Cruises out of Charleston: The Pros and Cons

Find out the pros and cons on cruises our of Charleston, South Carolina before your vacation from the U.S. east coast including cruise lines and tips.

Charleston is a beautiful city in South Carolina. It is full of history, amazing architecture, and entertainment. Southern charm is a huge draw for this city, and there is no shortage of it. One of the major draws in Charleston is the cruise port. Thousands of people embark on cruise vacations from the Port of Charleston SC every year.

Taking a cruise can be a ton of fun. Charleston is popular for cruisers because it is located centrally on the East coast. They also love the fact that Charleston has all kinds of entertainment and attractions for them to enjoy both before and after their cruise.

Charleston SC may be a great city to cruise from, but it is not perfect. As with any city, there are some issues you may have to face should you choose to embark on your cruise vacation from this port. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons, and you can decide if this is the place for you!

Pros: Why Should You Choose the Port of Charleston?

Charleston has a long history and some amazing sights to see. The city itself is very accommodating to those who cruise form their ports. There are many options for entertainment. You can find a hotel to suit you without issue as they have everything from the more historically themed bed and breakfast type places to the more sleek and modern style hotels.

There are tons of restaurants, clubs, and bars to choose from too. There is plenty of parking, and many hotels will accommodate cruisers. Of course, all of these things are just the icing on the cake. The main reasons for cruising out of Charleston are the ships and the port!

The Cruise Lines

There are three cruise lines that use the Charleston Cruise Port all year round, and many others that use it as a stopover. There are also daily cruises, such as dinner cruises and sunset cruises in which you are only out on the boat for a few hours. The choice is yours!


Carnival is probably the world’s most well-known cruise company. They have been running since the 1970s when they only had one boat called the Mardis Gras. Their ships are known for being full of entertainment and activities. They have shows, special dinners, pools, movies, dancing, and more.

They offer comfortable and affordable accommodations as a budget-friendly option as well as higher-end luxury suites for when you really want to splurge on yourself. The Charleston Port specifically has the Carnival Ecstacy and Sunshine on a regular basis, and occasionally they add the Sunrise.

The Sunshines is the largest ship of the three and has some amazing amenities. Let this giant ship take you to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, or Bermuda while the amazing staff and services keep you entertained and relaxed.

If you are traveling with your family you can rest assured that everyone will have fun and be comfortable. You can book a suite to make sure you have plenty of space. These suites sleep up to five, and if you need more space you can opt for adjoining rooms. Bring the whole family!

Meanwhile, family-friendly fun is endless. There are so many activities to do with your kids and family that you may not get to it all! There is Seuss at Sea, Hasbro the Game Show, SportSquare, and of course, Carnival WaterWorks. Carnival WaterWorks is an amazing waterpark at sea.

If you come as a couple, be prepared to be romanced. There are many room choices from budget to beautiful balcony suite. Spend lazy mornings waking up slowly to the sunlight streaming in. Spend your days on the shore excursions, at the spa, and visiting the adults-only retreat. Then you can have dinner and catch a show or visit a club. The possibilities are endless.

The Ecstacy is another awesome ship. It may be smaller than the Sunshine, but it offers many of the same amenities. You have access to the same activities and shows, and the rooms are just as luxurious. The best part? This ship is smaller, which means there are fewer people! If you prefer a quieter vacation, this is the ship for you.

The ships include Lip Sync Battle, Punchline Comedy Club, WaterWorks, Build-A-Bear, and the Serenity Adults Only retreat. The restaurants include the main dining room, Guy Fieri’s “Guy’s Burger Joint”, The Chef’s Table, BlueIguana Cantina, Seaday Brunch, Lido Marketplace, Pizza Pirate, Swirls, a coffee bar, and room service.

American Cruise Lines

American Cruise Lines is the opposite of Carnival Cruises. American Cruise Lines has a fleet of small and environmentally friendly ships. They travel up and down the coastline and traverse the major US rivers. They want their passengers to enjoy the historical and natural scenery and they pride themselves on providing a much more intimate experience.

The two ships that cruise out of Charleston from the American Cruise Lines are the American Star and Independence. Both ships take you on American Cruise Lines’ Historic South and Golden Isles cruise. This trip takes you throughout the Intracoastal Waterways and tours the Islands in the area. The Intracoastal Waterways are a  scenic and protected network of bays, rivers, and canals connecting many historical Southern cities.

You start out in Charleston SC where you can get a beautiful view of the cities gas-lit lamps and Antebellum houses while the crew gives you facts about the city and its rich history. Next, you will head to Beaufort and then Hilton Head Island. Take in the scenery as you go!

As you continue on your journey you will head into Georgia. Visit Savannah, where you can go on a ghost tour. Follow up with St. Simons and Jekyll Islands. You will eventually find your way to Florida where you will will visit the beautiful Amelia Island before disembarking in Jacksonville. When all is said and done you would have had the opportunity to explore 6 historical cities and their sights in the south.

