The Port of Charleston is the fourth busiest container port in the United States, so large vessels are coming and going all the time. These large vessels are not cruise ships for the most part, though, and as such Charleston is generally overlooked as a cruise departure point. However, there is one major cruise ship that operates out of the port of Charleston – the Carnival Fantasy, which sails to the Bahamas and Eastern Caribbean – so you might find yourself in Charleston awaiting a tropical cruise vacation. And if you do find yourself in this position, here are some things to see and do in the port city of Charleston.
While only one cruise ship sails from Charleston, it sails a lot. Almost every month of the year, the Carnival Fantasy offers five or six cruises. The majority of these cruises go to the Bahamas, but in every month except February, June, and September, the ship also sails to the Eastern Caribbean. Moreover, the Carnival Fantasy can hold over 2,000 people, and while this isn’t necessarily large by the inflated standards of the cruise ship industry, this is still a high passenger capacity. All of this is to say that tens of thousands of cruise vacationers are served by the city of Charleston each year – our advice isn’t for only a handful of people, and if you take a lot of cruises, you might find yourself in Charleston.
And what should you do if you find yourself in Charleston? Apart from a few sights we’ll come to shortly, Charleston is a very pleasant and historic city. The Civil War started right outside the city with the Battle of Fort Sumter, and early English settlers set foot in what is now Charleston hundreds of years ago. Antebellum homes and large plantations also abound in the area, giving you a glimpse of life before the Civil War. Anyone interested in American history will certainly enjoy their time in Charleston. The city also has a bit of culinary reputation – you may be familiar with “Charleston Style” (or “Low-Country”) shrimp and grits – and regardless of where you get your nourishment, you’ll likely be on the receiving end of some southern hospitality. Basically, you can have a pleasant stay in Charleston before leaving on your cruise even if you don’t consciously seek out “the sights.”
That said, there are a number of notable places to visit in Charleston. Since we’re concerned with people who are leaving on a cruise, we’ll limit ourselves to sights near the port, as these can be visited even if you only have a few hours to kill before or after your trip.
Conveniently, one of Charleston’s most famous sights – the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge – is right by the port. It is essentially built over the spot at which the Copper River becomes the Charleston Harbor. Plenty of people are content to merely look at the bridge, and this will be easy enough if you’re in the port area, but many like to walk it, which is also possible if you have enough time. The Charleston Waterfront Park, with beautiful views of the harbor and plenty of fountains, is also right near the port and is definitely worth checking out. Finally, the South Carolina Aquarium is right in this area as well. This is a good place to visit if the weather isn’t very good during your stay in Charleston.
Of course, there is much more to Charleston than what lies in the immediate vicinity of the port, and if you are staying in the area for longer than a few hours, you can easily see some of the city in addition to the sights around the port. You can also venture away from the city to, say, visit one of the more sprawling plantations, or you can also take a quick ferry ride to the Fort Sumter National Monument, which is conveniently in the middle of the Charleston Harbor. Regardless of what you end up pursuing, you won’t be lacking in things to do before you take your cruise from Charleston.