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Cruises to Charleston

Charleston (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
Charleston (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

About Charleston

I'm going back to Charleston, back where I belong. I want peace. I want to see if somewhere there isn't something left in life of charm and grace. --Rhett Butler, "Gone With the Wind"

The Holy City, Charleston, is so named for the skyline of steeples seen by ships' passengers as they enter Charleston harbor. The view was there before the American Revolution, during the Civil War, and you'll see the same today as your ship arrives or departs. Charleston has endured much over the centuries, but the city also has thrived and prospered. Pirates, wars, disease, hurricanes, earthquakes and, most frequently, fires have left their mark on the city and the region known as the Lowcountry, as have the unique individuals and personalities that have shaped the centuries there -- and left us the Charleston we know today.

Today's Charleston is a treasure trove, a unique blend of architecture and history, art and culture. Visit the Old Exchange Building, and see the history of the city and that of the port. Look at Rainbow Row to see how individual buildings have become part of a city landmark. Turn down any corner, and discover quiet alleys and cobbled streets where the past is always present. The air can be thick with scent -- tea olive, jessamine, magnolia; camellias and azaleas burst forth with color, each in their season. It's hard to get lost -- sooner or later, you'll end up at either the Ashley or Cooper River. Walk the Battery, with planters' mansions behind you, and gaze across the harbor at Fort Sumter, where the tragedy of the Civil War began. Stroll the neighborhoods, and begin to understand why Charlestonians are proud of what has been preserved and maintained. They're eager to share it and will go out of their way to help visitors, which explains why Charleston has been named the "Most Polite" city in America several years in a row.

Bring your camera, your appetite and a shopping bag. The city is overwhelmingly picturesque, and you'll find yourself stopping over and over for that perfect photo, that intriguing view. Dine well and often in this city where, in years gone by, residents ate only at home; now, the city is a foodie haven where dining out has become a never-ending adventure. The Saturday Farmers' Market is always crowded, and an annual Food & Wine Festival has been introduced. And, make sure to set yourself to shopping mode. National chains do exist, but it's what's local that really counts. The must-have items are handwoven sweetgrass baskets; they're expensive, yes, but you're buying centuries of tradition. Look for antiques, silver, jewelry and art of every kind. (No, it's not legally required to have an art gallery on every block ... it just seems that way.)

Take your time, and don't try to do everything; you'll be coming back.

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DAY 1: Bayonne

10 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
Newport, Charleston ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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DAY 1: Bayonne

10 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
Newport, King's Wharf ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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DAY 1: Charleston

4 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Nassau ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Charleston

10 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Aruba, Bonaire ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
Charleston, King's Wharf ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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5 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Nassau, Princess Cays ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
St. Thomas, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
Charleston, King's Wharf ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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5 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Freeport, Nassau ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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5 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Nassau, Half Moon Cay ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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5 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Princess Cays, Nassau ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Nassau, Grand Turk ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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25 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Victoria, Astoria, Oregon ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Quebec City
Visiting:
Saguenay Fjord, Sept-Iles ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Charleston, Newport ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

8 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Baltimore
Visiting:
Charleston, Port Canaveral ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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Cruise Critic Favorite

8 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Baltimore
Visiting:
Nassau, Perfect Day at CocoCay ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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4 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Princess Cays ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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5 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Half Moon Cay, Nassau ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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4 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Half Moon Cay ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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8 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Baltimore
Visiting:
Charleston, Port Canaveral ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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4 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Freeport ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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13 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Charleston, New York ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
St. Thomas, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Charleston

Leaving:
Charleston
Visiting:
Nassau, Princess Cays ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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Why go to Charleston?

Pros:

The ship terminal is located in the heart of a colorful and historic city fit for strolling

Cons:

Beware of "free tours" that are really bait for a timeshare talk

Bottom Line:

Southern charm is abundant among Charleston's polite and well-preserved neighborhoods

Charleston Cruise Port Facilities?

The city begins at the gangway. The Market stretches for blocks before you and is bordered north and south by a broad variety of shops, galleries and restaurants. It's here that the carriage tours begin and end, and beyond is the main shopping district. To your left lies the original Historic District, Charleston's heart; to your right is Ansonborough, Charleston's first suburb (1800).

Good to Know?

Watch out for young people trying to sell palmetto roses, made from the fronds of the local trees. Yes, they are cute and make nice souvenirs, but the sellers will remind you of Caribbean beach vendors. Practice the word "no." Also, there's no such thing as a flat sidewalk; public restrooms only exist in the Market, parking garages and near the waterfront park; and, oh yes, those "free tours" being offered at booths and storefronts are come-ons for timeshares.

Getting Around?

On Foot: It's very easy to explore Charleston on foot, given the intimate scale of the area. Check to see if your smartphone is GPS-enabled, or access the MapQuest application on your iPhone to guide yourself. You can shave time and distance from your on-foot explorations that way.

By Bus: For those who don't want to hoof it around town, public transit is available through CARTA, which operates both city buses and trolley-style shuttles. The cost for a trolley is free, and you can also purchase transfers between trolleys and buses to get wherever you need to go. Correct change is required; you can also pre-order single-day or three-day passes.

By Car: Taxis are at the terminal when a ship is in port. Yellow Cab will dispatch (843-577-6565), as will Max Transportation (843-822-1869) and Charleston Black Cab Company (843-216-2627). For cab rides to and from the Charleston airport (about $30 each way), try Grant's Limo-Taxi (843-813-1737). Rickshaw-pedicabs operate downtown, but mainly in the evening (Charleston Rickshaw, 843-723-5685). Rental cars are available downtown at Enterprise or Budget. Both companies are located opposite the Visitors' Center, about a mile or so from the port.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

U.S. dollars are used, and ATM's are readily available; credit cards may not be accepted by individual vendors in the Market or by the city's famed basket makers.

Language?

It's English, with a twist. Charlestonians speak in warm, languid voices that make a drawl seem fast, and African Americans of Gullah/Geechee descent still use the words of another time, softened by the centuries.

Where You're Docked?

Charleston Cruise Port Address:
32 Washington Street, Charleston, South Carolina 29401

The passenger terminal couldn't be more convenient; it's within strolling distance of everything. The facility itself isn't the most visually appealing, but plans to improve the area have been stalled in court for years by locals who argue that visiting cruise ships detract from the serenity of the city. Secure, patrolled parking is available for a per-day fee; an open public garage, about two to three blocks away, also offers daily parking.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2018 Top-Rated US & Canada Destinations

Charleston Cruise Reviews

Carnival Sunshine
kindergartencrocodile
Sail Date: Mar 2020
We stayed "on our own" an extra night in Charleston and wish we would have added at least another day also. A fun and lovely place to visit.... Read More
Carnival Sunshine
corvetteatthelake
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Charleston is a historic city. We have been there before. We drove 4 hours from home, checked in to our hotel and went to a restaurant called the Swig and Swine for dinner. BEST ribs and beer ever! Try it if you... Read More
Carnival Sunshine
Shumdogg52
Sail Date: Sep 2019
We enjoyed Historic Charleston tremendously. We came in after Hurricane Dorian and the town was open and very welcoming. We only wish that we had more time to explore this interesting area.... Read More
Carnival Sunshine
wecruiseoften143
Sail Date: Nov 2019
We live here so we love Charleston!... Read More
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