Before you cruise, embark on a fun-finding mission in your port city
(BPT) - When booking a sea cruise vacation, it may seem like a good idea to schedule your flight to the port of departure for the same morning your ship sets sail.
A same-day flight might appear to save you time and money, but travel experts warn this could turn into an expensive mistake. Should airline delays keep you from getting to the port on time, you could end up shelling out hundreds more dollars to book another flight, just so you can catch up to your ship at the next port of call.
In addition, the panic and worry that set in from even the smallest hiccup in your tight travel schedule can defeat the idea of a vacation. To start your relaxing ocean getaway in the right frame of mind, give yourself and your family an extra pre-cruise day in your cruise line's port city. If everything goes as planned and you arrive the day before your ship casts off, your vacation can start early, too. Use the extra time to explore and kick back. You'll find the home ports for these cruise ships are set up to accommodate and welcome cruise travelers.
For example, if your ship happens to launch from Florida's Port Canaveral, the world's second-busiest cruise port, you'll discover many area hotels have cruise package deals that include free parking, special nightly rates and even free shuttle transportation to and from the port and to and from the airport.
You'll also find plenty to see and do locally. Cape Canaveral, near the Kennedy Space Center, is part of the east-central section of Florida popularly known as the Space Coast. Here, there are numerous attractions and other entertaining diversions that can help create the perfect countdown to your cruise to paradise.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
For visitors, the eye-opening facility that has propelled countless rockets and scores of shuttles out of our atmosphere also provides a full day's worth of exhibits and hands-on learning about space exploration. Eyeball a 3-D image produced by one of NASA's powerful space telescopes, inspect the Space Shuttle Atlantis up close, and "experience" life on Mars through an interactive display. Of course, there are plenty of space memorabilia to examine and fascinating astronaut stories to absorb, all of which will round out your appreciation of what NASA has accomplished so far - and what is yet to come.
While planning your overnight along the Space Coast, be sure to check Spacecoastlaunches.com for schedules of rocket launches, public viewing sites, and special hotel packages. If you're lucky, you might have an opportunity to witness the sights, sounds and ground-shaking vibrations of a rocket launch. Cape Canaveral and the greater Space Coast area have numerous parks and observation points that make it easy to sit back and watch these rockets streak into the sky.
Shopping, arts and entertainment
The Space Coast features many historic shopping districts to help you leisurely pass the time morning, afternoon and evening. You can dine al fresco at one of the trendy independent restaurants or pick out a catchy new cruise outfit at a local boutique. The area also has a lively arts scene to help inspire you for your trip. Take in a pre-cruise musical performance or theater production at the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse, or wander the assorted art galleries that dot the Eau Gallie Arts District.
Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier
A historic landmark along a beautiful stretch of beachfront, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier was established in 1962. Its festival-like setting is the perfect backdrop for any traveler's early escape from reality: beachside restaurants and bars with live entertainment, an 800-foot fishing pier, spectacular views of the majestic cruise ships coming and going, rolling waves breaking and beautiful bodies surfing, the sparkling beach and the glorious sunshine. What could be better?
You also can elude the crowds and pilot your own escapade along the area's beautiful waterways. It's easy to rent a boat and navigate the rivers and canals. You can look for dolphins and manatees or drop anchor at an island for a family barbecue and swim. Cast your line into the Banana River, pull into Sebastian Inlet State Park for snorkeling and scuba diving, or simply enjoy the journey and tie up at a waterside restaurant when hunger sets in.
For planning some Space Coast fun and relaxation before you set off to sea on your cruise ship, you can peruse an extensive collection of local tourism ideas and resources at www.visitspacecoast.com.