Florida Guide > Other Activities
Picking up a cruise in Fort Lauderale
Although we love Orlando and visiting our villa, sometimes we like to combine it with a Caribbean cruise. If you, too, have decided to combine a trip to Orlando, with a cruise that departs from Fort Lauderdale, then you will need to make your way to Port Everglades on the morning of your departure. Several cruise lines use this port, including Princess, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival, Celebrity, Costa and Holland America, as well as some of the smaller cruise ships.
We normally fly into Miami when embarking on a ship, and we like to spend the first night in a beachside hotel in Fort Lauderdale, about 20 miles north of Miami. We book a car for just one day, from the car hire website on Orlando Villas, and this means that we can make our own way from the airport to our chosen hotel, before returning it the next morning, en route to the port. You can leave your car at the dockside for a fee, but you will then have to pay for the car whilst you are on the cruise as well as paying for the parking.
There are many hotels to choose from, and we would suggest that you select a hotel that is close to the port. Take a look at those that are located just north of Port Everglades, along the A1A Highway. There are plenty to choose from, and the one we stay at is situated just opposite the beach. All rooms have an ocean view, and there is a restaurant too. Having checked in, my son and I are usually raring to go – all fatigue disappears just as soon as we see the golden sand and the warm water beckoning. A quick run down to the beach, a brief paddle, back to the hotel for a meal, a shower and then we are ready to crash out!
Make sure that you have written your baggage labels ready for the cruise, and check to see that you have filled in all the details required in the ticket booklet. It will save time later. We are normally awake early enough the next morning to watch a glorious Florida sunrise. A quick dip in the hotel pool is followed by breakfast, and then its all systems go! If you are up early you can go directly to the port before you leave your car so that you can offload your luggage. When you arrive at the dock where your ship is moored, baggage handlers will take your large suitcases from you. It is a very ordered system, and your luggage is put into different categories, according to the deck your stateroom is on. You can then drive to Fort Lauderdale Airport with just your hand luggage to deal with, and check in your hire car. Don’t forget to tip the baggage handlers, $1 per item, minimum. It’s well worth it, as after all, you don’t want your suitcase to accidentally slip down between the dock and the ship, or be left on the dockside as you cruise silently away! It is amazingly efficient, and if you drop off your suitcases early – before 11.00 am, you will probably find that by the time you return and embark your luggage will be waiting outside your stateroom.
The Dollar check-in is within the airport terminal, so follow the signs, which will take you up to the car drop-off level. Dollar no longer provide a shuttle bus to the port, as there is a new system in operation, provided by the airport buses. After you check in you car you will have to take the elevator (lift) down to the lower floor. Step outside and you will see numerous bus stops. The shuttle bus for the port departs from the far right hand end. Under no circumstances allow any of the Dollar employees to suggest that they can take you back to the port and you can leave your car to them to deal with. Don’t risk it – you need to sign it out at the airport – otherwise you have no guarantee that it will be returned, and you would be liable.
The shuttle buses to the port are not that frequent, and towards midday they get even more infrequent, as this is when embarkation gets underway. It takes quite a while for the buses to negotiate their way in, and out, of the docks and back to the airport. Security is tight, and each car must be checked, and passports looked at. This inevitably leads to long queues at the dock gates. We prefer to go down to the lower level and walk across to the main airport terminal, where you follow the signs outside to the taxi ranks. It is a very efficient system, whereby you line up and are then directed, in order, to a waiting taxi. It is quite a slick operation and you should not have to wait long. The cost is minimal, about $12, if you are not stuck long in the traffic jams, more if you are. However, it is a far more comfortable way to get to the port than having to climb on and off the full shuttle buses – and remember, they will be dropping passengers off at several other cruise ships, and yours could be the last one, so it may take some time. They may also be packed, with standing room only!
Your taxi will take you speedily to Port Everglades, but once at the dock gates you will be checked by security, so have all your passports open and ready to be shown. In the distance you will see the towering decks of the cruise liners, with their funnels outlined against the sky. It is then that the excitement really mounts. Once at the dock you need to enter the main embarkation area, and find a check-in desk – these are normally labelled up for each deck, so make sure you know which deck you are on. Having finished all the paperwork, and obtained your individual charge card, you are ready to board. Soon you will be sailing away for your Caribbean cruise!
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and inevitably you will find yourself back in Port Everglades – hopefully after having enjoyed a wonderful cruise. When you disembark you will return to the huge baggage hall, where all the suitcases are lined up, again according to your stateroom deck. There will be willing porters with trolleys who will approach you and ask if you want help. They will help you locate your luggage, load it on their trolley, accompany you through Immigration, and outside to where the car hire shuttle buses will be waiting. They will also organise a taxi for you. We find that it is always the one we want that doesn’t arrive, whilst dozens of the wrong shuttles seem to appear as if by magic. It can be very hot waiting for the shuttle, so we prefer to take a taxi back to Fort Lauderdale to pick up another hire car – again booked through the OV site – ready for the next stage of our holiday – our trip to Orlando, and our villa.
Although we enjoy cruising, and hate leaving the ship, we are always delighted to be going to our beautiful home in Orlando, with its space, luxury and huge pool. It is only after managing with the whole family in one limited space – delightful though it is – that we realise how much we appreciate having room to spread out, and the children look forward to their own bedrooms, bathrooms and TV.
OV Ref: 576
July 28th, 2005
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