Take a Cruise Without Getting On an Airplane
How to make the experience even easier at five of what are being touted as "drive-up ports."
Two ports, Terminal 30 Cruise Facility and Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal, operate from late April until November (206/728-3000, portseattle.org).
Cruise Lines: Terminal 30: Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America. Bell Street: Celebrity, Norwegian.
Where Ships Go: Most head up to Alaska, and Holland America also offers cruises through the Panama Canal.
Transportation & Parking: King County Metro Bus No. 99 is free and stops at Bell Street, a short walk from the Bell Street port. Terminal 30 is close to Safeco Field and a short cab ride away from Pike Place Market. Parking at either terminal costs $12 per day, and both lots have prepaid parking (206/783-4144, rpnw.com).
Lodging/Parking Deal: A one-night package at the Red Lion Hotel Seattle South includes breakfast, parking for the duration of a cruise, and a round-trip shuttle to either port, starting at $130 (11244 Tukwila International Blvd., 206/762-0300, redlion.com).
In the Area: A previously undeveloped nine-acre lot of waterfront was decorated with contemporary sculptures and opened in January as the Olympic Sculpture Park (2901 Western Ave., seattleartmuseum.org). This summer, the Experience Music Project museum hosts an exhibit of costumes from sci-fi classics like Star Trek and Blade Runner (325 5th Ave. N., 877/367-5483, emplive.org, $13).
B Street Pier, in the heart of San Diego's booming downtown, begins a year-round cruise schedule in May (800/854-2757, sandiegocruiseport.com).
Cruise Lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess.
Where Ships Go: Carnival and Princess sail regularly to the Mexican Riviera. The others go there periodically, as well as to Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, through the Panama Canal, and to Alaska.
Transportation & Parking: Santa Fe Depot, served by Amtrak and commuter trains and buses, is five minutes by foot or one minute by cab from the port. Parking is available across from the pier for $12 a day (no prepaid parking); alternately, the port's website lists lots where you can park for as little as $8 per day.
Lodging/Parking Deal: The Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside offers lodging for two, parking for the duration of a cruise, and shuttle service to and from the pier, starting at $179 (4875 N. Harbor Dr., 800/662-8899, holinnbayside.com).
In the Area: Teeming with restaurants, bars, and boutique shops after years of revitalization and investment, San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter is 15 minutes by foot, or five minutes by cab, from the terminal. And from June 29 to December 31, the San Diego Natural History Museum, in gorgeous Balboa Park, is showing the Dead Sea Scrolls--including artifacts that have never been displayed publicly (1788 El Prado, 619/232-3821, sdnhm.org, from $24).
Cruises first started sailing out of the Port of Galveston terminal year-round in 2000 (portofgalveston.com).
Cruise Lines: Carnival, Royal Caribbean.
Where Ships Go: Both lines depart year-round for Mexico and the western Caribbean; Royal Caribbean also sails to Central America and on occasional transatlantic cruises, such as a 12-night trip in April stopping in Key West and the Azores before ending in Barcelona.
Transportation & Parking: The Galveston Island Trolley ($1.25) stops between 21st and 22nd Streets, a few blocks from the cruise terminal (409/797-3909). The parking rates at the Port of Galveston lot vary depending on duration, but they end up costing $10 per day, more or less, for most cruises. You can save $5 by prepaying for parking.
Lodging/Parking Deal: Several Galveston hotels, including La Quinta Inn and Suites, allow free long-term parking for guests, even if you only stay there for one night (1402 Seawall Blvd., 409/763-1224, lq.com, from $65).
In the Area: Moody Gardens is a massive complex with a hotel, a spa, an IMAX 3-D theater, and a 10-story glass pyramid that's filled with a variety of tropical plants and animals (One Hope Blvd., 800/582-4673, moodygardens.com, $9.25).