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What Cruise Ships Leave Out Of Savannah, GA


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Dyanne Moskowitz



Welcome aboard the journey to explore the hidden potential of Savannah, Georgia as a cruise ship port. With its rich history, charming Southern hospitality, and stunning coastal landscapes, Savannah has long been a popular destination for tourists. However, despite its allure, Savannah has yet to fully embrace the cruise ship industry. In this article, we will delve into the factors that have limited the development of cruise ship activities in Savannah, in order to shed light on the untapped potential and the challenges that lie ahead.


Savannah, known for its well-preserved antebellum architecture, cobblestone streets, and Spanish moss-draped trees, creates a picturesque backdrop for any traveler seeking a unique experience. The riverfront area, lined with vibrant shops, restaurants, and historic landmarks, has long been a favorite spot for visitors to soak in the city’s rich culture. With these attributes in mind, it’s easy to see why Savannah has the potential to become a thriving cruise ship port. However, there are several limitations and challenges that have hindered the development of this industry.


In the following sections, we will explore the main factors that come into play when considering Savannah as a cruise ship port. We’ll discuss the size restrictions that limit the types of vessels that can dock in the city, the lack of adequate infrastructure to support large-scale cruise operations, the environmental concerns associated with increased ship traffic, and the preservation concerns related to the city’s historical sites. Additionally, we will examine the potential economic impact that a thriving cruise ship industry could have on Savannah and its surrounding communities.


By delving into these topics, we hope to paint a comprehensive picture of the challenges and opportunities that Savannah faces in becoming a prominent cruise ship port. So, buckle up and let’s set sail on this exploration of Savannah’s journey towards embracing the world of cruise ships.


The Potential of Savannah as a Cruise Ship Port

Savannah holds immense potential to become a thriving cruise ship port, thanks to its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. With its well-preserved historic district, picturesque riverfront area, and nearby coastal landscapes, the city offers a compelling destination for cruise ship travelers. By capitalizing on its existing assets and enhancing its infrastructure, Savannah could attract a steady stream of cruise ship visitors, boosting its tourism industry and generating economic growth.


The city’s historic district, with its tree-lined squares and beautifully restored mansions, is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts. Cruise ship passengers could delve into the city’s rich history through guided tours, exploring landmarks like the Owens-Thomas House, the Mercer-Williams House, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Additionally, the district’s vibrant art scene, boutique shops, and renowned restaurants would provide a multitude of options for leisurely exploration and indulgence.


Furthermore, the Savannah River acts as a natural gateway for cruise ships, offering a stunning backdrop for those arriving by sea. The riverfront area, with its cobblestone streets and iconic buildings, could serve as a vibrant hub for cruise ship activities. Imagine passengers strolling along the riverwalk, exploring the unique shops, enjoying local cuisine, and immersing themselves in the city’s distinctive atmosphere.


Moreover, Savannah’s proximity to the breathtaking coastal landscapes of Tybee Island and nearby islands adds to its appeal as a cruise ship destination. Passengers could embark on excursions to sandy beaches, take part in water sports activities, or explore the natural beauty of the barrier islands. These opportunities for adventure and relaxation would undoubtedly enhance the overall cruise ship experience for travelers.


To fully unlock the potential of Savannah as a cruise ship port, it is crucial to develop the necessary infrastructure. This includes expanding docking facilities to accommodate larger vessels, creating efficient transportation options for passengers to explore the city, and providing convenient access to the various attractions and amenities. By investing in these infrastructure improvements, Savannah can position itself as a competitive destination in the cruise ship industry.


In addition, partnering with cruise lines and travel agencies to promote Savannah as a must-visit destination will be essential. By showcasing the city’s unique charm and highlighting its diverse offerings, Savannah can attract a steady influx of cruise ship visitors. This, in turn, would generate revenue for local businesses, create job opportunities, and contribute to the overall growth of the tourism sector.


