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Fort Lauderdale Review for Cruise Ship Passengers

Cruises l Royal Caribbean l Family Cruise Tips l Labadee Haiti l Roatan Honduras l Cozumel Mexico

Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale’s Port, is home to the most cruise ships in the world. From this east coast Florida city, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Princess, and more arrive and depart almost daily. As many as six or seven huge cruise ships in Ft Lauderdale at a time is not unusual, and it certainly impacts the city making the Port Everglade cruise terminal, airport and traffic very busy. See our Photo Gallery of Fort Lauderdale's Hilton, the IntraCoastal and Port Everglades.

Cruise ships encourage passengers to arrive in their port of embarkation a day prior to their sailing date. This is sage advice, since airlines can be delayed for a litany of reasons, and they don’t “hold the boat” for you if you are late for any reason (well, maybe if you are the Captain, but that’s about the only excuse). Ships departing Ft Lauderdale leave midday to late afternoon cruising to the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Central and South America. Even transcontinental cruises make their port in Ft Lauderdale from Portugal, Spain and Italy, and the U.K.

Besides, a day in Fort Lauderdale is a delight, the beautiful beach, and the intra-coastal waterway reveals some of the finest yacht clubs and mega yachts in the world. In fact Ft Lauderdale is also hailed as the yachting capital of the world, in addition to being the biggest cruise ship hub. If there is a downside to all these big ship activity, its that Fort Lauderdale was once a much smaller quaint beach community than say Miami. Now Fort Lauderdale has all the hustle and bustle of a big Florida city with as many as 40,000 cruise ship passengers passing through daily.

Flying into Ft Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, FLL, grab a cab or shuttle to a hotel near both the beach and the Port Everglade cruise ship terminal. It’s just 3 miles from Ft Lauderdale airport, without traffic it takes less than ten minutes, to the cruise ship terminal and many of the hotels on the waterfront.

The Fort Lauderdale Hilton Marina is a good choice, its a huge waterfront property, a short ($20) cab ride from FLL airport, and a similar short ride to the cruise ship terminal of Port Everglade on your cruise day. There’s a beautiful outdoor pool, and outdoor G Bar with a view of some fantastic yachts. Our first room in the East Villa building had a great view of the intercoastal, that was soon blocked by a 5 story magnificent yacht called Cake Walk docked in front of our balcony – so there goes our view, but the brilliant blue hulled 280’ yacht was not hard to look at ( a week’s charter aboard Cake Walk costs $854,000). This room at the Hilton was just over $200 for the night. You are a short walk to Walgreens - for anything you forgot to pack for the ship, or to brign a bottle of wine aboard, and there are several nearby restaurants and bars.


The Hilton Marina has several buildings, the Tower on a top floor is the best location, where we stayed on our cruise ship return night - a significant upgrade. The tenth floor Hilton Marina Hotel room has a panoramic view of the waterways and the many mega yachts from a very lofty space. These top floor Hilton Tower rooms for Honors and VIP guests are not for those who fear heights, it a long way down from your open balcony. You can walk to Bimini Boat Yard for a casual waterfront dinner, or Bravo Italian also just a block away but not waterfront. The Hilton also offers a small fitness facilities and a spa, provide everything you need before your cruise. They do charge for wifi for your facebook post and email check before or after your cruise, unless you are a Hilton Honors member - then its included.

Ft Lauderdale also hosts a Hyatt, W Hotel, Westin, all the big players, and the name brand chains, Holiday Inn, Marriott, Fairfield, Sheraton Starwood, Days Inn, you name it. All these hotels get very busy because of the one night cruise ships guests, that tend to fill the lobby on arrival and departure days.

Lago Mar is a different vibe, Ft Lauderdale’s oldest and most elegant beach resorts, set beyond the busier beach strip, with a wonderful private resort location at the quieter southern beach tip. From your beach chair or balcony suite, you can see the cruise ships come and go out the breakwater. Lago Mar is old world Florida charm, but with an elegant modern spa, fitness room and several beautiful pools, and play areas for kids. A light roster of organized activities and entertainment give the otherwise reserved resort a warm tropical vibe. Reggae music by the pool bar on our sunny breezy afternoon here was a welcome bonus.

A great way to spend the day in Ft Lauderdale is to grab the water taxi to shuttle you around the beautiful waterways, $27 is good for all day boat rides, off and on as many times as you like. Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed the Venice of Florida because there are so many miles of magnificent waterways. The water taxi will take you to Riverwalk, Ft Lauderdale’s waterfront entertainment venue with shops and dining and evening jazz. Or ride the boat to town for shopping on famous Las Olas Boulevard, and dinner. Ft Lauderdale has 4,000 restaurants. The inner waterway canals are extensive, so the water taxi is a great way to see the waterfront, beautiful inter coastal estates, yachts and the palm trees. You can get off the boat and back on at numerous cool spots, or just cruise around the marinas and yacht clubs. There are over 100 marinas in Ft Lauderdale, so gawking at the grand yachts, over 42,000 boats, is a past time in and of itself.

Granted, the best attraction in Fort Lauderdale is the beach, a long (23 mile) stretch of soft sand and a view out to sea and of arriving and departing cruise ships lumbering along the horizon. The beach at Ft Lauderdale can be calm, or breaking with big waves depending upon the season and any weather out to sea. Walking the long beach stretch is a great diversion, it will take you along the beachfront hotels, many of which have bars, and beach chairs and toys for rent.

Ft Lauderdale has some really fun bars and restaurants on the water. Bahia Cabana is cool local joint overlooking the harbor, enjoy a pitcher of beer while browsing the pricey boats across the channel. The Cabana is super casual, like its sounds. Picture a dock deck with picnic tables and bar, an open air shack serving delicious crab cakes and conch fritters. Bahia Cabana gets going at night, often with live entertainment.

Fort Lauderdale is no longer the quiet beach community it once was. 17th Street Causeway is now three lanes each way, and the airport is undergoing a $50 billion expansion to accommodate more international flights of cruise ship passengers. Still, it is the yachting and cruise ship capital of the US. Photos of Fort Lauderdale

See more about Royal Caribbean Cruising
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Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas
Cruise Tips for Families
Cozumel Mexico Cruise Excursions
Labadee, Haiti - Royal Caribbean's Private Island
Roatan Honduras Cruise Ship Port Review
Review of Cruise Ship Spa and Salon Treatments with prices

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All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke