Florida can rightfully be called the Cruise Capital of the World.
With five active ports – Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Tampa and Palm Beach – the state hosts the industry’s biggest and best ships, with more terminal expansions under way.
For those of us who live in South Florida and love cruising, it’s an embarrassment of riches. The only challenge is getting to the port, which for us typically means fighting the traffic on I95, navigating the terminals and parking your car – not the most fun part of the process.
But help has finally arrived, and it’s called Brightline.
Brightline is the only privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail system in the United States, connecting West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Almost five years in the making and featuring state-of-the-art rail cars, it launched initial service in January and full service to Miami in July.
When we took our recent cruise on Carnival Horizon, we parked our car at the West Palm Beach station ($6 a day) and boarded Brightline with our luggage for the 90-minute ride to Miami. After arriving at MiamiCentral, we summoned a Lyft to take us to the cruise terminal. Brightline has a partnership with Lyft that includes a convenient pickup area right outside the station.
No I95 traffic jams, no fender benders and no stress. In fact, Brightline makes the whole experience almost Zen-like.
Riders have three options for travel:
- Smart Service. Your basic transportation. Snacks and beverages available for purchase.
- Smart Plus. Each person gets a complimentary snack or beverage, including beer, wine and spirits.
- Select Service. This is when you want to go first class. Select guests have their own lounge/waiting area, which includes a selection of breakfast items in the morning and an “enticing lineup of ever-changing bites throughout the day and evening.” The Select lounge also features a business center. Select guests have their choice of snacks and beverages, get early boarding, have wider seats and garage parking is complimentary. We think it’s worth the extra cost.
As to the cost, it can vary with the time and the day, but generally:
- West Palm Beach to Ft. Lauderdale, one-way: Smart ($15) Smart Plus ($20) Select ($30)
- West Palm Beach to Miami, one-way: Smart ($20) Smart Plus ($25) Select ($40)
Regardless of what service you choose, you’ll love the experience. The ride is fast and smooth, the seats comfortable, free Wifi onboard and there are charging stations for your electronic devices at every seat. Even the bathrooms are state of-the-art.
It’s pretty much everything you could want in a train ride, including superior customer service. We have yet to encounter a Brightline employee at a station or in the train that wasn’t smiling, pleasant and accommodating. They even wave goodbye as the trains leave the station.
Each train has its own bright color: Red, orange, blue, green and pink. You can’t miss them.
For Brightline, South Florida is just the beginning. A new connection to the airport in Orlando is already underway, and should be rolling ay 2021. Brightline also just announced their first out-of-state venture, which will connect Southern California with Las Vegas, due to start operation in 2022.
MiamiCentral is also fast becoming a its own destination in downtown Miami. By the end of the year there will be 20 new restaurants, plus shopping. Work is also underway to connect with Miami’s Metro service to make it a complete transportation hub. New apartments will be opening adjacent to the stations as well. What could be more convenient?
To learn more about Brightline, visit their website: www.gobrightline.com. Our own coverage of Brightline is available on our website, North Palm Beach Life, at https://www.northpalmbeachlife.com/brightline.html
(Gerry Barker formerly wrote about cruise travel for the Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam own and operate North Palm Beach Life, a lifestyle site for the Palm Beaches.)