With its rich history, natural beauty, and vibrant culture, Savannah possesses all the ingredients necessary to become a sought-after cruise ship port. By realizing its potential and overcoming the challenges ahead, Savannah has the opportunity to establish itself as an unforgettable destination for cruise ship travelers, creating a win-win scenario for the city and its visitors.


Limitations and Challenges

While Savannah has immense potential as a cruise ship port, there are several limitations and challenges that must be addressed for the industry to thrive. These factors have hindered the development of cruise ship activities in Savannah and require careful consideration and planning.


One of the main limitations is the size restriction for cruise ships. Savannah’s river channel and docking facilities currently have limitations on the size of vessels that can navigate and dock safely. This restricts the types of cruise ships that can visit the city, potentially limiting the variety of cruise options available to travelers. To overcome this challenge, infrastructure investments and expansion projects will be necessary to accommodate larger ships and increase the capacity of the port.


Another challenge is the lack of adequate infrastructure to support large-scale cruise operations. While Savannah has a thriving tourism industry, the city currently lacks the necessary facilities, such as a dedicated cruise terminal, to handle high volumes of passengers efficiently. This can lead to congestion and logistical challenges during peak travel seasons. Developing a modern cruise terminal, equipped with immigration and customs facilities, passenger amenities, and efficient transportation options, would address these issues and create a seamless cruise experience for travelers.


In addition to the infrastructure limitations, the lack of deepwater ports in Savannah presents another challenge. Cruise ships require deepwater ports to dock safely, and currently, Savannah does not have a deepwater terminal. This means that ships may have to anchor offshore and transport passengers to the city via tenders, which can be time-consuming and inconvenient. Constructing a deepwater port would enable larger ships to dock directly in Savannah, enhancing the city’s appeal as a cruise ship destination.


Environmental concerns also come into play when considering the expansion of the cruise ship industry in Savannah. Increased ship traffic can impact the delicate ecosystem of the Savannah River and nearby coastal areas. Mitigation measures, such as implementing sustainable practices, using cleaner fuel options, and partnering with environmental organizations, will be essential to minimize the ecological footprint of the cruise industry in Savannah.


Furthermore, Savannah’s commitment to preserving its historic architecture and landmarks poses a unique challenge. The city’s historic district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and any development must take into account the need to protect and preserve its architectural integrity. Balancing the demands of modern cruise infrastructure with the preservation of historical landmarks is a delicate task that requires careful planning and collaboration with preservation experts.


Despite these limitations and challenges, Savannah has the potential to overcome them with proactive planning, collaboration, and investment in its infrastructure. By addressing size restrictions, developing the necessary facilities, exploring the construction of a deepwater port, implementing sustainable practices, and preserving the city’s historic integrity, Savannah can position itself as a thriving and sustainable cruise ship port, offering an unforgettable experience for both travelers and locals alike.


Size Restrictions for Cruise Ships

One major challenge that Savannah faces in becoming a prominent cruise ship port is the size restrictions for cruise ships. The city’s river channel and docking facilities currently have limitations on the size of vessels that can navigate and dock safely. These restrictions can impact the variety of cruise options available to travelers and limit the potential growth of the industry in Savannah.


The width and depth of the river channel pose constraints on the size of cruise ships that can successfully maneuver through it. Savannah’s river channel can accommodate smaller to mid-sized cruise ships, typically those carrying up to 3,000 passengers. However, larger vessels, such as the mega cruise ships that can carry over 6,000 passengers, may face difficulty navigating the river channel due to its width and depth limitations.


These size restrictions can be a crucial factor for cruise lines in deciding whether to include Savannah as a port of call in their itineraries. Cruise lines often operate larger ships to accommodate a greater number of passengers and offer more onboard amenities. The limitations in Savannah’s river channel can deter these cruise lines from including the city in their routes, depriving Savannah of potential cruise ship visitors.


