It is known as the number one passenger port in the world.  The Port of Miami is the largest cruise ship port anywhere, home to some of the largest ships ever seen, and every year more than four million people pass through its gates, heading off for destinations in every corner of the globe.

Sitting on Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, the port sits on Dodge Island.  It’s one of the few ports that serves both cruise ships and container cargo, generating more than $17 billion dollars for the region’s economy.

From big ships, to big money, to high traffic, everything about the Port of Miami is important, and with the world’s cruise ships parked at its eight passenger terminals, it is ready to welcome you with open arms.

Get On Board in the Gateway to the Americas

The port began redeveloping in 1997 to the tune of $250 million dollars to accommodate the changing demands of the cruise industry.  Today, passenger terminals D and E are some of the most modern cruise facilities in the world, featuring VIP lounges, high-tech security screening, and airline check in counters.  These terminals were built specifically to handle the mega-ships carrying up to 5,000 passengers, and their most breathtaking feature is the ticketing area with its 300-foot long, 85-foot high glass wall facing the cruise ship you are lining up to board.

Now, the new Port Tunnel construction is underway, seeking to provide direct vehicle access to the interstate highway system from the port without having to go through Miami traffic.  That project got started in May 2010 and will take until 2014 to complete, at an estimated cost of $1 billion dollars.

The renovations and additions are a sign of how important this facility is to both the city, and to the cruise ship industry.  Miami is home to the headquarters of Carnival Cruises, Celebrity, Crystal, Norwegian, Oceania, Royal Caribbean and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises.

Cruise Ship Leaving Miami

If you’re one of the many, many people starting off your cruise in the Port of Miami, there are several benefits.  The port is right downtown, and fairly easy to access.  It’s about a 30-minute taxi ride from Miami International Airport, but you should plan for a little wiggle room in case of traffic.  If you’re driving, long term parking for cruise passengers is available nearby at a rate of $20 a day with direct shuttle service to the terminals.

But the very best thing about starting or ending your cruise in Miami, is the chance to spend a little time in a truly unique city.

Miami is an international center of art, culture and entertainment, and well worth adding a day or two onto your trip.

Take a tour of the art deco buildings in South Beach, one of the world’s most glamorous shopping districts, or have lunch in the Bohemian village of Coconut Grove.

Sports fans can check out incredible competition no matter what time of year, at home games of the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Marlins, the Miami Heat, or the Florida Panthers.  Or you can check out something new, and take in a game of Jai Alai.

For incredible food and music, spend some time in Little Havana.  For fantastic wildlife, venture out of town for a tour of the Florida Everglades.

From great weather and lovely beaches, to one of the best nightclub scenes in America, there is more than something for everyone in Miami before or after your cruise.  No matter what you decide to do, the city and its port truly live up to its nickname of “Gateway to the Americas”.

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