Leaving the beach is an option for those with more than 6 hours of shore leave. We frequently encounter customers with up to 8 hours or more of shore leave, and this is enough time to experience some of the greatest attractions in the world, as well as many more inland adventures. This post will cover some attractions we think provide the best value and experience with the time available.
Kennedy Space Center - Nearly every cruise offers shore excursions for KSC, but it can be done on your own. Travel time from the ship to the KSC Visitor's Center is about 20-25 minutes. Visit the KSC Visitor's website to learn more.
Brevard Zoo - About a 30 minute drive from the ship, the Brevard Zoo is an award winning zoo that is simply great for the family. The entire zoo can be toured in about 2-3 hours, and there are many interactive features including zoo kayaking, zip lines, feedings and more. Visit the Brevard Zoo website to learn more.
Airboat Rides - This is another shore excursion that can be enjoyed for less $$$, and is easy to set up. There are dozens of airboat guides in central Florida to choose from. Just call and tell them your timeline. Do an online search for airboat rides Orlando or airboat rides St. John's River, and you'll have a complete list. You can also contact the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for information, as this will be the location you want to base your shore excursion from. Its about a 30 minute drive to the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, and there is an old-Florida style restaurant/bar where you can enjoy fried alligator and other Florida favorites. Ask your taxi to give you his/her best flat rate.
The Disney metropolis and Universal Studios are each about 1.5 hours drive, and when factoring in the time of year which will determine how busy the parks are, this may be too much effort for too little reward unless you have a full day, but there are alternatives.
SeaWorld is about a 1 hr drive and is much more compatible with tight schedules. When factoring in the shorter drive time, a great experience that isn't hurried can make this trip very rewarding. In warmer months, another idea is the Sea World Aquatica water park. This is a great water park to spend a hot day, but be sure to bring changes of clothes and towels.
Gatorland - One of Florida's great originals, this park is loaded with great outdoor adventures, wildlife shows, and authentic alligator entertainment. Its about a 50 minute drive and can be fully enjoyed in 4-5 hours. Check it out online to learn more.
Bring a backpack with your own water and food. Theme park food isn't cheap, and most let you bring your own food and drink with you. Also, bring suntan lotion with you. No matter what you do, if you go to a park, you will be outside most of the time, and the Florida sun can be unforgiving. Bring hand towels with you if you can to wipe off sweat if its hot out, and wear a hat and sunglasses.
Rental cars are available around the port. Shuttles and taxis can take you to the rental car lots. Be sure to account for 30 minutes each way to accommodate your rental car transaction and waiting time for shuttles/taxis. Another alternative is to hire a courier for custom travel to Orlando attractions. These drivers will spend their day working for you, and will wait for you while you enjoy your park of choice. While this cost 2-5 times the cost of a daily rental car, you get truly expedited travel accommodations. With a private courier, you can step off your ship and be in Orlando a full hour or more ahead of the others and you can stay an hour later too. No need for directions, stopping for gas, or other hassles.
Next time, we'll write about the services we offer for cruise passengers that want to spend their day on the beach, enjoying numerous watersports, bike rentals and more.