In order to overcome these size restrictions, infrastructure investments and expansion projects are necessary. Savannah needs to evaluate the feasibility of widening the river channel and deepening it to accommodate larger vessels. This would require collaboration between government agencies, port authorities, and other stakeholders to ensure the necessary dredging and maintenance is undertaken while maintaining the ecological balance of the river ecosystem.


Expanding docking facilities is also crucial to accommodate larger ships. Currently, Savannah primarily relies on docking facilities along its riverfront area. These docks may not have the capacity to handle larger vessels, necessitating the construction of new or expanded docks that can accommodate larger cruise ships. Building these new facilities would require strategic planning and investment to ensure they meet the safety and operational requirements of the cruise industry.


By addressing the size restrictions for cruise ships, Savannah could open its doors to a wider range of cruise lines and larger vessels, attracting a greater number of passengers and boosting tourism in the city. It would provide visitors with more options for their vacations and potentially drive economic growth for local businesses and the tourism industry as a whole.


With careful planning, infrastructure improvements, and investment, Savannah can overcome the size restrictions for cruise ships and position itself as a vibrant and inclusive cruise ship destination.


Lack of Adequate Infrastructure

One of the key challenges that Savannah faces in becoming a thriving cruise ship port is the lack of adequate infrastructure to support large-scale cruise operations. While the city has a well-established tourism industry, the current facilities and services are not optimized for the smooth handling of cruise ship activities, potentially causing logistical challenges for passengers and negatively impacting their overall experience.


One of the primary infrastructure concerns is the absence of a dedicated cruise terminal. A modern and efficient cruise terminal serves as the gateway for passengers, providing them with amenities, check-in facilities, immigration and customs services, and a seamless transition from ship to shore. Without a designated cruise terminal, visitors may face inconveniences such as crowded spaces, delays in embarkation and disembarkation, and a lack of essential services.


In addition to a dedicated cruise terminal, the lack of efficient transportation options within the city can also hinder the development of the cruise industry. Travelers arriving by cruise ships need reliable and convenient transportation to explore Savannah and its surrounding areas. This includes access to taxis, shuttles, public transportation, and organized tours. Without sufficient transportation infrastructure, passengers may face difficulties in seamlessly moving around the city and accessing the various attractions and amenities.


Furthermore, the availability of parking facilities for cruise ship passengers is a crucial aspect of infrastructure that needs improvement. Passengers who choose to drive to their embarkation point need safe and secure parking options in close proximity to the cruise terminal. The current lack of adequate parking facilities can deter potential cruisers or add inconvenience and additional costs for passengers seeking parking alternatives.


To address the lack of adequate infrastructure, substantial investments and planning are required. The construction of a modern cruise terminal with state-of-the-art facilities would provide a central point for cruise ship operations, streamline passenger processes, and enhance the overall cruise experience. Additionally, improving transportation options and establishing partnerships with local transportation providers would facilitate seamless connectivity and accessibility for cruise ship passengers.


Collaboration between the city’s government, port authorities, and private sector stakeholders is paramount in ensuring that the necessary infrastructure improvements are implemented effectively. This would involve conducting feasibility studies, securing funding, and engaging with relevant experts to design and develop the required facilities. By investing in infrastructure upgrades, Savannah can position itself as a competitive and welcoming cruise ship port, attracting more ships and passengers while providing them with a memorable and hassle-free experience.


Overall, the lack of adequate infrastructure presents a significant challenge for Savannah’s cruise ship ambitions. However, with the right investments and forward-thinking planning, the city can overcome these hurdles and establish itself as a premier cruise destination with the infrastructure to support a thriving cruise industry.


Lack of Deepwater Ports

Another major challenge that Savannah faces in its pursuit of becoming a prominent cruise ship port is the lack of deepwater ports. While the city is blessed with the picturesque Savannah River, the current infrastructure is not designed to accommodate large cruise ships that require deepwater docking facilities. This limitation presents challenges for the cruise industry and hampers Savannah’s ability to attract larger vessels and capitalize on its full potential as a cruise ship destination.


