Port Canaveral

Excursion Focus: Kennedy Space Center on your own tour

In:
10Apr2017

If there is one shore excursion that stands out as the excursion to try in Port Canaveral, Florida, it has to be Kennedy Space Center.  Kennedy Space Center is known around the world for the incredible history that has taken place, and the new adventures that are coming just around the corner.  

Despite the fact that Kennedy Space Center is one of the premier attractions in the Central Florida area, I had never visited the complex, whether on a land vacation or by cruise.  So when my Anthem of the Seas cruise had a port stop listed for Port Canaveral, I felt it was time to give it a try and see what this was all about.

Description

Kennedy Space Center is about 15 minutes away by car from Port Canaveral, and is the center of NASA's space launch operations.  From the early days of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions to the Space Shuttle and missions of today, Kennedy Space Center has been at the heart of these historic milestones. The Visitor Center allows guests to explore the grounds, see historical artifacts that have global significance, and learn about the history and future of manned space travel.

We booked this shore excursion through Royal Caribbean.  These days, Royal Caribbean offers a variety of different tours to Kennedy Space Center. On our cruise, we took the 5-hour unguided tour.  This means bus transportation is provided to and from Kennedy Space Center, but we would be on our own while at the Visitor's Complex.  I wish I could give you a good rationale for why we choose this tour over the others, but it simply came down to the fact we waited to book this tour onboard the ship and this was the only excursion that was not sold out.

Like most Royal Caribbean shore excursions, we were given a time and place onboard the ship to meet prior to getting on the bus.  Once our group was called, we were escorted off the ship and onto a waiting bus to bring us to Kennedy Space Center.

The bus ride over is short, and our excursion guide gave everyone a brief overview of the Visitor Center and what to expect.  Once we got off the bus, we were on our own.

There are two main components to the Kennedy Space Center, the Visitor Complex and the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

The Apollo/Saturn V Center is open to guests, but requires a bus ride to get there.  Our guide on the bus ride over to Kennedy Space Center recommended doing that sooner than later, so we headed there first.  We waited about 15-20 minutes for our turn to board a bus, and we were on our way.  The bus ride over took us near the Vehicle Assembly Building, various operation centers and provided an excellent view of nature.  Along the way we spotted alligators, various birds and even a Bald Eagle nest.

Once at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, there is a brief exhibition about the Apollo launches, which sits guests in a recreated launch command room to experience the final moments leading up to launch.


 

Following that re-creation, guests can explore the grounds and see an entire Saturn V rocket, which is incredible to see in person.

In addition to the Saturn V rocket, there are a few smaller exhibits that have some pretty interesting pieces of history from the Apollo era.


Taking the bus back to the Visitor's Complex, there is a lot to see here.  The star attraction is Space Shuttle Atlantis, which features the fourth operational and the second-to-last Space Shuttle built, back in October 1985.  The shuttle conducted 33 missions and orbited the Earth a total of 4,848 times, traveling nearly 126,000,000 mi (203,000,000 km).

There are many more exhibits, including 3-D IMAX films (included with admission), rocket gardens, Astronaut Hall of Fame and much more.

Comments

I made two mistakes with booking this shore excursion. First, was waiting to book this until I got onboard and the second was worrying I would be bored.  Luckily my first mistake was cleared up thanks to the Shore Excursions team on Anthem of the Seas, and my second concern was completely unfounded.

Five hours visiting Kennedy Space Center might sound a bit dull, but I can assure you if anything, we wish we had another few hours to explore even more.  The facility and its history is simply incredible. Being there and bearing witness to the accomplishments of the past, with an eye towards the future, really gave me an appreciation for the remarkable work that has happened, and is still happening, at Kennedy Space Center.

Even the fastest power-walker will find it impossible to see and do it all at Kennedy Space Center. You really have to prioritize which exhibits you want to see, and even then, you will not have enough time to read about everything on display.  There is a tremendous amount to see and do.

