My Favorite Cruise Ports
I don’t have a huge history of cruising (like my wife), but I have been on five cruises (so far). I think that’s enough to count as a decent amount of experience. I have cruised with Royal Caribbean three times and twice with Norwegian Cruiseline. I tried to remember each of my past cruise itineraries and tally up the ports we stopped at. By my count I’ve visited sixteen different ports (three of them twice). That’s not counting the ports we’ve sailed out of since we’ve always boarded the ship as soon as we could. My first cruise was to Bermuda and the Bahamas. We also cruised in the Mediterranean once and the Caribbean three times.
Here is a list of my top seven ports of call I’ve visited so far:
7. Cozumel, Mexico. We spent some time in Cozumel on our last cruise. We were barely near the port itself, as we took a taxi to a private beach club. However, that is the very reason why we had such a great time in Cozumel. My brother-in-law did some research ahead of time and found out about the Nachi Cocom Beach Club. The place was awesome (and affordable). There was a nice pool, a beautiful sandy beach, and food and drinks were included in the cost for the day. It was super relaxing and the entire family had a great time. I’m sure there are tons of other things to do in Cozumel, too.
6. Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Truthfully, the island of Virgin Gorda belongs here, but we technically docked in Tortola and then took a ferry to Virgin Gorda. It took 30 or 40 minutes to reach Virgin Gorda, and then we rode on a shuttle to The Baths National Park. The Baths were amazing. Basically you take a trail down to a beautiful beach and then navigate your way between boulders and through water-filled caverns to a second pristine beach. I actually went on the excursion with my mother-in-law, while my wife stayed on the ship with our children. I wish she could have come along, but I’m thankful that she stayed back and encouraged me to go. It was a truly remarkable place.
5. Labadee, Haiti. Labadee is one of Royal Caribbean’s private resort areas (the other is in the Bahamas). What do I love about Labadee? There are beaches just above everywhere you look. The beaches are overflowing with soft sand and surrounded by the warm and clear Caribbean Sea. The Royal Caribbean staff prepares a complimentary lunch at two different locations. You can walk all over and there are also multiple sea excursions and activities you can enjoy. There’s a zip line, a mountain roller coaster, snorkeling, boat rides, and a little water park. The place is great for families, singles, relaxing, or adventure. I have been to Labadee twice so far and highly recommend it for anyone sailing on Royal Caribbean.
4. Livorno (Florence), Italy. The bad part about going to Florence via cruise is that it is landlocked. We sailed into Livorno, which I imagine is the closest decent-sized port to Florence. Livorno is a highly industrialized port. It didn’t look especially clean there. We took a bus to the train station and then rode the train to Florence. The ride took about an hour and a half. The journey itself was an adventure, since seemingly no one appeared to speak English. Once we arrived in Florence we just walked around for a few hours. It was hot and we only walked around and ate some food, but we loved our brief time in Florence. The old city was very walkable. We strolled through large plazas, down narrow cobblestone roads, and across bridges. We saw plenty of high-end shops and enjoyed some authentic pizza and gelato.
3. Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Most people I talk to that have cruised in the Caribbean like St. Maarten most. It’s easy to see why. Most people on cruise ships like to either go to a beach or shop once they reach a port. St. Maarten’s got them both and they do them well. There’s an amazing beach a short walk from the dock. There are also plenty of shops near the dock. There are a lot of gift shops and boutiques, but there are especially a lot of jewelry stores. In fact, I ordered Ashley’s engagement ring from a jeweler named Vince in St. Maarten.
2. Coco Cay, Bahamas. Coco Cay is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas. I visited Coco Cay on my first cruise, so that was about seven years ago now. It was much less developed than Labadee, which I liked (but I read that it is being renovated now). It was quiet and relaxing. There are plenty of beaches and places to soak in the sun. The water is clear and absolutely gorgeous there. There are also several short hiking trails that span the tiny island. I went on a short solo hike on the island and really enjoyed it. I crossed a cool little footbridge, saw an iguana, and ended up at a beautiful deserted beach.
1. Cannes, France. I love all of these ports I have visited, but if I had to put them in order today, I’m going to go with Cannes as my current number one. Cannes is a very ritzy and luxurious resort town on the French Riviera. It’s home to the famous Cannes Film Festival. That wasn’t going on when we were there, but we really enjoyed simply walking around the port. Our ship had to anchor in the bay and then we took a tender to a dock. From there we were on foot. We walked the Boulevard de la Croisette, which is home to majestic hotels and luxury shops. The place is very walkable. That’s one of my favorite things about cruise ports. This was similar in that way to Florence, although Florence had a much older and historic feel to it. My wife bought a fresh bagette from a bakery and we walked around the area where the film festival is held. We also explored some shops and briefly perused a beach. On our walk back to the tender dock we passed plenty of extravagant yachts in the harbor.
So that’s my list so far. I tried to rank them, but my seven favorite cruise ports are pretty interchangeable as far as where I would place them.
We recently booked our next cruise. There will be ten of us this time, with some people from my family and my wife’s family. The itinerary will include stops at two of my faves; St. Maarten and Labadee, in addition to a third visit to San Juan.