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What Cruise Ships Leave From Charleston


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Phyllys Kingery



Welcome to the vibrant world of cruise travel departing from Charleston! If you’re seeking an unforgettable vacation experience filled with luxury, relaxation, and exploration on the high seas, then you’re in the right place. Charleston, South Carolina, is not only renowned for its charming historic district and rich cultural heritage, but it is also a popular departure port for cruise ships.


Embarking on a cruise from Charleston offers a unique opportunity to combine the comforts of a top-notch cruise ship with the charm and beauty of the South. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or new to the world of cruising, departing from Charleston allows you to conveniently set sail to a variety of exciting destinations.


With its strategic location along the southeastern coast of the United States, Charleston has a rich history as a major port of departure for cruise ships. Over the years, it has become a favorite choice for cruise lines seeking to provide their guests with a seamless vacation experience.


Choosing to depart from Charleston offers several benefits. First and foremost, it eliminates the need for airline travel and the associated hassles and expenses. You can simply drive to the port, park your car, and step aboard your floating sanctuary. This means more time to relax and enjoy your vacation, without the stress of coordinating flights and dealing with airport security.


Additionally, departing from Charleston allows you to explore one of the most charming and picturesque cities in the United States. Known for its cobblestone streets, historic mansions, and iconic Rainbow Row, Charleston offers a pre or post-cruise adventure that will leave you captivated.


In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the history of cruise ship departures from Charleston, explore the current cruise lines that operate from the port, highlight popular cruise destinations, discuss the amenities and features of the cruise ships, provide tips for booking a cruise from Charleston, and offer advice for a successful cruise departure.


So sit back, relax, and let’s embark on a journey to discover the magic and excitement of cruise ship departures from Charleston!


History of Cruise Ship Departures from Charleston

The history of cruise ship departures from Charleston can be traced back to the early 19th century when the city served as a major seaport for trade and transportation. It was a bustling hub for ships transporting goods and passengers along the East Coast and to international destinations.


As the popularity of leisure travel by sea grew, Charleston became a sought-after departure point for various cruise lines. In the mid-20th century, the city saw an increase in cruise ship departures, offering travelers a gateway to the Caribbean and beyond.


During the 1980s and 1990s, Charleston experienced a decline in cruise ship departures as larger cities and ports gained prominence in the industry. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of cruise ship activity in Charleston, with the city reclaiming its status as a popular departure port.


One of the significant milestones in the recent history of cruise ship departures from Charleston was the establishment of a dedicated cruise terminal. In 2009, the South Carolina Ports Authority opened the Columbus Street Terminal to cater specifically to the growing demand for cruising in the region.


This modern facility offers convenient embarkation and disembarkation processes, streamlined security procedures, and comfortable waiting areas for passengers. The establishment of the Columbus Street Terminal marked a turning point for Charleston as it repositioned itself as a prominent cruise port in the Southeast U.S.


Today, Charleston boasts a thriving cruise industry, attracting major cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line and American Cruise Lines. These cruise lines offer a range of itineraries to popular destinations in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, and along the southeastern coast of the United States.


Despite the challenges faced by the cruise industry in recent times, Charleston remains committed to supporting the growth of cruise ship departures. The city continues to invest in its port infrastructure and work closely with cruise lines to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for passengers.


The history of cruise ship departures from Charleston is not only a testament to the city’s enduring maritime legacy but also a reflection of the charm and allure that make it a remarkable destination for travelers seeking unforgettable cruise vacations.


Current Cruise Lines Departing from Charleston

Charleston serves as the homeport for several esteemed cruise lines, offering a variety of exciting itineraries to satisfy every traveler’s wanderlust. Let’s explore the current cruise lines that operate from the port and the destinations they transport passengers to.


1. Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Line is one of the major cruise operators in Charleston. Their ship, the Carnival Ecstasy, offers a range of itineraries to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Passengers can indulge in the irresistible white-sand beaches of Nassau, embark on thrilling water sports adventures, and explore vibrant island cultures during their cruising experience with Carnival Cruise Line.


2. American Cruise Lines: American Cruise Lines offers a unique and intimate cruising experience on the American Star. Departing from Charleston, their itineraries focus on exploring the scenic inland waterways of the United States. Passengers can cruise along the enchanting rivers of the Southeast, immersing themselves in the history, culture, and natural beauty of destinations such as historic Savannah, Hilton Head Island, and Beaufort.