Our tour provided no guide and no lunch.  I felt that not having a guide worked better than I anticipated, just because we were able to move at our pace and stop for the exhibits we really wanted to see, and skipped over others that did not hold our attention. That being said, the guides we ran into across the facility were incredibly knowledgeable.  Our bus drivers that took us to and from the Apollo/Saturn V Center knew so much about Kennedy Space Center, it felt like they were not just employees earning money driving a bus, rather, they were true die-hard fans who knew it all.  Hearing their explanations and stories from the past really made a difference.

After visiting the Kennedy Space Center, I lamented not visiting sooner and definitely need to come back again to see the exhibits we missed the first time around.  

Overall, we loved our time at Kennedy Space Center. It may have been one of the best shore excursions we ever took, and lived up to the reputation as the premiere thing to do in Port Canaveral.

Photos from Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas inaugural sailaway from Port Canaveral

In:
14Nov2016

Royal Caribbean and Port Canaveral celebrated the official inaugural sailing of Oasis of the Seas from her new homeport in Port Canaveral, Florida.

A ceremony was held onboard the ship with the ship's staff, and culminated with a fantastic send-off during the ship's scheduled departure.

Port Canaveral held a Sail-a-bration event at Jetty Park, which is located along the Port Canaveral channel.  Port Canaveral provided games and entertainment for onlookers during the day to enjoy, leading up to Oasis of the Seas' departure.

Oasis of the Seas will offer year-round 7-night sailings from Port Canaveral to destinations in the eastern and western Caribbean.

Top things to do near Port Canaveral

In:
Category: 
17Sep2016

If you are following directions from the blog, you are probably planning to fly in to the port city a day or so prior to your Royal Caribbean cruise…

… OR, maybe you flew in as a surprise to see your friends off on a cruise and you need a place to pout and cry in to your beverage of choice as your friends sail off without you on the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise on the Freedom of the Seas

Whatever the case may be, you may be interested in what there is to do and where to eat the day before your cruise is set to leave. I recently had the chance to spend some time near Port Canaveral and spent a couple days watching the ships. Here are a few ideas for things to do near the Royal Caribbean cruise terminal in Cape Canaveral.

Restaurants

Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar

Located closest to the Royal Caribbean cruise terminal, Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar boasts great food and drinks at an affordable price. Additionally, Grills serves as a fantastic breakfast location if you have some time to kill once you have disembarked your cruise.

Grills also has a wonderful outdoor Tiki Bar which frequently features live music and a fantastic view of the Royal Caribbean ships sailing away.

Fishlips Waterfront Bar and Grill

A short walk away from Grills is another great restaurant called Fishlips… another great location with an outdoor patio offering a great view of the ships sailing away from port.

Similar to Grills, Fishlips offers a variety of food and beverages to enjoy while relaxing along the water.

Fun fact – the most recent Royal Caribbean Blog meetup took place here prior to the Freedom of the Seas Group Cruise!

Seafood Atlantic

Nestled in between Grills and Fishlips is a fantastic seafood shop and restaurant called Seafood Atlantic. While the interior of the building is a shop that features locally caught fresh seafood, the outside is a fantastic restaurant serving up some of the local fare.

I have to say, this has been my personal favorite lunch spot in the port area… in my opinion, there is not much that beats raw oysters and local beer while watching the water on a sunny day.


 

Attractions

Port Canaveral Exploration Tower

Overlooking the Port Canaveral area is a tall structure known as the Exploration Tower.

Seeing this landmark when you are approaching the port area has personally become a sign that you are about to embark on an incredible adventure. However, if you are looking for an educational day at Port (or, an incredible place to watch a rocket launch), this is a fantastic and nearby option for you.

Kennedy Space Center

Located roughly 20 minutes from the Cruise Terminal in Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center is a long loved and well known attraction for all things NASA and outer space and a fantastic spot to visit for all ages. Daily admission to the Visitor’s Complex runs about $50.

