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Norfolk has become the new port on the Atlantic for cruise ships! Unlike many cruise ship ports that require a taxi or bus to experience a port-of-call, Norfolk's fantastic accommodations, shopping, dining, attractions, and many events are an easy, quick walk from the dock.
 
City located 190 miles SE of Washington, D.C.; 93 miles E of Richmond; 17 miles W of Virginia Beach. Downtown Norfolk was notorious for its sailor bars, about 75 miles south of here. The city has undergone a notable renaissance. Today, the rowdy joints are out in suburban strip malls, replaced by a vibrant, modern downtown of high-rise offices, condominiums, marinas, museums, shops, nightspots, a 12,000-seat minor league baseball park, and a downtown cruise-ship terminal. The MacArthur Center, a shopping mall just a few blocks from the riverfront, now dominates downtown. More condos and office buildings are going up.
 
Also here are Virginia's finest art museum, the state's official zoo, and a botanical garden that comes ablaze with springtime azaleas. After dark, the state's symphony, opera, and stage company add highbrow culture. And if you're a foodie, hot restaurants bring exciting tastes to downtown and the hip residential neighborhood known as Ghent. Interspersed among the modern ingredients are reminders of Norfolk's past, such as historic houses and the old City Hall, now a museum and memorial to World War II hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
 
West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina can save money by driving to the port at Cruise Norfolk.
Cruisers can leave from Virginia and sail to Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Canada/New England. Norfolk serves as a home port for both Royal Caribbean and Carnival.
 
As Norfolk prepares to welcome the Carnival Splendor this upcoming May and October, Carnival Cruise Lines announced today it will return to Norfolk again in 2016. The 892-foot long Carnival Sunshine will operate a unique series of itineraries, including sailings to the Bahamas, Bermuda, and two-day Cruises to Nowhere. 2016 will mark the 14th year that Carnival Cruise Lines has offered sailings from Norfolk.
 
Where You're Docked
Ships dock adjacent to Nauticus, Norfolk's Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center.Parking for embarking passengers is available downtown via Cedar Grove Parking; complimentary shuttles provide transportation from the Cedar Grove facility to Half Moone & Celebration Center.
 
Many of Norfolk's best-known attractions are within walking distance of the pier. Taxis are available at the pier if you want to venture further, say to the artsy area known as Ghent. There are also free NET (Norfolk Electric Transit) city buses that operate around the downtown area Monday – Friday 6:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday noon – midnight and Sunday noon – 8 p.m. For excursions beyond the downtown area, a car is necessary.
 
Port of Norfolk, Virginia
Half Moone Cruise & Celebration Center
Pier Terminal Nauticus
1 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, VA.

Directions to Pier
Start out going Southwest on Terminal toward Parking. 0.1 miles.
Turn right onto Robin Hood Road for 1.4 miles Turn left onto N. Military Highway/VA-165.
Turn left onto N. Military Highway/VA-165.
Continue to follow N. Military Highway for 0.9 miles.
Stay straight to go to N. Military Highway/US-13 South for 1.6 miles.
Merge onto I-264 West, toward downtown Norfolk/Portsmouth, approximately 3.8 miles.
Take Waterside Drive Exit #9 on the left approximately 0.3 miles.
Stay straight to go to VA-337 ALT E/Waterside Drive approximately 0.6 miles.
Turn left onto West Main Street approximately 0.1 miles and you'll end at Waterside Drive and the Pier Terminal.
Airport Information
Norfolk International Airport (ORF):
12 miles to the pier, approximately a 20-minute drive.
Taxis are available for hire from the airport.
Parking is available at the Cedar Grove Parking Facility, located 14 blocks from the pier. The parking rate is $15.00 per night (subject to change). Parking fee can be paid upon entering the lot (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, cash and traveler's checks are accepted).
A complimentary shuttle will take you to and from the pier terminal. Luggage can be dropped off at the terminal prior to parking. Or, if you prefer, porters are available at the Cedar Grove Parking Lot to assist you with loading your luggage onto the complimentary shuttle service.
Contact the Cedar Grove Parking facility at (757) 664-6222. For any day-of-travel concerns you may have, please contact our cruise line representative, Absolutely Charleston, at (800) 747-0689 or call us at (800) 256-6649. 
 
