Take it from me, staying in a hotel or resort a day or two before or after a cruise can really bring an extra burst of bliss to your vacation.
Pre-cruise hotel: Chances are you may not live close to the terminal from which your ship will sail, so you almost always need to either catch a red eye (no way, Jose) or plan to overnight at a hotel not too far from the port. You usually can’t board the ship until afternoon, so if your flight arrives early, you're stuck with lots of time (and luggage) on your hands.
If you're flying from the West Coast or the Midwest to the East Coast, you don't want to chance missing your ship — alas, your ship's captain won't wait for you, even if your flight is delayed — so don't take the chance. (I know plenty of folks who've missed their cruise because of flight snafus.) So fly in and grab a hotel for an overnight stay. Longer, if it's in an area you'd like to explore. Check out Cruiseable's travel guides to Miami, Orlando, New York, New Orleans, San Diego, Portland and Seattle, to name a few. And naturally, if you're flying abroad for a river or ocean cruise, you'll likely want to check out the top things to do and see in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Sydney, Vancouver, Singapore and so on.
Post-cruise hotel: Next, when the cruise ends (there, there, it'll be all right), if you want to keep the bliss going, don’t jump into those long lines of folks disembarking or the over-crowded buses filled with cruisers heading to the airport. Instead, hang back like a pro. Stroll off at a leisurely pace and head off to a nice hotel and extend your trip for a few more days. I've done it many times and it's rapturous! You will also get better seats on flights if you don’t depart with everyone else because airlines really get jam-packed on cruise days.
We frequently fly in a day or two early when taking a ship from other than our home port of Los Angeles, and we often book a room for the return trip — and when we don’t, we always regret it. It extends the vacation, relieves the stress of heading to the airport with hordes of passengers and gives you more time to be a beach bunny and/or go sightseeing and explore the port where all you did was arrive and hit the ship.
Wanna get away?
One last tip: If you want a "pre" or "post" hotel for your cruise, contact a Cruiseable travel advocate, who can book (at no cost) your hotel and possibly get you a room upgrade, a shuttle to the airport or cruise terminal or other amenities.
With those tips in mind, where should you stay? After more than 20 years of taking more than 300 cruises, I've built up a list of my 10 favorite pre and post-cruise hotels, in the U.S. and abroad. Depending on your budget, you can't go wrong with any of these!
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Embassy Suites Fort Lauderdale hosts 8,000 to 10,000 cruise passengers a month during the prime January to April sailing season. We have been part of that statistic often because it’s the most convenient hotel to stay when sailing out of Lauderdale — and it's a quick 15-minute, $8 ride from the airport (per person by hotel shuttle, pretty similar by cab). They offer attractive cruise packages, and you get a sumptuous breakfast buffet for free. You can also walk a few feet for some shopping therapy at nearby malls or try out a few nearby restaurants. See Cruiseable's travel guide to Ft. Lauderdale.
At the Embassy Suites, you get a big bang for your buck with large suites stocked with coffee makers, flat screen TVs, microwave, mini fridge, sitting room with desk/table (no robes, though) and free full-buffet breakfast with made to order egg dishes and lots more. There’s even a complimentary cocktail party nightly with wine, beer and well drinks plus popcorn and other snacks.
There are plenty of hotels to stay before and after cruises, but my favorite is the Epic, which would be within walking distance of the pier if you didn’t have luggage. In fact, you can see the ships from your balcony.
The hotel has a wonderful rooftop deck with pool plus an adjacent restaurant where you can chow down on some pretty tasty fare either indoors or outside. There’s also a free cocktail hour at the bar nightly. The trip to PortMiami by cab to catch Crystal Symphony ran us about $10 with tip, not bad.
Miami is a fabulous destination city in its own right. Check out Cruiseable's travel guide to Miami.
Palais de la Mediterranee
What makes the 187-room Art Deco-style hotel remarkable is the warmth, ambience, gorgeous décor, indoor/outdoor pool, whimsical art, fine appointments, delicious French food and the location — across the street from the Mediterranean. There’s a fitness room, jogging trail, balconies or terraces with every room, free and very fast wi-fi, a splendid staff and a casino. The only thing missing is a spa, which, according to a spokesperson for the property, is the only reason it hasn’t been officially awarded five stars. But everything about this hotel says stars and quality.
Part of Concorde Hotels, the property is a celebrity favorite with its dynamic, distinctive colors and furnishings along with espresso makers and huge bathrooms, but standard rooms are nothing to sneeze about. All have balconies or terraces and most have views of the Mediterranean. Every accommodations comes with tubs and showers, very comfy beds, flat screen TVs, big fluffy robes, slippers, hair dryers and upscale Annick Goutal bath amenities.
Not only is the hotel a few steps from la mer, shops, sidewalk cafes and boutiques are just outside the front door. You can walk the entire town, which we did, stop for a coffee or drink or bite to eat, and wander back to the hotel for a Hammam steam bath on the sixth floor, a workout in the gym or just a cat nap before heading down to the bar for an aperitif and tapas before diner at Le 3 Restaurant.
