Every USA cruise port can be reached by Amtrak.
For those to love to cruise, life is easier living near a cruise ship homeport. There’s less stress on embarkation day with only short drive to the port.
If you don’t live near a cruise ship port, your choices on how to get there are limited. Endure a long-distance car ride or for even more stress, cram yourself and your family into an airplane. Some people simply refuse to fly, which seriously can limit their travel chances. There is a better way to get to your port: Take Amtrak to cruise ports!
Amtrak is America’s passenger train. Arrive at an Amtrak station 45 minutes before your train is scheduled to arrive. After the train attendant helps you step onboard, you’ll nestle into your sleeping compartment or reclining wide seat. With over 500 stations in 46 states and Washington, D.C, there’s bound to be an Amtrak train to get to your cruise ship’s homeport.
How to get there
Florida Cruise Ports
Running between Boston, New York City and Washington DC, all the way to Miami, are two daily overnight trains, operating two different routes.
One train, the Silver Meteor, runs along the eastern seaboard, including Jacksonville, Orlando for Port Canaveral, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
The Silver Star follows much the same route as the Silver Meteor for most of the journey. North or southbound between Rocky Mount, NC and Savannah, GA, the Silver Star veers inland to service passengers in cities that include Raleigh, Southern Pines and Columbia, SC.
If you’re cruising from Tampa, the Silver Star will get you directly there. The Silver Meteor follows the same tracks to Orlando and Kissimmee but then passengers leave the train to board a dedicated Amtrak motor coach to Tampa. Both trains go all the way to Miami so those headed to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale and or the Port of Miami stay onboard. Upon arrival at any of the destinations, it’s a short taxi ride to the port or better yet, to a pre-cruise night hotel.
If you’re cruising from Port Canaveral, plan to depart the train in quaint Winter Park or busy Orlando. At either station, you can arrange a car rental or pre-book a shuttle service. It’s an easy, 1-hour drive to Port Canaveral or a local area hotel in Cape Canaveral or Cocoa Beach.
Los Angeles Cruise Ports
Long Beach and San Pedro
Just because you live hundreds or even thousands of miles from the cruise ports in Los Angeles, doesn’t mean spending hours in the sky to get there. Amtrak operates four almost-transcontinental trains from the east coast, Midwest and southern states as well as an overnight train from Washington state.
Your overland coast-to-coast journey begins in New York City or Washington DC. Both cities have three overnight trains to Chicago. the next day, westbound from Chicago, there are two trains going directly to Los Angeles; the Texas Eagle via San Antonio in almost three days (due to a long layover in San Antonio, but you’re asleep in your compartment) and the Southwest Chief, a much shorter trip of around 43 hours. The scenery is amazing on both trains.
You can take the California Zephyr from Chicago to Los Angeles but it’s not a direct train. You have to change in Sacramento and then continue on to L.A. My suggestion? Take the train with the most breathtaking scenery, the California Zephyr, to Sacramento, stay over a couple of nights to have time to visit the incredible California State Railway Museum. You can then catch the historic Coast Starlight at 6:30am and arrive in Los Angeles at 9pm. There are two hotels in a 10-minute walking distance to the train station.
Arrival into the splendidly restored Los Angeles Union Station is an experience in itself. Taxis are available just outside the station.
Cruises from New Orleans, Galveston/Houston
The Sunset Limited, originating in New Orleans and Los Angeles, departs three days a week in either direction. Cruisers from the west coast can depart their train in Houston or New Orleans.
Leaving from Chicago, passengers board the famous City of New Orleans train for a quick overnight ride down to the Big Easy. From there, cruise ships head out to the Caribbean and twice a year Transatlantic crossings to Europe.
New York is the departure point for the Crescent, en route to New Orleans via Philadelphia, Washington DC and Atlanta. Heading to Houston, transfer in New Orleans to the Sunset Limited for a short 9-hour train ride. From Houston, Amtrak provides a dedicated motor coach to Galveston.
All Aboard Amtrak for a Mississippi River Cruise
Cruise from the Port of New Orleans aboard an authentic paddle wheeler and step back in time on a northbound Mississippi River cruise. Or leave from Chicago aboard the Empire Builder to St. Paul, MN and begin a southbound cruise on the Mississippi. Memphis or St. Louis, too.
Cruise Port in Seattle and Beyond
Travel from New York to Chicago and transfer to the Empire Builder to Seattle on one of the most scenic Amtrak train rides in America. Once the train gets to the western side of Montana, the Empire Builder travels straight through Glacier National Park. There’s even a train stop at one of the National Park Lodges, where you could spend a day or two pre- or post-cruise.
From the Port of Seattle, train passengers might find a round-trip 7-night Inside Passage cruise more convenient that a one-way cruise to Anchorage.
But if you want to travel into the heart of Alaska and into Denali National Park and beyond, you’ll have to take a one-way cruise between Anchorage and Seattle. Then book passage on the Alaska Marine Highway System to/from Bellingham, Washington. Seattle is only a 90-minute drive from Bellingham.
Those who depart from Seattle for a longer cruise to Asia, Hawaii or even Australia will love Amtrak’s generous luggage regulations. Each person is allowed to carry on 2 bags up to 28” tall and up to 50lbs. Passengers may also check up to 2 bags for free, same height and weight restrictions and 2 additional bags at $20/each. That’s a lot of luggage.
Southern Californians can hop aboard the historic Coast Starlight for an overnight ride to Seattle. Hugging the Pacific Coast for several hours before ascending the Sierra Nevada range, the scenery is spectacular. Not to mention the private lounge and dining car for first-class passengers.
Tips when taking Amtrak to an embarkation port
- ALWAYS arrive the day before, just as you should if you’re flying to your ship.
- If you’re traveling in coach, bring a light travel blanket and small pillow.
- First class sleeping compartments include bottled water, juice, sodas, and all meals in the dining car so you don’t need to pack a picnic. The Silver Star no longer has a dining car. However, there is a Club Car with buy-your-own food and specialty beverages. If you’re in a sleeper, your car attendant can place your order bring room service.
- Rates for sleepers increase as supply decreases. Book your accommodations early. If your plans change, new cancellation penalties allow for some flexibility.
- Purchase travel insurance that covers missed connections, just in case of a severe delay or if you need to cancel for covered reasons.
- Stop in a nearby Amtrak station or call 1-800-USA-RAIL and request a National Timetable to be mailed to you. While the Amtrak website is excellent, it’s very convenient to map out your rail journey with the timetable at hand.
- An Amtrak train ride to your embarkation port may not be the solution for everyone, especially for those that are on a time constraint. For people who live in South Dakota, Wyoming or most of Idaho, this probably isn’t an option, either, as there is no train service to these areas.
But for most of us across America, there is an Amtrak station no more than a half-day’s drive away. Let your vacation begin before the cruise; take the train and arrive refreshed, relaxed and ready for another adventure.
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