Hanging Around
The Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, which opened in April 2007, is more than just your average cruise terminal. It's also a maritime museum of sorts, showcasing one of the largest privately owned collections of ocean liner memorabilia in the country. The cruise ship pier is also adjacent to Nauticus, The National Maritime Center; the center is home to the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships built by the U.S. Navy. Open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (One Waterside Drive; 757-664-1000)
 
Things To See and Do
Pre/post Cruise Packages, with trips to attractions such as Colonial Williamsburg, and to various attractions in historic Hampton and Virginia Beach are available through the cruise lines.
 
More and more people like to add a day or more onto their vacations - before and after their cruises - taking in the sites and events of the Hampton Roads region.
 
Some maritime attractions in the region include the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, whose Naval staff offers tours of the Battleship Wisconsin and the Mariners' Museum in nearby Newport News, headquarters of the ironclad USS Monitor.
 
The Virginia  Aquarium & Marine Science Center in nearby Virginia Beach is another popular destination, with huge aquarium exhibits as well as seagoing boat trips.
 
Downtown Norfolk's centerpiece is the MacArthur Center, a 1-million-square-foot shopping mall covering the 9 square blocks bordered by Monticello and City Hall avenues, Freemason Street, and St. Paul's Boulevard (tel. 757/627-6000; www.shopmacarthur.com). The main entrance is on Monticello Avenue at Market Street. Anchored by Nordstrom and Dillard's department stores, it has most of the mall regulars, an 18-screen cinema, a food court, and full-service restaurants.
 
Built in 1983 between Waterside Drive and the Elizabeth River, the Waterside Festival Marketplace (tel. 757/627-3300; www.watersidemarketplace.com), which everyone calls simply the Waterside, was the catalyst for downtown Norfolk's revitalization, like Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Boston's Faneuil Hall, and New York's South Street Seaport. The Elizabeth River Ferry and harbor cruises leave from the dock outside this glass-and-steel pavilion. With so much of its shopping business now going to the MacArthur Center, the Waterside now is primarily a dining and entertainment center.
 
In Town Point Park, to the west of the Waterside, don't miss The Homecomer, a statue of a returning sailor greeted by his wife and child, and the moving Armed Forces Memorial, where bronze letters written home by fallen sailors and marines litter the ground. The park's amphitheater features a full schedule of free events all year -- concerts, children's theater, magic shows, puppetry, and more. Beyond the park stand the riverfront's most conspicuous buildings, the huge gray NAUTICUS, The National Maritime Center and the glass-enclosed, semicircular Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, the city's modern cruise-ship terminal (www.cruisenorfolk.org).
 
Here's How to Know How Much House You Can Afford
East of the Elizabeth River bridges and I-264, Harbor Park, a 12,000-seat stadium, is home to the Norfolk Tides, a Class AAA International League baseball team affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles (tel. 757/622-2222; www.norfolktides.com).
 
Norfolk's Cannonball & Civil War Trails
Two self-guided walking tours of downtown will take you through 400 years of Norfolk's history. Beginning at the Freemason Street Reception Center, 401 E. Freemason St., sidewalk inlays and medallions mark the route of the Cannonball Trail through downtown, along the waterfront, and through the historic Freemason neighborhood. The local version of Virginia's Civil War Trails follows much the same route but with an emphasis on Norfolk in 1862. Pick up maps and brochures at the visitor centers.
 
You will have a guide as you follow the Cannonball Trail with Segway Tours of Hampton Roads (tel. 775/412-9734; www.segwayofhamptonroads.us). The 90-minute tours on the stand-up Segway machines depart daily at 10am, 1pm, and 3pm from Machismos Burrito Bar, 409 York St. They cost $60 per person. Reservations are essential.
 
Harbor Cruises to Where the Ironclads Fought
Three cruise boats docked at the Waterside or NAUTICUS offer cruises on the Elizabeth River, Hampton Roads, and the Chesapeake Bay. You will pass the naval base with nuclear subs and aircraft carriers and cross the site of the Civil War battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac.
 