Deepwater ports are essential for cruise ships as they offer the necessary water depth to safely accommodate the draught of these large vessels. Currently, Savannah lacks a deepwater port, which means that larger cruise ships have to anchor offshore and transport passengers to the shore via smaller boats known as tenders. This process can be time-consuming, inconvenient, and weather-dependent, thereby posing challenges for passengers and cruise lines alike.


The absence of a deepwater port diminishes Savannah’s competitiveness in the cruise ship industry. Cruise lines often prefer ports that provide direct access for larger ships, as this allows for a smoother operation and enhances the overall experience of passengers. With the limitation of having to anchor offshore, Savannah may not be considered as a primary port of call for many cruise itineraries, limiting the number of cruise ship visits and potential economic benefits.


Addressing the lack of deepwater ports is a complex endeavor that requires comprehensive planning, collaboration, and significant infrastructure development. The construction of a deepwater port would involve dredging and increasing the depth of the river channel to accommodate larger vessels. Additionally, the construction of new docking facilities designed specifically for deep-draught cruise ships would be necessary.


Developing a deepwater port in Savannah would not only benefit the cruise ship industry but also have economic advantages for the city and the surrounding region. It would attract larger international cruise lines, bringing in more visitors and revenue to the local economy. The increased tourist activity would boost businesses associated with the cruise industry such as hotels, restaurants, transportation services, and retail outlets.


Furthermore, having a deepwater port can lead to the expansion of the cruise ship industry beyond just day visits. It would enable Savannah to serve as a homeport, allowing cruise ships to embark and disembark passengers directly from the city. This would open up new opportunities for longer cruise itineraries, multi-day stays, and the potential for pre- and post-cruise tourism in Savannah, further enhancing its appeal as a cruise ship destination.


Overcoming the lack of deepwater ports in Savannah will require the coordinated effort of government agencies, port authorities, and private sector stakeholders. It involves conducting detailed feasibility studies, securing funding, and implementing strategic plans that consider the environmental impact and community needs.


With the development of deepwater ports, Savannah can position itself as a competitive cruise ship destination, attracting larger vessels, and expanding its offerings to both cruise lines and passengers. The creation of a deepwater port not only enhances the economic prospects of the city but also provides opportunities for growth and increased tourism that can benefit Savannah for years to come.


Environmental Concerns

As Savannah explores the potential of becoming a prominent cruise ship port, it is important to address the environmental concerns associated with increased ship traffic. While the cruise industry can bring economic benefits to the city, it also poses challenges in terms of sustainability, waste management, and the impact on the delicate ecosystem of the Savannah River and the surrounding coastal areas.


One of the main environmental concerns is the emission of greenhouse gases and air pollutants from cruise ships. These emissions contribute to air pollution and have adverse effects on both human health and the environment. However, many cruise lines have been taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint by investing in cleaner technologies, using low-sulfur fuels, and implementing energy-efficient practices. Collaboration between cruise lines, port authorities, and local authorities is key to ensuring that environmental regulations are followed and that the industry progresses towards sustainable practices.


Waste management is another significant environmental concern associated with cruise ship operations. With thousands of passengers on board, cruise ships generate a considerable amount of waste, including solid waste, wastewater, and air emissions. Proper waste management systems need to be in place to ensure that waste is disposed of responsibly and that pollution to the water and land surrounding Savannah is minimized. Recycling programs, wastewater treatment facilities, and waste reduction initiatives can play a crucial role in mitigating the environmental impact of the cruise industry.


The increased ship traffic can also have an impact on the delicate ecosystem of the Savannah River and the nearby coastal areas. Cruise ships must navigate through these sensitive ecosystems, which house diverse marine life and contribute to the overall ecological balance. It is essential to conduct environmental impact assessments and introduce measures to minimize disruption to marine habitats, protect endangered species, and preserve the overall biodiversity of the region.