3. Viking Cruises: Viking Cruises, known for their luxurious river cruises, also offers an exciting ocean cruise option departing from Charleston. Their ship, the Viking Star, takes passengers on a journey to coveted destinations in the Caribbean and the Americas. With its elegant design, immersive cultural experiences, and exceptional service, Viking Cruises provides a sophisticated and enriching cruising experience.


4. Other Cruise Lines: While Carnival Cruise Line, American Cruise Lines, and Viking Cruises are the prominent cruise operators in Charleston, other cruise lines occasionally offer departures from the port as well. It’s always worth checking with your preferred cruise line or travel agent for the latest departures and itineraries.


Each cruise line offers its own distinct amenities, onboard activities, and dining options, catering to different preferences and interests. Whether you’re seeking a fun-filled family vacation, a serene and intimate getaway, or a luxurious escape, you’ll find a cruise line departing from Charleston that suits your needs.


Departing from Charleston not only allows you to explore exciting destinations but also provides the opportunity to embark on a memorable journey right from your doorstep. It eliminates the need for additional travel expenses and logistics associated with flying to a departure port, making your cruising experience even more convenient and hassle-free.


Now that you’re familiar with the cruise lines departing from Charleston, it’s time to choose your preferred operator and embark on a remarkable seafaring adventure!


Popular Cruise Destinations from Charleston

Embarking on a cruise from Charleston opens up a world of exciting destinations waiting to be explored. Whether you’re longing to bask in the sun on a pristine beach, explore charming coastal towns, or immerse yourself in vibrant cultures, there’s a cruise itinerary departing from Charleston that will fulfill your travel dreams. Here are some popular cruise destinations from Charleston:


1. Bahamas: A cruise to the Bahamas is a tropical paradise adventure. Explore Nassau, the vibrant capital city, and discover its rich history, beautiful beaches, and vibrant markets. Take a dip in the crystal-clear turquoise waters of Freeport or indulge in water sports such as snorkeling, diving, and fishing. The Bahamas offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.


2. Eastern Caribbean: Departing from Charleston gives you easy access to the stunning islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Explore St. Thomas and enjoy its picturesque beaches and vibrant shopping scene. Visit the lush rainforests and waterfalls of St. Kitts and Nevis. Experience the vibrant culture and cuisine of Puerto Rico. The Eastern Caribbean promises a breathtaking blend of natural beauty and cultural discovery.


3. Bermuda: A cruise to Bermuda from Charleston offers a unique and enchanting experience. Discover the pastel-colored architecture and charming streets of the capital city, Hamilton. Relax on Bermuda’s famous pink sand beaches, snorkel in its crystal-clear waters, and explore historic landmarks such as the Royal Naval Dockyard and the imposing forts that dot the island.


4. Southeastern Coast of the United States: Cruise itineraries from Charleston also provide the opportunity to explore the beautiful southeastern coast of the United States. Visit historic cities like Savannah, Georgia, with its charming antebellum architecture and soulful charm. Explore the breathtaking beaches of Hilton Head Island, known for its world-class golf courses and outdoor activities. Experience the charm of Beaufort, South Carolina, with its quaint streets and rich history.


5. Transatlantic Voyages: For the adventurous souls seeking longer journeys, some cruise lines departing from Charleston offer transatlantic voyages. These epic cruises take you across the vast Atlantic Ocean, allowing you to experience the thrill of days at sea, stunning sunrises and sunsets, and the opportunity to visit multiple destinations in Europe or the Americas.


These destinations offer a diverse range of experiences, from relaxation and adventure to cultural immersion and natural beauty. Whether you prefer sun-drenched beaches, historic landmarks, or vibrant city life, there’s a cruise from Charleston that will take you to your dream destination.


Remember to check the itineraries of different cruise lines to find the one that aligns with your interests and desired destinations. With a wide array of choices, departing from Charleston offers endless possibilities for an unforgettable cruise vacation.


Amenities and Features of Cruise Ships Departing from Charleston

When you embark on a cruise ship departing from Charleston, you can expect to enjoy a wide range of amenities and features that will make your voyage an unforgettable experience. From luxurious accommodations to world-class dining and exciting onboard activities, these ships are designed to provide utmost comfort and entertainment for every passenger.


Luxury Accommodations: Cruise ships departing from Charleston offer a variety of accommodations to suit different preferences and budgets. From cozy interior cabins to spacious suites with private balconies, you can choose the perfect stateroom to make your cruise experience feel like a home away from home. Wake up to stunning ocean views or indulge in the comfort of a plush bed as you sail to your next destination.


