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New Royal Caribbean cruise ship arrives in Florida

In:
04 Jun 2021

Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas has arrived in the United States for the first time.


Photo by AdamsAway

The newest cruise ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet sailed into Port Canaveral just before 10am on Friday.

She will be in port at Terminal 1 until she departs on Sunday.

Odyssey was re-routed to the United States after her inaugural season was cancelled from Haifa, Israel. Like the rest of Royal Caribbean's fleet, she is in a state of limbo until the cruise industry can get approval to restart sailings.


Photo by AdamsAway

Odyssey of the Seas can accommodate 4,180 passengers and is a 16-deck-high, 1,138-foot-long ship. 

Presumably, the crew on Odyssey will be receiving their Covid-19 vaccines while the ship is docked in Port Canaveral.  Royal Caribbean has been systematically bringing ships into Florida ports for short stops so that crew onboard can get vaccinated.

It was reported, although never confirmed, that Odyssey's crew was not able to obtain vaccinations in Israel, which may have played a role in the ship's season being cancelled.


Photo by Paul Crow

As of now, Odyssey of the Seas is scheduled to begin cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Florida in November 2021, although there are rumors she may start sailings sooner than that.

Royal Caribbean confirmed Odyssey of the Seas will definitely sail from Florida, but did not specify which homeport.

During a recent webinar with travel agents, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, confirmed Odyssey will sail from Florida, "Where in Florida is she going to be? Well, this is like musical chairs, musical ships. So we will be telling you and sharing with you where in Florida as soon as we have more details."


Photo by Paul Crow

Odyssey of the Seas was originally scheduled to be delivered in 2020, but that was pushed back to 2021 due to the global health crisis.  Then Odyssey's inaugural season from Italy was cancelled, and then redeployed to Haifa, Israel.

What makes Odyssey of the Seas different?

Guests sailing onboard Odyssey of the Seas will find plenty to enjoy onboard.

While not the largest cruise ship in the world (that distinction is held by Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas), Odyssey packs a lot to do onboard, including multiple pools, aqua park for kids, surfing simulator, observation pod, and sky diving simulator.

There are even bumper cars you can ride, along with an array of complimentary and specialty restaurant options.

  • Caribbean-inspired pool deck– Sporting a whole new look across two decks, Odyssey’s two open-air pools, four whirlpools and Splashaway Bay, anchored by a Quantum Ultra Class first – The Lime & Coconut bar – are designed for all travelers to enjoy the sun and stars in style.  
  • SeaPlex – The next-generation of a longtime Quantum Class favorite, this SeaPlex is the largest indoor and outdoor activity center at sea, and debuts this venue’s first Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade.
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar and Teppanyaki – Two Royal Caribbean restaurants new to North America join the varied lineup of dining options on board. The fresh take on the cruise line’s signature trattoria is the first to introduce its new wine bar concept while the other serves up East Asian flavors in the traditional Japanese style for which its named.
  • Action-packed top deck – Returning guest-favorites include the gravity-defying SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline adventure, FlowRider surf simulator, skydiving with RipCord by iFly, and the iconic North Star all-glass observation capsule that boasts 360-degree views from 300 feet above sea level.
  • One-of-a-kind entertainment – In typical Royal Caribbean fashion, Odyssey’s full-scale productions take top billing in teched-out venues such as the Royal Theater and Two70, where immersive technology, unparalleled special effects and world-leading performers and aerialists take the stage alongside six agile Roboscreensfor a multidimensional live show.

Royal Caribbean finalized a port agreement with Port Canaveral so it can start test cruises

In:
19 May 2021

One of the major requirements before test cruises can begin looks to be a step closer for Royal Caribbean.

One of the mandates included in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plan for cruise ships to be able to restart sailings from the United States is for each line to  secure agreements with port and health authorities in the U.S. cities they plan to visit.

This requirement is part of the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), and is intended to ensure health and safety protections for crew and passengers and port personnel prior to resuming passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Royal Caribbean Group Vice President of Worldwide Operations, Captain Hernan Zini, spoke on Wednesday about Royal Caribbean Group's work to get its ships closer to be able to conduct test and revenue cruises.


Photo by Paul Crow

Captain Zini said that port agreement was submitted to the Florida Department of Health. 

Once that once Florida signs off on the plan, it can be submitted to the CDC. And once the CDC accepts the agreement, the Royal Caribbean group can make an application to the CDC to begin those test cruises.

Read moreEverything you need to know about Royal Caribbean test cruises

These port agreements are part of the Phase 2A of the CSO and need to be signed by executives from the cruise line, as well as port and state health authorities, as will as be approved by the CDC.  The agreement explains what the cruise terminal would do in the case of Covid-19 cases on a cruise ship, as well as how it intends to keep the cruise terminal and gangways sanitized.


Photo by Paul Crow

The agreement will also include information social distancing guidelines and plans for using commercial operators for any required evacuations at sea.

Each cruise line must have signed contracts with shore-side medical facilities to treat patients and shore-side housing facilities to isolate and quarantine sick passengers.

Explorer of the Seas arrived today to get crew members vaccinated at Port Canaveral, and Adventure of the Seas is due in port on Thursday.


Photo by Michael Bayley

 Royal Caribbean said they are hoping to vaccinate about 1,500 crew members.

Captain Zini told WFTV he likes what is happening right now as Royal Caribbean prepares, "We feel that the worst is behind us. And of course, we have to keep very focused on all the protocols, everything we need to do. But we feel very positive about what is coming."

Port Canaveral CEO Captain John Murray thinks while an exact date for cruises to restart is not yet known, they will be here this summer, "No specific date but I think you’re going to see it happen pretty quick."

"I think by summer we’ll have some ships sailing out of Port Canaveral and you haven’t heard me say anything that optimistic in a while."

U.S ports begin vaccinating cruise ship crew members

In:
01 May 2021

Two ports in the United States are helping get cruise ship crew members vaccinated to facilitate the cruise industry getting back to service faster.

On Friday, Port Canaveral became the first U.S. port to offer crew members a Covid-19 vaccine.

Port Canaveral's option to give crew members the vaccine came a day after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees approved an expansion to vaccine eligibility in Florida to include individuals who are in the state for purpose of providing good or services for the benefit of residents and visitors of Florida.

Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray released a statement celebrating the start tof this new program, "We have been working closely with our cruise partners, the Florida Department of Health and our port community to come up with a plan and timeline of vaccinating cruise ship crews that could begin the process for a safe return to cruising."

"This expanded eligibility is significantly important for our cruise tourism business, and we’re proud of our efforts to help get this industry up and running."

It is not clear which ship was the first to receive the doses.

Up to 1,000 COVID-19 vaccination shots per day can be provided to vessel crew members, shoreside and waterside support personnel, which aligns with recommendations released this week by the federal Centers for Disease Control for a return to cruising in the U.S.

Port Canaveral officials consulted with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and cruise line operators, as well as the CDC to develop its vaccination model to efficiently and expeditiously get vaccines disbursed to crew members and shoreside personnel. 

The Port of Galveston also plans to offer the vaccine to crew members next week, when the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista visit.

The Port of Galveston Board of Trustees announced during a meeting on Tuesday the new plan.

Through a partnership with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), the Pfizer vaccine will be made available to crew members.

Crew vaccination part of restart plan

Getting crew members vaccinated is part of the cruise industry's plan to return to service.

Royal Caribbean has already committed itself to vaccinating all of its crew members, as of February 2021.  At the time, there was not a plan in place to do so, but vaccine eligibility in the United States is beginning to open up widely.

Moreover, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informed cruise lines this week that if they can get 98% crew members vaccinated, they can get cruise ships back into service sooner (along with 95% vaccinated passengers).

Getting crew members to get the vaccine appears not to be a problem for Royal Caribbean.

