Florida cruises. It brings to mind tropical breezes, sunny days, the sound of steel drums and bright colors. Long lazy days, gorgeous sunsets, moonlit nights and fantastic food. Yes, Florida cruises can be wonderful indeed.
But don't stop with just thinking of Caribbean cruises on the major cruise lines! Florida cruises come in many shapes and forms, including sunset cruises, dinner cruises, day cruises and the like.
Yes, there is more to Florida cruises and cruising than meets the eye! Let's take a look at what's available.
Florida Cruises to the Caribbean
Miami and Port Everglades in Florida are the jumping off point for the vast majority of Caribbean cruises. Pretty much all the popular cruise lines (including Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, etc.) have a presence in one or both ports.
And you know what? They all offer tours of the area either before or after the cruise itself! One popular trip is a tour of the Florida Everglades in an airboat ride! So not only can you take a wonderful cruise to the Caribbean, but you can see some of Florida on your vacation!
Now I'm lucky when it comes to Florida cruises. Since I live here in Florida, all I have to do is drive to the port and get on the ship. Still, I know what it's like to fly to your cruise port, then get on your cruise.
But here's a trick that I use when I cruise -- I get to the port for check-in a little before noon. Yes, the cruise ships usually say to arrive later, but when the ships allow early embarking, I take advantage of it! I may not be able to get into my room, but I can explore the ship and have myself a nice snack in one of the dining rooms.
There is a city in Florida that is a popular cruise destination itself -- Key West. It's a fun stop, with plenty to see and do. And despite its sometimes interesting reputation, Key West can be a family-friendly vacation destination.
Now here's a resource for you: Caribbean Cruises Guide, where you can search and prepare for your next cruise. Check them out and if you have questions about the ships, the islands, insurance, etc. they'll get you the answer. Oh, and check out their virtual tours and photo gallery, while you are there!
Florida Cruises to the Bahamas
There are quite a few day cruises to the Bahamas from West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. You'll go over to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, just 40 miles or so offshore. You can spend some time shopping, taking tours or visiting casinos (or maybe a little of each). It makes for a full day at any rate.
Here's the downside of these cruises -- the ships are not the big cruise ships. While they are sea-worthy, don't expect elegant surroundings. And avoid buying anything on the boat that you don't have to, since it's fairly expensive if you do.
The upside is that you get to spend the day in the Bahamas! I've gone on a glass-bottom boat tour in Freeport that was just out of this world. Shopping can be fun, especially if you enjoy the thrill of the hunt and haggling a bit over the price.
The Disney Cruise Line goes to the Bahamas, and even has their own island there!
Florida Cruises to Nowhere?!?These cruises to nowhere are the infamous gambling cruises. You'll take a ship out beyond the US territorial waters and the gambling begins. Do not expect comfort on these ships -- their focus is on the slot machines and card tables, not on fine dining and service. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as you might not easily be able to find a place to sit down.
That being said, they can be fun. Casinos are illegal in Florida, except for on Indian reservations, so this is as close to one as you will find on your Florida vacation. Just don't gamble any more money than you can afford to lose. Think about it -- the cruises would be out of business if they paid out more than they took in! Still, it seems every cruise sends a few people home with more money in their pockets than when they boarded the boat.
Just about any seaside city of decent size probably has a gambling cruise, especially on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The Florida Gulf Coast is a little more problematic, if for no other reason than the Gulf of Mexico is rather shallow -- but they can be found, especially in the Tampa area.
Florida Sunset Cruises
These are perhaps the nicest of the Florida cruises. Anywhere there is water, a cruise is waiting to happen! Rivers, oceans, lakes -- there are all kinds of possibilities!
Sunset cruises tend also to be the least expensive of the cruise offerings. They also are likely the best for those who are prone to seasickness (like I am). Generally, the cruises are held in calm waters.
Sunsets in Florida can be awe-inspiring. Of course, Key West (and the Florida Keys in general) is famous for its glorious endings of the day. But really, anywhere in Florida is excellent! I especially like sunset cruises in the winter, because the colors in the sky seem to glow so bright. Of course, in the winter it can get chilly!
Speaking of chilly, always keep in mind that it is cooler over the water than it is on shore. Add the fact that you will encounter wind and the temps drop as the sun goes down....and you've got a chase of the shivers. Except in the heat of the summer, I'd recommend bringing along a light windbreaker, unless you will be behind glass the whole trip.
My personal favorite Florida cruises into the sunset are the ones held in Key West and those on Sanibel Island.
Florida Dinner Cruises
Many sunset cruises are also dinner cruises -- kind of kills two birds with one stone. These especially are held on calm bodies of water, so again they are great for those of us who get seasick from time to time.
Now for the most part, don't expect cuisine on these cruises -- but you can expect a pleasant dinner. When you are looking to book a dinner cruise, verify the dinner is in a single sitting (meaning everyone is served at the same time). After all, you do not want to have to hurry through your meal because someone else is waiting for your table.
If you have food allergies or are on a strict diet, you may not want to go on a dinner cruise. Most of the time the dinner isn't customizable. However, there are small cruises popping up here and there that can cater to those who have special needs.
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