Pre-cruise hotel recommendations for cruisers leaving from Fort Lauderdale Port Everglades
Fort Lauderdale is one of the most exciting cruise ports in the world. It was the choice of home port by Royal Caribbean for the brand new Oasis of the Seas, for example, because the facilities are extremely convenient for cruise lines and passengers alike. The port is no more than ten minutes from the airport by taxi and the cab fare is under $15.
One drawback, however, is that Fort Lauderdale is located fairly deep in southern Florida. If you live on the East coast you can generally find a same-day flight that will get you to the port early enough to catch your ship, but if you live on the West Coast, then travel time and also the change in time zones work against you. It isn't just that the flight time is at least five to six hours even with a non-stop flight; it is that the time zone difference also robs you of additional time. When you land in Florida from California you must set you watch ahead three full hours.
For a ship scheduled to sail at 5:00 p.m. I would never schedule a flight to arrive any later than 1:00 pm, especially if it involves changing planes as most flights do these days. For West coast dwellers that means your flight has to leave by 5:00 a.m. Add in the cab ride and time to get through security and you are looking at leaving home at 2:00 in the morning - and you are still risking missing the ship.
Bottom line, if you have live near the West Coast life is much easier if you book a hotel room in Fort Lauderdale for the night before you board the ship.
Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale?
After years of dealing with this issue, and listening to advice from our many readers in CruiseMates, the general consensus is that the bigger hotels on 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale offer the most in vacation fun.
My favorite is the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina at 1881 SE 17th St. This hotel has been the location of many pre-cruise CruiseMates get-togethers over the years because of its great view of the harbor and it outstanding gathering places around a pool with plenty of seating and an outdoor bar.
But the best thing about the Hilton Marina is the view. If you are a cruise lover - and isn't that why you are reading this - then there is no better way to start your cruise vacation than with a room in the Hilton tower overlooking the cruise terminal. From this vantage point you can see every ship that is docked when you arrive and you can watch them all sail away once they are loaded up with passengers.
The next morning, if you wake up early enough you can watch you own ship coming into port from far away at sea. You watch it enter the inlet and maneuver into place at the pier. You then can take your time making coffee in your room while you pack - check out time is not until noon. When you are ready to go to your ship you can catch a shuttle bus that only charges $6 per person. You are so close to the pier that you will arrive at your ship in less than 10 minutes at the most.
The Hilton offers Internet in your room for about $12 for 24-hours. There is a gym, room service, a swimming pool and a business center in case you need to print out any documents. The best thing about, however, is that the excitement of your cruise vacation begins the moment you arrive because you get to watch the port facilities in action, with ships sailing out and in, people waving and horns blasting. It is everything that makes cruising fun and you are not even on the ship yet.
There are restaurants in the hotel, including a simple grill by the pool I recommend, or room service. There is a gourmet Chinese restaurant in the facility called China Grill. In truth, I found it over-priced for Chinese food with my plate of four short ribs priced at over $40. The menu is confusing, telling you there are two prices, one for a single serving and one for sharing as you can see here. What they don't tell you is that the price for a single serving is the bigger portion at the higher price. When I got my bill for $40 plus tax for one plate of food I was shocked. I thought that was a bit deceptive to say the least.
This is the hotel I stayed at when I sailed on Oasis of the Seas the first time. The pictures of the ship I was able to take from the balcony were spectacular. Here is a sampling:
click on pictures below for larger images:
If you want a similar view just be sure to ask for a room facing south in the tower, with a view towards the cruise terminal. The view of downtown Fort Lauderdale is just as spectacular the other way, but you don't see the cruise ships.
The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina is at 1881 SE 17th St. Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316. The toll-free phone number is 888-554-2131. Here is the Web site: Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina.
More Practical Hotel OptionsLooking for another alternative in Fort Lauderdale that may not be as palatial or exciting, but offers you all the convenience you need at an attractive price. I stayed at the Rodeway Inn on West State Road 84. Here is the Web site: http://www.rodewayinn.com/hotel-fort_lauderdale-florida-FL775.
This hotel is not as new or spectacular as the Hilton. It is more of a motel, to be honest, but the advantages are robust. Each room comes with free wireless Internet access. There is no charge to use it anywhere in the premises.
The main advantage is that you get a free transfer from the airport to the hotel, and free transfer to the port facilities the next day. This will save you about $30 in taxi fees over getting the 17th street hotels from the airport. For your return trip to the airport you can even take the shuttle back to the hotel and then catch a ride to the airport, all free. Of course that would take some time and a taxi to the airport from the cruise terminal is cheap, but sometimes you have nothing but time until you plane leaves anyway.
You also get a nice full breakfast in the morning with hard boiled eggs, waffles, cereal, yogurt and hot coffee. The same restaurant serves dinner at night with a reasonably priced menu of regular American food.
This Rodeway Inn was priced at $79 on Priceline, but you have to book it as far in advance as possible. The bargain rooms sell out quickly and regular rooms are priced at $139.
Hilton Beach Hotel-Ft. LauderdaleReader Don P. wrote into us to say: Your 01/2010 article about hotels in Ft. Lauderdale was good. I stayed at the Marina Hilton the first night after a flight from the west coast. I paid for a harbor-port view and got it, it was FANTASTIC. I stayed another 4 days after the cruise at the Hilton Beach Hotel-Ft. Lauderdale. For about the same price as the Marina Hilton this hotel far better and only about 10 min further. It is the nicest Hilton I have seen in years for the price. It is a condo owner hotel so every room is a suite. It is spectacular! It across the street from the new W Resort. I highly recommend you check it out!