During a call with Wall Street analysts this week, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said crew were overwhelmingly in favor of getting vaccinated.

In a recent survey of crew members conducted by the cruise line, Mr. Bayley said, "we had over 98 percent positive response from our crew saying, yeah, we're going to get vaccinated."

Port Canaveral predicts cruises could restart in July

In:
28 Jan 2021

Everyone is trying to get an idea of when cruises might restart by "reading between the lines", so perhaps Port Canaveral's commissioner meeting could shed some light on the subject.

Port Canaveral holds public meetings to discuss the port's business operations and plan its budget accordingly.  Ordinarily, this is pretty mundane information to digest, but it includes some speculation on when it can expect more revenue in the form of cruise ships returning.

According to Port Canaveral officials, they seem to think some cruises might return in July.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Port Canaveral CEO Captain John Murray said he believes by July, the Covid-19 vaccine will be widely distributed and the industry could get restarted.

Captain Murray explained, "The issue with July is, we’ve been doing this now for a year and you can take a very practical look at how things are happening.”

"We have a new administration. The cruise lines themselves have kicked everything down the road for three months already, or at least through March and April. The reality given the pandemic right now, until those numbers start coming down, we just don’t see that this industry is going to get any attention that it needs to get restarted."

Port Canaveral's projection is based on what officials now foresee as a worst case scenario.  Under this worst case scenario they are estimating cruise lines will each have at least one ship sailing by July even though current data suggest ships will sail before that.

The revised dates were arrived at independently and are not based on any cruise line statements.

He also seems to think the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has no interest in working with the cruise lines until the health situation in this country improves, "The CDC’s motivation right now to put the cruise lines back on the water is not there, and probably won’t be there for the next three months."

"So rather than look at this entire operation and say, ‘Well, let’s just kick the can to April and then we’ll look at it again,’ it doesn’t make any sense to keep coming back to you guys with a rosy picture that we’re going to start in April or May and then say, ‘Whoop, that didn’t happen.’ So we took the very hard approach of, like I say, ripping off the Band-Aid, and making it a bad situation for the port just to show you that we have a plan to get through this if it does go as far as the fourth quarter."

Officials at the meeting said the most likely scenario is the initial restart phase will have one cruise ship per cruise line, and each ship will operate at half capacity.

Port Canaveral Chief Financial Officer Michael Poole is projecting $32.59 million in operating revenue and a $43.12 million loss for the port in the current budget year that ends September 30.

"We just want to put something in front of you that can show you as a board that we’re going to be OK to get through this even if it doesn’t start before July, and I’m hopeful and optimistic and all that good stuff that we do get started before then."

Royal Caribbean, and the entire cruise industry, has been shutdown from U.S. ports since March 2020.  With the exception of Quantum of the Seas in Singapore, no ships have been able to restart in its fleet since then.

In order to be able to restart, cruise lines need to get their new health protocols onboard approved.  This will be done in conjunction with test cruises that will demonstrate the viability of the cruise line plans.

Once a ship is approved for service by the CDC, then a cruise line can resume regular passenger service.

While Royal Caribbean has not announced any firm restart plan, many believe cruises will start back up again first from ports like Port Canaveral or PortMiami.

How to get from Orlando to Port Canaveral

In:
09 Mar 2020

Getting from Orlando to Port Canaveral for your Royal Caribbean cruise is a lot easier than it may seem. Despite the 45 miles from Orlando International Airport to Port Canaveral, there are a variety of cheap ways to get to the port on time and without much hassle.

The drive from Orlando to Port Canaveral is primarily across SR 528 (Beachline Expressway).  This is a toll highway that runs east to west.

Royal Caribbean operates its cruises from Terminal 1 in Port Canaveral, which is is located at 9050 Discovery Road Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920.

One-way rental car

Many families prefer to rent a car from the Orlando International Airport and drive the less than one hour ride to Port Canaveral.

All the major car rental companies offer car rentals at the airport, as well as in the area surrounding Port Canaveral.