Cocoa Beach

Interested in just relaxing along the beach? While many hotels are located beach side, there are also public beaches available to you to relax and swim while getting ready to board your cruise.

Your thoughts

While these are only a few examples, the area surrounding Port Canaveral is a fantastic location to relax and unwind prior to your Royal Caribbean cruise. Please comment with your favorite places and things to do from your past adventures to an embarkation port!  

How to get to Port Canaveral for your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
Category: 
29Aug2016

Port Canaveral is one of the more popular cruising and vacation destinations in Florida, and is the gateway to cruise that many guests embark and start their adventure.  If you're looking to get to Port Canaveral, here is a quick guide to knowing how to get there quickly and easily.

Royal Caribbean operates two cruise ships from Port Canaveral currently, Freedom of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas. In November 2016, Oasis of the Seas will take Freedom of the Seas' spot to offer cruises from Port Canaveral.

Directions to Terminal 1

Royal Caribbean operates mostly out of the brand new Cruise Terminal #1, which is is located at 9050 Discovery Road Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920.

Driving to Terminal One is simple enough from most spots in Florida.  Most routes will take you to the Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area via State Road 528, which is a toll road.  You should be prepared and either pre-purchase a SunPass or have exact change in your vehicle.

Directions from Orlando International Airport (MCO)

  1. Take the North exit from the airport, staying to the right on SR 528 East.
  2. Take SR 528 East all the way to Port Canaveral.
  3. Upon approaching the port area, follow the signs indicating Port Canaveral Cruise Terminals B Side.

From Melbourne International Airport (MLB)

  1. Exit east (left) out of the airport onto NASA boulevard and follow to U.S. Highway 1.
  2. Turn left (north) onto U.S. Highway 1.
  3. Travel approximately 20 minutes on U.S. Highway 1 passed the intersection of S.R. 520 in Cocoa about one mile to the S.R. 528 exit.
  4. Exit and travel east on SR. 528 for approximately 10 miles, crossing the Indian River, Merritt Island and the Banana River to reach Port Canaveral.

From Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)

  1. Exit the airport south to the Central Florida Greenway (Toll Road 417).
  2. Go south 23 miles to S.R. 528 (the Beach line Expressway) eastbound exit.
  3. Go east (37 miles) to the Port. 

From Space Coast Regional Airport (TIX)

  1. Exit and drive east three blocks
  2. Turn south onto U.S. Highway 1 to the Beach line Expressway (S.R. 528) and follow this east to the Port.

From Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB)

  1. Take I-95 south to S.R. 528 East and follow to the Port

Parking Information

You can park directly at Port Canaveral with pre-paid parking options. Please note that rates are subject to change without notice and were accurate as of the day of this posting. 

There are also select hotels that offer a discount on parking at Port Canaveral. If you are staying at a qualifying hotel, you can get a discount at check-out for the parking fee.  Inquire with your hotel.

  • 3 Nights / 4 Days cruises
    • Regular vehicle: $64.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $112.00
  • 4 Nights / 5 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $80.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $140.00
  • 5 Nights / 6 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $96.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $168.00
  • 6 Nights / 7 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $112.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $196.00
  • 7 nights / 8 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $128.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $224.00
  • 8 Nights / 9 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $144.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $252.00
  • 9 Nights / 10 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $160.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $280.00

Taking a taxi

There are lots of taxis at Port Canaveral, as well as the airports in the area that can easily take you to/from Port Canaveral.

Ride-sharing programs, such as Uber or Lyft are also options that can save a lot of money compared to traditional taxis. These ride-sharing services allow people to use their own personal automobiles to provide car rides. Uber and Lyft are gaining in popularity among people headed to the cruise port as a less-expensive way of getting private car transportation to the port.

In either case, get a fare estimate before choosing which service is right for you.

