11 of the Largest Cruise Ports on Earth

While most of us think of cruises as the ultimate getaway, the ports they come and go from are often just as impressive. Cruise ports are a vital part of the cruising experience as they provide passengers access to some of the world’s most amazing cities and sights.

Traveling to and from cruise ports presents several challenges for travelers, often stemming from logistical challenges, cost considerations, and the overall travel experience, especially at the largest cruise ports. We share some insider tips for each cruise port on our list to help you navigate and get on your way sooner so you can enjoy your vacation instead of spending it waiting in line. 

From the US’s largest cruise port, Canaveral in Florida, to the Caribbean’s most popular, Cozumel in Mexico, here is a list of some of the largest and most spectacular cruise ports in the world.

1. Port Canaveral

Disney cruise ship Fantasy docked in Port Canaveral
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Port Canaveral, situated on Florida’s Atlantic coast between Jacksonville and Miami, is the world’s second-largest cruise port. With over 4.5 million annual tourists, it’s a central cruise departure point, hosting top lines like Disney, NCL Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival.

Over 6 million tons of dry cargo, liquid bulk, break-bulk, project cargo, and container products pass through here annually, making it an important commercial port serving Central Florida.

Tips for traveling to and from Port Canaveral:

If you are staying in a hotel prior to your cruise, most of them will run shuttles to the port, and we highly recommend using them. Sign up for a mid to late morning (no later than 11:00) shuttle to avoid major wait times boarding the ship. 

If you are planning on parking a car, ask the hotel, as they will frequently allow long-term parking at a much more reasonable rate than the parking available at the port. 

2. Port Miami

MIAMI - FEBRUARY 27, 2015: Port of Miami with cruise ships. Miami is a major port in United States for cruises.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

While renowned for its capacity to serve massive passenger ships, it primarily deals with container ships, handling around 7.4 million cargo tons yearly. It is Florida’s largest container cargo port and the ninth-largest in the USA.

Equipped with multiple breakbulk warehouses and four refrigerated container (reefer) yards, Port Miami boasts nine modern cruise terminals and stands as the World’s Cruise Capital.

Tips for traveling to and from Port Miami:

If you are planning on taking an Uber from your hotel to the port, just keep in mind that if you choose a hotel too close to the cruise terminal, drivers are often reluctant to pick you up so close. You may end up having to walk over with your luggage which isn’t ideal. We recommend staying within a ten-minute drive of the port during high season.

3. Port Everglades

Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
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Port Everglades is one of the top cruise ports in the world, serving Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which is a major economic center in the state. It witnesses more than 4,000 vessel passages annually, encompassing box ships, bulk cargo ships, and passenger vessels.

This results in impressive statistics: 3.8 million passengers, 7.2 million TEU containers, and 25 million tons of cargo. Notably, the port contributes an average annual revenue of $168 million and plays a pivotal role in the local economy, with tourism-related operations valued at nearly $30 billion. 

Tips for traveling to and from Port Everglades:

Surprisingly, Miami International Airport (MIA) is situated nearer to Port Everglades than Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL). The journey from MIA to the port takes approximately 45 minutes, versus the 1 to 1.5 hours required when traveling from FLL.

This proximity results in a shorter travel time and reduced expenses for ground transportation from MIA, making it a more appealing option for cruise travelers and contributing to more affordable fares.

4. San Miguel de Cozumel

High-speed Cozumel ferry at the terminal of San Miguel de Cozumel waiting for passengers to Playa del Carmen and other tourist destinations.
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San Miguel de Cozumel is a renowned cruise port celebrated for its scuba diving attractions, primarily located on Cozumel’s western side in Mexico. Though less developed, the east side has stunning beaches like Playa Azul and Playa Palancar, accompanied by beachfront restaurants.

Tips for traveling to and from San Miguel de Cozumel:

To truly make the most of your visit to Cozumel, opting for a private guide is the ultimate convenience for travelers to this island paradise. Your guide can create an itinerary that is tailored just for you and will allow you to see so much more of the island than by traveling on your own.

There is plenty of dining and shopping within walking distance of the ports, but if you wish to explore farther and get back in time for your cruise, a private guide is the way to go. Instead of spending your time in port with the same people you share the cruise ship with, connect with a local guide and get a real taste of the local culture. 

5. Nassau

Amazing Nassau City, The Bahamas
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Nassau, on the northeastern coast of New Providence Island, is the nation’s capital and busiest port. Large cruise lines frequently fly the flag of the Bahamas out of this port because of the country’s robust tourism industry.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 was over $11 billion, with a large portion coming from the tourism industry. The cruise port at Nassau, which sees over 3 million passengers yearly, is a significant player in this economic dynamic.

Tips for traveling to and from Nassau port:

Vendors near the port can be quite aggressive but a simple “no thank you” and keep walking will help prevent you from being swarmed. If you want to browse the stalls, don’t touch anything unless you think you want to purchase it.