See Cruiseable's guide to top things to do and see in Nice.
A six-pack of choices
Ahoy seafarers seeking unique digs, have I got a place for you, close to the pier and right on the water. It’s Dockside Boat & Bed, where you stay on a yacht right there in Long Beach (home to LA's two cruise terminals), complete with creature comforts such as DVD, CD player, coffee maker, mini-fridge, daily continental breakfast, wi-fi, microwaves and fresh sea air. Think of it as going ship to ship.
If you prefer to be on terra firma, then the choices are endless and depend on whether you want to be close to your ship or you want to go uptown. In Beverly Hills you’ve got pricey spreads such as the Peninsula Hotel, Montage, Beverly Hills Hotel (pink palace) or Regent Four Seasons Wilshire. All are luxury hotels that lead right out to the swank shops of Rodeo Drive and lots of good restaurants. A little off the beaten track for high rollers and/or star gazers, the Hollywood-centric Hotel Bel-Air couldn’t be more perfect for before or after a luxury cruise on Crystal, Silversea, Seabourn or Regent.
See Cruiseable's guide to top things to do and see in Los Angeles.
St. Barts (Caribbean)
Twice named the top hotel in St. Barts by Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List in 2013 and 2014, Hotel Le Toiny sits a 42-acre parcel of land on the southeastern coast of St. Barts, about a 15-minute drive from the pier where ships dock. The food is so French fabulous it’s worth taking a cab over for lunch or dinner if your ship schedule permits — though I recommend a longer stay. Dress is casual chic.
Perfection is everywhere. Talk about attention to details: The property is spotless; every piece of furniture, bed and bath linen, artifact and appointment is top-notch and reflective of this oh-so-French island. It’s no wonder that celebrities flock here for privacy and sun-drenched rest and recreation. The hotel has been all gussied up since we stayed there two years ago but still retains its charm.
We spent a day at Le Toiny while cruising the Caribbean on Silver Spirit. The ship docked in Gustavia from 6 am until 6 am the next day. So we took a room, walked to the beach, had cocktails and dinner and relaxed in our gorgeous suite, which had a private dipping pool overlooking the sea. It was heavenly. The bathroom was spotless and fitted with an inviting soaking tub, shower, bidet, two sinks, sumptuous robes, slippers and upscale L’Occitane amenities. There was also a never watched big flat-screen TV and free wi-fi.
St. Barts reigns as the ultimate French West Indies’ playground for the rich and famous, where multimillion-dollar yachts and sailboats ply the waters and blinding white sand beaches are framed by azure-colored seas and verdant hillsides. Everything about the island screams expensive, from restaurant and shops to exclusive lodgings like Le Toiny, which houses just 15 stylish villa suites on 38 acres of ocean-front land on the southeastern end of the island. All accommodations face the ocean and sport luxurious touches. Each comes with a kitchenette, terrace and private pool.
While most guests hole up in their suites, for those who can wrest themselves away there’s a fitness center and spa at the Serenity Spa Cottage and access to a rather rugged beach where the sunning is easy but swimming somewhat challenging.
The owners recently updated the property’s French-inspired accommodations and public spaces to a clean “coastal chic” aesthetic. It features neutral tones and fine natural materials inspired by the island, including petrified wood, mother-of-pearl, soft fabrics and sun-bleached teak. There is an outdoor champagne sitting area, ideal for pre-dinner apéritifs, and the Toiny Beach Club — open to guests and non-guests and accessible via private beach path or hotel shuttle — offers wine, cocktails and cuisine from the hotel’s renowned restaurant.
Spending pre- or post-cruise time in London is a no-brainer. Why go across the pond just to board a ship out of Southampton or another port when there is so much to do in this lively town? A personal favorite is the Dorchester. I love the spa, especially after a long flight, when I pre-book massages for myself and first mate Richard. The food is fantastic and the rooms chic and comfy. This is definitely a big splurge but well worth it. There's a ton to do within walking distance. Have dinner at Alain Ducasse — it’s meal of a lifetime and you should reserve a table well before your cruise. Also be sure to go to high tea. The storied hotel, which opened in 1931, sits across from famous Hyde Park, which is worth a stroll.
See Cruiseable's guide to top things to do and see in London.
Atlantis the Palm Dubai
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Many ships are pulling into the exotic port of Dubai, where you really should consider spending some time. If you’re planning a cruise that embarks or disembarks from there be sure to book a room at Atlantis the Palm Dubai. The ocean-themed hotel (quite apt!) sits offshore from Dubai on a man-made island, housing 1,539 rooms in the center of the crescent of The Palm Island in Dubai that opened in September 2008. It boasts one of the largest open-air marine habitats in the world, with 65,000 marine animals in lagoons and displays including The Lost Chambers Aquarium, a maze of underwater corridors and passageways providing a journey through mythical ancient Atlantis.
