Think getting on a cruise is tough? These five drive-up ports make it easy.
Port of Baltimore's Cruise Maryland Terminal, 10 minutes from downtown Baltimore, operating year-round (800/638-7519, cruisemaryland.com).
Cruise Lines: American Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International.
Regular Departures to: The Caribbean, New England, and Canada.
Sample Itinerary: Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas departs in August, with five-night itineraries to Bermuda. The same ship also does nine-night sailings in September with stops in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Nova Scotia. The ship has a huge six-story atrium, and the dining room is decorated in a lavish art deco style.
Parking: There are three lots next to the terminal with 1,500 spots total; it's $15 per night including taxes, and you can prepay.
Latest News: The remodeled Cruise Maryland Terminal (which opened in 2006, the Port of Baltimore's tricentennial) has more than doubled its cruise offerings since last year. And in April, Carnival inaugurated year-round service from the port; Royal Caribbean will begin year-round service in 2010.
Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Port Canaveral, about an hour from Orlando, operating year-round (321/783-7831, portcanaveral.com).
Cruise Lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International.
Regular Departures to: The Caribbean and the Bahamas.
Sample Itinerary: Seven nights on the Disney Magic with stops in Key West, Grand Cayman, and Castaway Cay (Disney's private island), departing August through April 2010. Included in the itinerary is a classic character breakfast, or go for the adult-exclusive dining.
Parking: The six-level parking area is next to the cruise terminal and costs $15 a night, including taxes.
Latest News: Royal Caribbean launched one of its biggest ships in the Freedom class here in May. Carnival's Dream—the line's newest and largest ship at 130,000 tons and holding 3,652 passengers—will make its permanent home here in December. Norwegian Cruise Line is coming to the port in 2010, and Disney will add two new ships—Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, in 2011 and 2012.
The Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center, Pacific Cruise Ship Terminals, 25 miles outside of downtown L.A., in San Pedro, operating year-round (310/514-4049, portoflosangeles.org).
Cruise Lines: Celebrity Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean International, Silversea, The Yachts of Seabourn.
Regular Departures to: Alaska, Australia, Hawaii, Mexico (Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Ixtapa are some of the stops), the Panama Canal, and elsewhere.
Sample Itinerary: Seven-night cruises on Princess's Sapphire Princess (with the nightlife-friendly Club Fusion) go to the Mexican Riviera, with stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas, and leave September through May.
Parking: More than 2,500 spaces available; it's $12 per night, including taxes, with a complimentary shuttle to the terminal area.
Latest News: Royal Caribbean recently moved its 3,114-passenger Mariner of the Seas to the port. The 964-foot Disney Wonder will move here in 2011.
And Nearby Is... If you have your heart set on sailing Carnival, you can catch a ship in the neighboring Long Beach Cruise Terminal, the cruise line's L.A. base. Parking is a little more expensive, at $15 per night including taxes.
Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal, in downtown, operating year-round (251/338-7447, shipmobile.com).
Cruise Lines: Carnival Cruise Lines.
Regular Departures to: The western Caribbean.
Upcoming Departures: Three- and four-night sailings to Cozumel, Mexico, leave in September and October on the Carnival Holiday with a nine-hole golf course on deck.
Parking: The 500-space parking deck is adjacent to the terminal; cost is $15 per night, including taxes.
Latest News: Carnival will offer new six-night cruises to Mexico with stops in Jamaica and Grand Cayman in 2010 on the Carnival Fantasy . The 10-deck ship just got a multimillion dollar renovation, including a brand-new water park.
Port of New Orleans, less than two miles from the French Quarter on the Mississippi River, operating year-round (504/522-2551, portno.com).
Cruise Lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, American Canadian Caribbean Line.
Regular Departures to: Mexico and the Caribbean.
Sample Itinerary: Seven-nights on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Spirit, with stops in Costa Maya, Mexico, and Belize City, leaving January through April 2010. The 13-deck ship has a walloping 11 restaurants and 10 bars and lounges.
Parking: There are two parking structures with more than 1,000 spots, including a structure by the Riverwalk Marketplace shopping area; parking costs $16 per night, including taxes.
Latest News: This November, Carnival inaugurates the newer, larger Carnival Triumph with a weeklong Caribbean itinerary. The Triumph has a 22-foot LED screen on an upper deck.
And one to watch...
The Port of San Diego, already a huge power in the cruise industry (almost 300 ships docked there in 2008), will open a new $21 million cruise terminal in late 2010. The 52,000-square-foot structure has a glass façade and is designed to use less water and energy, which will likely gain it LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certificationthe standard bearers in sustainable design.