The best vacations can also be the easiest -- and what's easier than driving to a port close to home and jumping on a cruise ship? While we love exotic destinations and far-flung locales, boarding a ship that's within driving distance of your house has a specific appeal.
Luckily, if you live in many parts of the U.S., you are generally within a day's drive of a cruise port. That makes it easy to ditch the airport and hit the road, on your way out to sea. Here are our top reasons we're checking out cruises close to home right now.
The big travel story of 2022 has been the craziness that you find at airports worldwide -- and the high price of airfare. Even if you do find a cheap ticket, delays and outright cancellations have been frequent occurrences. Skip the stress and avoid flying all together, we say. With the amount of time that you may wait in the airport just to reschedule your flight, you could be halfway to your cruise port already.
Call us maximalists: Another thing we love about driving to a cruise port is that we can bring as much as we want, in as big a suitcase as we want, without having to worry about baggage fees altogether. When you drive to your cruise, there's no debate about whether you need to leave your favorite outfits at home so you can squeeze it all into a carryon. We're bringing those extra shoes -- and our own hair dryer! Same thing on the way back. Who cares if we went a little overboard at the duty-free store? Just stick those extra bottles in the trunk for the drive home.
It's not a secret that the newest and biggest blockbuster cruise ships tend to congregate in South Florida. If you don't live within driving distance of the Sunshine State, though, you'll be just fine. We think there's something to be said for smaller and more intimate ships that sail from alternate homeports. Enchantment of the Seas draws mid-Atlantic cruisers to Baltimore -- and provides a totally different experience than you'd find on Royal Caribbean's massive counterpart, Wonder of the Seas. Holland America, meanwhile, has been planning interesting trips to Canada and New England all summer long, not just at peak foliage season. And catch Carnival Ecstasy out of Mobile before the ship leaves the fleet in October 2022 -- or book its Alabama replacement, Carnival Spirit, for 2023.
While week-long cruises are lots of fun, sometimes you just need a short three to five-day break. That's exactly what you can find from ports such as New Orleans, Los Angeles, Galveston and Bayonne, New Jersey. You also don't have to drive all the way to Miami to take a short Bahamas getaway; Jacksonville, Florida -- a little over five hours from Atlanta -- is an often-overlooked homeport.
The less trafficked ports aren't just for short cruises. Ports such as San Francisco, Seattle nad Vancouver, Canada give you the option to go small -- think a three-day Pacific coastal cruise and 1-night repositioning voyages between Vancouver and Seattle -- or long, as in a 16-night roundtrip cruise to Hawaii. You can sail all the way up to Newfoundland on some Boston cruises, and even Greenland from New York on Princess. Carnival fans should look for special longer "Carnival Journeys" voyages from Galveston and New Orleans.
When you don't have to worry about airfare or checked bag fees, you're more inclined to open up your invite to the entire extended family, whether you're actually related or not. Carpooling to a cruise is the best kind of pre-game, we've found. You're all excited, no one is annoyed with each other yet and the only thing on your mind is how quickly you're going to hit the pool (or the bar, depending on the ages of those involved).
We would never fly into a port for a cruise the same day; there are just too many variables involved (in fact, in 2022, we recommend you fly in two days early because the airlines situation is just that bad). But if our cruise port is a few hours away, we're totally cool with coming in the same day. A few caveats, of course - make sure you know where you're going to park and give yourself enough time for interstate delays, particularly over busy holiday weekends. There's something delightfully giddy about that crack-of-dawn car ride, particularly if there's an early Dunkin, Wawa or Waffle House stop along the way.
Vacation days: in North America, we guard them jealously. If you cruise close to home, chances are you won't be burning a day or two of valuable holiday time just for transit. And that means the ones that you do take will be filled with even more fun stuff like private island beach days, port excursions or relaxing days at sea.
All good things must come to an end -- and we don't know about you, but when the party's over, we're ready to be home as fast as possible. When you drive to your cruise port, you'll be home in time to take care of all of those annoying re-entry tasks well before the Sunday (or whatever day you're back to work) Scaries. Bonus: You'll also see your pets sooner. And the short drive back is just enough time to get your crew onboard with dates for your next cruise adventure.