Airport to Cruise Port

SO CLOSE, Yet So Far.  May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor.

Got to the airport on time, at least, reasonably so – check.  Survived the plane ride with the littles – check. Everyone alive and present and ready for vacation – double check.  Don’t quit mama, you’re almost there, one final step then mission accomplished: getting everyone and everything TO the ship on time.  Small, minor detail, I know.

There are three main ways to get to your ship once your plane has landed: a shuttle through your cruise line, an independent shuttle service, or taking a taxi/Uber/Lyft ride.  Your budget and distance from airport to cruise port are the two major factors to consider when deciding which option is best for you and your family.

Your cruise line

Every major cruise line offers airport transfers at an additional flat fee per person.  This is the most expensive option but offers the added comfort of dependability through your cruise line, and since it’s easily accessible through your online reservation, it’s also the most convenient option.  Check your specific cruise line and itinerary for exact pricing, departures, and pick-up logistics. Most cruise lines list airport transfers with the rest of the excursions, so to book a shuttle look under the excursions for your departure port.  

Other shuttle service

In addition to shuttle services through your cruise line, there are also services available through independent shuttle companies at every major airport.  Alternative companies can be a good in-between option if you still want the convenience of a shuttle but don’t want to pay your cruise line’s prices; oftentimes outside shuttle services cost about half of what you’d pay through your cruise line.  Finding a reliable shuttle company does take more time and research, as services and prices depend on the airport you are flying in and out of. If you find a company and the price is right, be sure to look for reviews on Tripadvisor or another online resource to make sure the company has a history of dependability and punctuality.  Your cruise line will offer no exceptions or compensation if you arrive to the cruise terminal too late.

Taxi/Uber/Lyft

Be careful with any type of transportation that charges per mile or per minute.  If considering this option, the first thing you should do is figure out the distance between the airport and cruise terminal.  Taking a taxi/Uber/Lyft (TUL) to and from can be a good option if the airport is a close distance to the cruise terminal. Otherwise, you could end up paying more for the TUL ride than for the flat fee a shuttle company would charge.  

For example, Miami International Airport is a 15-20 minute ride to the cruise terminal (about a $35 TUL ride), while Orlando International Airport is an hour away from the Port Canaveral cruise terminal (about a $120 TUL ride) – big difference between the two.  If you want to get a rough idea of how much a TUL ride will be from airport to cruise terminal (and back), use a website like TaxiFareFinder (click here) to calculate your costs. This site lets you select your locations to get an estimated ride cost, while also giving you a range of prices depending on the severity of traffic.

As a side note consideration, beware that if you’re traveling with the crew in tow, a smaller TUL might not have the room to fit all of your luggage, strollers, car seats, etc.  You definitely don’t want to risk having to leave behind the lifeline bag of goldfish crackers and applesauce pouches. What will your kids eat for meals otherwise?!

All about the distance

If Google Maps (click here) shows the airport is more than 25 miles, 30 miles MAX, away from your cruise terminal, consider arranging a shuttle ride instead.  It’ll be so much less stress. The longer you’re traveling in a TUL, especially in a city and on interstates and highways, your chances increase of hitting traffic or navigating around road construction or car accidents, increasing the length of your ride.  On a TUL, a longer ride means a more expensive ride, whereas on a shuttle, you pay a flat fee no matter what other junk you run in to on the way. However, one upside to a TUL is that unlike a shuttle, you pay per car instead of per person. Do the math to compare the cost of a shuttle per person to the breakdown cost of a TUL ride per person.  A TUL could end up working in your favor but, as stated before, the shorter the distance the better.

Let me give you an example of how all of this played out in real life: I recently went on a cruise and since our ship was leaving in and out of Port Canaveral, Florida, we flew in and out of Orlando International Airport.  The airport was about 55 miles/50 minutes away from the cruise terminal. Roundtrip airport transfers through our cruise would cost $70/person, and a roundtrip TUL ride would cost about $210 total, or $105/person. Nope and NOPE.  With a little research I found an independent shuttle company with 5 stars on Tripadvisor and excellent reviews that cost only $40/person roundtrip. Bingo, at least a $60 savings! The even better part was that we had such a positive experience with this company and their customer service lived up to their reviews (shoutout to Cortrans Shuttle Service, holler holler!  (click here)

Early, early, EARLY

Don’t get the cruise terminal on time – get there EARLY.  And not just a normal early, I’m talking about early according to parenting time.  Figure out whatever time you are supposed to be there, then plan on getting there 1-2 hours beforehand.  Do the calculations and set a target time. Whatever time you *think* you need to leave to make it there by your target time…add on at least an extra hour for miscellaneous: coffee, diaper changes, meltdowns, 50 trips to the potty, herding the sheep out of the bright and shiny souvenir shops, snacks, more coffee.  You know how it goes. Things just always take longer.

No matter which option you choose, leave yourself PLENTY of time to get to the cruise terminal in advance.  No one wants to start a trip with the stress of cutting it too close. If scheduling shuttle rides in advance, schedule the earliest shuttle that will work with your flight arrival.  If you’re going to have to kill time with the kiddos, you might as well kill it closer to or AT the cruise terminal. Then…maybe then…you can sigh a sigh of relief.

Don’t forget to factor gratuities for the shuttle or TUL driver into your budget.  Standard etiquette is to tip 10-15% of the total fare, but even a couple of dollars is better than nothing.