OpinionTop 15 Cruise Ports for the Start of a Cruise

Top 15 Cruise Ports for the Start of a Cruise

We asked which cruise port was the most popular homeport for our readers. These were the top 15 results.

Do you have a favorite departure port for your cruise getaways?  Most do, and they are not afraid to say exactly why.

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best cruise ports for starting a cruise
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

We recently asked our readers, “What’s your favorite port to take a cruise out of?”.    The departure port itself is often the starting point for cruisers when looking for deals online.   Even if searching by destination, most regular cruise travelers prefer a certain port for that day one sailaway and for a variety of reasons we will mention below.

We wanted to know which cruise ports were favored, and we received almost 500 comments on our Facebook post asking this question.

The cruise ports listed below are a result of those comments and responses.  I should note that some respondents stated they didn’t care where a cruise started, as long as they were going on a cruise it was enough for them.

Some factors that played a role in the most commonly mentioned embarkation ports included the following:

  • Proximity to traveler’s residences: Sometimes it all comes down to the convenience of how easy it is to get to the port.  After all, the closer a cruise port the less you have to spend on extra travel expenses.  For many readers, just being able to have a short drive to the port played a big role in choosing their favorite port.
  • Nearby airports with easy transportation: If you don’t live near a cruise port the next best thing is a convenient airport
  • Proximity to desirable ports of call: For those who lived further away from popular cruise ports, being able to access great ports of call and itineraries played a greater factor in their decision.
  • Port cities with iconic landmarks and destinations: Some cruise ports are in cities that are themselves popular destinations. Sailing out of iconic areas with stunning views led many to select their favorite departure ports.

Listed from 15 to 1, here were the top picks for favorite embarkation ports.

Let us know your favorite cruise port for sailaway in the comments below this article.

15. Long Beach

long beach california cruise terminal

Located right next to the iconic Queen Mary, the Long Beach cruise terminal in California is the starting point for cruises to the Mexican Riviera, California, and longer sailings across the Pacific.  With over 600,000 cruise travelers sailing from Long Beach every year, the cruise port is about 7 miles south of World Cruise Center in San Pedro, California.  Being so close to LA, makes the Long Beach cruise port a convenient starting point for local residents.


14. Barcelona

Barcelona cruise terminal
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

The Barcelona cruise port in Catalonia, Spain is the departure point for over 800 cruises every year.  With dozens of cruise lines sailing out of the port with itineraries to the Mediterranean, there are several cruise terminals within walking distance of Las Ramblas and other iconic landmarks around Barcelona.  The port city is not only a destination itself but a great launching point for cruises all over the Mediterranean Sea.


13. Malta

The Valletta Cruise Port offers scenic cruises from the island country of Malta.  Many of the cruise ship berths are only a short walk to the city center and offer wonderful views of the historic Quay Wall.  Over half a million cruise travelers pass through this port every year.  Cruise lines like MSC Cruises, Oceania, Silversea Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises will use this port for embarkation.  Our readers loved both the historic value of this location and the surrounding ports of call.


12. Southampton

Cruise ship Iona in Southampton cruise port
Photo 230936523 | Cruise © Peter Titmuss | Dreamstime.com

As the UK’s largest cruise port, Port Southampton sees over 2 million cruise travelers pass through ever year.  It is about 80 miles from London, England and is an easy starting point for a cruise for many in the region sailing with cruise lines like Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and others.


11. Baltimore

Baltimore cruise port
Photo 64771403 | Baltimore Cruise © Chengusf | Dreamstime.com

Port Baltimore is in a great location as far as giving access to large populations in the Eastern United States.  Only 40 miles from Washington D.C. and a little over 100 miles from Philadelphia, some cruisers near these cities love the short drive for the start of a nice cruise vacation.  Only a few cruise lines offer sailings out of the port, including American Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean.


10. Tampa

port tampa bay with ships in port

When considering cruise ports in Florida, don’t forget about Tampa Bay Cruise Port.   The port is 15 miles from the airport and very close to the downtown area for those arriving a few days early to enjoy the city.   You won’t find any mega ships here, but over 1 million passengers on over 400 cruises depart from this port every year.


9. Bayonne, NJ

nyc cruise port cape liberty

The Cape Liberty cruise port in Bayonne New Jersey is just across the Hudson from the Manhattan cruise port in NYC mentioned below on the list.    Being in such a populated area it’s no surprise that this is a favorite launching point for cruises out of the Big Apple.   Over 90 cruises a year sail out of Bayonne, with mostly Royal Caribbean cruise ships, followed by Carnival Cruises, Celebrity and Norwegian.


