Port Authority Office
200 George King Boulevard
Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920
Phone: (321) 783-7831
Situated along the Space Coast – as might be expected given its name – Port Canaveral promotes itself as the world’s second busiest port (behind Miami), with six modern cruise terminals and at least two more on the horizon. A breeze to access from Orlando and Interstate 95, consumer-friendly Port Canaveral also beckons with The Cove, a recreational area for dining, shopping, charter boats and more. Offshore gaming is available from The Cove aboard SunCruz Casino’s SunCruz XII (and, from Cruise Terminal 2, aboard Sterling Casino Lines’ Ambassador II).
Assorted restaurants cater to pre- and post-cruise (or wish-we-were-cruising) appetites, providing fare from finger foods to full-course fresh seafood dinners. How fresh? From some vantage points, port patrons can watch the day’s catch moving directly from fishing boat decks to restaurant kitchens. The Cove’s recreation facilities include three marinas for fishing excursions and plans are in the works for a $65-million recreational boating marina, and for a midsized hotel.
As for big ship cruising, Port Canaveral has gone gangbusters from obscure beginnings as a small commercial fishing inlet to a modest start as a cruising outpost in the early ’80s with debut of the now defunct Premier Cruise Line’s StarShip Royale. Naysayers from then aren’t doubting Port Canaveral’s clout now. During fiscal year 2003, 2.05 million passengers clicked through airy modern terminals with stepped up security mechanisms installed for sailing on lines like Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line and others. Port Canaveral also hosts Disney Cruise Lines -- a natural, given proximity to Orlando’s Walt Disney World less than an hour away.
Port officials envision doubling the overall passenger count within a few years, thanks to several selling points. Speedier ships now can easily reach the Caribbean for varied week-long itineraries, backed by Orlando International, Daytona International and Orlando-Sanford airports. For the east coast drive market, Port Canaveral is much closer than ports further south. For Orlando’s theme-park crowds, Port Canaveral makes it easy to combine land-based fun with an adventure at sea.
Not incidentally, Port Canaveral (officially opening in November, 1953) has become a driving force in the Brevard County economy, pumping in an estimated annual $465 million, with projections even rosier since cruise ship passengers often stick around the Space Coast to take in more attractions.
Until the mid-‘80s, Port Canaveral was little more than a place for a handful of charter fishing vessels and some U.S. Navy ships attached to the Air Force base providing support to nearby Kennedy Space Center. Then, amid raised eyebrows, came start-up Premier doing cruises to the Bahamas, which caught cruise industry attention. By 1993, Carnival Cruise Lines, sniffing out Port Canaveral profitability, launched three- and four-day Bahamian cruises to Freeport and Nassau aboard Carnival Fantasy. Disney got in on Canaveral action by building and homeporting its two kid-friendly ships there. Bigger, faster ships offset logistical barriers to itineraries beyond the Bahamas, and the rest established Port Canaveral as a major cruise player, with Carnival, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and NCL sailing on regular schedules. NCL also made history using Port Canaveral as a port of call from a New York departure.
On Port Canaveral’s south side, Terminals 2, 3 and 4 were the first built specifically for cruise ships. Completed in 1991, Terminal 5 became Port Canaveral’s first "mega" cruise terminal for up to 3,000 passengers. The two-story triangular terminal’s 30-foot high atrium spills over with tropical vegetation, including full-size living trees and three cascading waterfalls. Embarking passengers travel up and through the glass-enclosed second-floor lounge, with water views in every direction. Disembarking passengers, luggage and ship’s provisions move through downstairs where U.S. Customs operates for baggage processing. Completed in 1996, Cruise Terminal 9 / 10 was Port Canaveral’s second ultra-modern terminal built to handle more than 3,500 passengers. Next to Cruise Terminal 8, Cruise Terminal 9 / 10 accommodates two medium ships or one ship up to 130,000 gross registered tons. A three-tiered passenger loading tower includes an elevator and four escalators and a hydraulic gangway system for cruise ships of any height.
Port Canaveral, on Central Florida’s East Coast, is accessed via Interstate 95 from north or south, and the Beeline Expressway (S.R. 528) toll road from Orlando. Terminals 5, 8, and 9 / 10 are on port’s north side, reached via S.R. 401. Terminals 2, 3 and 4 are on the south side near the Port’s oceanfront campground, Jetty Park.
From Orlando International Airport (MCO), take the North Exit (staying right) to S.R. 528 (Beeline Expressway) East, and proceed to Port Canaveral.
To access Northside Cruise Terminals: From I-95, take exit 205 East to Hwy. 528 East. Proceed 11.5 miles on Hwy. 528 East and exit to “A” cruise terminals onto SR 401 North. Proceed one mile on SR 401 North and exit right. To the left is Cruise Terminal 5 (Carnival Fantasy, Holland America’s Zaandam, and NCL’s Norwegian Dawn). Continue along Chuck Rowland Drive and go left. First to the left is Cruise Terminal 8 (Disney Magic and Disney Wonder). Second left is Cruise Terminal 9 / 10 (Royal Caribbean and Carnival). Ship deployments are subject to change.
