For years, I’ve watched the cruise ships dock in San Francisco, pausing to pick up passengers and whisk them off to Alaska, Mexico, or Hawaii. But it wasn’t until recently, when I took a short cruise hosted by Princess Cruises myself, that I realized what serious cruisers have known for years: Home port cruises are a smart way to make the most of limited time and budget. Here are four reasons why:
Home Port Cruises Benefit 1: It’s More Than an All-Inclusive
Unlike a hotel, which gets you a room but not necessarily much else, a cruise ship functions as a mobile all-inclusive. Food, some drinks, activities, and the promise of adventure in the various ports of call are built into the rate. Even things that aren’t included—alcoholic drinks in some cases, and premium onboard restaurants—tend to be subsidized to keep passengers open to paying extra.
Home Port Cruises Benefit 2: It’s Short-Vacation Friendly
When you can start your actual vacation—not just the flight to get to your vacation—from a nearby city, you make the most of even a short trip, because your vacation days are precious after all. And on a cruise, the journey really is the destination. From home port destinations around the U.S., you can find sailings that range from three to 12 days and beyond.
Home Port Cruises Benefit 3: It’s Affordable
Dollar for dollar, cruising can cost less than many other types of vacations—and that value equation gets even better when you can drive to your starting point.
Here’s an example: On a five-day cruise from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas in mid-November, interior staterooms started at $549 and ocean view rooms were priced from $609 per person. That’s as inexpensive as $220 for two people per day. So, for less than the cost of a mid-priced hotel room, you get the room and everything the ship has to offer, including food, entertainment, and a trip to Mexico.
Home Port Cruises Benefit 4: It Can Be Different Every Time
Maybe you want nothing more than to sit by the pool and eat endless free soft-serve ice cream, or watch movies from the comfort of a hot tub. Maybe you want to opt out of the buffet line and seek a ship’s signature restaurants for a culinary experience. Maybe you want to do an easy solo trip and spend your time reading books and getting spa treatments. The sheer number of choices—of activities, food, and entertainment—available on large ships may be overwhelming for first-timers, but it’s what allows return cruisers to constantly reinvent their cruise experience.
Where to Find a Home Port Cruise in the U.S.
Your nearest departure city will be the biggest determiner of your destination options. Here are some of the busiest departure cities in the U.S.:
Boston: Cruises departing from Boston tend to sail to New England, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Transatlantic voyages also occasionally depart from Boston.
Charleston: This South Carolina port hosts ships sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Florida: Florida ports offer the variety of the Caribbean. Home ports include Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Port Canaveral, and Tampa.
Galveston: Texas’ main cruise port takes passengers to the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Mexico and Central America.
Los Angeles and San Diego: The most popular cruises from Los Angeles and San Diego include sailings to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, as well as to Hawaii.
New Orleans: Cruises that start in New Orleans tend to go either to the Caribbean or the Bahamas.
New York and New Jersey: New York City and New Jersey based cruises include itineraries to Bermuda, Canada, New England, Europe, and the Caribbean.
San Francisco: San Francisco mostly hosts ships bound for Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, the California Coast, and Mexico.
Seattle: Seattle cruises focus on Alaska itineraries.
Other cruise ports in the U.S. include Mobile, Alabama; Norfolk, Virginia; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Honolulu, Hawaii; and St. Thomas, USVI. Live near one of these cities? Then you’ve got a home port for easy sailing.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Cruise Passport Requirements: Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise?
- 10 Caribbean Islands Where Cruise Ships Never Go
- The Worst Decisions You Can Make on a Cruise
Christine Sarkis was a guest of Princess Cruises on a recent sailing of the Ruby Princess. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.