Cruise Homeport Spotlight: Port of Jacksonville

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Established in 1963 in northeast Florida, the Jacksonville Port Authority, also called JAXPORT, serves as homeport for Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Fascination. This 2,052-passenger ship, which recently received a multi-million dollar renovation, offers four- and five-day sailings to the Bahamas.

Nearby Attractions: Passengers who have some time pre- or post-cruise available in Jacksonville (or Jax, as locals call the city from its airport abbreviation) have some 22 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches for swimming and catching rays. Urban pastimes in Jacksonville, a city whose downtown is graced by the meandering St. Johns River, include Jacksonville Landing and the Southbank Riverwalk, two complexes facing each other across the river and offering a variety of restaurants, bars, shops, and entertainment. Jacksonville Landing, on 2 Independent Drive, hosts multiple fairs and other happenings (www.jacksonvillelanding.com).

Art lovers may wish to check out the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, on 829 Riverside Avenue. It has a collection well represented in American Impressionists and wonderful landscaped gardens (www.cummer.org). Another option for art aficionados is MOCA Jacksonville, 333 North Laura Street, with an impressive collection of contemporary art, five galleries with changing exhibits, children's interactive center, café and other facilities (www.mocajacksonville.org).

Other opportunities for museum hopping include the Museum of Science & History of Jacksonville, at Museum Circle and San Marco Boulevard (www.themosh.org), with interactive children's activities and an Allosaurus dinosaur skeleton among other exhibits. It is located in the Southbank Riverwalk area, across from Jacksonville Landing. Nearby, near the west end of the Southbank Riverwalk is the Friendship Fountain, reportedly the nation's largest self-contained fountain. The Southbank Riverwalk, at 1025 Museum Creek, like Adventure Landing, hosts many festivals and fairs throughout the year.

The 89-acre Jacksonville Zoological Gardens, 8605 Zoo Parkway, is home to more than 2,000 animals –everything from penguins to jaguars--and more than 1,000 varieties of plants and flowers. Visit www.jacksonvillezoo.org.

Adventure Landing, 1944 Beach Boulevard on Jacksonville Beach, features a water park with slides, wave pool, lazy river and other H2O attractions (open seasonally) as well as a "dry" amusement park with miniature golf, go-karts, batting cages, video games arcade, laser tag and other diversions open year-round. In addition to the park on Jacksonville Beach, there is one in Jacksonville as well. Visit www.adventurelanding.com for information on both parks.

Other pastimes in Jacksonville include spectator sports such as NFL games of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, 1 Stadium Place at East Duval and Haines Streets.

Excursions Sold Onboard Ships: Since the Port of Jacksonville is a turnaround port as opposed to a port of call, no organized shore excursions are typically offered pre- or post-cruise.Nearby Hotels: Hyatt, Hilton, Omni and other large hotel chains are represented in Jacksonville. Small inns like The House on Cherry Street (www.houseoncherry.com) and the Riverdale Inn (www.riverdaleinn.com) are among other options for cruise passengers who would like to spend a night or nights before or after their cruise. Good Restaurants For Lunch: The restaurants of the Jacksonville Landing are great for a lunch while exploring downtown Jacksonville –there is a food court and full-service restaurants including the American Café. The Café Palm Plaza at the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens is a good spot for a quick, economical lunch of a salad and sandwich –the menu is southwestern--while visiting the zoo. The Café Palm Plaza has large windows that open to the zoo's Range of the Jaguar exhibit. At the beach, Singleton's Seafood Shack serves fresh-off-the-boat seafood at 4728 Ocean Street at St. John's River Ferry Landing on Atlantic Beach –conch fritters or Cajun shrimp, anyone?

Cruise Lines That Sail From The Port Of Jacksonville: Ships that you will be able to see, or sail on, at the Port of Jacksonville include Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Fascination.

Transportation/Parking: Cruise lines generally provide free bus transportation from the airport to the pier on embarkation/disembarkation days if you purchased your air tickets through them; and for a fee if you purchased your air independently. Taxis generally run in the $30-$40 range.

Fenced, well-lit, patrolled parking facilities are available at the port adjacent to the cruise terminal. Parking fee is $15 per day for passenger vehicles; $25 per day for oversized vehicles.

Additional Information: For details on the Port of Jacksonville, visit www.jaxport.com. For information on the city, log on to www.visitjacksonville.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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