How to Make the Best Use of Your Time in a Cruise Ship Port

Every cruiser has come across those jaded travelers who say: “I am staying on board while we are in (port).”  Sometimes they say: “These Caribbean ports are all the same” or “There is nothing to see here.” How can you make the best use of your time?

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Will you ever pass this way again? If the chances are unlikely, you should make an effort to discover what makes the place special.
  2. There is a reason the cruise line chose this port. There are interesting features. There are special features. The food might be good. The locals are friendly. They make great rum.
  3. Am I getting cabin fever? You have been onboard for a few days. You have explored the ship. Time for a change of venue.
  4. How much of the ship will be closed while in port? From a compassionate point of view, the hardworking crew needs some time off. Local regulations might mean the shops, casino and entertainment venues are closed while the ship is in port.

How to Make the Best Use of Your Time in a Port

Assuming you might never pass this way again, how can you maximize your enjoyment?

  1. Research each port ahead of time. This is done weeks in advance. What makes this city or island special? What are the “must see” sights? When do they open? Are there any festivals while we are in port?
  2. Check out the shore excursions. Your cruise line has likely done your research for you, but it makes sense to put in some effort on your own. Do they have a tour that hits the highlights you have identified? It is probably good value for money. Book it sooner rather than waiting because it might get sold out. Tour passengers have priority for disembarkation.
  3. Find a partner. You might have brought one with you. If not, find a buddy to tour alongside. If you embark on your own, you have two wallets and two cellphones.
  4. How will you get around? If you have not opted for a shore excursion, the hop on, hop off bus is a good way to see the sights. You have the flexibility to get off, do some sightseeing and board another bus on the same route later, as the name implies. If that isn’t your choice, will you rent a car, moped or bicycle? Make these arrangements in advance. Walking is the other option.
  5. How about a walking tour? You can find these in book or flash card form before you board your ship.
  6. Buy a good quality map. The tourist maps on board are good, but you want a “proper map.” You do not want to get lost.
  7. What are the top sights to see? You can find tour books that specifically highlight the “Top 10 This” and the “Top 10 That.” This makes sense. You want to see the best sights. We aware museums are traditionally closed on Mondays.
  8. What time do stores open? Close? You do not want to be waiting. Bear in mind hours vary by country. Spain likes their afternoon siestas.
  9. What foods should you try? This includes drinks too. Food includes ones to try and ones to bring back home. Be aware of Customs rules.
  10. Carry cash. You cannot assume every store accepts credit cards or contactless payment. US dollars are good, but try to get local currency. The ship should be able to help.
  11. How are you getting back to the ship? Assume there might be a language barrier. Carry information about the ship and pier with you. Know when the ship will be sailing. Allow plenty of time for getting back.

These rules are simple. They should help you have a great time in port.


Cover photo ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews: Phillipsburg, Sint Maarten

Browse Cruise Ships and Cruise Lines

Ed. Notes: 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.

Sea Tales 2023 Family Cruise Travel Planner

Shore Excursions – Ports, Day & Weekend Trips

 

Leave a Comment

Trusted by over 1.5 million cruisers since 2003.
Get FREE access to members-only pricing.
There is a highly acclaimed way to receive multiple quotes from a site called CruiseCompete, where cruise specialists compete to offer you the best deal. The media sums it up for CruiseCompete:
Score Luxury Cruises at Bargain Prices” (The Street)
Best site for cruise deals” (The Wall Street Journal)
28 Best Travel Sites” (Kiplinger's) Multiple annual mentions
36 Web Addresses You Should Know” (The Washington Post)