Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, 1 Waterside Dr.
DISTANCE FROM D.C.: 200 miles.
DRIVE TIME: 3 1/2 hours. From the Beltway, take Interstate 95 south to I-295 south to I-64 east. Merge onto I-264. Once in Norfolk, take Waterside Drive (Exit 9) and follow signs to either the port or the port parking facility.
PARKING: $10 a day at the lot on Monticello Avenue at Virginia Beach Boulevard. From the lot, free shuttles carry passengers to the cruise port, about two miles away. Cruise personnel are on hand at the lot to tag and take your luggage, or you may drop it first in a circular driveway in front of the terminal.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Greyhound operates five buses daily from Washington for $67.50 round trip. (Check discounts; seniors, for example, travel for $32 round trip.) The bus terminal is a short cab ride to the port terminal. Amtrak travels from the District to Newport News, Va., then operates a shuttle to Norfolk. Prices start at $90 round trip, including the shuttle, which stops about a half-mile from the cruise terminal.
THE TERMINAL: The glass walls offer views of the Norfolk waterfront, and elegant outdoor terraces made of teak wood surround the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center. Odd name for a cruise terminal, but it reflects the fact that the building is more than the usual warehouse-style complex for moving people and goods onto ships; instead it's a state-of-the-art building that is so classy that when not being used as a terminal, it's a popular venue for weddings, parties, conferences and meetings.
A bridge leads from the Norfolk waterfront to the doors of the cruise center. Inside, beneath a soaring rotunda, a terra-cotta tile floor includes a mosaic of a 54-foot mermaid. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide views of both Norfolk and Portsmouth, of marinas and of passing ships. VIP guests can relax in a special conference center and lounge area, while other cruise passengers can catch a seat inside the terminal or on benches and chairs on the terraces on both sides of the building.
THE CRUISES: June through August, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas has five-night Bermuda cruises starting at $799 and nine-night Caribbean cruises starting at $999. An eight-night cruise to New England and Canada starts at $1,059 in June, $899 in September.
Carnival's Victory has six-night cruises to the Bahamas from $789 in June and from $599 in October 2008. The ship also does two-day cruises to nowhere, starting at $389 in June and $329 in October 2008.
HOTELS: Two are two blocks away: the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside (777 Waterside Dr., 757-622-6664, http:/
The Radisson (700 Monticello Ave., 757-627-5555, http:/
WHAT'S NEARBY: The cruise center is attached to the Nauticus, (757-664-1000, http:/
The vibrancy of downtown Norfolk will surprise anyone who hasn't been there in the past decade or so; the downtown has experienced a renaissance, with a large new shopping mall and dozens of restaurants within a few blocks of the cruise terminal. With a bit of luck, you'll hit town when the city is hosting one of its many festivals on the waterfront. Notable among the many museums and historic sites in the city: the Basilica of St. Mary (232 Chapel St., 757-622-4487), built in 1791, and the Chrysler Museum of Art (245 W. Olney Rd., 757-664-6200, http:/