8. Sydney

Cruise travelers who sail out of Sydney Australia love this port, calling it the “best harbour in the world”, in the words of some of our followers.  The scenic destination of the Sydney Cruise Port is also the busiest Australian homeport.  With views like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, cruisers can start off their voyage with an epic destination.  Itineraries from Sydney include New Zealand, Tahiti, and other parts of the South Pacific.  You can even take a “cruise to nowhere” out of this beautiful cruise port.


7. NYC – Manhattan

NYC skyline and cruise ships in port
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

We already have Cape Liberty on our list, but the Manhattan cruise terminal was mentioned a few more times as the favorite cruise port for taking a cruise.  There’s just something about sailing by the Statue of Liberty on a cruise ship that starts your vacation at sea with a bang.  A lot of Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Line ships will sail out of this Manhattan cruise port.  Many hotels around the area make it easy to see the iconic sites of New York City before your cruise ever begins.  Just beware that when you pay for parking, it is the most expensive cruise port for parking in the U.S.


6.  New Orleans

Port NOLA was mentioned over and over again as a beloved port for cruises.   Imagine starting your ocean cruise by sailing down the Mississippi River and enjoying the sights along the riverbank for your sailaway.  Besides some river cruise companies like American Cruise Lines, Viking River Cruises, and American Queen Voyages, some of the ocean cruise lines that sail out of the cruise port in New Orleans include Carnival, Disney and Norwegian, with Carnival Cruise Lines offering more cruises that any other line (About 130 every year).


5. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Cruise ships in San Juan PR
Photo 189576206 | Cruise © Nancy Pauwels | Dreamstime.com

Now we are into the top 5 mentions, and San Juan, Puerto Rico was no surprise.  The location of this Caribbean cruise port allows for 7-day cruises to include southern Caribbean ports of call at places like St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and the ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.   Royal Caribbean offers the most cruises out of San Juan, next to Virgin Voyages, Norwegian Cruise Line, Viking Ocean, Regent Seven Seas, and a few others.  The historic downtown of San Juan is a must-see as well, so cruisers love to arrive early and spend a few days here before the cruise.


4. Fort Lauderdale

port everglades parking guide

Port Everglades is one of the major cruise ports in Florida and ranks as the 3rd largest cruise port in the world.  Its popularity on our list is due to both convenience to the local airport and to local residents of southern Florida.   Readers also mentioned that there are many things to do and see in the area before sailing out of Fort Lauderdale.


3. Galveston

Allure of the Seas cruise ship in port at Galveston Texas showing city in background
Galveston cruise port. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)

Port of Galveston has been growing year by year and attracting newer and bigger cruise ships, including Harmony of the Seas, Norwegian Prima, and Carnival Jubilee.   Texans love the convenience of the nearby cruise port, even though its location in the Gulf of Mexico means an extra sea day or two in order to arrive at the more popular ports of call in the Caribbean and Bahamas.   Galveston Cruise Port is conveniently located near major cities such as Houston, Austin, and Dallas, making it an easy option for air travelers from all over the country as well.


2. Miami

For many first-time cruisers, PortMiami in Florida was the port that started it all.   The bustling port has a vibrant city life in its backyard and offers many nearby hotels for those pre-cruise vacation days and excursions.    Over 4 million cruise passengers pass through this port every year, making it currently the second busiest cruise port in the world.   The city has more cruise line corporate headquarters than any other city, giving more credence to its nickname as the “Cruise Capital of the World”.  The Miami Port Tunnel which was added in 2014 makes the port even more accessible for the over 6 million residents of the Miami area.


1. Port Canaveral

Number one and two on this list were actually very close, and almost a statistical tie.   But Port Canaveral, also the now busiest cruise port in the world, was the leader of the pack.  Respondents enjoyed the proximity of the port to where the lived, the smooth embarkation process in the terminals, and the local attractions in the area, including the Kennedy Space Center.  Located further north of Miami, the port is more accessible to the southern states in the US that live along the eastcoast.  The distance of the Orlando airport to the cruise port was the one drawback to its location, but many shuttle services provide easy transportation between the two.


Notable mentions

The following were cruise ports that didn’t quite make the list but were still mentioned several times by our readers:

Los Angeles (San Pedro), Genoa, Rome, Seattle, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Jacksonville, Norfolk, San Francisco, Venice.

What is your favorite departure cruise port?  Did it make the list?

Keep in mind that this list is only sorted by the popularity of a port.  As the math would suggest, if more cruisers sail out of a certain port it will have more exposure and awareness, even if another port offers a better experience.

Read more:  Cruise debates: 7 biggest things that always divide cruisers

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
OpinionTop 15 Cruise Ports for the Start of a Cruise


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