Car Rental To/From Cruise Port Canaveral
Car rental options for cruise passengers from Orlando or Stanford, and Melbourne airports – whether you are embarking at Port Canaveral or doing a shore excursion during your Port Canaveral call.
Please do not discount car rental as a transportation option from Orlando to Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach! It is often the cheapest option and driving between the airports and Port Canaveral is super simple. Traffic problems are virtually unheard of. It is not always the fastest way to/from the port, because you have to shuttle from/to the rental car buildings, but it surely is convenient. Experienced cruisers on Cruise Critic and Tripadvisor often swear by car rentals as their transportation of choice.
After your cruise, a rental car may or may not be your best option back to Orlando. If your flight departs before 2pm for example, then you will not have time for anything except getting back to the airport. Taking the cruise line bus or hiring a private car/van or Uber will be easier because you avoid wasting time waiting for rental car shuttles and at the rental desk. But if your flight departs later then you need to kill time before going to the airport and a rental car is perfect for storing your luggage while you explore somewhere!
TIP – Book ONE-WAY car rentals because it is the most cost-effective unless you get a super cheap return rate! There is no reason to keep the rental car while you cruise.
The following Rental Car Companies operate near Port Canaveral:
Hertz – visit local website
Budget – visit local website
Dollar – visit local website
Thrifty – visit local website
Avis – visit local website
National – visit local website
Alamo – visit local website
The following companies share a building and port shuttles
- Enterprise – National – Alamo
- Dollar – Thrifty
Everything considered, there is little to choose between the rental companies!
Port Canaveral Locations:
My real-time area map and the image above show the car-rental offices at Port Canaveral and at the airports (light-blue vehicle icons). You will notice they are all along the same stretch of road near the Port, except for Enterprise-National-Alamo.
No need to pick a company based on location because they are all within 10 minutes drive or so from the Port – four are technically within walking distance from terminal B1 and B3!
Their opening hours vary – weekends have shorter hours. In general the hours are between 7:30am and 4pm with a few open until 6pm but no later. If you plan to return your car after 6pm, it is best to check with the office beforehand. All (except Budget) offer drop boxes (see photos below) but remember to take a cell phone video of your walk-around in case there are damage disputes later. 888-Transportation or Uber are the recommended after-hours transport services to meet you at the rental building after dropping your car.
The main Enterprise-National-Alamo building is closest to the terminals just to west of the Exploration Tower at the Terminal B complex. If someone can watch your luggage at B1 while you return/pick the vehicle, you can easily and safely walk to the building from terminal B1 – it is only 0.5 miles!
Enterprise Plus, National Emerald Club and Alamo Insider services are available but you must stop at the counter and show your driver’s license to get your preprinted contract and keys.
After Hours drop-off is available.
Hertz – about 2.2 miles to Cruise Terminal 5 and 0.8 miles to Cruise Terminal 1.
Gold Counter service is available meaning you must stop at the counter and show your driver’s license to get your preprinted contract and keys.
After Hours drop-off is available.
Budget is 3 miles and 2.1 miles respectively to Cruise Terminal 5 and Cruise Terminal 1.
Fastbreak Service is available but you must stop at the counter and show your driver’s license to get your preprinted contract and keys.
NO after hours drop offs.
Dollar – Thrifty are 3.9 miles and 3.5 miles respectively to Cruise Terminal 5 and Cruise Terminal 1.
Express or Blue Chip services are available but you must stop at the counter and show your driver’s license to get your preprinted contract and keys.
After Hours drop-off is available. Hours are 7:30am to 3:30pm Mon-Sun.
Avis is 4 miles and 3.6 miles respectively to Cruise Terminal 5 and Cruise Terminal 1.
Preferred Service is available but you must stop at the counter and show your driver’s license to get your preprinted contract and keys.
After Hours drop-off is available.
Which Company is close to a Hotel?
Hertz has a slight advantage for some because it is surrounded by three popular hotels – it is practically on the Residence Inn property, next to the Country Inn & Suites and across a busy road (cross carefully) from the Homewood Suites. If you plan to rent a car then drop it near the Port before checking into a hotel, Hertz will be easiest in that sense.
Other rental car companies do hotel shuttles but with prior arrangements and rules regarding peak time shuttles to hotels instead of cruise terminals.
Shuttle Services at the Port:
The companies use similar shuttle vans and those are wrapped or signed for easy identification. The rental car shuttle vans stand out in a line of vehicles at the airport or cruise terminals! Sometimes the rental car companies use smaller, standard-looking shuttle vans so also look for a small sign on the side instead of a colorful wrapped vehicle.
The first rental car shuttle buses depart between 10am and 10:30am pending number of bookings. Wait times are about the same and depend on the number of cruise ships in port and time of day. 11am to 1pm is peak for drop offs. Expect to wait about 15 minutes between shuttles. If you can drop your vehicle just before 10am you will be on one of the first shuttles to the cruise terminal.
Enterprise-National-Alamo has the largest and most convenient building with the largest parking area. Together with Hertz, these 4 companies may offer the fasted check-in/check-out system.