Renting a car allows the greatest flexibility of any option to get to the port. Having a rental car means you can stop for meals, souvenirs or even a tourist attraction.

You will need a one-way rental, which means you pick up the car in one location and drop it off at another location.

Uber or Lyft

My favorite way to get to the port is to leverage ride sharing apps, such as Lyft or Uber.

Rideshare services are simple and easy, and provide a great deal of options. They are available when you are ready, and the vehicles tend to be in much better condition than any taxi.

Moreover, you can take advantage of competitive pricing between the services.

Speaking of prices, it is important to know that rideshare pricing will vary depending on demand at the time. You can refer to the Uber price estimator or the Lyft fare estimator to get a ballpark idea of how much each ride will cost.

Shuttle Services

If you are looking for the cheapest way to get from Orlando to Port Canaveral, it is almost always a shuttle bus service.

There are a variety of companies that offer one way bus rides from the airport to the cruise terminals or area hotels.  

Be sure to confirm with any shuttle service their hours of operations, as some cease operations after a certain hour of the evening.

While I have never used any of these, here are a few our readers recommend:

Royal Caribbean Transfers

 

Royal Caribbean offers guest transfer services to and from Orlando International Airport for an additional fee.

Transfer vouchers can be purchased directly from the cruise line, as well as an add-on option for guests who purchase airline tickets with ChoiceAir.

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.

Taxi

You can always grab a yellow taxi from Orlando International Airport to get to Port Canaveral.

At the publishing of this article, a one way ride from the airport to Port Canaveral will cost $115.

Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort Hotel Review

In:
05 Aug 2019

In our ongoing search for great hotels to stay in before or after your Royal Caribbean cruise, we spent a couple nights at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort after noticing it offered amenities that directly appealed to (large) families.

There is no shortage of hotels in the Port Canaveral area, but the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort (previously Wakulla Suites) features luxurious two-bedroom suites along with a water park, situated within a short walk to the beach. Families looking for a pre- or post-cruise stay are sure to take notice, and it certainly caught my attention.

Renovated in 2018, this resort offers 120 two-bedroom villas in the heart of Cocoa Beach.  In addition to offering access to the beach, it stands out for its Polynesian theme and aqua park.

The true appeal of this resort is the aquatic experience, between its pool area, splash pad and lazy river features.

The pool is rather large and deep, maxing out at 7 and a half feet at its deepest point. There is also a splash pool for young children and a hot tub.

The Wakulla Falls Water Park (named after the resort's former name) features a large splash pad, and reminded us quite a bit of Splashaway Bay on Royal Caribbean ships. It has a large drench bucket, geysers, sprays, (very tame and small) water slides and pretty much any other way to hose yourself down.

At the rear of the pool area is a lazy river complete with floats and a few ways to get wet along the way. 

Both the lazy river and splash pad is included with your hotel admission.  The resort says each room qualifies up to six guests admission into the water park. Wristbands are distributed and requested to be worn, although during our stay no one checked if we had them on.

The pool area features a tiki bar, which serves drinks and food.

We booked a two-night stay at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort, and were greeted to one of the most well appointed hotel rooms I have stayed at that were not a villa or apartment. The 2018 renovation clearly resulted in upgraded furnishings that present a very contemporary feel.

The hotel is in a "U" shape, with all rooms facing the pool and aqua park areas. Even the most remote room is a very quick walk back to the lobby, so getting around is super simple.

The two bedroom unit has a large living room, kitchen and dining nook, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The room measures 812 sq feet of space. There are not laundry machines in the room, but there are self-service laundry machines in the resort.

The master bedroom has a king size bed, along with master suite bathroom. 

The shower features three(!) different shower heads: traditional, rain and hand-held.  You can only use one at a time, but there should be no issue satisfying the most ardent shower head aficionado.

The other bedroom has twin beds, along with a connecting bathroom.