World-Class Dining: Dining on a cruise ship is a gastronomic adventure in itself. Indulge in diverse culinary delights from around the world, with options ranging from casual buffets to fine dining restaurants. Enjoy expertly prepared gourmet meals, themed dinners, and specialty cuisines created by renowned chefs. Whether you’re craving seafood, international flavors, or classic comfort food, the dining options on these ships will satisfy even the most discerning palate.


Entertainment and Activities: Cruise ships departing from Charleston are equipped with a plethora of entertainment options to keep you entertained throughout your voyage. Enjoy Broadway-style shows, live music performances, comedy acts, and immersive theatrical productions. Experience the thrill of onboard casinos, dance parties, and themed events. Daytime activities include poolside games, fitness classes, spa treatments, and educational enrichment programs. From relaxing by the pool to staying active with sports facilities, the onboard activities cater to all interests and age groups.


Relaxation and Wellness: Cruise ships prioritize the well-being and relaxation of their passengers. Unwind with a soothing massage or pamper yourself with beauty treatments and salon services at the onboard spas. Take a dip in the pool, soak in a hot tub, or simply lounge on a deck chair while enjoying panoramic views of the ocean. Many cruise ships feature state-of-the-art fitness centers, yoga and meditation classes, and even jogging tracks for those looking to maintain their fitness routines while at sea.


Family-Friendly Amenities: Traveling with family? Cruise ships departing from Charleston offer an array of family-friendly amenities to ensure everyone has a fantastic time. From dedicated kids’ clubs with age-appropriate activities to water parks, game rooms, and theaters specifically designed for kids and teenagers, there’s plenty to keep younger passengers entertained and engaged. Babysitting services and family-friendly dining options are also available, ensuring a stress-free and enjoyable vacation for the whole family.


Onboard Shopping: Cruise ships often boast a variety of onboard shops and boutiques, allowing you to indulge in some retail therapy. Browse duty-free shops for high-end luxury items, jewelry, clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. From designer brands to local crafts, there’s something for every taste and budget.


These are just some of the amenities and features you can expect to find on cruise ships departing from Charleston. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, entertainment, culinary delights, or family-friendly activities, these ships are designed to cater to your every desire. So sit back, relax, and let the extraordinary onboard facilities and services enhance your cruise experience.


Booking a Cruise from Charleston

Booking a cruise from Charleston is an exciting process that will set the stage for an incredible vacation at sea. Whether it’s your first time booking a cruise or you’re a seasoned traveler, there are a few key steps to keep in mind to ensure a smooth and enjoyable booking experience.


1. Choose Your Cruise Line: Research the cruise lines that operate from Charleston and determine which one best aligns with your preferences, budget, and desired destinations. Consider factors such as the amenities, on-board activities, dining options, and itineraries offered by each cruise line. Look for deals and promotions, and read reviews from past passengers to get a sense of the overall experience.


2. Select Your Itinerary: Once you’ve chosen a cruise line, explore their itineraries departing from Charleston. Consider the duration of the cruise, the destinations visited, and the ports of call along the way. Think about what type of experience you desire, whether it’s lounging on tropical beaches, exploring historic cities, or immersing yourself in natural wonders.


3. Determine Your Budget: Set a budget for your cruise and consider all the associated costs, including the cruise fare, taxes, fees, gratuities, and any additional expenses such as excursions, specialty dining, and onboard activities. Be sure to factor in any pre- or post-cruise expenses such as flights, accommodations, and transportation to and from the port.


4. Consult with a Travel Agent: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about the process, consider consulting with a reputable travel agent who specializes in cruises. They can provide valuable insight, help you navigate the options, and assist with booking your cruise from Charleston. They may also have access to exclusive deals and promotions that can enhance your cruise experience.


5. Booking and Reservations: Once you’ve decided on a cruise line, itinerary, and budget, it’s time to make your reservation. Visit the cruise line’s website or contact them directly to book your cruise. Provide all necessary information, including passenger names, travel dates, and any special requests or accommodations you may require. Review the terms and conditions of the booking and make any necessary payment arrangements to secure your spot.


6. Plan Ahead: After booking your cruise from Charleston, start planning ahead to make the most of your vacation. Research each port of call and identify any must-see attractions or activities. Consider pre-booking any shore excursions or spa treatments to ensure availability. Make a packing list and gather all necessary documents, including passports, travel insurance information, and any necessary visas or identification required for the cruise itinerary.


Booking a cruise from Charleston is an exciting step towards an unforgettable adventure. By taking the time to research, plan, and make informed decisions, you can ensure a seamless booking process and set the stage for a cruise vacation filled with relaxation, exploration, and cherished memories.