The ships themselves have beautiful and spacious rooms with private balconies. You can enjoy onboard experts and performers who dress in period clothes and tell you the histories and major events of all of the cities you visit. See wildlife and nature up close. Instead of busy and crowded buffets, you can experience regional and local foods prepared by amazing chefs and enjoy cocktail hour with the other guests every evening.

Silversea Cruises

Silversea Cruises is based in Monaco and has been running since 1994. They have ships all over the world, and they pride themselves on being the height of luxury on the sea. Their all-inclusive packages include food, excursions, traveler’s insurance, and more. They offer personalized service with a high guest to staff ratio. They have several suites to choose from, all of which are luxuriously appointed.

The Silver Wind will pick you up in Charleston and take you throughout the Caribbean. You will spend 11 days on this beautiful ship visiting San Juan, St. Barts, Falmouth, Fort-de-France, St. Lucia, St. George, Port of Spain, and finally, Bridgetown in Barbados.

During the 11 day cruise, you can look forward to fine dining with your choice of four dining experiences. You can enjoy Italian with the La Terrazza restaurant.  The Grill offers full experience dining in the evening when you cook your own food on super-heated lava rocks, or you can come for lunch and enjoy the burger bar. The Restaurant is the ship’s primary dining room, and La Dame is a luxury dining experience where you can have perfectly prepared foods made of local ingredients.

On top of the food and the beautiful scenery, you will also have access to the ship’s many amenities. These include the bar, spa, salon, library, pool, fitness center, boutique, theater, casino, several lounges, and the Connoisseurs Corner, where you will have access to fine cognac and cigars. If you take pictures along the way you can feel free to use the photo studio to prepare and show your work.

As you can see, the three cruise lines that sail out of Charleston are all highly rated and full of amenities. You can’t go wrong no matter which choice you make. They all include fun, comfort, and luxury. Whether you choose the exciting Carnival Cruises, the Beautiful and Historical American Cruise Lines, or the Luxurious Silversea Cruises, you will enjoy the trip!

Travel, Hotels, Parking, and the Sights

Now that we have covered the cruise lines themselves we can get to some of the other great features and reasons for using the port in Charleston SC! The city is full of beauty and convenience. The fact that Charleston is close to the center of the East Coast means it is easily accessible to people from all around. The airport is conveniently located only a 20-minute drive away, and there are also buses and trains coming in from up and down the coast.


Getting to the Charleston Cruise Port is easy. You can choose to fly, take a train, or take a bus. You can also drive right in if that makes things simpler for you! Fly right into Charleston International airport and take one of their convenient shuttles right to the cruise port. You can also get a cab, Uber, Lyft, or rental car to get to the port and to your ship.

Driving in is also simple. Charleston has easy access to the highways. There are signs posted all over the city and on the way to get to the port making it hard to get lost while you make your way to the ship. The train and bus stations are also nearby. No matter which way you choose to get there, you will easily find your ship.


There are so many hotels in Charleston that you may have trouble choosing! According to the city, there are over 4900 hotel rooms on the Charleston peninsula alone! That isn’t counting the inland hotels. You will find no shortage of choices for accommodations before or after your cruise.

Related: 26 Most Ideal Hotels Near Charleston SC Cruise Port

You can choose a hotel further inland if you want a more budget-friendly option. You can also choose from historical bed and breakfasts, plantations turned hotel, and beautiful hotels full of modern luxury. In fact, if you run into any problem it will be which hotel you want to stay in because there are so many that offer amazing amenities.

Another thing to consider is parking. Many hotels offer park and cruise packages. That means they allow you to park your car in their lot for the duration of your cruise as long as you stay at least one night in their hotel.


Parking is convenient with port parking. Charleston has a port parking lot that is secured and safe. If you are cruising with Carnival you can use their covered parking as well. If you choose to stay in the area in advance, you can take advantage of the hotels that offer park and cruise packages. There are also independently run parking lots that allow you to park with them. Check rates, as they vary from lot to lot.


Charleston is beautiful. It has beautiful scenery from the city landscape to the natural countryside nearby. You can take carriage tours and visit the old plantations. You can find plenty of outdoor fun with fishing, hiking, and city tours. Go kayaking, play golf, or take a relaxing horseback ride through the nearby trails.

If you prefer to stay indoors there are museums and an aquarium. Take in a show at the theater, watch a comedy show, or go see a concert. Art galleries are peppered around the city, and if you want to take relaxation to the max you can visit one of the spas in the area.

If you are the type to wander, feel free to wander around the city to see the old antebellum homes. Check out the beaches. Walk among the gardens and parks. There is are endless possibilities for you to fill your days with leading up to your cruise. Or after. We don’t judge.