We enjoyed the large amount of space to sprawl out, and the fact each bedroom and the living room had a large television set meant there was not much competing for personal space. 

The resort does offer direct beach access, which is a very short walk to the beach from the hotel.  Umbrellas and chairs are available to rent upon request.

The hotel does not provide complimentary or for-pay shuttle service to the port, but there are a variety of third-party options, including ride sharing services.

Of course, we need to talk about price and a resort with these kind of ammenities and location will not be a bottom-barrel value by any means. We stayed two nights, Saturday and Sunday nights, with the rate being $519 and $309 each night respectively. Again, not cheap, but then again we did get a two-bedroom unit and one of the best pool/aqua park features near Port Canaveral, along with direct beach access. 

The best part about the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort is the room, both in living space and looks, along with the pool and water park. 

The price is what gives me the greatest pause about recommending staying here, and you may find better prices during other times of the year. We picked a random weekend during summer, which is high season for Cocoa Beach. 

While the water park was nice, I believe the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort offers a superior pool and aqua park, and we paid less on our last visit to stay there. Granted, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort Hotel is located much more centrally in Cocoa Beach, and it is very easy to walk to nearby attractions, restaruarants and more.

Just like the Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort, there is a low-pressure sales pitch to attend a timeshare presentation.  Regardless of whatever they offer you for the tour, do yourself a favor and skip this at all costs.

Overall, the room and pool area were up to our liking and it was a fun weekend in Cocoa Beach. The room update looks great, and the pool area was a focal point for my family during the weekend. While far from inexpensive, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort is a great choice if you are looking for a lot of living space in a hotel in the middle of Cocoa Beach that does not compromise on resort amenities.

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort? Are you a fan of it? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort Hotel Review

In:
16 Oct 2018

The Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort is just about the closest hotel you can stay at to where the cruise ships dock in Port Canaveral.  This review features photos of the rooms & resort, thoughts on the amenities, and our experience in staying here during our recent visit to the Port Canaveral area.

The appeal of this resort is for families that want to stay as close to Port Canaveral as possible, while enjoying resort accommodations.  Most hotels near Port Canaveral are further south on route A1A in the Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island areas.  Those hotels are not only geared towards people going on cruises, but mostly geared towards guests who are visiting the Space Coast of Florida.  

The Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort is a sprawling 10-acre resort adjacent to Jetty Park Campground and is perfectly situated to provide perfect views of cruise ships, NASA rocket launches and of course time at the beach.

The resort features spacious hotel-suite/condo-style 1 and 2 bedroom accommodations from 414 to 1,224 square feet. The rooms here are more than just a typical double set of beds and bathroom.  Ideally, guests staying here will make this resort a multi-day pre- or post-cruise stop.  To that point, families (especially larger families) will enjoy the sheer amount of space provided in each room as well as the resort amenities provided.  Staying at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort is best enjoyed if you have at least a full day to take advantage of everything it offers.

Since this is a resort, very likely the price of this hotel will not be among the cheapest options in the area, but then again, it offers a lot more to do than just a hotel pool.  There is direct beach access at Jetty Park, four-story water slide, lazy river, splash zones, and kiddie pool.  In addition, there is an arcade, movie theater, mini golf course, plus basketball, tennis and shuffleboard courts.  

Starting in the lobby, the hotel is comprised of a few different buildings across the 10-acres.  The lobby is part of the main building, which additional buildings a short walk and/or shuttle drive much closer to the beach. 

The pool area is one of Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort's biggest selling points, and this thing is huge.  There is a giant main pool, sprawling kiddie pool area, lazy river and water slide.

There is ample seating all around the pool, and we were able to find seats with no problem. 

Adjacent to the pool area is a nice little bar. This place was fairly popular most of the time during our visit, and seemed to have a decent drink menu. The bar not only served drinks, but also offered lunch and dinner.  In addition, each day there was a live band performing throughout the day.

The lazy river and water slides were big hits with my kids.  There is no additional charge to use either, so just grab a tube for the river or head up the stairs to the slide.  

