Where to Watch or View Cruise Ships at Port Canaveral
Port Canaveral is one of the best places to watch cruise ships in Florida! And best of all – you can watch for free! No parking fees or sneaking into private driveways to view your favorite big ships!
Best Time to See the Ships
Port Canaveral is a busy place but some days there are no ships in Port!
So Step 1 is to look at the Port Schedule to pick a date for your visit.
Step 2 is to check the Port Ship Finder Map. This real-time map will show the locations of most commercial vessels around the world at any time.
Go Here to Find the Port Canaveral Ship Finder Map. Please reposition the map with your mouse to center on Port Canaveral!. Zoom in and out as necessary.
Now that you know the ship locations in Port, decide what time of the day to see them. This is Step 3.
The most popular viewing time is in the afternoon during the Sail Away festivities! Most ships set sail between 4pm and 5pm when you will hear music playing and cruise directors urging passengers to join them on the dance floors. So be in position no later than 4pm and plan to stay for an hour or so to see all the ships sail by.
If you are an early riser you can also watch the ships sail slowly into port usually between 4am and 6am. They are surpringly quiet because passengers are still asleep!
Occasionally cruise ships visit Port Canaveral briefly as a shore stop on a longer itinerary. They can arrive at 9am, around noon or whenever! They usually depart after dark (9pm or later). You have to study the cruise ship schedule mentioned above and then position yourself somewhere to watch them sail into Port or back out.
Where to See the Ships
While you can drive around the Port area and see the cruise ships docked at the various terminals, you cannot get close and the views are mostly obstructed by the terminal buildings and parking garages. If you stop to take pictures, the Port Security may ask you to move along. No Parking signs are seemingly everywhere!
It is much better to choose a viewing spot from our list below.
The Cove Restaurants
You can hardly get any closer to the ships when watching them sail by during Happy Hour from the waterfront restaurants at the Cove at Port Canaveral. Disney, Norwegian and Carnival usually dock at the North side of the Port and they sail right by the restaurants!
Grills – practically underneath the ships when they dock at Terminal 1 – usually Royal Caribbean. Perhaps the most consistently great food at the Port. Breakfast is highly recommended.
Fishlips – the upstairs area is elevated providing the widest view of the ships. Good food and surprisingly affordable drink prices make Fishlips a great choice for ship viewing.
Rusty’s – unfortunately the outside area has plastic window protection from the wind and therefor ship views are somewhat obstructed.
Junkanoo Island Kitchen – The newest restaurant edition with good food and reasonable pricing. Popular with locals and a good place if you want to avoid the busier restaurants. The tables next to the window have unobstructed views of the cruise ships.
Seafood Atlantic – Wonderful fresh seafood in an informal and intimate setting between the larger and more popular restaurants. A great choice if you want a quieter viewing experience but they only have a few tables outside.
Gator’s Dockside – Near perfect to watch ships from the North side of the port including Disney and Carnival! Gator’s Dockside is a Florida restaurant chain of family-friendly sportsbars.
The Freddie Patrick Boat Ramp near Jetty Park
With eight boat slips and multiple ramps this viewing area is a local favorite! Folks bring lawn chairs and umbrellas to enjoy an afternoon of watching fishing boats return and to view the cruise ships.
There is even a tackle shop/cafe at the far end of the ramp serving food and drinks! The sitting area is a great place from where to watch the action on the water.
The Boat Ramp offers a cheaper and more relaxed cruise ship viewing experience than the bustling Cove Restaurants.
Located where the Port meets the ocean, Jetty Park is an obvious choice for many when viewing cruise ships. You can walk out on the 1200′ pier or watch the ships from the comfort of your car.
The famous Fishlips operates a cafe concession near the beach where you can buy food and drinks.
The problem is cost. Visitors must pay $15 per vehicle and no pets are allowed. No charges for walk-ins and cyclists.
Grassy Sitting Area Between Cove Restaurants
You can park nearby and walk to an open area next to the old Millikens Restaurant. It is a good and quiet spot to watch ships departing from the North side of the Port.
Other Areas to Consider for Ship Watching
For an elevated yet distance view of the ships with a wide field of view, consider the 6th floor observation deck of the Exploration Tower (entrance fee) !
If you are a guest of the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Resort at Cape Canaveral, you can watch the ships from any north-facing room or observation area.