Just north of five million people take cruises from Miami each year, making us one of the cruise capitals of the world. And while the ship may take care of everything once you’re on board, many folks still need help in the hours and days before they step on board. If you have the time, there is plenty to do and see around PortMiami. Even if you’re short on time, you can squeeze in a solid meal at one of the best restaurants in Downtown Miami or tackle one of the best things to do in South Beach. There’s no reason why you can’t fit two vacations into one. Here’s everything you need to know about making the most out of your cruise from Miami.
Cruises from Miami guide
The PortMiami, where the city’s cruises depart and arrive, is easily accessible by car. Any Uber, Lyft or taxi will get you there with ease. If you’re driving and taking the MacArthur Causeway, keep an eye out for the signs that notify you of the tunnel that will take you to the port (you’ll want to keep left). Most cruise lines will also have some sort of shuttle that can take you straight from the airport to the port. The free Miami trolley’s Coral Way route also stops at the port every 15 to 20 minutes. The closest Metromover station is the Freedom Tower station (600 NE Second Ave). It’s about a 1.5-mile walk to the port from there.
Need a quick bite before or after you step off the ship? If you're short on time, your closest option is Seaman’s Cafe (1180 S America Way), a small restaurant on the port’s Dodge Island. Get a typical breakfast or enjoy a Filipino buffet, the native cuisine of many cruise ship workers, for lunch. Over on the mainland, the delicious All Day (1035 N Miami Ave) is open at 7am during the week and 9am on weekends. There you’ll find the best coffee in Miami and can enjoy a sit-down breakfast that’ll have you thankful to be back on dry land. To the east in Miami Beach, the Daily Creative Food Co. (959 West Ave, Miami Beach) is the place to go for some tasty breakfast sandwiches that pack a punch. Both its Miami Beach and Edgewater location are fairly close to the port in case one happens to be more convenient.
Photograph: Geoffrey Anderson
So you’ve got time for lunch? For a quick, clean meal, try Manna Life Food (80 NE 2nd Ave). It’s a perfect pre- or post-cruise detox meal: healthy, fresh and really yummy. If you want to be a little more indulgent, head to Joe’s Stone Crab, but skip the fancy dining room (it’s not open for lunch anyway). But Joe’s Take Away (11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach) will give you the same iconic Miami seafood and fried chicken. Eat it on the sidewalk or munch in the car. If you want to sit down and have a proper meal, go to Downtown’s NIU Kitchen (134 NE 2nd Ave). The Catalan spot serves creative cuisine and is open for lunch.
Photograph: Courtesy Manna Life Food
There are plenty of places to crash for a night or two near the Port. In Downtown, the historic Eurostars Langford (121 SE 1st St) is a nice boutique option. It sports a wonderful vintage vibe and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For a more modern, luxury choice, go for the InterContinental (100 Chopin Plaza). You’ll be able to see the cruise ship pull into the Port from your window. If you’d rather stay in Miami Beach, the Mondrian South Beach (1100 West Ave, Miami Beach), pointed west towards Biscayne Bay, offers an absolutely gorgeous sunset view with all the South Beach chicness you expect.
Photograph: Courtesy of Mondrian South Beach
There’s plenty of entertainment options close to the port. Tackle two of Miami’s best museums, Pérez Art Museum Miami (1103 Biscayne Blvd) and Frost Science (1101 Biscayne Blvd), located right next to each other. At the former, enjoy a magnificent rotating collection of contemporary art with a backyard view that’s a piece of art itself. The brand new Frost Science is perfect for families and offers interactive exhibits that’ll tire out the kids while fascinating parents. If you’re itching for a beach, South Pointe Park (1 Washington Ave, Miami Beach) has your fix. The southernmost tip of Miami Beach, you can chill on the sand while watching the cruise ships come in and out of the city.
So, you’re just hours away from departing on your cruise and you realize you forgot to pack a bathing suit. Or sunscreen. Or any number of the little yet important things that can get overlooked in the frantic process of packing. Fear not. For small things or simple clothes, Bayside Marketplace (401 Biscayne Blvd), right on the edge of Downtown, should be able to solve your problem. The outdoor market has everything from sunscreen to sunglasses to clothes and more. If you want to buy something that you’ll actually use after the cruise is over, try the Brickell City Centre (701 S Miami Ave). It’s not as close but has plenty of upscale stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Victoria's Secret.
We know there are a zillion weekend cruises to choose from, but we’re partial to Royal Caribbean’s Cococay itinerary, partly because it stops at the cruise line’s private island, which has recently undergone major renovations and literally has something for everyone. On Cococay, there’s an area to relax, featuring endless rows of lounge chairs and a swim-up bar for easy boozing. Adjacent to Chill is Thrill, where you’ll find the island’s newest waterpark and the tallest waterslide in the world. It’s a short trip and an easy one for Miamians, who can Uber from the office to the ship on Friday and straight back to work on Monday morning with hardly a hangover—if you play it right.