It is worth noting guests must be 42 inches tall to go on the slide.

I could spend this entire review talking about the pool area, because it is the best thing about this resort.  

There is still plenty more activities in the resort to keep you busy.  My kids relished their time in the giant indoor play area, which is akin to a play area you might find at a fast-food restaurant, but on a giant scale.

Slides, tunnels, ropes and obstacles galore are enough to keep most kids busy for hours.

There is also a movie theater that has no additional cost and shows three to four movies a day. 

Holiday Inn advertises its rooms as hotel-suite/condo-style, which means you get a lot of space and more.  Rooms feature a kitchen and in-unit washer/dryer.  Plus, Wi-Fi and parking are free to guests.

We chose a 1 bedroom unit for our stay.  We ended up being assigned a handicap accessible room, but I do not think it was a problem at all.  The rate for our first night was $290.03 and the second night was $189.05. With taxes and fees, the average rate we paid per night came out to $268.29. I could have gotten it a bit cheaper if I had committed to a non-refundable rate.

Our room featured two double beds in the bedroom, a large bathroom, giant living room, kitchen and of course a balcony.

For the four of us, there was more than enough room.  The resort also offers two bedroom units, which would have been nice to have, but our kids slept fine on the pull-out sofa bed in the living room.

The room was clean and reasonably well-maintained.  You could make an argument that they could benefit from a refurbishment update to make it feel a bit more contemporary, but by no means did the room feel dirty or old.  It certainly felt familiar considering we have stayed in enough resorts around Florida.

Likewise, the unit’s regular bathroom was basic and on the smaller side. Absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Keep in mind we were in an accessible room, so the shower may look different in other rooms.

The full-size, fully-equipped kitchen is nice, and will certainly be appreciated by those on a budget who use the room to prepare their own meals.

For cruise fans, some rooms face the Port Canaveral channel where the cruise ships enter and leave from, which provides absolutely stunning and unmatched views anywhere else in Port Canaveral.

Since the hotel is perhaps a mile from Terminal 1, views of the cruise ships abundant.  We requested a room that faced the channel, while most rooms face the pool area, ocean or a parking lot.  We called a week ahead of time to make the view request and had no problem having the resort take care of it for us.

Being able to watch the cruise ships depart was a real highlight of our stay.

Speaking of the cruise ships, Holiday Inn offers a third-party service that can take you to the cruise terminal for $25 up to 4 people, and $5 for each additional guest.  My advice is use Lyft or Uber, since a ride to the terminal from our hotel came in at $6.

Of course, there is beach access with the hotel. Guests can take a private boardwalk-style path from the resort to the beach at Jetty Park.  Chairs, umbrellas, bikes, surfboards and boogie boards are available to rent on the beach for an additional cost.

The biggest drawback to Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort is also its greatest benefit.  Since the resort is so close to the cruise port, there is really nothing you can walk to in terms of dining or entertainment.  A car or taxi is pretty much required if you want to venture off property.  In my opinion, that's not a terrible price to pay, but something you should be aware of before booking. Other hotels in Cocoa Beach are much closer together and there seems to be more opportunity to walk around in Cocoa Beach.  Since we had our own car, this was not a problem for us and Lyft/Uber/taxi rides are quite inexpensive and plentiful.

Overall, Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort is a great choice for families that want to tack on a pre- or post-cruise stay in resort accommodations. The pool area and other resort amenities are perfect for families.  The rooms are spacious and provide some great nice to haves.  The larger the family, the more compelling this resort can be to choose.

If you are coming just for the night before your cruise, staying here might be overkill (depending on price), but if you can get at least a full day to take advantage of the resort, then it can make a lot of sense.

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort ? Are you a fan of it? What did you think of the suites? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

Excursion Focus: Kennedy Space Center on your own tour

In:
10 Apr 2017

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:
14 Nov 2016

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:
17 Sep 2016

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!  

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