Entrance at the San Francisco cruise terminal with Explorer of the Seas in the background

If you just assume you're going to take a cab from the airport or pre-cruise hotel to the cruise port on embarkation day, you might be missing out on cost savings. While taxis can be the best way to transfer in certain port cities, they aren't always in others, and you shouldn't automatically plan on one without considering other options.

As you make travel arrangements for your next sailing, be sure to look into these cruise port transfer options to find the best way to get to your ship.


Cruise Shuttles

Cruise lines provide coach bus transfers from the airport to the cruise port (and back again at the end of your cruise) that they sell, like shore excursions, for a fee.

Pro

Convenience! A cruise line representative will meet you at baggage claim and escort you to the bus. You can book the shuttles online pre-cruise (and sometimes at the airport day-of, if space is available), and know that all will be taken care of when you arrive. This is especially helpful in foreign cities where you might be nervous about navigating in a foreign language or when the port is far from the airport. Also, if you have a late flight home, some lines combine a day tour with luggage storage and a transfer to the airport so you don't have to waste the last day of your vacation.

Con

Expense. Cruise line shuttles are often more expensive than a cruise port transfer you'd arrange on your own. Also, you might have to wait around in the airport or on the bus to wait for more passengers on other flights to arrive before the bus departs. Also, depending on your flight times, shuttles might not be available.


Hotel Shuttles

If you're overnighting in your embarkation city, some hotels will offer cruise port transfers directly from their property.

Pro

Some hotels in major port cities will offer stay-and-cruise packages where the shuttle cost is included in the price of your stay. This can be good value for cruisers. Others offer the service for a fee. Either way, it's a no-hassle experience the morning of your departure.

Con

If you're choosy about hotels, you might not care for the properties that offer cruise shuttle service. Hotels might only have a few shuttles going to the port each day, so you won't have a lot of control over when you get to the port.


Taxi parked out from of Port Miami with Norwegian Getaway in the background

Taxis

Every airport's got 'em; every hotel can call one.

Pro

No waiting for other passengers, no advance bookings necessary and often they're an affordable option, especially if you're a family or group of three or four and can share, and the port is not far.

Con

If the port is an hour or more from the airport, a cab might not be the most economical option. If you're a big family with a lot of luggage, one cab might not fit all of your stuff. And in some foreign cities, you might have trouble communicating with the driver or determining which taxi options are the most reputable.


Uber/Lyft

Cellphone-savvy travelers rely on taxi alternatives like Uber and Lyft for a cab-like experience at a lower cost.

Pro

Uber and Lyft typically charge lower fees than certified taxis, and drivers typically arrive within a few minutes of requesting a ride. Choose from a variety of options, including shared rides and larger cars.

Con

If you're not comfortable with your mobile phone, you might have trouble getting the app to work or accidentally order a ride or ride type you didn't want. Uber and Lyft do not operate in all cities, and are not allowed to pick up at certain airports. Plus, be prepared to pay extra for surge pricing at in-demand times.


Private or Shared Vans

Many private transportation companies offer individual or shared van rides to cruise ports.

Pro

Private car and van companies can be a great option when you're traveling with a large group and want to all ride together. They can also be the most economical choice when your port is far from the airport. You can also specify whether you need a regular car or a larger van. Use the Cruise Critic Roll Calls to find shipmates who might want to share with you if you need more people to bring costs down.

Con

For most shared van options, you'll need to book in advance. Plus, with so many options, you'll need to do research beforehand to determine the most reputable companies and best pricing. You can opt for a company like Super Shuttle, which you can book at the airport same-day, but you'll be sharing a van, and your travel time can increase as a result.


Public Transportation

Trains, buses, subways -- public transportation can get you to certain cruise ports.

Pro

It's cheap! If you really want the lowest possible cruise port transfer cost, public transportation is often that -- especially if you live or are staying in a hotel at the port city already. Though in some port cities, like San Francisco and Boston, you can take public transit all the way from the airport to the cruise port.

Con

It's a pain. Travel time is slow, you'll have to drag your bags up and down escalators or maneuver them onto crowded trains, and the closest bus or subway stop might be blocks away from the cruise terminal -- necessitating a short cab ride or long walk with all your luggage. Also, figuring out fares and stops in foreign countries is not for the inexperienced or nervous traveler.


Your Car

Many locals -- or those who hate flying -- prefer to drive and park at the cruise port.

Pro

You're in control. You can pack whatever you want without worrying about carry-on liquid rules or overweight baggage allowances. You can stop to pick up supplies pre-cruise. And after the cruise, you can just walk to your car and head home without further ado.

Con

Parking fees can add up, plus you never know what will happen to your car left in a lot for a week. (For example, in 2008, Hurricane Ike damaged most of the cars left in uncovered cruise parking lots in Galveston.) And depending on how far you live from the cruise port, it could take all day to reach your destination -- leaving you tired and cranky at the start of your vacation.