Anyone considering a stay in historic Charleston likely knows about the city’s amazing attractions, rich traditions and southern charm but many are unaware that the city plays home to one of the largest ports on the eastern seaboard and has been hosting cruises since 1913.
The Port of Charleston, ranked as the 8th largest in the U.S., brings in billions of dollars of cargo per year and serves as a hub for more than 150,000 tourists per year who depart on cruises from Charleston each year.
Based on estimates, cruise guests will spend more than $6 million this year in and around Charleston as they explore the area on their way to and from the port.
If you’re one of the many guests considering a Charleston cruise and looking to see all that the Holy City has to offer during your trip, the Andrew Pinckney Inn — one of the top boutique hotels in Charleston, S.C. — is a perfect place to stay.
Imagine a starting your week-long trip to a tropical locale with a few days of Lowcountry cuisine, high-end shopping and top-notch accommodations in historic Charleston.
If this sounds like the dream vacation to you, here’s a few more details on how to get started on making your dream a reality:
Types of Cruises
Whether you’re looking to depart to Bahamas, Bermuda or the Carribean, wanting to take a river cruise through the historic south or just hoping to set sail for a quick tour around the harbor, there are Charleston cruises perfectly suited to you.
The city is home to one of the world’s largest cruise lines, Carnival Cruises, as well as American Cruise Lines, a small-ship cruise service and various local companies offering tours and day cruises.
Carnival Cruise Lines
The city’s Union Pier Terminal — in operation since 1973 — has hosted major international cruises from Carnival Cruise Lines since 2009, with the company’s Carnival Fantasy ship calling Charleston home since 2010.
Fantasy, the senior vessel in Carnival’s fleet and the lead ship in its “fantasy class” line is a 2,000 passenger cruise ship that departs weekly from Charleston.
Trips on Fantasy range from 2 to 5 days in length and sail to ports of call in Nassau, Freeport, Little Cay and Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas, as well as Grand Turk in Turks & Caicos.
Cost for these Charleston cruises generally begin around $400 per person and can range upwards of $2,000 depending on the length of stay and type of accommodations.
American Cruise Lines
Offering a very different, yet just as unique experience is the Historic South and Golden Isles Cruise offered by American Cruise Lines.
This 8-day, 7-night Southeast Cruise from Charleston departs for Jacksonville, Florida, travelling the Intracoastal Waterway — a protected network of bays, rivers, and canals which is home to the most beautiful historic cities in America including Savannah, Jekyll Island, and Beaufort.
As you cruise between ports, expansive wildlife refuges and remote islands stretch out before you, offering an extraordinary view into the wilderness and wildlife of the South and a glimpse at history, legend, grace, and beauty that will leave you inspired.
With no more than 150 passengers on board, American Cruise Lines’ ships — American Star, American Glory and Independence — are designed to provide smooth travel and an intimate, one-of-a-kind experience.
For more information call 1-800-460-4518 or visit americancruiselines.com
A harbor tour cruise from Charleston is one of the best ways to see point of interests around town from the comforts of Charleston Harbor and on the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The companies such as Charleston Harbor Tours and Spiritline Cruisies will take you past some notable sights such as Fort Sumter, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and the USS Yorktown.
There’s even a variety of themed tours such as the Blues and BBQ tour, which sails Thursday nights from spring through fall. Here, you can board the Carolina Belle for an amazing two-hour tour featuring a delicious all-you-can-eat Southern BBQ Buffet with pulled pork BBQ, smoked chicken, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, coleslaw and southern sweet tea.
Booking your cruise
Making plans for your on a Charleston cruise is as easy as contacting your local travel agent for great deals on cruises, itineraries, rates, cabin availability and assistance in making reservations. If you’re traveling with a group, you can talk with the cruise line group services manager for special group rates and deals.
Historic Insight Cruise Package
If you’re looking to get the best deal surrounding your trip, consider the Andrew Pinckney Inn’s Historic Insight Cruise Package which includes deluxe accommodations at one of the top boutique hotels in Charleston, S.C. as well as:
• A Walking tour of historic Charleston for two guests (tickets for a group carriage tours may be substituted)
• Complimentary parking during your stay
• Freshly baked cookies each afternoon with gourmet tea and coffee
• Deluxe continental breakfast served on the rooftop terrace overlooking the market
If you’re planning to sail on a cruise from the Port of Charleston, you’ll need to know the basics. Here’s some key information from the port’s “Cruising from Charleston” guide:
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get to the port? The Port of Charleston’s Cruise Passenger Terminal is located in downtown Charleston in the heart of the historic district. It is easily reached via several major routes into the city including Interstate 26, Highway 17-South and Highway 17-North. More detailed directions are available here.
Is parking available at the port? Yes, parking is available on Port property, just a short distance from the Cruise Terminal. It is access controlled, available only to cruise passengers. The cost is $17/day for standard vehicles, $40/day for oversized vehicles.
Where do I go on sailing/embarkation day? All cruise passengers should come to Union Pier Terminal to begin the check-in process on sailing day. The entry is Gate # 2 at the intersection of Concord and Laurens Streets and the address is 280 Concord Street, Charleston, SC.
What do I need for entry? Cruise document / ticket, government issued photo ID (i.e., driver’s license), proof of citizenship (passport or municipality issued birth certificate) is required for entry to cruise terminal and check-in for cruises.
What are the hours for check-in? Vehicles and luggage will be accepted at Union Pier Terminal between the hours of 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m. on sailing day. You can board the ship right after you check in at the cruise ship terminal. Once the process starts the ship is ready to receive passengers.
When can I drop off luggage? Early drop-off luggage is accepted between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. on sailing days. Early drop-off is for passengers with early flight arrivals or early check-out from hotels. Checked through luggage is collected prior to parking. You will follow a route within Union Pier Terminal and be directed to the luggage collection tent after you purchase the parking permit. After depositing the checked through luggage, you will be directed to the parking areas.
What size luggage can I carry on with me? Carry-on luggage should be no larger than 22” x 14” x 9” (approximately). Luggage size limits are similar to those for airline travel. Any luggage larger than the size noted above is considered checked through luggage. It will be collected at the Union Pier site and delivered to your cabin.
Where do I find the cruise schedule for Charleston? The cruise schedules are posted and updated periodically here.
South Carolina Ports Authority: For general cruise questions and more info, call 843–577–8298 or visit www.port-of-charleston.com
U.S. Customs: For Info on passports, birth certificates and other documents call 843–579–6500 or visit www.cbp.gov