Fun in Fort LauderdaleFort Lauderdale is an attractive town no matter why you go there. Most cruise passengers are mostly interested in settling into a hotel room for the night and getting on the ship the next day, but is you find yourself with extra time to stay a few days here are some of the sites you might want to see:
LAS OLAS BOULEVARD Downtown Fort Lauderdale Take a leisurely stroll, people watch, sip a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe or shop the chic boutiques along Las Olas Boulevard, a sophisticated mile of fashion, art and sidewalk cafes. Stop by Stranahan House, a preserved 1900s house furnished with antiques of the era. Or " follow the red brick road" of Riverwalk, the landscaped park, to the Arts & Entertainment District. Taxi from Port Everglades: $11-16 for 15-min ride.
RIVERWALK ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT Downtown Fort Lauderdale (954) 468-1541 The heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale is comprised of shopping, dining, waterfront parks, and cultural attractions -- the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Discovery & Science, Florida Grand Opera, Historic Second St., Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, and Stranahan House. All are along brick-lined Riverwalk, a meandering promenade that runs along the New River. The 22-block district includes chic Las Olas Blvd. and Las Olas Riverfront, the entertainment complex. Taxi from Port Everglades: $11-16.
BEACHFRONT PROMENADE Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard (954) 760-9570 Only two miles north of Port Everglades, you can experience the landscaped beachfront promenade with its signature white wave wall and brick paved path. Across the street, visit Beachplace for casual fun, shopping, dining, and entertainment. Taxi from Port Everglades: $11-16.
BOAT TOURS ALONG INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY & MILLIONAIRE'S ROW WATER TAXI (954) 467-6677 Scheduled service from 10am. Closest docks to Port Everglades are stops # 7, (Convention Center / Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina) and stop # 6 (Hyatt Regency Pier 66), both on 17th Street. Additional stops include beach access, restaurants, and attractions. Call for taxi schedule and more information. All-day, unlimited service pass is $13, $7 after 7pm.
RIVERFRONT CRUISES (954) 463-3440 Las Olas Riverfront 1 1/2-hour sightseeing cruise. Every 2 hrs from 10:30am-6pm. Adults $20, Seniors $18, under 16$10. Taxi from Port Everglades: $11-16 for 15-min ride.
IGFA FISHING HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM 300 Gulfstream Way, Dania Beach (954) 922-4212 World-class state-of-the-art facility includes seven galleries, an outdoor marina, living wetlands, a theater and indoor/outdoor demonstrations.Open: Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12-6pm. Adults $8, seniors & children $5. Taxi from Port Everglades: $11-16 for 15-min ride.
BONNET HOUSE MUSEUM & GARDENS 900 N. Birch Rd., Fort Lauderdale (954) 563-5393 Just about two miles away, nestled between the beach and the Intracostal waterway, is Bonnet House, a 35-acre historical estate that was once home to artists Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett. Learn about Fort Lauderdale's history, art, nature, and a true love story between two artists. Open: Tue-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun noon-4pm, Closed Mon and some holidays. Adults $20, seniors $18, children 6-12 $16. Taxi from Port Everglades: $11-16 for 15-min ride.
SAWGRASS MILLS MALL 12801 West Sunrise Blvd., Sunrise (954) 846-2350 Florida's largest discount and entertainment mall features over 350 designer outlets, specialty shops and restaurants. Don't miss the Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass, a high-end luxury fashion district, including Coach, David Yurman (the first U.S. outlet store), Burberry and Salvatore Ferragamo. Dining scene includes Grand Lux Cafe, Legal Seafoods, PF Chang's and more. Allow at least three hours to experience this shopping mecca. Taxi from Port Everglades: $35 for 30 min. ride.
SWAP SHOP 3291 W. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale (954)791-7927 The Swap Shop is the largest outdoor/indoor flea market in the U.S., featuring more than 2000 vendors selling new merchandise plus video arcade, plants, carnival rides and farmers market. Open Mon-Thurs 9am-5:30pm, Fri-Sun 8am-6:30pm. Free. Taxi from Port Everglades: $13-18 for 20-min ride.
THE GALLERIA 2414 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale (954) 564-1015 For more shopping adventure just off of Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Galleria Mall features Neiman-Marcus, Macy's, Dillard's, Red Door Spa, restaurants, nightlife. Taxi from Port Everglades: $11-16 for 15-min ride.
HISTORIC DOWNTOWN HOLLYWOOD Harrison St., Hollywood Blvd. and Young Circle, Hollywood (954) 921-3016 Dining and entertainment in this charming downtown area listed on the National Register of Historic Places is always a pleasure with restaurants, shops, galleries, wine-tastings and free events galore. From family fun at Funtastic Friday every week in Anniversary Park to live music and entertainment at the ArtsPark at Young Circle every Thursday through Sunday, historic Downtown Hollywood is where you want to be. Taxi from Port Everglades: $13-18 for 20-min ride.
HOLLYWOOD BEACH BROADWALK A1A between Sheridan St. and Hollywood Blvd. Day or night, rent a bicycle and take a scenic tour along a beautiful oceanfront promenade, without a single car getting in the way. Lounge in a cabana chair, or enjoy a casual seaside dining experience just steps away from the beach. Catch live music almost nightly at the outdoor theater. Hollywood is where you want to beach. Taxi from Port Everglades: $11-16.
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