The best for the money is the 2-hour Victory Rover (tel. 757/627-7406; www.navalbasecruises.com) cruise from NAUTICUS to the Norfolk Naval Station -- or as close thereto as security will permit. It has summertime trips departing at 11am, 2pm, and 5:30pm, and at least one trip a day (usually departing at 2pm) the rest of the year. Fares are $17 adults, $10 for children. Combination tickets with admission to NAUTICUS cost $24 adults, $17 for children.
 
From April to October, there are cruises on the American Rover (tel. 757/627-7245; www.americanrover.com), a graceful schooner modeled after 19th-century Chesapeake Bay schooners. Prices for the 1 1/2-hour midday cruise and the 2-hour 3pm cruises along the Elizabeth River are $14 and $16 for adults, $8 to $10 for children 11 and younger, respectively. It also goes on sunset voyages and adults-only Saturday night party cruises. Call for exact times and reservations.
 
Also departing from the Waterside, the sleek Spirit of Norfolk (tel. 866/304-2469 or 757/625-3866; www.spiritofnorfolk.com) is like an oceangoing cruise ship, complete with dancing, good food, and entertainment. Call for prices, schedule and to make reservations.
 
A Ferry Ride to Olde Towne Portsmouth
Across the Elizabeth River from downtown Norfolk, Portsmouth's Olde Towne section traces its roots back to 1752. Like those in Charleston and Savannah, its homes present a kaleidoscope of architectural styles: Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Georgian, and Victorian. Plaques mounted on imported English street lamps point out their architectural and historical significance.
 
Ferries were the main means of getting across the river until the 1950s, and the paddlewheel Elizabeth River Ferry (tel. 757/222-6100; www.gohrt.com) still makes the short but picturesque trip. During summer it departs the Waterside marina every 30 minutes Monday to Friday from 7:15am to 11:45pm, weekends from 10:15am to 11:45pm. Off-season service ends at 9:45pm Sunday through Thursday, 11:45pm Friday and Saturday. Fare is $1.50 for adults; 75¢ for children, seniors, and passengers with disabilities (exact change required). There is no ferry service on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
 
Get off at the second stop, Portsmouth's North Landing Visitor Center, on Harbor Court (tel. 800/767-8782 or 757/393-5111; www.visitportsva.com), and pick up a walking tour brochure and map. The center is open daily 9am to 5pm.
 
Worth seeing are the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, 2 High St., and the nearby Lightship Museum (tel. 757/393-8591 for both; www.portsnavalmuseums.com), in Riverfront Park at the foot of London Boulevard. The Lightship Museum is the lightship Portsmouth, built in 1915 and anchored offshore until the 1980s to warn mariners of the dangerous shoals on the approach to Hampton Roads.
 
Tree-lined High Street, the main drag running inland from the harbor, has several restaurants and coffee shops, including the Bier Garden (tel. 757/393-6022) and Cafe Europa (tel. 757/399-6652). For a rundown on events, pick up a copy of Veer Magazine (www.veermag.com), a weekly paper free at the visitor information offices, most hotel lobbies, and the Waterside. The "Daily Break" section in the local rag, The Virginian-Pilot (www.pilotonline.com), is also a good source.
 
The Performing Arts
From opera to riverside rock concerts, Norfolk has a wider array of performing arts than any city in the state, and the choices keep growing.If your brow is high, the Virginia Stage Company (tel. 757/627-1234; www.vastage.com) puts on dramas and musicals from October through April in the Wells Theatre, 110 Tazewell St. (tel. 757/627-6988), at Monticello Avenue opposite the MacArthur Center. Built in 1913, this restored Beaux Arts gem is on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
The Virginia Symphony (tel. 757/892-6366; www.virginiasymphony.org) often plays at Chrysler Hall, Charlotte Street and St. Paul's Boulevard, and the Virginia Opera (www.vaopera.org) sings at the Harrison Opera House, 160 E. Virginia Beach Blvd. at Llewellyn Avenue (tel. 757/623-1223).
 
Chrysler Hall and the Harrison Opera House are part of the Norfolk SCOPE complex (tel. 757/664-6464; www.sevenvenues.com), which also includes the futuristic Norfolk SCOPE Arena, Brambleton Avenue and St. Paul's Boulevard, which seats 12,000 for the circus, ice shows, sports, concerts, and other events.
 