Many excursions on the island can be quite pricey, so we recommend doing a walking tour on your own to the Queen’s Staircase and the Fort.

6. Port of Shanghai

Shanghai,China - November 15,2019:Shanghai Yangshan Deepwater Port Container Cargo Terminal,Shanghai has become one of the world's largest container port.
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The Port of Shanghai is a significant transportation hub globally situated in Shanghai, China. This bustling port, found within the third most populous city globally after Tokyo and Delhi, plays a pivotal role in various maritime activities.

Notably, the port of Shanghai Baoshan is a crucial departure point for Yangtze River cruises linking Wuhan and Chongqing. Additionally, it operates as a key turnaround spot for cruises heading toward South Korea and Japan.

Tips for traveling to and from the port of Shanghai:

Navigating Shanghai by taxi offers a convenient and cost-effective means of transportation. Finding a cab to whisk you away from the Shanghai Cruise Port to the heart of the city is typically a breeze. Also, it’s wise to have your destination written in Chinese, given that the majority of taxi drivers may not communicate in English.

7. Port of the Balearic Islands

Aerial view of Palma de Mallorca with Almudaina palace, Spain
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Cruisers looking for return trips to ports in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands make this one of the busiest ports in the world. It is close to Palma Airport, making it a popular stop for cruise ships, and it is located on the southeastern shore of the Western Mediterranean Sea.

Formentera, Ibiza, Menorca, and Mallorca are all part of the Spanish archipelago it serves in the Balearic Sea. Tourists love these islands’ Mediterranean environment, unique culture, and delicious food.

Tips for traveling to and from the port of the Balearic Islands:

The Hop On Hop Off bus stops at the cruise terminal and is a great way to see the area. The route is rich with attractions, including the majestic Bellver Castle, the historic old town, the bustling shopping district of Passeig Born, the Museum of Modern Art, and the awe-inspiring Cathedral. 

8. Port of Galveston

Galveston TX/USA: Cruise ship Carnival Vista in port at a deserted cruise terminal
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The port of Galveston holds a significant place in U.S. cruising history. Established on October 17, 1825, it is the oldest port west of New Orleans, stemming from a Mexican Congress proclamation when Texas was part of Mexico.

In 1900, it ranked as the third most crucial port for wheat exports and led in cotton exports. Presently, the port is a gateway for international trade and cruise departures in Texas. Notably, prominent cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, and Carnival frequently launch ships from Galveston.

Tips for traveling to and from the Port of Galveston:

Cruise transfers are the least expensive option for getting from the airport to the port. Houston Airport (IAH) is an hour and fifteen-minute drive, depending on traffic. If you aren’t from the Houston area, the traffic is terrible. If you want to book an alternative transportation option, Saltwater Moms offers a great service with decent prices. 

9. Port of Barcelona

Barcelona port view from the air. Luxurious port in Barcelona, Spain.
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This European port is a major destination for cruise ships. It is the largest cruise turnaround point in the Mediterranean, with many round-trip cruises departing from and returning to this port.

The port’s cruise activities generate over $900 million in annual revenue and employ close to 7,000 locals due to its location in one of the world’s largest harbor areas. A single cruise ship in Port Barcelona generates over $200,000 in taxes and over $1 million in revenue.

Tips for traveling to and from the Port of Barcelona:

There are often long lines for taxis at the port, and there is a surcharge of roughly 10 Euros for every pickup. There is a convenient shuttle bus that runs from the different cruise terminals to La Rambla, a popular area in Barcelona. It’s a lively pedestrian street full of restaurants and shopping. 

10. Port Civitavecchia

Civitavecchia, Italy - 03 30 2023: Aerial view on a Tirrenia ferry and a cruise ship docked at the port. There are other boats in the harbour.
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Port Civitavecchia is a cruise entrance to Rome and is just an hour away by train. It’s one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean, serving over 2 million passengers every year and seeing over 2,000 ferry and cruise ship calls.

Its eight cruise ship terminals, five parking lots, and 15 berths contribute to this success. The Guidecca Canal connects the Adriatic Sea with the port.

Tips for traveling to and from the Port Civitavecchia:

The train from the airport to the port is the quickest and cheapest way to travel. However, if you have a lot of luggage, we recommend you take a taxi or private transfer. 

11. Port of Southampton

Aerial view of colorful containers on cargo ships at the port of Southampton, which is one of the Leading Port Terminal Operators in the UK
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The only port in Europe to make this list, Southampton is one of the largest passenger ports in the UK. It is also one of the busiest, seeing a whopping 2 million passengers pass through it each year.

Aside from its size and passenger numbers, Southampton is known for its historical significance, as it was here that the Titanic set sail on her fateful voyage in 1912.

Tips for traveling to and from the Port of Southhampton:

The train from London to Southampton is a seamless and easy option to get to the port. If you are renting a car, some rental agencies don’t allow drop-off near the terminal. You may have to drop off at the airport and take a taxi to the port.