To access Southside Cruise Terminals / Port Authority Offices / Jetty Park: From I-95, take exit 205 East to Hwy. 528 East. Drive 12 miles on Hwy. 528 East and exit right to “B” cruise terminals. After exit, turn left under bridge onto George King Boulevard. Go one mile and follow signs to terminal.
From Orlando on Hwy. 528 East, after crossing over I-95, go 12 miles on Hwy. 528 East and exit right to “B” cruise terminals. After exit, turn left under bridge onto George King Boulevard. Proceed one mile and follow signs to correct cruise terminal. First on left is Terminal 2 (Sterling Casino’s Ambassador II); next are Terminals 3 and 4.
From Orlando Sanford Airport (SFB), northwest of Port Canaveral, two routes are: 1) Exit airport north to S.R. 46. Go east (25 miles) to I-95, and head south (18 miles) to Beeline Expressway’s (S.R. 528) east exit and go east to port. Or 2) Exit airport south to Toll Road 417. Go south (23 miles) to Beeline Expressway’s (S.R. 528) east exit. Go east (37 miles) to the port.
From Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB), take I-95 south to Route 528 East (Beeline Expressway).
For pre- and post-cruise adventure, here’s a sampling of hotel, dining and attraction options near Port Canaveral:
Frankie’s Wings & Things
Known for wings and affordable rock shrimp, some patrons prefer the atmosphere at this Frankie’s Wings & Things at Port Canaveral over other popular locations. Open after 5 p.m. on weekdays, and after noon on weekends. 555 Glen Cheek Drive, Cape Canaveral. (321) 799-4349
Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar
As the closest restaurant to the ocean within Port Canaveral, Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar (an hour from Orlando) nets raves for hearty breakfasts, fresh gems from the sea and excellent entrees without fins. Around 5 p.m., patrons can savor fresh-grilled delights like yellow fin tuna sandwiches while watching the day’s catch being off-loaded. 505 Glen Cheek Drive, Cape Canaveral. (321) 868-2226
Long Doggers Radically Relaxed Grill & Brew
A 30-minute drive or so from Port Canaveral, Long Doggers Radically Relaxed Grill & Brew touts Wings, Double Wings (twice the amount, not twice the price), Wings & Hoops (homestyle onion rings), Clam Chowda’ (white, not red), L.D.’s Killer Chili, and a pack of dogs – Epic Chili Dog, Kook Kraut Dog, Warpy Cheese Dog, Johnny O’ Dog, Dog Day Platter, and more. Beachside at 890 A1A, Indialantic. (321) 725-1115. (A mainland Long Doggers, about 25 minutes from Port Canaveral, is at 2870 Post Road, Melbourne. (321) 751-4448
Tucked away on an access roadway near Canaveral Port Authority headquarters is Portside Galley, where booths during breakfast and lunch are likely to be filled with both port workers and local heavy-hitters from the mayor onward. Numerous popular daily specials or the fish sandwich are good bets. 101 George King Boulevard, Suite 4. Cape Canaveral, (321) 868-0018
Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar
At the Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar at Port Canaveral, it’s not uncommon to spot dolphin navigating through canals or cruise ships sailing in and out of homeport. Patrons can dive into oysters or clams on the half shell, peel-and-eat shrimp, gumbo and more, washing it down with pitchers of beer or favorite cocktails. Rusty’s at the Port offers the same menu as Rusty’s of Cocoa Beach, including weekday lunch buffets, a children’s menu, and an "ask server for crayons" policy. 628 Glen Cheek Drive, Cape Canaveral. (321) 783-2033
Smoke House Foods, Inc.
The menu may be limited, but barbecue lovers revel in some of the area’s smoky best at this non-waterfront place along Port Canaveral’s restaurant row. Tables are embellished with assorted hot sauces, and smoked meats and seafood are also for available nationwide shipment. Salads can be ordered covered with smoked marlin or mackerel, and the Fish Taco is stuffed with the same. Other favorites are Brunswick stew, barbecue pork sandwiches and the smoked salmon dip. 525 Glen Cheek Drive, Cape Canaveral. (321) 784-9300
American Police Hall of Fame & Museum
At the nation’s first museum and memorial dedicated to law enforcement officers, nearly 6,000 losing their lives in the line of duty are honored. Officer names, ranks, cities and states are engraved on more than 400 tons of Italian marble. Unfortunately, names are added weekly, since on average a police officer is slain every 57 hours within the U.S. A chapel, open every day, is used for celebration of life such as weddings. 6350 Horizon Drive, Titusville. (321) 264-0911
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex near Titusville includes the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame at the entrance and an Astronaut Encounter where visitors can question astronauts in person. The Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory is a great place to peer into space. KSC Visitor Complex programs include Camp Kennedy Space Center, overnight adventures, field trips, and more. (321) 269-6100
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
More than a thousand species, from birds to mammals, reptiles, amphibians and marine life, seek refuge within Merritt Island’s 140,000 protective acres just north of Kennedy Space Center. Designated a buffer zone for nearby NASA in the late 1950s, this windswept barrier island is ringed with dunes and provides sanctuary for sea turtles laying eggs, along with snowy egrets, West Indian manatees, peregrine falcons, and eastern indigo snakes. (321) 861-0667
For more on where to stay, what to see, where to dine, and what to do, visit:
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