When you cruise, your ship is your hotel. This is a big advantage because at some destinations, you are indirectly bringing the best hotel and the best restaurants with you. Cruise lines put lots of thought into choosing ports. There is the desire to find the undiscovered gem along with visiting famous cities with glittering reputations. What do you prefer? There are pros and cons.
Do You Prefer Beaches?
Some people love island hopping in the Caribbean. What keeps them coming back?
- Loving the sun. There are many people who want to escape Northern winters. They prefer traveling to a different climate closer to the Equator. They want a destination where sunny weather is the rule, not the exception. They like Mexico and Bermuda in addition to the Caribbean islands.
- Everyone speaks English. Tourism is a major driver of the economy for many Caribbean islands. They welcome ships of all sizes. The shore is lined with resort hotels. Because it’s easy to get there from the US (and maybe because of colonial history) English is widely spoken. There is no language barrier, which you can encounter in Mediterranean port cities.
- Leisure, not culture is your objective. You want to live an uncomplicated lifestyle for a few days. You do not want to dress for dinner, you want to buy lunch at a beachfront bar serving freshly caught fish. You do not want to wear socks or make reservations. You can visit museums back home.
- You want to lie in the sun, not tour. The only sites you want to see are sailboats out on the water and beach vendors selling cold beers from picnic coolers. A hop on, hop off bus showing historic sights is not why you came here.
- You enjoy summer sports. You see yourself horseback riding on the beach, snorkeling and deep sea fishing. You enjoy surfing. Perhaps you will rent a bicycle or moped and go exploring. You prefer winding roads, not asphalt streets.
- The US dollar is widely accepted. You are wary of using credit cards overseas. You do not want to convert dollars in a currency you might never need again. You want life to be similar to life back home from a paying perspective.
- Peoplewatching is a passion. You love sitting in a beachfront bar, watching the world go by. You try to imagine the backstory of who these people are and what their everyday lives are like.
- You like nature. You want to see unusual species of birds and fish. You like seeing monkeys in their native habitat. You want to walk along pristine trails and enjoy nature without the commercial development you see back home.
Do You Prefer the City Lifestyle?
Port cities are often major cities. Their reputation often precedes them. The city of Venice feels it is overtouristed, too much of a good thing. Barcelona draws the tourists too. There are reasons why.
- You like history. Countries like Italy, Greece and Egypt have culture going back centuries. Some of these countries are considered the cradle of civilization. You can make the case the best Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities will be found in the museums of Athens, Rome and Cairo respectively.
- You like culture. You are visiting countries where great artists, composers and inventors lived. The opera houses are considered the best in the world. There is a culture of sidewalk artists painting street scenes. The city has a great café culture. That’s why you came.
- You like shopping. The great cities have the great boutiques. Your country might have higher taxes on luxury goods. Put another way, that designer bag or scarf might be cheaper in a French port city. You like to stroll down grand boulevards and window shop.
- You seek out great food. You travel with the Michelin guide under your arm. You seek out the restaurants run by great chefs who are usually on the premises and in the kitchen. Cost isn’t a major concern when it’s a meal you will remember forever.
- You enjoy luxury. You like getting dressed up for dining and shopping. Doors open for you in the jewelry district. You enjoy stopping at grand hotels for lunch or cocktails. You enjoy places where sand does not get into your shoes.
- Something special only comes from here. When you visit Barcelona you head for the La Boqueria open market because you know it’s a great place to buy Spanish saffron. Your wine store connection back home got you an appointment to visit an exclusive winery whose wines are hard to get in the US.
- You want it to be easy to get around. Your greatest fear is being stuck on a remote beach with no taxis in sight and it’s 30 minutes until the ship sails. You want a city with busses, trains and taxis.
- You can get to the beach. A port city is a coastal city by definition. The pier might be an industrial area, but local residents enjoy the beaches too. There are often small towns just a short commuter train ride down the coast. You can get a taste of the beach experience island enthusiasts enjoy.
There are all kinds of passengers and all kinds of ports. Cruise lines try to cater to both.
Ed. Note: CruiseCompete and its member travel advisors provide many curated cruise and land deals, offers and amenities on over 50 cruise lines with over 500 cruise ships sailing all around the world.
Cover photo St Maartin Oyster Bay Photos ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews
Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer