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Port Canaveral (Orlando) (Photo:John Wollwerth/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Port Canaveral (Orlando)

Port Canaveral, in the center of Florida's east coast, is not only the surfing capital of the Atlantic. It is also home to rocket and shuttle launches, the largest sea turtle nesting area in the country, the largest scallop fishery on the planet and a national refuge with more endangered species than any other.

About Port Canaveral (Orlando)


Walt Disney World and Universal Studios are only one hour away from Port Canaveral


Unless you book a shore excursion, transportation to downtown Orlando can get pricey

Bottom Line

With the parks, Kennedy Space Center and beaches nearby, Port Canaveral is ideal for families

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Even with all of these superlatives, most cruise passengers associate Port Canaveral with Orlando, just 45 miles west -- and with Walt Disney World, Universal theme parks and SeaWorld so close, it would be difficult to find a cruise port anywhere that offers access to more theme parks and family-friendly tourist attractions. But, for those who've already had (or care to pass up) the Orlando experience, Port Canaveral is definitely worth a pre- or post-cruise visit.

The port bills itself as Orlando's closest beach with dolphins, manatees, loggerhead turtles and miles of pristine sand -- minus the crowds that are typical of South Florida. A mile and a half of bike paths run throughout Port Canaveral, as well as three parks, including Jetty Park where camping and fishing opportunities abound. The bustling Cove at Port Canaveral features a variety of restaurants and shops.

But, with Port Canaveral smack in the middle of what's known as Florida's 72-mile Space Coast, the premier attraction is the Kennedy Space Center, where guests can meet and talk to actual astronauts. The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, six miles from the visitors' center, houses the world's largest collection of astronaut memorabilia, as well as displays, exhibits and tributes to the heroes of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.

Port Canaveral is primarily a turnaround port, so for the most part, travelers pass through the area on the way to boarding their cruises. Ships based in Port Canaveral sail itineraries that range in length from three to seven days. Considering its proximity to Orlando, it's no surprise that Disney Cruise Line's fleet homeports there, but Carnival and Royal Caribbean vessels also call Port Canaveral home. It's mostly a turnaround port, but some lines (such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Seabourn) make regular port calls there throughout the year.

Where You're Docked

Port Canaveral Cruise Port Address:
9005 Charles M Rowland Drive, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920

Cruise ships dock at Port Canaveral, about 54 miles from the Orlando International Airport, less than an hour's drive. There are three terminals: Disney docks at its dedicated facility (terminal 8); other ships dock at either terminal five or terminal 10.

Good to Know

If you are lucky, you might be in town for a rocket launch. However, it's hard to plan ahead, due to the frequency of delays because of weather and technical problems. Check with hotels or the Kennedy Space Center for a schedule of space launches.

If you're heading to Orlando remember the summer and school holiday periods, in general, are the busiest seasons. The parks are naturally more crowded then, and lines for rides are longer -- an hour or more in some cases -- which can be frustrating, particularly on a first visit when you want to "see it all."

Not all taxis in Orlando are metered. Before getting into an unmetered taxi, settle on a fare with the driver. If you request a taxi through your hotel, note that sometimes they use nonmetered, limo-service cars that may be more expensive. Clarify that you want to get a taxi, not a limo car.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the U.S. dollar. Credit cards are accepted everywhere, and ATM's are available in major hotels and at tourist attractions. On the south side of the port on George King Boulevard is a Wachovia Bank with an ATM. In Orlando, ATM's are available at major hotels and and at all the theme parks.


English is the primary language spoken in Port Canaveral, but you're also very likely to encounter some Spanish.


A T-shirt from the massive Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach -- open 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- is a must. Other unique options include freeze-dried ice cream and other space food from the Kennedy Space Center gift shop.

Best Cocktail

Any drink that includes orange juice (mimosas and screwdrivers are popular choices) is a sure winner, as Central Florida has numerous orange groves for an abundance of fresh fruit and juice. Or, perhaps, try a beverage that's a bit more exotic like a "Burnt Orange" (brulee orange muddled with agave nectar, Don Julio Tequila, Anejo Tequila, Grand Marnier, orange juice and flaming orange). It's one of the signature cocktails ($13) at Todd English's bluezoo, a trendy restaurant and bar at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.