Cruises from Charleston SC

Cruises from Charleston SC: Your Ultimate Guide to Setting Sail from the Holy City

by Christian Petzold - updated April 22, 2023

Charleston, SC is a top US departure port for cruises, offering rich history, charming architecture, and vibrant culture for tourists. Conveniently located near downtown, travelers can easily explore the city before/after their trip. Popular cruise lines include Carnival, American, and Silversea, with Carnival being the most common option. 

Multiple itineraries to the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Bermuda are available, as well as historic South-focused options from American Cruise Lines. With plenty of choices, finding the perfect cruise from Charleston to fit your budget and interests is a breeze. So why not set sail and explore the world in comfort?


Cruises from Charleston SC: Overview

Charleston, South Carolina is a popular departure port for cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. The city’s historic charm and Southern hospitality make it an attractive destination for travelers looking to explore the region before or after their cruise.

cruises charleston

Popular Cruise Lines

Charleston is home to three main cruise lines: Carnival, American, and Silversea. Carnival is the most common option, with three ships operating from this port. American Cruise Lines offers smaller, more intimate ships with a focus on exploring the historic South. Silversea is a luxury cruise line that offers all-inclusive packages with personalized service.

Types of Cruises

Cruises from Charleston offer a variety of destinations and itineraries. Popular options include:

  • Bahamas Cruises: These typically last 5-7 days and visit ports like Nassau and Freeport.
  • Caribbean Cruises: These can last anywhere from 7-14 days and visit destinations like Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.
  • Historic South Cruises: These shorter cruises (3-7 days) focus on exploring the history and culture of the region, with stops in cities like Savannah and Beaufort.

Charleston is also a popular departure port for repositioning cruises, which take passengers from one region to another (such as from the Caribbean to New England) at the beginning or end of a season. These cruises can last anywhere from 10-21 days and offer a unique way to explore multiple destinations in one trip.

Preparing for Your Charleston Cruise

Packing Tips

When preparing for a Charleston cruise, it’s important to pack appropriately for the activities you plan to do on board and on shore. Be sure to check the weather forecast for your cruise dates and pack accordingly. If you plan to participate in any formal events, such as dinners or parties, bring formal attire. For casual activities, bring comfortable clothing and shoes. Don’t forget to bring any necessary medications, toiletries, and travel documents.

It’s also important to pack smartly to save space and avoid overpacking. Consider using packing cubes or compression bags to organize your belongings and save space in your luggage. Roll your clothing items instead of folding them to save space and reduce wrinkles. And don’t forget to leave some room in your luggage for souvenirs and other items you may acquire during your trip.

Packing for cruise

Transportation Options

When traveling to the Charleston cruise port, there are several transportation options available. If you are flying into Charleston International Airport, you can take a taxi, shuttle, or rental car to the port. If you are driving, you can park your car at the port or at one of the off-site parking lots.

Parking Information

If you plan to park your car at the Charleston cruise port, there are several parking options available. The Union Pier Terminal Parking Lot is the closest parking lot to the port, but it can fill up quickly during peak travel times. The Charleston International Airport Parking Lot is another option, which is about 10 miles away from the port. This lot is typically less expensive than the Union Pier Terminal Parking Lot.

There are also several off-site parking lots available near the port, which offer shuttle service to and from the port. These lots are typically less expensive than the on-site parking options. Some popular off-site parking lots include the Port of Charleston Parking Lot, the Charleston Cruise Parking Lot, and the Cruise and Park Lot.

Packing for cruise 1

What to Expect on Your Charleston Cruise

Charleston, South Carolina is a popular departure port for many cruises. If you’re planning to embark on a cruise from Charleston, you may be wondering what to expect. Here’s a breakdown of what you can look forward to on your Charleston cruise.

Activities and Entertainment

There’s never a dull moment on a Charleston cruise. Most cruise ships offer a variety of activities and entertainment options for guests of all ages. From live music and dance performances to comedy shows and movie screenings, there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for some fun in the sun, you can take a dip in the pool or relax on the deck with a good book.

For those who like to stay active, many cruise ships have fitness centers, sports courts, and other recreational facilities. Whether you want to hit the gym or play a game of basketball, you’ll have plenty of options to stay active and have fun.

Dining Options

Food is a big part of any cruise experience, and Charleston cruises are no exception. Most cruise ships offer a variety of dining options, from casual buffets to formal sit-down restaurants. You can enjoy a wide range of cuisine, including local specialties and international favorites. Many cruise ships also offer specialty dining options for an extra fee, such as steakhouses, sushi bars, and Italian restaurants.

If you have any dietary restrictions or preferences, most cruise lines are happy to accommodate them. Just let your server know and they’ll do their best to provide you with delicious and satisfying meals throughout your trip.

cruise dining charleston

Shore Excursions

One of the best parts of a Charleston cruise is the chance to explore exciting destinations along the way. Most cruises offer a variety of shore excursions, from guided tours of historic sites to adventurous activities like zip-lining and snorkeling. Whether you want to soak up the local culture or get your adrenaline pumping, there’s a shore excursion for you.

Keep in mind that shore excursions are usually an additional cost, so be sure to budget accordingly. However, they can be a great way to make the most of your time in port and create unforgettable memories. 

shore excursions 1


Charleston, SC offers diverse and convenient cruises with various cruise lines, itineraries, and budget options. Although cruise departures from Charleston will end in 2024, there are still opportunities for memorable trips.

Explore the charming downtown port city and extend your vacation with available activities. Choose from popular lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean for destinations like the Bahamas and Canada. Experience the adventure and relaxation of cruising from Charleston.

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