Cruise Hotels onboard for parking perk at Port Canaveral By Tom Stieghorst / December 12, 2013 Share 1 -- A program at Port Canaveral lets guests at eight nearby hotels park their cars at the port garages at a 40% discount, as an alternative to running a park-and-ride shuttle. The idea was first tried in October 2011, when an area hotel said it didn't have enough parking to accommodate all of the passengers seeking to use its park-and-ride amenity. To qualify, the guest has to spend at least one night at a participating hotel precruise. "Even though it's been two years, it's still in the experimental stage," said David Poston, the port's director of business development for cruise, tourism and hospitality. Port Canaveral is a popular drive port about an hour east of Disney World. There are several lodging clusters nearby, many of which offer parking arrangements for passengers. At the moment, Poston said he has three hotels in Cocoa Beach, three in Titusville and one in Melbourne that participate. The Titusville hotels have a hard time making the economics of a shuttle work, so they're especially keen on the port parking option, he said. Standard parking charges at the port range from $60 for a three-day cruise to $120 for a seven-day trip. For vehicles longer than 20 feet, the rates are $104 for three days, up to $208 for seven days. There is also preferred parking at Terminal 8 for a $20 surcharge. The Fairfield Inn in Titusville has been participating in the parking voucher program for about six months. Sales director Nancy Evans said the hotel hardly uses its shuttle anymore. "The seniors love it because they're not sharing a shuttle with people they don't know," Evans said. Poston said many passengers who stay in a local hotel like the convenience of being able to jump in their cars once their cruise has finished. With the program, they also get the savings that come with off-port parking. About 3.7 million passengers visited Port Canaveral in 2012, a 21% increase from the year before. Some 40% of cruise passengers spend a night in a local hotel before their cruise, according to a study done for the port by Martin Associates. Although Poston said the beaches and the nearby Kennedy Space Center are the top draws for guests, hotels compete actively for cruise passengers, and many pay 10% commissions on group business. One convenient option for agents is offered by the Cocoa Beach Hotels Group, five commonly owned hotels that market themselves as 5-5-1, which is shorthand for five properties, five price points, one phone call. Hotel brands in the group include Residence Inn, Best Western, Days Inn, Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Inn. Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.