Moreover, the cruise industry needs to be mindful of the potential pollution caused by the release of ballast water. Ballast water is taken on by ships to maintain stability and balance during voyages. However, if not properly managed, ballast water can introduce invasive species, impacting the local flora and fauna. Implementing ballast water treatment systems and complying with international regulations ensures that the discharge of ballast water does not harm the pristine marine environments in and around Savannah.


Savannah, as a forward-thinking city, has an opportunity to collaborate with cruise lines and environmental organizations to address these concerns and promote sustainable cruise practices. By enforcing strict regulations, investing in green technologies, and encouraging eco-friendly initiatives, Savannah can ensure that the growth of the cruise industry aligns with its commitment to environmental preservation.


Ultimately, the goal should be to strike a balance between economic benefits and environmental stewardship. By prioritizing sustainable practices and embracing innovation, Savannah can position itself as a responsible and environmentally conscious cruise ship destination.


Historical Preservation Concerns

When considering the development of Savannah as a cruise ship port, it is essential to address the concerns regarding historical preservation. Savannah boasts a well-preserved historic district, with its charming architecture, cobblestone streets, and significant landmarks. Preserving the city’s unique historical character while accommodating the needs of a growing cruise ship industry requires careful planning, collaboration, and a commitment to maintaining the integrity of Savannah’s historic sites.


Savannah’s historic district, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a testament to the city’s rich history and architectural heritage. The district features beautifully restored mansions, churches, and public squares that offer visitors a glimpse into Savannah’s past. Balancing the interests of historic preservation with the demands of the cruise industry becomes crucial to ensure that the unique character of the city is not compromised.


A major concern is the potential impact of increased cruise ship activities on the historic district’s infrastructure. The heavy foot traffic and transportation needs associated with the cruise industry can put a strain on the delicate cobblestone streets, sidewalks, and structures. Implementing measures to protect and maintain the historic fabric of the district, such as enforcing weight restrictions on vehicles and utilizing specialized paving materials, is vital to preserving its charm and integrity.


Another consideration is the visual impact that cruise ships may have on the aesthetics of Savannah’s riverfront area. The sight of towering cruise ships may introduce a striking contrast to the historic buildings and landscapes that define the city. Proper planning and design guidelines should aim to minimize the visual disruption and ensure that the cruise ship presence blends harmoniously with the surrounding architecture and natural beauty.


Engaging with preservation experts, local communities, and stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes is instrumental in addressing historical preservation concerns. This collaboration can result in the implementation of thoughtful design guidelines, zoning regulations, and strict architectural standards for new developments and cruise ship infrastructure. By doing so, Savannah can ensure that all construction and modifications respect the historic fabric and character of the city.


Moreover, integrating efforts to educate both locals and visitors about the historical significance of Savannah is crucial. Collaborative initiatives between cruise lines, local organizations, and historical societies can provide historical context and promote responsible tourism. This can include guided walking tours, heritage interpretation programs, and educational materials that highlight the importance of preserving Savannah’s history while enjoying the benefits of the cruise industry.


Ultimately, the goal is to strike a balance between historical preservation and economic development. Through careful planning, community involvement, and a commitment to sustainable tourism practices, Savannah can successfully navigate the challenges and ensure that the cruise ship industry coexists harmoniously with the city’s historic sites. By preserving its unique heritage, Savannah can continue to captivate visitors while embracing the opportunities that the cruise ship industry presents.


Economic Impact of Cruise Ships

The development of Savannah as a thriving cruise ship port has the potential to bring significant economic benefits to the city and the surrounding communities. The cruise industry is a powerful driver of tourism and can contribute to job creation, increased revenue, and the growth of local businesses. Understanding and harnessing the economic impact of cruise ships is essential for Savannah to capitalize on this opportunity and maximize the positive effects on its economy.


One of the key economic benefits of a flourishing cruise ship industry is job creation. Cruise ships require a wide range of services and staff, including ship crew members, hospitality professionals, tour guides, transportation providers, and maintenance personnel. The growth of cruise ship activities in Savannah would create employment opportunities across various sectors, stimulating job growth and reducing unemployment rates. These jobs not only support the cruise industry directly but also have multiplier effects on the local economy, as employees spend their wages in the community.