Tips for a Successful Cruise Departure from Charleston

Preparing for a cruise departure from Charleston is an exciting part of the vacation experience. To ensure a smooth and stress-free start to your cruise, consider these helpful tips:


1. Arrive Early: Plan to arrive at the port of Charleston early on embarkation day. This allows ample time for check-in, security procedures, and boarding the ship. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to explore the cruise terminal, take photos, and familiarize yourself with the process.


2. Pack Smartly: Organize your luggage efficiently and pack essential items in your carry-on bag. This includes travel documents, medications, electronics, and a change of clothes. By packing smartly, you’ll have easy access to necessary items upon boarding and won’t need to wait for your checked luggage to arrive at your cabin.


3. Complete Online Check-In: Most cruise lines offer online check-in before your departure. Take advantage of this convenient feature to save time during the check-in process. Online check-in allows you to submit necessary personal information and upload identification documents, making the embarkation process faster and smoother.


4. Be Prepared with Required Travel Documents: Ensure you have all the necessary travel documents, including your passport, visa (if required), and any other identification documents specified by the cruise line. Check the expiration dates of your documents, as well as any entry requirements for the destinations you’ll be visiting during your cruise.


5. Familiarize Yourself with Cruise Policies: Before boarding, familiarize yourself with the cruise line’s policies and guidelines. This includes baggage restrictions, dress codes, and specific rules regarding alcohol, smoking, and onboard activities. Understanding these policies beforehand will help you plan and pack accordingly.


6. Explore Charleston Before or After Your Cruise: Charleston is a beautiful city with a wealth of attractions and history. If your schedule allows, consider extending your stay in Charleston before or after your cruise. Explore the charming historic district, visit notable landmarks, savor delicious Southern cuisine, and immerse yourself in the city’s unique culture.


7. Ensure Safe Transportation and Parking: If driving, ensure you have a reliable and secure place to park your vehicle during the duration of your cruise. Many cruise lines offer parking facilities near the port for a daily fee. Alternatively, consider arranging transportation to the port, such as a taxi or shuttle service, to eliminate parking concerns.


8. Follow Health and Safety Protocols: Cruise lines have implemented robust health and safety protocols to ensure passenger well-being. Familiarize yourself with these protocols and follow them diligently throughout your cruise. This includes practicing good hygiene, wearing masks when required, and adhering to social distancing guidelines.


9. Stay Informed About Itinerary Changes: Keep an eye on your cruise line’s communication channels for any updates or changes to your itinerary. Weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances may necessitate alterations to port calls or the overall itinerary. Stay informed and adjust your plans accordingly to make the most of your cruise experience.


10. Relax and Enjoy the Journey: Once onboard, take some time to unwind and settle into the cruise experience. Explore the ship, attend orientation sessions, and familiarize yourself with the onboard amenities and entertainment offerings. Embrace the chance to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life, relax, and make lasting memories with loved ones.


By following these tips, you’ll ensure a successful and enjoyable cruise departure from Charleston. Remember to be prepared, stay informed, and embrace the excitement and adventure that await you on your cruise vacation.



Embarking on a cruise from Charleston offers the perfect blend of convenience, charm, and adventure. From the historic port city to the enchanting destinations visited during the cruise, Charleston provides a captivating start and end to your seafaring journey. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun on a Caribbean beach, immerse yourself in the rich culture of Bermuda, or explore the stunning coastal cities along the southeastern coast of the United States, a cruise from Charleston can make your dreams come true.


With a range of cruise lines to choose from, each offering unique itineraries and exceptional onboard experiences, there is something for every type of traveler. Enjoy luxurious accommodations, world-class dining, engaging entertainment, and a wealth of amenities that cater to your every need and desire. The cruise ships departing from Charleston are floating oases of relaxation, adventure, and entertainment.


Remember to plan ahead, arrive early, and stay informed to ensure a smooth and stress-free embarkation and disembarkation experience. Familiarize yourself with the policies, check the necessary travel documents, and pack smartly to make the most of your cruise vacation. And don’t forget to explore the beautiful city of Charleston itself, with its rich history, unique charm, and Southern hospitality.


In conclusion, embarking on a cruise from Charleston is an incredible opportunity to combine the delights of cruising with the inherent beauty and allure of the South. So, whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned traveler, allow yourself to be swept away by the magic of cruise ship departures from Charleston, as you set sail towards unforgettable destinations and create memories that will last a lifetime.