Budget always look very busy around noon and often the drop-off customers sit in a long line spilling into the main road.
Please know the shuttles will not transfer passengers until the check-in offices open at the various cruise terminals – generally after 10am! So if you drop your vehicle at 8am, do not expect a cruise terminal shuttle until later that morning!
Also be aware the Port Canaveral car rental offices operate different business hours but all close early (4pm or 5pm or occasionally at 6pm). Late drop-offs are generally available but please call ahead to ensure your drop-off time is accepted. Web sites listed above.
Orlando Airport Rental Cars:
The process of renting is very simple. Make your way down to the ground transportation area where you will find the rental car desks.
Then follow the signs (escalator down to cross underneath the airport road) to the undercover rental parking lot where you will find your vehicle. Note – except for Payless, no curbside shuttles are needed for the companies listed above. You just walk to your vehicle!
For even faster service, bypass the counters by using the express pickup services offered by the loyal-renter programs from Hertz, Avis, Budget, National and Alamo.
Melbourne Airport Rental Cars:
The process of renting is very simple but you will be walking outside. Make your way to the ground transportation area before baggage claim. Payless is not available at Melbourne airport. Dollar and Thrifty have a shared shuttle service to their shared office about 5 minutes from the airport (see our map). The others offer airport desks and you pick your vehicle in the parking lot outside as you exit the airport building. You just walk to your vehicle – no shuttle needed!
Please watch my Video – Melbourne Airport Arrival for information and directions to the Port.
Sanford Airport Rental Cars:
Companies are just across the road from the arrivals building. After baggage claim, exit the main terminal and walk across the road to the ground transportation building. You will find Alamo on the right and the others on the left.
Disneyworld Rental Cars:
Some passengers visit Disney before their cruise and while most opt to use the Disney Express buses to Port Canaveral, please know it is very convenient to rent a car at one of many locations within the Greater Disneyworld Complex! Alamo and National are the “official” rental car companies of Disneyworld and the Car Care Center is the place to go for convenient pickup services. Shuttles to/from the Car Care Center are available from all Disney hotels. Avis, Budget and Dollar have locations in nearby hotels close to Disney Springs. Hertz is just a short distance away.
Should you rent a car to Port Canaveral or use a cruise line bus, shuttle service or limo?
It depends! Here are a few rental car benefits:
- You can explore the Space Coast on the day before your cruise – waterfront restaurants, beaches, Kennedy Space Center and much more. Please read the port orientation section for more ideas.
- You can do last-minute shopping at your convenience – maybe a trip to the drugstore or wine shop!
- You arrive with far fewer people at the cruise terminal (in the rental car shuttle) than a cruise line bus full of passengers.
- The early rental car shuttles normally arrive before the first cruise line buses – allowing you to board before the large crowds.
- Unless you travel single, a one-way car rental will probably cost less for your family than the cruise line bus. I’ve seen rates as low as $45 per day for a one-way rental!
TIP – I think it depends on your planned arrival time at Port Canaveral. If you plan to fly in at least a day before your cruise then it makes a lot of sense to rent a car instead of an airport shuttle van. You will find most of the best restaurants and bars are not near any hotels and having your own wheels allow you to go find them. Taxis are available but these cost money and there are wait times on busy evenings. The next morning you drop the car and take one of the first shuttles to the cruise terminal just 10 minutes or so away!
If you fly into Orlando airport on the morning of your cruise, then you have some decisions to make!
- The easiest option is the cruise line bus, but that can get expensive for a party of 2 or more. Read the section about cruise line transportation.
- A shared shuttle van (offered by commercial companies) is good value for money but you may have to wait for other passengers. Read the section about commercial shuttle companies.
- A private commercial shuttle van or limousine for your party is the most convenient and is my recommendation. Read the section about commercial shuttle and limousine companies.
- A rental car may get you to Cape Canaveral with ease but you still have to drop it at the local location and wait in line for the port shuttle (on average about 15-20 minutes)!
As mentioned above – After your cruise, do consider if a rental car is easier or more troublesome when you have to rush to the airport.
TIP – If you opt for a rental car and are traveling with small children or elders, consider dropping them (with adult supervision) with your luggage at the cruise terminal before returning the car and taking the shuttle back to the cruise terminal.
- Opt out of Prepaid Gas Option. There are several gas stations near the rental car buildings with low prices! Look for Speedway stations in Orlando and Racetrac next to the Residence Inn at Cape Canaveral.
- Check your Rental Car company website often for lower rates! You can cancel and rebook if needed to save money!
- Do not use the Toll Road Transponder service. Just pay ($1 + $1.50 = $2.50) in cash when driving from Orlando Airport to Port Canaveral (add another $1.25 + $1.25 = $2.50 when driving from Disneyworld)!
- Look for online specials on the respective rental car websites.
- Search the internet for car rental codes or coupons. You will find many different codes from AAA codes to magazine reader codes to tire company codes! Some require a paper coupon and blackout dates apply, but keep on trying! It should save you money!