Cons: What Could Go Wrong?

Although there are many reasons why the Charleston Cruise Port can be an excellent choice for cruising, there are some considerations to think about. There are not as many cruise options, the traffic can become very congested, parking can be confusing, and the weather is not always cooperative.

Cruise Options

Although Charleston is a “Port of Call” for many ships, only three companies have ships that actually originate in Charleston for cruises. Port of Call means that Charleston is a stop for ships coming from other ports. The three companies operate five ships.

Although the five ships are all good quality and full of amenities they are still limited. Other ports, such as the port in Miami Florida, have over forty ships and handle over five million passengers a year. Compared to those ports, Charleston seems like it has quite the slim pickings.


The traffic in Charleston can get tough to navigate. Voted one of the best vacation destination cities, Charleston has a huge flow of tourists. You also have to consider the people who live there. Plus, in most cases, there will be hundreds to thousands of other people taking the cruise you are taking. All of these factors mean there is a huge influx of traffic on any given day.

Getting to the port on the day you are to embark can also be hard. Hundreds of cars all need to head to the same place. Some people get lost, try to switch lanes the wrong way, or take a wrong turn. You end up with congestion and a big headache trying to get to the port.


Parking was also on the “Pro” list, and for good reason. There is plenty of it! However, it can be expensive. It can also be a pain to access. Hundreds of cars line up and it becomes super crowded. You need to unload luggage, go through customs, and deal with all of that hassle.

The price of parking at the port is also pretty steep. To park further away near the airport and take a cab in you can expect to pay ten dollars a day. If you park at the port it varies between seventeen and twenty dollars a day. You can spend hours just getting through traffic, getting through the line, finally parking, and then taking what feels like forever to finally board the ship.

Charleston Weather

The weather in Charleston can vary greatly throughout the year in Charleston. The summers are extremely hot, humid, and oppressive. The winters are cold, windy, and wet. According to most weather reports, it can be pretty wet and rainy throughout the year. It can be scary for the people of South Carolina during hurricane season as well.

Although it is not likely that you will be affected by a hurricane, there is still a chance. The chances are higher during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Even when the hurricanes and tropical storms don’t make landfall they do often affect the Bahamas and Caribbean where you will be sailing. It can be scary, and there is a chance if you choose to book a cruise during hurricane season you will end up being rescheduled or having the cruise canceled.

Conclusion on Cruises Out of Charleston

Taking a cruise is an exciting prospect. The Charleston Cruise Port is conveniently located centrally between many busy population hubs, such as New York and Florida. It is a great meeting point when people want to meet up and cruise together. It has beautiful scenery and historical scenes are sure to please while you await embarkation.

There may not be many options, but the cruises available are luxurious and full of amenities. You can find family fun and excitement with Carnival. History and intimacy are the main attractions of American Cruise Lines. If you want old-world luxury and hospitality you should opt for the Silversea’s ship Silver Wind. No matter which option you go with you are sure to get great service.

Also Read: Different Ways for Getting to the Charleston Cruise Port

The sights and accommodations available in Charleston are unique and charming. You can see things here you could not find anywhere else, and staying here for a few days in advance or for a few days after will leave you feeling like you had a whole extra vacation in an older world than we are in now. It is worth the trip.

Getting to Charleston is easy, and parking is convenient. It isn’t hard to find your way to the port, and once there you can’t get lost. Parking may be a bit rough because you may grow frustrated with the waiting and lines, but it will be worth it. Just come prepared with snacks and water so you aren’t adding hangry to the list of annoyances.

Once on the boat, you will be fine! It can be rainy or hot, but you will have air conditioning and pools to cool down in, and if the rain is hammering down you can visit one of the restaurants, clubs, or other indoor amenities. You will never have a shortage of things to do, no matter the weather.

Overall, Charleston is a great city to cruise from. They have a great city with beautiful scenery. The hotels, restaurants, and entertainment all make it a great place to visit while waiting to embark on your next cruise vacation!

Charleston Cruises FAQ

Which cruise ships depart from Charleston?

There are five ships that regularly depart from Charleston Cruise Port from three cruise lines. Carnival has both the Ecstacy and the Sunshine embarking from Charleston. American Cruise Lines has both the American Star and the Independence. Silversea has the Silver Wind.

Where do cruises out of Charleston usually go to?

The cruises that leave Charleston go to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. In the case of American Cruise Lines, they stay right here in the states to follow domestic waterways and history along those waterways.

When is the best time to cruise from Charleston, South Carolina?

There are two times of year considered great times to cruise. In the spring, between mid-April and late May are best. In the fall it is best to go from late September to late October. These are the two times of the year in which the weather is the most agreeable. The summer is too hot, and the winter is too cold for Charleston.

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