Beyond the Boat: Explore These Popular Cruise Ship Ports of Call
Cruises offer plenty of perks, like the ability to traverse a number of stunning ports during your multi-day journey. The struggle for many cruise lovers comes with it's time to disembark the ship and head into the heart of a particular destination. With just a few short hours to explore, deciding what to see can be overwhelming for many travelers. Make itinerary planning easier with our guide to these popular ports, and the must-do activities in each location.
Once you hop off the boat in Nassau, head to Junkanoo Beach, one of the most popular spots with cruise ship passengers and locals. Located minutes away from downtown Nassau, this postcard-perfect white sand beach is known for brilliant turquoise waters and tasty Bahamian food sold alongside its shores. After relaxing, move to the Nassau Straw Market, a favorite among island tourists. Here you can purchase straw handbags and other Bahamian-made products.
Next, get your history fix with a walk to Duke Street, where you can visit the pink-and-white Colonial-style "Government House" atop Mount Fitzwilliam. From here, make your way to the Queen's Staircase. Built by slaves in the 18th century, the 66-step limestone staircase rises 102-feet and once gave soldiers access to nearby Fort Fincastle. When hunger strikes, pop into Arawak Cay, better known as the "Fish Fry," where you can taste the local conch dishes and sip a Bahama Mama cocktail. Finally, snap photos of panoramic island views from the Water Tower atop Bennett's Hill. Standing some 216 feet above sea level, it's a must see, particularly at sunset.
Most Alaskan cruise operators offer a tour and transportation to see Mendenhall Glacier, located 12 miles outside Juneau. Spend time snapping photos and exploring the 13-mile river of ice, and be sure to bring walking shoes to explore the many trails which can bring you up close to cascading waterfalls, salmon streams and wildlife. To experience an aerial view of Juneau, head to the Mount Roberts Tramway, near the cruise ship docks. You soar up a 1,800-foot ascent to Mount Roberts during the 5-minute ride, and experience unforgettable views of Juneau and its surrounding landscape.
Anglers can take a jaunt to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, which provides views of wild salmon returning to spawn. Visitors can tour the facility and learn about Alaska's prized salmon through interactive displays and saltwater aquariums filled with marine animals. History lovers will have multiple opportunities to discover Alaska's fascinating and hardscrabble history. Visit the Juneau-Douglas City Museum to learn about the cultures and history of these regions, and the Last Chance Mining Museum, located in the former Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company’s historic Compressor Building. To experience Juneau's vibrant food scene, sign up for the new Juneau Food Tour, a 2 1/2 -hour culinary adventure through some of the city's most popular dining spots.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, and, in particular, the historic Old San Juan neighborhood, woos visitors with its Colonial charms. The two most popular attractions on the island, El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal fortresses rise above the island's cliffs and grant visitors an unparalleled history lesson, along with stunning photo ops of the crashing waves and lush coastline. Climb aboard the island's free, hop-on-hop-off trolley to see these and other sights, like major shopping thoroughfares, parks, theaters, museums and historic plazas. There is a trolley stop directly in front of the cruise terminal, making it convenient for passengers to relax and ride.
If you prefer to chill on a beach and enjoy the sun, sand, and gentle surf, head to Ocean Park Beach, located just 15 minutes east of the cruise docks. Here you can stretch out on golden sand and grab lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the beach. More active cruisers can rent a car from the cruise ship terminal for the 45-minute drive to El Yunque National Forest, where they can take several scenic hikes through the jungle. The Mt. Britton trail takes trekkers to a lookout point with 360-degree views of the island's mountains, rainforest, ocean and nearby isles.
Grand Cayman Island
One of the busiest and most popular ports in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman has no shortage of activities for travelers. Seven Mile Beach is hands-down the island's most popular attraction. This sprawling white sand stretch of shoreline is divided into several smaller, public beaches, including Governor’s Beach and Tiki Beach. Rent a beach chair and an umbrella, slather on the sunscreen and peace out for the afternoon.
If you're interested in trekking further afield, plan a visit to "Hell," a dramatic stretch of black limestone formations along the island's West Bay. Once you're in this neck of the woods, pay a visit to the Cayman Turtle Farm where you'll see yearling turtles, Kemp’s Ridley turtles, loggerheads and green sea turtles.
Adventurers should head to famed Stingray City Sandbar, where you'll encounter and interact with some two dozen stingrays in just 3 feet of water. Visiting Stingray City is typically an excursion you'll book onboard your cruise ship, since it's not reachable from shore. Finally, pick up souvenirs at the Cayman Craft Market, a 10-minute walk from the cruise ship docks, or stroll through the boutiques and galleries lining the streets of George Town, just outside your cruise ship.