Port of Miami: Vibrant Cruise Hub
The Port of Miami is in the midst of glitzy urban area. Something fun is always happening. Above, cruisers watch a fireworks display as a Carnival ship sails for the Caribbean. *
By Lizz Dinnigan
Located in southeast Florida’s Miami-Dade County, the Miami metropolitan area is a sun-kissed hot spot wedged between the Florida Everglades and the Atlantic Ocean.
First reaching popularity in the 1920s, today glitzy Miami is in the midst of a robust urban renaissance with a decidely Latin flair.
Just across the Intracoastal Waterway, you'll find South Beach, a favorite tourist destination. This pastel, Art Deco area on the lower tip of Miami Beach is peppered with swanky hotels, nightclubs, upscale boutiques and diverse eateries.
Together, the city area and the beach offer enticing pre- and post-cruise diversions for travelers booked on cruises sailing from the Port of Miami.
During fiscal year 2005, the number of cruise passengers sailing from the port increased to 3.6 million -- up 3 percent from the previous fiscal year.
To maintain its competitive edge as a world-class port and accommodate the next generation of enormous ships, a $250 million capital improvement project is under way.
It's not just a nicety but a necessity. Vessels like Royal Caribbean International’s 5,400-guest, 220,000-ton, Freedom-class ships require larger berthing facilities and additional parking. And the port is making preparations for home porting even bigger ships that are now on the drawing board.
The Port of Miami recently finished adding a new access road separating cruise and cargo traffic (one roadway is shown above.*); as a result, vehicles can reach the port with ease and increased security. Within the next decade, the state also hopes to develop a roadway and tunnel that would directly connect the port and the interstate highway system.
Other capital improvement projects that will be completed this summer include two new $40 million passenger terminals D and E and the remodeling of two existing terminals.
Recently completed to the tune of $21 million are a 1,100-space visitor parking garage near Terminal 5; 1,350 additional parking spaces near Terminals 8 and 9; and 1,000 ground-level spots at the two new terminals.
When finished, the port will have seven cruise terminals. (Some of the parking facilities are shown above.*)
Each new facility will accommodate 5,000 passengers and offer VIP lounges, covered walkways, conveyor baggage systems and state-of-the-art security. They will be the first terminals in the U.S. to have a Customs and Border Protection Facility for disembarking passengers.
If You Cruise
Parking is available at the Port of Miami in facilities in front of individual cruise terminals. No reservations are required. Long-term pricing is $15 daily per space; so oversize vehicles pay for the number of spots they fill.
Travelers sailing out of terminals F, G and J may use cash, or Visa or MasterCard only. The lot for terminals B, C and 10 is cash only.
For drive-in cruisers, take I-95 to I-395. For directions, visit www.miamidade.gov/portofmiami/directions.asp.
Taxis line up outside all cruise terminals. The flat rate between Miami International Airport (www.miami-airport.com) and the port is $24. The distance between the pier and the start of South Beach at 15th Street is 15 to 20 minutes. You can see the ships across the causeway when on the extreme lower end of the beach.
Myriad Cruise Options
Miami has the largest homeported cruise fleet in the world. Port Everglades provides the greatest competition for that title.
But Miami says that its departures are nearly all multi-day sailings, not day boats or casino cruises.
New for 2007, Royal Caribbean International's Liberty of the Seas just launched year-round sailings from Miami with alternating eastern and western Caribbean itineraries.
Among the many cruise lines embarking/disembarking at Miami with scheduled voyages in 2007 and early 2008 are:
- Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Triumph, Carnival Valor, Carnival Victory, Carnival Fascination (ship shown in the above right photo*), Carnival Imagination and Carnival Freedom (starting in November)
- Celebrity Cruises: Century and Summit
- Crystal Cruises: Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity
- Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Jewel
- Azamara Cruises: Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest
- Oceania Cruises: Regatta
- Royal Caribbean International: Brilliance of the Seas, Empress of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas
In the Environs
While it is possible to make a long walk from the port into downtown, it's not generally recommended due to the hefty traffic coming in and going out of the port. When touring attractions around Miami, it’s best to drive from place to place or to hop in cabs.
If you take a cab to South Beach, you might saunter parallel to the beach along trendy Ocean Drive, dine in dozens of eclectic restaurants, or admire the work in an art gallery along the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall (www.lincolnroad.org).
A self-guided architectural walking tour of the 1920s Art Deco Historic District (www.mdpl.org) is also enlightening for cultural buffs.
What else is available in Miami’s 13 neighborhoods? Coral Castle rock garden (www.coralcastle.com) attracts visitors because it's a quirky monument created as a labor of love. The 35-acre Fruit and Spice Park (www.fruitandspicepark.org) has 500 varieties of exotic fruits, herbs, spices and nuts. Travelers may drive an authentic NASCAR Nextel Cup-style racecar at the Richard Petty Driving Experience (www.1800bepetty.com)
Animal lovers will go bananas over Miami Metrozoo (www.miamimetrozoo.com), Miami Seaquarium (www.miamiseaquarium.com), Monkey Jungle (www.monkeyjungle.com) and Parrot Jungle Island (www.parrotjungle.com); the latter recently moved to a new home on the causeway adjacent to the cruise port, but it's still a cab ride away.
Greater Miami is the only place in the U.S. with two national parks: Everglades and Biscayne. Look for alligators on an airboat tour from Everglades Alligator Farm (www.everglades.com). At Key Biscayne (www.nps.gov/bisc), the only living tropical reef in the continental U.S., you can sail, dive, snorkel, kayak or windsurf. Enjoy hands-on marine exploration at the Biscayne Nature Center (www.biscaynenaturecenter.org).
For More Information
Port of Miami
Cruise Port Telephone: 305-371-7678
Cruise Port Web: www.miamidade.gov/portofmiami
Local Tourist Information: www.gmcvb.com
Lizz Dinnigan is a freelance writer and copy editor for SouthernTravelNews.com™ and SouthernCruising.com™. She is the former associate editor - cruise for Travel Agent Magazine, a major national weekly trade publication.
*Photos on this page, including the one at left, are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of the either the Port of Miami or Susan. J. Young. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos.