Where to watch cruise ships at Port Canaveral

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!

Grills-Breakfast with the Oasis
Grills-Breakfast with the Oasis looming large

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.

Go Here to Find the Port Canaveral Ship Schedule

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.

Map - Port Canaveral Ship Watching Areas
Map – Port Canaveral Ship Watching Areas (click to enlarge)

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.

Grills Views
Grills Views (click to enlarge)

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.

Fishlips Upstairs Views
Fishlips Upstairs Views (click to enlarge)

Rusty’s – unfortunately the outside area has plastic window protection from the wind and therefor ship views are somewhat obstructed.

Rusty's Ship Viewing
Rusty’s Ship Viewing (click to enlarge)

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.

Seafood Atlantic Ship Watching
Seafood Atlantic Ship Watching (click to enlarge)

New restaurants will open nearby in late 2018 offering even more viewing options!

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.

Water's Edge Cafe
Water’s Edge Cafe (click to enlarge)

The Boat Ramp offers a cheaper and more relaxed cruise ship viewing experience than the bustling Cove Restaurants.

Jetty Park

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.

Jetty Park Ship Viewing
Jetty Park Ship Viewing (click to enlarge)

The famous Fishlips operates a cafe concession near the beach where you can buy food and drinks.

Jetty Park Ship Watching
Jetty Park Ship Watching

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.

Port Canaveral Ship Viewing
Port Canaveral Ship Viewing (click to enlarge)
Port Canaveral Ship Watching
Port Canaveral Ship Watching

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) !

Exploration Tower Ship Watching
Exploration Tower Ship Watching

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.

Holiday Inn Club - Cruise Ship Watching
Holiday Inn Club – Cruise Ship Watching