Charleston Cruise Ship Passenger Terminal, Union Pier Terminal, 196 Concord Street, Charleston, SC 29401
71 °F / 22 °C
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.
On September 14, 2017, South Carolina Ports Authority signed with USACE (US Army Corps of Engineers) an USD 49 million contract for the "Charleston Harbor Deepening Project". The contract was for entrance channel dredging to max draft 54 ft (16,5 m). A second contract (USD 50 million) was signed for deepening port's main shipping channel (to max draft 54 ft / 16,5 m) allowing access to large container ships with capacity up to 18,000 TEUs (containers) at Wando Welch Terminal.
- In November 2018, USACE signed USD 41,4 million contract for Charleston Harbor Deepening Project (part of FY2019 Work Plan).
- Entrance Channel's dredging started in February 2018.
- The first two USACE contracts included federal funding USD 108 million.
- South Carolina state funding for the project was USD 350 million, including USD 50 million loan (2018).
In addition to the deepening project, Port Charleston started a major program for upgrading its terminal infrastructure and equipment. The program included wharf strengthening and new equippment at Wando Welch Terminal (completed 2018) and constructing a new container terminal (Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal (scheduled completion 2020 June).
On October 30, 2017, South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) approved an USD 69,5 million contract for purchasing 6 new ship-to-shore cranes to serve the port's new container terminal.
- The new cranes (by the Chinese manufacturer Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries) will arrive in late 2019.
- Five cranes are with lift height 169 ft (51,5 m) and will be delivered to the new Sr Terminal (scheduled inauguration in mid-2020, annual capacity 628,000 TEUs).
- One crane (lift height 155 ft / 47 m) will be delivered to Wando Welch Terminal. This is the port's busiest container terminal, which in August 2016 received its first 2 cranes (155 ft each). Two more cranes will be delivered there in February 2018. By 2020, the Wando Welch Terminal will have 9 (of planned 13) ship-to-shore cranes. This terminal has capacity to handle two 14,000 TEU boxships simultaneously.
For September 2017, SCPA reported for Port Charleston a record container shipping month volume (10% increase over Sept 2016) handling a total of 179,856 TEUs. The handled breakbulk cargo was 65,269 tons (Sept volume), while Inland Port Greer (2013-opened South Carolina Inland Port) handled 10,648 rail moves in Sept 2017.
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.
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.
|4 July, 2019|
|8 July, 2019|
|13 July, 2019|
|18 July, 2019|
|22 July, 2019|
|24 July, 2019|
|27 July, 2019|
|29 July, 2019|
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.
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