In the 1950's, Cunard advertised that "Getting there is half the fun!", but we're pretty sure they were talking about your cruise (well, transatlantic crossing), not about getting to and from the port. Dining, entertainment, and relaxation are all just steps away as you wake up in new and exciting destinations without the common woes of international travel, but you do however have to figure out how to get to and from the cruise port at the beginning and end of your cruise though, so let's check out how to make this journey without breaking the bank.
We're going to go over different options for getting to and from the port, but for the sake of brevity, we'll talk about getting to the port on embarkation day, as any of the options apply similarly, if not identically, when leaving the port at the end of your cruise.
Cruise Line Transfers
If you're planning on going directly to the port from the airport, or, if you're staying at a hotel that was arranged by your cruise line, then the cruise line generally has transfers available for purchase. The nice thing about these transfers is that they often take care of your baggage for you (often you check your bags at the airport and see them next in your stateroom) and, like shore excursions, you have a certain level of recourse should you run into any issues with your jounrey. Cruise lines may be able to arrange car services and such, but for as it's a more common option, we're focusing on bus/motor coach transfers.
The downside of these transfers is that they aren't "on demand", so you may have to wait a bit for the next bus, and, if you're traveling with more than two people in your party, the price can be a bit high.
For example, the prices below demonstrate the pricing for several popular routes, as provided by Royal Caribbean International. One note, is that if you enjoy a post-cruise shore excursion, they usually include drop off at your airport - so a $60/pp airboat tour after your cruise becomes a better value if you would have spent $30/pp just to get to the airport.
|Miami Intl Airport||Ft Lauderdale Intl Airport|
|Port of Miami||$18.00/person/one way||$30.00/person/one way|
|Port Everglades (Ft Lauderdale)||$30.00/person/one way||$16.75/person/one way|
Perhaps the most common method of making this journey is with by taking a cab, as no matter where in the world you go, the process is largely the same, and little planning is required. My personal experience with cabs in South Florida hasn't been great. I've found that the cars tend to be less clean, the drivers less knowledgeable, and the rates much higher than cabs in other major US cities. I'm sure there are exceptions (though pricing is standardized in South Florida), but again, I'm just speaking of my experience. That in mind, there is something to be said for the simplicity of a cab, and you'll have no trouble finding a cab in the more touristy parts of South Florida.
Unlike transfers from your cruise line (and most other bus transfers), you don't pay per person for cabs in most of the US, so if you are a group of four (or more and you get a van cab), the value proposition does go up. Below are the rates as provided by taxifinder.com, FLL and MIA websites, etc. Some rates are fixed,others are not, so these are estimates only.
|Miami Intl Airport||Ft Lauderdale Intl Airport||Embassy Suites Ft Lauderdale||South Beach|
|Port of Miami||$27.00||$83.00||$81.00||$31.00|
|Port Everglades (Ft Lauderdale)||$75.00||$15.00||$6.00||$89.00|
|Miami Intl Airport||----||----||$84.00||$35.00|
|Ft Lauderdale Intl Airport||----||----||$15.00||$87.00|
If you're staying at a hotel the night before your cruise, you'll find that many hotels advertise shuttles to and from the airport and cruise ports, some even allowing you to leave your car parked at the hotel to avoid costly port parking (if you drove down for your cruise).
I didn't create a chart for these options, because to be honest, the pricing is all over the place. For some people, there may be some great options here, but I mostly want you to know what to look our for, as not all of these offers are what they seem. For one, hotels frequently advertise these shuttles as free or included, but digging deeper, they often simply have a different room rate if you want to take advantage of these services (similar to how a room that includes "free" breakfast may cost $35/night more than one which doesn't). Another variable here are the shuttle schedules. Is there only one shuttle scheduled per day? Does that shuttle line up with your cruise/flight schedules? Some hotels may advertise "regular shuttle service", but how frequently? Standing outside the hotel or port with all of your bags for 45 minutes waiting for a bus will never be the highlight of your trip - so find out before booking if this will work out in your favor.
I'm in no way knocking these hotel offerings, only making sure that you find out the full story before assuming that "included" means free, or learning that "regularly scheduled" means every other hour.
Update: We made this video explaining some of the things you shoudl look out for especially when looking at parking at your hotel during your cruise, but it can apply to shuttles as well.
Uber or Lyft (Billy's Pick)
You've likely at least heard of Uber or Lyft. They're ride sharing services, which basically means you use a very simple smartphone app to request a ride, and your driver uses his/her personal vehicle. There has been much controversy around these services, but know that unlike some markets, these service are regulated in South Florida. The local governments have worked with the companies to ensure vehicle safety inspections, driver background checks, etc are all up to snuff. Personally, I prefer these services to cabs in most markets. I find requesting a ride is quick and easy, because of the app, you know that the driver has GPS (and won't easily get lost), your route is monitored so that you're given a ride, and not taken for one, and the cars are generally very clean and comfortable.
The two companies are very similar, and their pricing is very similar as well, as such, I'll give pricing estimates for Uber, as they won my virtual coin toss. Know that both services provide different options in terms of vehicles. UberX (standard sedans, such as Honda Accords), Uber XL (vans and other high-capacity vehicles), Lux and Lux SUV (luxury cars and SUVs), etc. Different markets have variations, but the app explains each one, and shows you the estimated rates for each. I'll provide estimates for UberX, which would generally be fine for two or three passengers, and UberXL (vans/large SUVs), in case the amount of luggage or size of your party requires more space. Overall, if you can use UberX, you'll save a ton of money on longer trips compared to a cab - though if you need a larger vehicle, the savings isn't as profound, and you may even consider two UberX vehicles instead of one UberXL.
If you haven't used these services before, don't worry, they make it really easy. You download the app, sign up, put in your payment info, and when you're ready to get picked up you just press a button, see your estimate, and go. One nice option with Lyft I'll mention however, is that they allow you to prescedule rides in the app - so if you know you'll need a ride from your hotel at 10:00am tomorrow, you can set it up in advanced and have one less thing to worry about. If you sign up for Uber now by going to this link you will get your first ride for free, up to $20. You can do the same for Lyft and get up to $15 off your first ride by going to www.lyft.com/id/william3509. Go ahead and sign up, then you at least have the option ready to go in the event you end up using their service in the future - you'll also help support the site.
|*(UberX/UberXL)*||Miami Intl Airport||Ft Lauderdale Intl Airport||Embassy Suites Ft Lauderdale||South Beach|
|Port of Miami||$22/$44||$32/$68.50||$36/$78||$12.50/$23|
|Port Everglades (Ft Lauderdale)||$37.50/83||$8.50/$18||$5.50/$8||$36/$80.50|
|Miami Intl Airport||----||----||$38.50/$85||$21/$45|
|Ft Lauderdale Intl Airport||----||----||$13.50/$22.50||$37/$76.50|
There is no clear winner for everyone, but especially for longer trips, it's hard for me to beat the price and flexibility of Uber and Lyft. That in mind, if you're looking to do a post-cruise/disembarkation shore excursion, there may be some value (in price and convenience) in working out transfers with your cruise line. Many hotels offer shuttles, but it's important to know the details. In addition to all of this, if spending some time in the South Florida area before or after your cruise is part of the plan, be sure to keep in mind the information about cabs and Uber/Lyft so that you can enjoy your stay and get out to see what South Florida has to offer. Oh, and if you se this as just another thing to have to worry about and plan, this is one of the reasons we really recommend using a good travel agent.
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