Renting a car

In so many cases, a one-way car rental is the best optional economically because of the flexibility it offers, as well as the per-person cost. Most major rental car facilities have locations in the Cocoa Beach area and provide complimentary shuttle service to the port.

The larger the group, the better sense renting a car makes.  Check what the rental car rates will be for the time you are looking to go, but having a rental car offers not just a means of getting to the port, but also a way to see local attractions, enjoy a greater variety of restaurants and stock up on last-minute supplies prior to getting to the cruise terminal.

When reserving your car, be sure to indicate that you will return the car in a different location and look for locations in Cape Canaveral or Cocoa Beach.  The major rental car companies have locations within 5 miles or so of the cruise terminals.

A good tip for those renting a car is to first drive the car to the cruise terminal, drop off the luggage and everyone else in your party there.  Then, the driver should drive the rental car back to the car rental location and take the free shuttle back to the pier. The reason for this is many people opt to bring the car to the car rental location first and lines can develop for the shuttles since the shuttles aren't very big.  If just one person needs a ride back with no luggage, it can be much easier to hop into the first shuttle back to the terminal since you don't have to worry about fitting luggage or family.

Royal Caribbean Transfers

Royal Caribbean offers a bus service of its own (called transfers) to bring you to the port from Orlando International Airport (MCO). Royal Caribbean offers transfers in one way increments (you can book two one-ways to create a round trip). 

To purchase a Royal Caribbean Guest Transfer or for additional information consult your travel agent or the Royal Caribbean reservations department at 1-800-327-6700.

From an area hotel

If you are staying in a hotel prior to your cruise, the hotels in Port Canaveral and Coco Beach are very convenient to the port.

Take route A1A north and follow A1A all the way until you reach the port area.  Follow the signs for the terminal of your cruise.

Some hotels in Cape Canaveral will offer cruise and park deals, where you can pay for a one night stay at the hotel and receive complimentary parking for the duration of your cruise as well as shuttle service to the pier terminal.

What time to arrive to Port Canaveral

In general, Royal Caribbean allows guests to arrive to the port anytime in the late morning to early afternoon.  Check with your cruise documents for the exact time window.

It is our opinion that arriving to the cruise port earlier (rather than later) is advantageous in a few regards. First, you will beat the crowds at check-in that usually arrive between noon and 1:30pm. Second, you will board the ship sooner, which means you have more time onboard. 

There is no right or wrong time to arrive, as long as you are within the window of time Royal Caribbean lists for your sailing. Arriving early does add a risk of extra waiting around to be let on and staterooms are not accessible onboard until 1:00pm. However, the majority of guests tend to arrive in the early afternoon, which can lead to longer lines.

New Royal Caribbean cruise terminal opens in Port Canaveral

In:
Category: 
27Dec2014

Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas made history today as it was the first ship to arrive at Port Canaveral's new $100 million cruise terminal, Cruise Terminal One.

Photos by smart-two.com

Royal Caribbean is the main tenant of the new terminal, with Quantum of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas all using the new terminal.

Cruise Terminal 1 is strategically located on the south side of Port Canaveral and will allow passengers and crew to walk to nearby dining and entertainment options.

The terminal also features a 1,600-seat pre-boarding area that can convert into a 1,000-seat venue and 60 passenger check-in stations.

The new terminal was built by Ivey's Construction of Merritt Island.

Port Canaveral wants Royal Caribbean to base its biggest cruise ships there

In:
Category: 
16Dec2014

Yesterday Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas made a visit to Port Canaveral and during the occasion, the head of Port Canaveral indicated the port wants Royal Caribbean to homeport a ship as big as Quantum of the Seas there.

Port Canaveral CEO John Walsh is hoping to convince Royal Caribbean that Port Canaveral is the perfect home for a Quantum or Oasis-class cruise ship.  Both the Quantum and Oasis class ships are among the largest in the world.  

