Port Canaveral is the most inconvenient of any port we’ve sailed from. The nearest airport is in Orlando, about 40 miles away so it’s a bit far for uber or taxis. You can book shuttles through cruise lines, but the more people you travel with the less budget-friendly that is. Rental cars are another option, but unless you’re traveling with a large group it’s a pricey one. Plus you have to either turn the car in when you get to Cocoa Beach and take a shuttle from the car lot to the port, and then take one back for another rental car afterword (which we know from past experience can be a long wait with a crowd of other people doing the same thing), or pay for both car rental and port parking for the whole time you’re away on the cruise. For people flying in from far enough away to require a night’s hotel stay there’s another option. You can book a hotel through Go Port for a fly & snooze package. They provide busses that pick up from a number of hotels with varying prices for the night’s stay plus transportation to the port from the hotel and back to the airport from the port. Most hotels have airport shuttles so transportation is often covered from the airport to the hotel as well. We picked this option for a cruise on Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas, with a stay at a Marriott in Orlando. Go Port also has direct shuttles from the airport for people flying in same day as well as snooze and park or just parking options. There are also other companies that provide shuttles to Port Canaveral.
The hotel had a nice pool and a small bar with a bistro. It was next door to a couple restaurants so we had dinner at TGI Fridays. We were not there long enough to try the pool or any other hotel amenities
When we first booked we were given a cruise shuttle pick-up time of 9:30 am, which was changed to 8:30, then 8:00. The people at the hotel’s front desk said the bus would pull up to the front door where we could see it from the lobby seating, but it went to the side of the hotel where you couldn’t see the bus from the lobby at all instead. Go Port did send in someone to line up all the people and check them all in so nobody would miss it, but except from very close-up that person was not identifiable as being from Go Port. There were also a number of new crew in the same lobby waiting for their bus. We initially thought that line was for them until some very obviously not crew people got into it. Sometimes one bus will take people to several different ships, but they had enough people waiting that day for each ship to have its own bus. Our bus only picked up from one other hotel. Probably why the time got changed to earlier because the bus had to go back for another run of people to the port after dropping us off.
Ports these days usually line people up according to assigned boarding times, which are chosen when completing the online registration on Royal Caribbean. Our boarding time was noon. When we got there we saw they had lines for times starting as early as 10am, though noon had been the earliest of the options I had to choose from. Normally when you get to the port you line up in the section reserved for your boarding time. This time they would not let anyone from the earlier arriving busses into those empty lines, but rather sent us all somewhere else. By the time the port workers finally let us over to those lines they were already full of people from later arriving busses who were allowed to go straight into the boarding lines so we all got stuck behind people who came long after we did. On that cruise we would have had a better place in line if the shuttle had stuck to its original later pick-up time.
To make matters worse this was Wonder’s first cruise out of this port after having just arrived from Europe so it had to undergo a coast guard inspection before boarding could begin, making the wait to board longer than normal. Avoid booking the first cruise after a ship has just arrived to the USA if you can as that inspection requirement can really mess with the boarding process.
Once boarding finally started they quickly emptied the priority lines and the ones for before noon, which hardly had anyone in them. The empty lines quickly filled with people just arriving at the port who were let in without so much as a glance at what their actual scheduled boarding time was while the people roped into lines with later boarding times who had already been waiting several hours waited more even though it was late enough that some of those lines should have already been boarding.
The GoPort shuttle did their part as scheduled, but once we were off the bus and at the port this was the most disorganized boarding we’ve ever seen. It definitely would have gone smoother without the hold-up for the coast guard inspection, but even with that it certainly could have been handled way better and far more fairly than it was. Of course none of that was Go Port’s fault as they just unloaded the bus where the empty lines were set up and then left for the next batch, probably unaware we were not let into those lines.
Getting on the MSC Meraviglia, which we boarded the day we disembarked Wonder of the Seas, went much smoother than boarding the Wonder. The Go Port pick-up from that dock after the cruise ended wasn’t so easy though. Apparently terminal 10 where the Meraviglia docked is the last stop for Go Port busses taking people to the airport after disembarking a cruise in Port Canaveral. A bus looking pretty much full pulled up after we’d waited about 20 minutes or so. Instead of incoming passengers for the next cruise who would get off and make room for the people waiting it was full of people from other ships on their way to the airport. Only the first three couples to check in got on. We were the fifth and had to wait for the next bus along with 2 other couples. It came nearly an hour later, again nearly full. By then there were significantly more people waiting than when the last bus came, but only 4 couples got on so there was only one couple out of those two busses that didn’t have to wait for a second bus. It looks like MSC passengers who don’t have a lot of hours between when they disembark and their flight could not count on Go Port to get them to the airport on time. If we had needed to get to the airport quickly we would have had to call an uber even though we’d already paid for a round trip on the Go Port shuttle. We weren’t in any kind of hurry that day though. We were originally scheduled for an afternoon flight, but the night before disembarkation we got a notice from the airline that it had been cancelled and we couldn’t fly out until the next morning so we had to spend an unplanned night at a hotel anyway. Hotel shuttles pick up at the same spot at the Orlando airport where the Go Port shuttle drops off, and one for the hotel we had booked just happened to pull up for a drop-off right after we got off the bus so we didn’t even have to wait for it.
Our sailing on the Meraviglia was a couple weeks before the one currently in the news where someone “fell” off. I put that in quotes because as much as the news stories like to make it sound like people just accidently walk off the edge of the deck and fall into the sea, that actually is not possible on any cruise ship. To end up in the sea a passenger would have to either climb over a safety railing or get pushed or thrown over because there is nowhere on any cruise ship where open decks are not surrounded by railings. Those railings are there for a reason since people who go overboard rarely survive.