The influx of cruise ship passengers also translates into increased spending in local businesses. Travelers often engage in shopping, dining, and recreational activities during their shore excursions. Local retailers, restaurants, tour operators, and other tourism-dependent businesses can experience a boost in sales and revenue as a result. This increased spending can have a ripple effect, benefiting the wider economy through the creation of new business opportunities and the generation of tax revenue.


In addition to direct spending, cruise ship passengers contribute indirectly to the local economy through tourism-related expenditures. Many passengers opt to extend their stay in the port city before or after their cruise, further exploring the area and participating in pre- or post-cruise tourism activities. This extension of their stay leads to additional hotel bookings, transportation usage, and spending on attractions, further bolstering the local economy.


Cruise lines themselves also bring economic benefits through port fees and local partnerships. Port fees paid by cruise lines for docking and other services contribute to the local economy, supporting the maintenance and development of port infrastructure. Moreover, cruise lines often collaborate with local businesses, offering exclusive shore excursions that highlight the unique attractions and experiences of the destination. This collaboration provides a platform for local businesses to showcase their offerings and attracts tourists to engage in experiences that give them a taste of Savannah’s culture and heritage.


It is important to note that the economic impact of the cruise industry extends beyond the immediate port city. Surrounding communities and regional businesses can also benefit from cruise ship activities. Increased tourism can lead to demand for goods and services in the wider region, benefiting industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation.


However, it is essential to ensure that the economic benefits are sustainable and shared equitably among all stakeholders. This requires proper planning and coordination between cruise lines, local government, and community organizations. Strategies for local procurement, training and development programs, and community partnerships can help maximize the economic benefits and support the long-term growth of the region.


In summation, the development of Savannah as a thriving cruise ship port holds immense economic potential. By creating employment opportunities, boosting local businesses, generating tax revenue, and fostering regional economic growth, the cruise industry can contribute significantly to the overall prosperity and vibrancy of the city and its surrounding communities.



Savannah, Georgia possesses untapped potential as a cruise ship port, with its rich history, southern charm, and stunning coastal landscapes. However, several limitations and challenges need to be addressed for the city to fully embrace the cruise ship industry while maintaining its historical character and environmental sustainability.


The size restrictions for cruise ships, lack of adequate infrastructure, and absence of deepwater ports are significant hurdles that need to be overcome. By investing in infrastructure improvements, including the construction of a modern cruise terminal, expanding docking facilities, and exploring the feasibility of deepwater ports, Savannah can accommodate larger vessels and provide a seamless experience for cruise ship passengers.


Furthermore, addressing environmental concerns, such as emissions and waste management, is crucial. By promoting sustainable practices, implementing proper waste disposal systems, and collaborating with cruise lines to reduce the industry’s environmental impact, Savannah can develop the cruise ship industry while safeguarding its natural surroundings.


Preserving the historical integrity of Savannah is paramount. By implementing design guidelines, involving preservation experts, and engaging with local communities, Savannah can ensure that the growth of the cruise industry aligns with the city’s commitment to protecting its unique heritage.


Last but not least, the economic impact of the cruise industry cannot be overlooked. The development of a thriving cruise ship industry in Savannah has the potential to stimulate job creation, increase revenue for local businesses, and contribute to the growth of the wider regional economy. By fostering partnerships, encouraging local procurement, and supporting community programs, the economic benefits can be realized and shared equitably among all stakeholders.


In conclusion, Savannah has the potential to become a vibrant and sustainable cruise ship destination. By addressing the limitations and challenges identified, embracing sustainable practices, and balancing economic growth with historical preservation and environmental stewardship, Savannah can position itself as a sought-after port of call, offering a unique and unforgettable experience for cruise ship travelers while protecting its natural beauty and cherished history.