting about 20 miles north of the Miami airport (a roughly 45-minute drive), the airport in Fort Lauderdale is only minutes away from Port Everglades. Despite not being quite as big a hub as Miami International (it offers more than 700 daily flights), the airport is still a huge player with flights arriving from every corner of the world. In our opinion, you can consider FLL and MIA as sister airports as they are similar in scale.
Palm Beach International (PBI): Your third realistic option for flying into South Florida is Palm Beach International. Of the three major players, Palm Beach is by far the smallest airport. It serves roughly 5-7 million passengers annually compared to Miami’s roughly 40 million. Still, it offers quite a few flights, especially along the East Coast. Domestic players like JetBlue, American, and Delta have a major presence here. PBI sits about 70 miles north of the Miami airport and 50 miles north of Fort Lauderdale
Our Opinion on Which Airport to Fly for Your Cruise
With three different options to fly into, which one is the best for you? It will depend where you are cruising from.
Below we show a map of the airports in relation to PortMiami and Port Everglades to give you an idea of each location:
As you can see, both Miami and Fort Lauderdale are close to their respective ports. Each one is just a few minutes between airport and cruise ship. As well, if you were flying into Miami and headed north to Port Everglades (or flying into Fort Lauderdale and headed south to Port Miami), then the distance is about 20 miles — or a 45-minute drive.
In other words, if you are sailing out of one of these ports, then flying into either airport should be fine. However, keep in mind it just won’t be near as convenient as if you fly into the same city you are getting on the cruise ship. Still, it’s not too difficult to fly into one city and then sail from the other.
The outlier here is Palm Beach International. That airport is located roughly 40-50 miles up the coast from Fort Lauderdale and even farther from Miami. In that case, yes, it is possible to fly into Palm Beach and then depart from one of the major cruise ports. Our feeling, however, is that this distance and the time it takes is too long for most cruise passengers. For instance, a ride from Palm Beach to Miami would take roughly 1.5 hours. We’d avoid it.
Getting From Miami/Fort Lauderdale Airports to the Cruise Ports
So say you fly into Fort Lauderdale and want to head to a cruise from Miami (or vice versa). What’s the best way to get there?
Having made this trip several times, we recommend using an Uber or Lyft. Both services are widely available and easy to get at either airport. They offer the best combination of convenience and price.
In total, expect the ride from either airport to the opposite cruise port to run about $35-45. Rides from the airport closest to the respective cruise ports will be even less, typically only about $15-20.
For more information on all your options, you can see our article on transportation to PortMiami here. We have all the details on getting to Port Everglades here.
Bottom Line on Which Airport to Fly
So if you’re sailing from Port Everglades or PortMiami, what’s the bottom line on which airport to choose?
First things first, we’d recommend not flying into Palm Beach International, simply due to its location. It is possible to get to the major cruise ports from there, but will take a long ride and can be expensive.
Beyond that, it’s definitely most convenient to simply fly into the city where the port is located. So if you are sailing from Miami, it’s far more convenient to fly into Miami International where the port is just minutes away. If sailing from Port Everglades, it’s far easier to fly into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport.
Even so, if lower airfare costs or better flight times mean that it’s more attractive to fly into the airport opposite the cruise port, then we’d suggest jumping at it. A ride between the two cities costs about $35-45 each way and will take roughly 45 minutes.
You can use that information to weigh the value of flying into one airport versus another.