Norfolk SCOPE also manages the restored Attucks Theatre, on Church Street at Virginia Beach Boulevard (tel. 757/664-6464; www.attuckstheatre.org), which was built by African-American entrepreneurs in 1919 and named for Crispus Attucks, a black man who was the first American patriot to die in the Revolutionary War. Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, and many other famous musicians performed here from the 1920s through the early 1950s, when it was among a row of nightclubs, restaurants, and stores on Church Street that comprised one of the liveliest African-American neighborhoods in the segregated South. Today you might hear the Preservation Hall Jazz Band or Jerry "The Iceman" Butler.
 
Town Park, between the Waterside and NAUTICUS on the Elizabeth River, is the scene of constant outdoor entertainment during the warm months, most sponsored by Norfolk Festevents (tel. 757/441-2345; www.festeventsva.org). These include Friday night concerts, the annual Norfolk Harborfest in June, Cingular Norfolk Jazz Festival in July, and the Cingular Town Point Virginia Wine Festival in October.
 
The Best Time to Be Entertained -- The best time to be entertained in Norfolk -- or anywhere in Hampton Roads, for that matter -- is during the Virginia Arts Festival (www.virginiaartsfest.com) from mid-April through mid-May. That's when the likes of Itzhak Perlman, the Martha Graham Dance Company, and the Tokyo String Quartet appear at venues from Williamsburg to Virginia Beach. Call tel. 877/741-2787 or 757/282-2800 for information, 757/671-8100 for tickets. Adding to the fun, the arts festival coincides with Norfolk's International Azalea Festival.
 
The Bar & Club Scene
 
Most grownup club action these days is found along Granby Street between Main and Charlotte streets, where some of the many restaurants and bars have live music. Take a stroll any night, especially on weekends, and you're bound to hear tunes to your liking. Check out Scotty Quixx, 436 Granby St. (tel. 757/625-0008), and Hell's Kitchen, 124 Granby St. (tel. 757/624-1906). Because the scene changes significantly from night to night depending on which bands are playing where, pick up a copy of the local alternative newspaper, Veer Magazine (www.veermag.com), which will give a good rundown of what's going on when you're here.
 
A block to the east, opposite the MacArthur Center, the Norva Theater, 317 Monticello Ave. (tel. 757/627-4547; www.thenorva.com), hosts rock, reggae, and other bands. With lounges overlooking the stage from three levels, it's more a big club than a theater these days.
 
Once the center of Norfolk nightlife, the Waterside Festival Marketplace attracts a mostly young after-dark crowd these days. Here you'll find Jillian's (tel. 757/624-9100), a noisy emporium with a restaurant, sports bar, billiards and electronic games, and a dance club with music to thrill the soul of any 18-year-old. I like to stroll through the Waterside to see what's going on, and then head over to Granby Street.
 
Eating Out
The downtown renaissance has turned Granby Street from Main to Charlotte streets into Norfolk's Restaurant Row, as hip new dining rooms open all the time (and a few disappear). Here you'll find a wide range of restaurants and pubs.
 
The swanky Byrd & Baldwin Brothers Steakhouse, 116 Brooke Ave. (tel. 757/222-9191), in a restored 1906 building half a block west of Granby Street, has the best steaks. Bodega, 422 Granby St. (tel. 757/622-8577), serves tapas along with the street's best Spanish and Italian fare. The fast-paced Empire Little Bar & Bistro, 245 Granby St. (tel. 757/626-3100), specializes in tapas and is open daily until 2am. Domo Sushi, 273 Granby St. (tel. 757/628-8282), serves just that, plus other Japanese offerings. Havana, 255 Granby St. (tel. 757/627-5800), serves Cuban-influenced fare. Sirena, 455 Granby St. (tel. 757/623-6622), is tops for Italian fare.
 
To catch the games and woof a burger, head to Baxter's, 500 Granby St. (tel. 757/622-9837), a monstrous sports bar with pool tables and good pub fare (daily 11am-2am, Baxter's cures my late-night hunger pangs).
The MacArthur Center, on Monticello Avenue at Market Street, has a very good and inexpensive food court up on the third floor.
 
My favorite downtown breakfast spot is D'Egg, 404 E. Main St. (tel. 757/626-3447), opposite the Norfolk Marriott, an inexpensive diner serving eggs, waffles, pancakes, and other traditional day-starters. It's open daily from 7am to 3pm. (For you Starbucks addicts, there's a branch next door to D'Egg.)
 
