Sometimes, you just need to leave the mainland.
Taking a cruise makes that easy, and the annual report put out by the Cruise Lines International Association estimates that by the end of 2019, 30 million people will have boarded a cruise ship this year. That’s a six percent increase from the 2018 numbers.
Living in Florida provides such easy access to cruise ships that it’s almost scandalous. There are several ports across the state, and when you live within driving distance of your port of embarkation, you don’t have to worry about flights or hotels.
If you’re a big fan of the cruising lifestyle and you wouldn’t mind being in the same neighborhood as those sweet ships, we’re here to help you decide where to retire so you can set sail whenever you want.
Cruise Ports in Florida
Florida is the nation’s cruise port hub; more people sail out of Florida than any other state. There are six ports total, but three of them get the most traffic. These are Miami’s cruise port, Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral in Orlando. The port in Tampa is also an easy starting point for people living on the Gulf Coast, and for residents of northern Florida, cruises embark from the port in Jacksonville.
While the port you choose is likely to depend on where you live, it’s possible you’ll have to travel through the state a bit to get the cruise you want. Different cruise lines leave from different ports, and if you’re determined to get to Honduras on your next cruise, you might have to leave from Miami instead of Jacksonville, for example. There are also pricing and scheduling variations from port to port.
Choosing a Cruise-Friendly Community
Living close to a cruise port means you only need to pack a bag and hail an Uber to get your vacation started. Here are some of the best regions, cities, and communities to consider when looking for a new home in a location that makes your cruising life a little easier.
Fort Lauderdale and Points Southeast
Living in or around Fort Lauderdale puts residents within half an hour of two popular cruise ports: Port Everglades and Port Miami. This opens up a lot of options and allows you to compare prices, destinations, ships, and excursions. Choosing a 55+ community anywhere in Broward County will allow you to cruise as often as you want.
Interested buyers can find condos at Coral Ridge Towers, which has views of the Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a community-oriented neighborhood, where residents get together for volunteer work and holiday parties. There’s also the luxury high-rise condos at Fountainhead in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. These homes are right on the beach and close to Downtown Fort Lauderdale as well as Miami Beach. Buyers who prefer to save their money for the vacations can choose the more affordable condos at Lakes of Environ in Lauderhill. This 55+ community is a brief 20-minute drive from Port Everglades.
The Gulf of Mexico
Cruising out of the Port of Tampa is efficient and fun for residents of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota, Lakeland, and the surrounding areas. Buyers looking for a 55+ community that’s close to Gulf Coast cruising might want to consider a home in one of the following neighborhoods.
Highland Fairways is less than an hour from the Port of Tampa and a straight shot across Interstate 4. This community also has a cruise club. In Apollo Beach, you can sometimes see the cruise ships across the bay. Southshore Falls is one of the most desirable 55+ communities in the region, and it's just a mile from the beach. You can prepare for shore excursions by joining the community’s scuba club. Siesta Harbor in Sarasota is a great choice for boat lovers. The community has a boat dock and fishing pier, and group boat rides are frequent.
Orlando and the Space Coast
Cape Canaveral isn’t launching many spaceships anymore, but cruise ships are frequently setting sail from the port there. Cities and towns along the Space Coast include Viera, Melbourne, and Palm Bay, and they're minutes from the port. The port is also easy to reach from Orlando and other areas in Central Florida. These 55+ communities are great home bases for frequent cruisers.
Bridgewater at Viera in Melbourne is an exciting and in-demand 55+ community that attracts residents who like to stay busy and social. There are attached and single-family new construction homes offering a short commute to Port Canaveral. Solivita in Kissimmee and Del Webb Orlando in Davenport are also great options if you want to stay inland when you’re not on a boat. They offer tons of amenities, modern and spacious homes, and a lifestyle that’s low-maintenance and full of social activities.
Jacksonville and North Florida
The Jacksonville port isn’t as popular or well-used as those in South Florida, but it can feel like the universe is on your side when you find a great cruise leaving from your town. If you want to live near enough to the port to board a boat at a moment’s notice, consider Sweetwater in Jacksonville, where there’s a travel group that meets regularly. Del Webb Ponte Vedra is another great choice, especially if you love nature trails, ziplining, and fishing.