The resort is located about 45 minutes from Dubai International Airport and 35 minutes to Dubai World Central Airport. When dining at Atlantis, you get your choice of decadence. Choose from nearly two dozen restaurants to satiate your appetite, including one created by Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa of Crystal Cruises fame and another by top Chef Georgio Locatelli. Guests are treated to tastes of cuisines of the world from French to Cantonese and beyond.
After-hours offerings dazzle with nightclubs, lounges and bustling bars filled with the young, rich and restless. Daytime diversions are endless with every imaginable water sport created to keep millennials and under 40s happy. Plus there’s plenty for tots and teens, too, because Atlantis The Palm Dubai is a fantasyland where dreams turn into reality and life is a carousel, my friends.
Glacier Bay Lodge (& others)
There is so much to see and do in Alaska, you really need a day or two before or after your cruise to soak in the magnificence of the Last Frontier. Two good hotel choices here are:
- Denali Park Village, about four hours from the port of Anchorage and just miles from the entrance to Denali National Park, is set among 20 acres of a spruce forest along the Nenana River. Denali National Park and Preserve, encompasses 6 million acres of preserved wilderness that includes massive expanses of forest, glacial lakes, frozen tundra, and towering mountains — including North America’s tallest mountain, Denali (formerly Mount McKinley). Denali Park Village includes The Lodge at Denali Park Village, The Cabins at Denali Park Village and Miner’s Plaza, designed to resemble a historic mining town. The plaza includes individually themed shops, a general store, museum, gift shop, gem mining, games such as horseshoe and bean bags, open fire pits and lounge chairs and an outdoor stage. Not-to-miss activities include wildlife and park tours, Cabin Nite Dinner Theater, rafting and interpretive hikes. Denali Park Village currently has 290 rooms; in 2016 there will be 338, including cabins.
- Glacier Bay Lodge lies nestled under the spruce trees that line Bartlett Cove. It's the only hotel accommodations within Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve — a World Heritage Site and a 3.3 million acre treasure of natural wonders and wildlife near Juneau, Alaska. There you'll enjoy cozy hotel room accommodations with private bath and/or shower. There's an inviting lobby with a massive stone fireplace and the Fairweather Dining Room, which serves three meals a day and some of the best local halibut or salmon you've ever tasted. See Cruiseable's guide to Glacier Bay.
La Concha Resort & Hotel El Convento
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Many Caribbean cruises sail to and from enchanting San Juan. Some passengers find it a little challenging on the day of departure to get to the port, so spending a day or two there before or after a sailing makes sense. Not only that, but you can extend your vacation with some shopping, quality time at the beach and dining, which takes place late in the evening in this Spanish-influenced port city. Here are two choices I highly recommend:
- La Concha Resort is a little paradise of a property located on a sun-splashed corner of prime Caribbean beachfront in Condado, San Juan’s most elegant district. It's a 15-minute ride over to historic Old San Juan. If book a “Pre & Post Cruise” package there through Cruiseable, you'll get a welcome gift, ocean view accommodations, two specialty drinks at the lobby bar, 15% off at the Solera pool bar and a full American breakfast for two guests at Delicias restaurant.
- Located right in Old San Juan just minutes from the Port of San Juan, Hotel El Convento is a hotel rich in history and character. Lovingly restored from a 360-year-old Carmelite convent, this stunning hotel brims with luxury, comfort and service, while preserving its rich, storied history. At El Convento, the cruise package offers a change to relax before or after you set sail and comes with deluxe accommodations, a complimentary manager’s reception each day with wine and hors d’oeuvre, two free house drinks at Patio del Nispero, a signature tote bag, a buy one get one free breakfast or lunch deal at Patio Del Nispero, and taxi transportation to and from the cruise port.
Charleston, South Carolina
10More and more ships are going to this charming port city, which I have now been to about three times on different Crystal Cruises. The ships arrive right in town, and you can walk everywhere. For a real Southern style treat, book a day room or a few days at The Vendue, an adorable boutique hotel housed in two rows of upscale repurposed warehouses dating back to the 1780s. The Vendue sits in the heart of downtown Charleston, a short three blocks from the cruise port where the hotel concierge can arrange convenient drop-off or pick-up between the dock and the hotel.
A treasure trove of art, The Vendue has 300 pieces of original works along with a rotating international art exhibit curated by one of Charleston’s premier fine arts galleries. The hotel also has a full-time art docent who conducts tours of the artwork, as well as a dedicated art studio in which the hotel’s full-time artist in residence, Belgian painter Fred Jamar, paints his canvasses. Because of its historic nature, no two rooms are alike: They're tastefully appointed and decorated while retaining old world charm, through exposed brick walls, fireplaces, high ceilings and wide heart pine floors.
Tempted by all the great choices?
Be sure to keep coming back to Cruiseable for more tips and ideas on how to turn every cruise into a memorable experience that will last a lifetime.
Call Cruiseable's travel advocates at 1-877-322-3773 or email them to get the best deal at any of these hotels, along with shuttles to and from the cruise terminal or airport — and your cruise, of course.