Dining & Picnicking Beside the River -- I seldom patronize the food court in the Waterside Festival Marketplace, but I do occasionally have lunch at its branches of Hooters (tel. 757/622-9464) and Joe's Crab Shack (tel. 757/625-0655), as they are the only Norfolk restaurants with outdoor tables overlooking the Elizabeth River.
 
The benches in the Town Park are ideal for a riverside picnic. The fixin's are available at the Market at Harbor Heights, 260 Boush St. (tel. 757/213-7396), at Tazewell Street, a monstrous supermarket on the ground floor of a towering condo building. It has a wine and cheese department, a bakery, and a deli with ready-made sandwiches and salads.
 
In Ghent
The heart of Ghent lies along Colley Avenue between Maury and Harrison avenues, flanking the artsy Naro Theatre. I love to stroll these short blocks and take in the busy scene, especially on warm weekend evenings when the restaurants are busy and their sidewalk tables are packed. In addition to No Frill Bar and Grill and The Green Onion, several good restaurants satisfy a variety of tastes.
 
Best of the lot is The Winehouse Bar & Bistro (tel. 757/622-7777), which serves an international menu and has live music some evenings (Monday is jazz night). San Antonio Sam's (tel. 757/623-0233) and Colley Cantina (tel. 757/622-0033) both serve Tex-Mex, while Kelly's Tavern (tel. 757/623-3216) dishes up reasonably good pub fare. Vegetarians and vegans will be at home at Ten Top (tel. 757/622-5422), in a three-store shopping center on Shirley Avenue east of Colley Avenue. Best place for a cooked breakfast is the Do-Nut Dinette (tel. 757/625-0061).
 
It's not on Colley Avenue, but the neighborhood branch of Baker's Crust, 330 W. 21st St. (tel. 757/625-3600), in the Palace Shops between Llewellyn and DeBree streets, is both the best place in town for breakfast and one of the better values for lunch and dinner. The bakery provides fresh pastries to start your day and bread for a variety of sandwiches at lunch and dinner.
 
Cones & Carhops -- Some of the wafflelike ice-cream cones made at Doumar's, an old-fashioned drive-in with carhops and curb service at 19th Street and Monticello Avenue (tel. 757/627-4163; www.doumars.com), come from the original cone-making machine invented by Abe Doumar at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. Abe's descendants keep his invention oiled and working, and descendants of his North Carolina-style barbecue sandwiches (a steal at $2.50 apiece), burgers, hot dogs, sundaes, and milkshakes round out the extremely inexpensive menu. Doumar's has been around since the 1930s, which makes it a hip historical attraction. Open Monday through Thursday 8am to 11pm, Friday and Saturday 8am to 12:30am
 
Shopping
Norfolk is one of the better places in Virginia to search for antiques, with at least 32 shops selling a range of furniture, decorative arts, glassware, jewelry, and other items from both home and overseas. The best place to look is in Ghent, where several shops sit along the 4 blocks of West 21st Street between Granby Street and Colonial Avenue, especially at the corner of Llewellyn Avenue. Granby Street has more than a dozen shops of its own. The visitor centers have a list of the shops.
 
Recently named a top attraction in the region, the one-million square foot MacArthur Center (http://www.shopmacarthur.com/) located in the heart of downtown is one of the best places to shop in the area! Along with a wide selection of stores, MacArthur Center also offers a variety of entertainment and dining options for adults and kids alike.
 
Across the street from MacArthur Center, you’ll find eclectic shops in the Monticello Arcade, a beautiful three-story Beaux Arts style shopping arcade built in 1907. Downtown Norfolk’s Granby Street also offers an assortment of independent retailers as well as a variety of eateries – many chef-owned- where you can grab a quick bite before, during or after your shopping experience.
 
Ghent & Freemason Neighborhoods - Shopping in NorfolkThe historic Ghent & Freemason neighborhoods offer a collection of boutiques, art and antique galleries, and outdoor cafes and eateries. If you’re looking to do some quick shopping close to the Norfolk International Airport, The Gallery at Military Circle is convenient and affordable. No matter where you are in Norfolk, you’re sure to find a shopping experience that fits your taste & budget!



 
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