It’s important for you and your family to be in the vacation mindset from the moment you step onto your cruise ship. Luckily, you couldn’t be getting on that ship from a port more designed to help you than the one located in the heart of Florida’s Space Coast: Port Canaveral. This is the busiest passenger port on the planet, and because of this, the entertainment and restaurants that surround it are well-suited to get you started on a tremendous vacation before the ship even kicks on its engines.

A day at the beachA good start begins at Cocoa Beach Spa. Get yourself in that vacation vibe, away from the crowds, with help from the tension experts, located in Cocoa Beach. And once fully in-tune with mind and body, an exceptional meal should be your next step. Here we can’t recommend these two places highly enough: Fishlips Bar and Grill and Grills Seafood Deck and Tiki Bar. Grills has an incredible breakfast (which is a little rare for a waterfront seafood place) and is an essential way to start your opening cruise day. Their omelets have been nutritional life-preservers for years, and Daniel’s Seafood Omelet is a one-of-kind Florida Space Coast dish. At Fishlips, you can watch as the cruise ships come in and out on their renowned deck, and their weekday (3 p.m. - 6 p.m.) Happy Hour is the perfect start to an evening boarding.

At some point, you may want to get a little energy out of your system before getting on board (this might go double for your children, as well), and here we’ve got some great ideas, too. Cocoa Beach Parasailing has been the premiere location for gliding above the waters of Florida’s Space Coast for over a decade-and-a-half. You have to schedule it in advance, but they will actually pick you up straight from the dock at Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar on Port Canaveral.

Selfie with an astronautOn the more laidback side of things, explore Jetty Park. You may have seen this before as you cruise in or out of Port Canaveral, but this versatile beach park is a treasure trove of leisure. Fish off the 1,200 foot fully lit pier, or just find a nice spot in the sand and watch the ships come and go in the relaxing sea breeze air. Jetty Park is very easily accessible, and also one of the best places to watch a rocket launch if one happens to be going up before your trip.

It’s also just a good idea to explore Port Canaveral before setting off on your cruise, and Space Coast Segway Tours is an interesting and fun way to do just that. They’ll guide you past Exploration Tower, one of our new landmarks, and take you to hidden areas to give you a view of the lagoon and oceanfront you may not find elsewhere.

And then it’s time to get on board, with your adventure already in progress, and the relaxing vibes fully engaged. Florida’s Space Coast is the perfect place to begin and end a cruise: you may be sad to watch it fade into the background as your “real” vacation begins.