Cruising from the USA
Choose from 19 departure ports in the continental U.S.
and embark on a cheap, hassle-free vacation at sea
By Jennifer Davoren
Vacations To Go, a Houston-based national cruise discounter, can cut your travel costs even more. The "Find a Bargain" tool found on the left side of the home page allows you to search for reduced fares, with many slashed up to 75 percent off the original brochure price.
Better still, potential cruisers setting out from the continental United States have 19 departure ports at their disposal. With so many options available, it's easy to hop in the car or take a short flight to the nearest coast.
Below are the round-trip sailing options along four cruise-heavy shorelines. In addition to the East, West and Gulf coasts, we've dedicated a section to Florida, a mecca for U.S.-based ocean liners that boasts five embarkation points. To learn more about bargain-priced sailings from U.S. home ports, call (800) 338-4962 or visit Vacations To Go, where you can use the "Find a Bargain" tool to search for cruises that leave from a specific U.S. city.
Cruises departing from the eastern seaboard offer an enticing mix of domestic and international destinations. The best buys are trips to the Caribbean and Bahamas, which take place year-round. Autumn foliage draws ships to New England and Canada. In spring and summer, cruises to Bermuda deliver sparkling beaches and British colonial charm, just 650 miles from the U.S.
Boston, one of the northernmost departure ports on the Atlantic coast, serves as a launching pad to Bermuda between April and September each year. Seven-night sailings aboard the Norwegian Dawn spend three full days docked at King's Wharf, Bermuda's primary port. Canadian shores are reached by the Boston-based ships of Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International.
New York City is a destination in itself, but the Big Apple also draws cruisers seeking an array of intriguing locales. From Brooklyn, vacationers can board the Caribbean Princess for the picturesque ports of New England and eastern Canada in fall. In Manhattan, Norwegian is a major presence with ships like the Gem and Jewel offering seven-night forays to the Bahamas.
In neighboring New Jersey, Bayonne partners with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises to reach Canadian, Bermudian and Caribbean ports. Farther down the coast, the Carnival Pride has settled into its home port of Baltimore, offering weeklong vacations to the Bahamas year-round. Also in Baltimore, guests can board Celebrity, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean ships bound for Bermuda or the Caribbean.
And Norfolk, VA, and Charleston, SC, provide convenient embarkation ports for mid-Atlantic residents. Carnival ships departing these cities head for Bahamian destinations, especially the private island haven of Half Moon Cay.
The Bahamas is a popular destination for cruise ships -- especially those departing Jacksonville, FL. From here, the Carnival Fascination sails four- and five-night trips to the islands year-round, stopping at Nassau, the duty-free shopping haven of Freeport and, on occasion, laid-back Key West, FL. These are some of the most budget-friendly options available in the Sunshine State, with many departures priced below $250 per person for a five-night trip.
Farther south on Florida's Atlantic coast, Port Canaveral is home to Disney Cruise Line. The 4,000-passenger Disney Dream sails three-, four- and five-night trips to the Bahamas, hitting Nassau and the line's private island, Castaway Cay. Its sister ship, Disney Magic, sails weeklong Caribbean routes that visit such ports as St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, depending on the itinerary.
Fort Lauderdale, served by Port Everglades, offers too many itineraries to count. That goes double for Miami, a city that handles nearly half a million cruise passengers per month. This fall, top destinations for cruisers from these two cities will include Mexico, Central America and countless Caribbean ports; plus, partial Panama Canal transits are offered from Fort Lauderdale. The Ruby Princess sails to Caribbean outposts like Grand Turk, in the Turk & Caicos Islands.
Meanwhile, on the west coast of Florida, Tampa hosts the ships of Carnival, Holland America and Royal Caribbean. This is the perfect port for first-time cruisers looking to sample a vacation at sea -- Tampa-based trips range from four to 14 nights and provide plenty of tempting port calls.
Louisiana and Texas provide two embarkation points in the southern U.S. A favorite port for Carnival Cruise Lines, New Orleans and the Carnival Conquest offer seven-night trips either to the Bahamas or to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico. The Elation, a new Crescent City resident, cruises four- and five-night jaunts to Cozumel. Norwegian Cruise Line has a presence in New Orleans, too -- the Norwegian Spirit, a 1,966-passenger vessel, uses its seven-night sailings to visit Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.
Galveston, TX, just south of Houston, offers more options for cruising from the Gulf Coast. Carnival and Royal Caribbean, temporarily hampered by Hurricane Ike in late 2008, are back in business here. Destinations in the Bahamas, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica and the Caymans can be reached by ship from this port, which is home to the Carnival Triumph, Carnival Magic and the Mariner of the Seas.
Cruises setting off from Southern California provide an easy way to explore the Pacific coast ports of Mexico, often called the Mexican Riviera. From San Diego, the Carnival Spirit offers five-night sojourns to Cabo San Lucas. Hawaiian island cruises offered by Holland America depart San Diego between October and April.
Just north, Los Angeles hosts Princess ships that visit Cabo and Ensenada on seven-night itineraries. The Golden Princess, based in L.A., makes leisurely two-week voyages to Hawaii. Two Carnival ships are based in nearby Long Beach, embarking on three-, four- and seven-night trips to Mexico.
San Francisco also offers a handful of departures to Mexico, but many vacationers boarding a ship here will be heading north to Alaska. The 1,950-passenger Sea Princess navigates the famed Inside Passage and also spends a day in Victoria, the British-flavored capital of British Columbia. Many more Alaska-bound itineraries can be found in Seattle, where Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean have positioned ships ready to take visitors to glaciers and fjords.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in September/October 2009. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.