Charleston cruise port is located in South Carolina (SC), on the Atlantic coast of the USA. This major port city (population around 115,000) is located on the state's central coast, and on the estuaries where Cooper River meets Ashley River. Port Savannah (Georgia) is approx 140 km (87 ml) to the northeast, and Port Wilmington (North Carolina) is approx 245 km (152 ml) to the southwest.
Carnival Cruise Lines offer all year-round cruises from Charleston. Ports of call on the 5-, 6-day and 7-day itineraries to Bahamas are Nassau, Freeport (Grand Bahama), and the pribate island Half Moon Cay. On 8-day itineraries is also visited Grand Turk Island. The port's 2017-2018 schedule shows regular round-trips on the Carnival Ecstasy ship. The first Carnival ship homeported here was Carnival Fantasy (since May 2010),
In 2017, the cruise port had scheduled a total of 104 ship calls. The majority of those were by the Carnival Cruise Line's homeported here ship Carnival Ecstasy, operating on year-round 5-day roundtrips to Bahamas (Nassau, Freeport, and Half Moon Cay Island). Among the new cruise ships visitng in 2017 was TUI Mein Schiff 6 (2 scheduled visits). Scheduled were transition calls from large-sized vessels of Royal Caribbean, AIDA, P&O UK. Most luxury cruise ships in Charleston are also on transition routes and most of them stay in port late or overnight.
Highlights: Colonial houses & gardens, Historic district, Plantation Houses
Charleston cruise terminal
Charleston cruise port terminal is located at the Union Pier, in the historic district of the city's downtown. It is easily accessible via Highway 17-North, Highway 17-South, and also Interstate 26. Charleston International Airport is at approx 20 min drive distance from the terminal.
The current cruise terminal building dates from 1973. The terminal facility is operated by South Carolina Ports Authority. Long–term parking: at the terminal is available for cruise passenger vehicless only (price is USD 17 per day). Reservations for the parking are not required.
(New) Union Pier Cruise Terminal (waterfront development project)
The plan for development of Charleston cruise ship terminal includes construction of a new building. It will be located at the Union Pier's northern end. The old (southern end) part of the building will be redeveloped. The Ports Authority (SPA) will sell 0,15 km2 (0,06 ml2) Union Pier property for private development right after the completion of the new terminal. This premium waterfront area will be developed as a new neighborhood and will be of no maritime use. It will feature new streets, public parks, shops, residential homes and businesses, thus increasing the access to the waterfront.
The concept plan also includes relocating of all cargo shipping operations from Union Pier. It will serve only as cruise pier.
The new passenger terminal's construction will cost USD 35 million. Its opponents have sued in both state and federal courts. Public hearing was also called by the US Army Corps of Engineers after receiving a new federal permit for putting additional pilings beneath one of the old terminal's warehouses.
It looks like Charlestonians want the cruises, but don't want the new terminal to be located on the edge of the city's historic district. Among their major concerns are the air quality and traffic congestion. The cruise port will have to install electric ship-to-shore power to reduce air pollution by docked vessels.
(New) Luxury cruise ship anchorage since 2017
In January 2017, the city agreed to limit the per-year number of cruise vessels scheduled to dock in Port Charleston. However, it doesn't apply to Charleston Harbor.
- Smaller and luxury cruise ships will be anchored close to Fort Sumter, from where their passengers will be transported via locally provided tender boats to Patriots Point. The area is known as "Commercial Anchorage A". It is located between Fort Sumter and Crab Bank, and could suit ships with smaller capacity (of hundreds and not thousands of passengers).
- The passenger tendering service to the shore is provided by the local tour company "SpiritLine Cruises". The company has a fleet of 4 boats and serves its passengers from a dock at Patriots Point, where they board its vessels for harbor tour cruises.
- Cruise ships to Charleston visiting the port as "port of call" cause fewer problems than the homeported here larger vessels, because their passengers don't have cars to park.
Mount Pleasant (South Carolina) cruise port
The port of Mount Pleasant SC emerged as a Charleston alternative cruise port and will receive its first ship call in May 2017. As Charleston SC self-imposed the 104-vessel limit per year (seasons 2017 and 2018), the Mount Pleasant port emerged as a nearby alternative for smaller-sized and luxury cruise vessels. After anchoring here, they will tender their passengers to Fort Sumter, from where is approx 30-min bus travel to downtown Charleston.
Charleston tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
- Fort Sumter: located in the Sullivan’s Island neighborhood. The place where on 12 April 1861 Confederate troops began the Civil War in America.
- Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon: located in the Historic District neighborhood. It is on the waterfront at East Bay Street. The white building houses the museum of the Colonial-era history in Charleston.
- Historic Churches: in the Historic District neighborhood you can visit the Circular Congregational, the French Huguenot Church and the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (the second oldest synagogue in America). Charleston is nicknamed as the “City of Churches.”
- City Market: it is in the Historic District. Fun place to visit but try not to be tempted by all the goods there.
- Gibbes Museum of Art: located in the Historic District. You can enjoy some of the finest art collections in the South.
- South Carolina Aquarium: located in the French Quarter Neighborhood. Discover the amazing ocean life. Meet black tip shark, sandbar sharks, scalpel-tailed surgeonfish, loggerhead turtles and jellyfish.
The Charleston cruise port map is interactive. It shows the port's exact location, along with the real-time cruise ship traffic (if any) in its vicinity - today, and right now. By zooming-out you can see other cruise ship ports located near Charleston, South Carolina.
If you lose the Charleston location on the map, simply reload the page (also with F5 button). This feature is integrated with the CruiseMapper's cruise ship tracker tracking the vessels' current positions at sea and in ports.
Port Charleston cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Charleston, South Carolina. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
|Day||Ships in port|
5 March, 2017
10 March, 2017
12 March, 2017
15 March, 2017
19 March, 2017
24 March, 2017
26 March, 2017
29 March, 2017
9 March, 2017
20 March, 2017
The fight over the new cruise ship terminal in Charleston has new life. South Carolina Court of Appeals is hearing the case in February. Those...January 18, 2017
A lifeboat from Royal Caribbean Cruises ship fell off while docked in Charleston harbor. The Coast Guard was informed at about 1:00 o’clock on...January 18, 2017
Carnival Ecstasy, which is based in Charleston and all other cruise vessels sailing under Carnival Corp.'s 8 brands will be under stringent...December 13, 2016
The Port of Jacksonville resumed operations late Saturday following Hurricane Matthew. The Port of Charleston is to be reopened today, so a pair of...October 10, 2016
Carnival Cruise Line adds 3 more cruises to its list of Carnival Journeys – longer sailings that feature special themed activities and...September 18, 2016
The Coast Guard is searching for a 32-year-old cruise passenger who reportedly fell overboard from Carnival Ecstasy near the Bahamas. Around 2...September 8, 2016
Carnival Cruise Line is adding 5 additional cruise ships to line's successful staggered embarkation program. The company first tested...August 29, 2016
A federal grand jury handed down an indictment against a man who was accused of assaulting another person on Carnival Ecstasy. Timothy Dean Hill is...August 12, 2016
P&O Cruises announced the launch of its most varied and largest cruise programme for 2017-2018. Opening for sale April 4, 2016 the new...March 20, 2016
Carnival Cruise Line successfully tested out its Carnival Journeys sailings - longer voyages of 9 to 15 nights. Now, the line has added 22 new...February 5, 2016
- show more news