Currently, Port Canaveral is home to Freedom of the Seas, which is a member of the Freedom class and small than Quantum or Oasis class.

Royal Caribbean does have a few new cruise ships coming online, two more Quantum-class ships and two more Oasis-class ships over the next few years.

New Royal Caribbean cruise terminal in Port Canaveral delayed

In:
Category: 
31Oct2014

The new Cruise Terminal 1 in Port Canaveral will be delayed by more than a month due to construction problems on the terminal's waterside area.

Florida Today is reporting that Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Walsh says the new terminal will open December 27.

The change will force cruise ships originally slated to use the new terminal during November and December to shift to other cruise terminals.

Royal Caribbean was planning on using Cruise Terminal 1 for Enchantment of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas. In addition, Quantum of the Seas would be stopping in Port Canaveral as part of its Bahamas itinerary.

Reporter Dave Berman cites among the issues plaguing the construction site is it's taking longer than expected to remove 90-foot-deep piles that are remnants from former cargo piers that were on the site.

Royal Caribbean could be adding an even bigger cruise ship to Port Canaveral

In:
Category: 
06Mar2014

More and more, it looks like Royal Caribbean is poised to move a cruise ship to Port Canaveral that is even larger than what they currently have stationed there.

Consider these recent news items

  1. Port Canaveral has had plans to build a new cruise terminal to accomodate even the largest cruise ships in the world, such as Oasis-class
  2. Two weeks ago Port Canaveral announced Royal Caribbean had signed a 10-year agreement to stay in Port Canaveral

Currently Royal Caribbean operates Freedom of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas from Port Canaveral, with Explorer of the Seas joining the duo later this year.

Royal Caribbean has two more cruise ships on order that have no home port announced yet, a third Oasis-class ship and a third Quantum-class ship.  Nor has it said if any changes to the deployment of the existing Oasis or Quantum class ships would be changed when these new ships arrive.

Travel Weekly is reporting Port CEO John Walsh said Royal Caribbean and the port are finalizing a letter of intent that would raise Royal Caribbean's minimum annual payment. It guarantees the port $7 million a year in the current agreement that expires in December. That would increase to $10.7 million next year and ultimately $18.4 million by the last year, Walsh said.

Royal Caribbean will also collect a per-passenger fee dedicated to financing the terminal complex, which includes a 1,000-car garage. 

Royal Caribbean signs 10-year deal with Port Canaveral

In:
Category: 
20Feb2014

Royal Caribbean has signed a 10-year agreement with Port Canaveral to keep a cruise ship presence there for quite a while.

Florida Today reports Royal Caribbean will also provide an additional $48 million to Port Canaveral over the next 10 years as part of an agreement to become the primary user of the new Cruise Terminal 1, scheduled to open in November.

The $48 million will come from a $4 to $5 fee on tickets for Royal Caribbean passengers using Port Canaveral, according to Florida Today. The port plans to use the $48 million to help pay for construction of the $68.5 million terminal complex, which is just east of the Cove restaurant district. That cost includes site work, the gangways and an adjacent 1,000-vehicle parking garage.

The new decade-long agreement will more than double the guaranteed annual revenue to Port Canaveral. By 2024, Port Canaveral will get $18.4 million in guaranteed money compared to just $7 million in 2013.

For Royal Caribbean, the new agreement will allow for more flexibility to move ships into Port Canaveral and even open the door to the cruise line bringing even larger ships to Port Canaveral.

Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Walsh is excited about the new deal, “I’ve literally heard four or five scenarios” on how the shifting of Royal Caribbean ships could affect Port Canaveral For us, it’s a win-win, without tying their hands on flexibility.”

Walsh also indicated that Royal Caribbean will get preferred scheduling at the 188,514-square-foot Cruise Terminal 1, which is being designed to accommodate the world’s largest cruise ships. But other cruise lines also will use the terminal.

Walsh said port commissioners likely will vote on the Royal Caribbean deal next month.

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