There are a lot of activities to keep you entertained and busy on a cruise. From ziplining and rock-climbing to go-kart racing and laser tag, you could never leave the ship and have a thoroughly fulfilling vacation. So we’re going to give you five reasons why you should get off the ship when you pull into port.
I’ll say up front, we’re approaching this from the standpoint of a cruise with a Caribbean itinerary. If you’re taking an Alaskan cruise, there is absolutely no question about it: Take excursions! Alaska is a one-of-a-kind experience that you’ll want to reminisce about for the rest of your life.
As for excursions in the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico), you should give at least one of your ports of call a try. Whether you book the excursion through the cruise ship or yourself, there are some things you’ll want to take into consideration. But whatever you do, make sure you get back to port before the scheduled all-aboard time.
Caribbean islands are similar in that they are insanely beautiful. At the same time, they’re very different. Some animal and plant life are indigenous to specific islands. So booking an excursion to see them can be a life-altering experience. And in a lot of cases, just taking in the surroundings is worth the price of admission.
Especially if you live in colder regions, beaches on Caribbean islands are something you’ll want to experience. And if you think that all island beaches are the same, you’d be wrong.
For example, did you know that the British Virgin Islands face both the warm Caribbean waters and the Atlantic ocean? That’s the difference between swimming in the salty, cooler Atlantic waters and the warm nonsalty Caribbean.
The sand on the beaches is different too. Everyone has heard of the pink sands of the Bahamas. But that’s not the only place that has them. Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda has a beautiful pink sand beach that’s worth the visit.
On the French side of St. Marteen, the sands on the beach are about average for a Caribbean island. When you go, however, you’ll find that the beach will be very crowded. That’s because the airport is literally just feet away from the beach. It’s a mindblowing experience. Don’t believe me? Check out this video and see for yourself.
Disclaimer: There are warning signs posted telling you to stay on the beach at your own risk. Cause, you know, bad stuff can happen with a giant jet plane landing just a few dozen feet away. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.
Much for the same reason I said to go on an excursion are the reasons you should check out the restaurants on the islands you visit. For example, conch isn’t found everywhere. So getting conch fritters isn’t something you’ll likely get at home.
We challenge you, though, to stay away from the tourist traps. You know where they are; the ones closest to where the cruise ships dock. What you want is to eat where the locals eat. That’s where you’ll find the most authentic (and usually better tasting) food that port has to offer.
This is something first-time cruisers may not be aware of. But if you like jewelry, save up those shekels because you can get big savings purchasing jewelry on the islands.
Check your daily cruise newsletter and see when the jewelry presentations will be happening. There will be someone working in conjunction with the cruise line who is going to claim that he or she has exclusive access to rare gems you won’t be able to live without.
Even better, he has “the hookup” with someone on the island. And if you tell gemologist on the island your presenter sent you, you’ll receive a discount on the items you purchase. And in most cases, even if you don’t buy, you’ll get a free gift just for coming.
Sure, it’s a sales funnel that will be repeated with the new batch of cruisers that will replace you on that ship. But everything is legit. And believe it or not, the deals are pretty good. That’s because you’re cutting out all the middlemen that cause the price of jewelry to go up.
So if precious stones are your thing or you want to make a good impression for that special lady, definitely go to the jewelers at the port.
We saved this one for last because not everyone enjoys alcoholic drinks.
If you do, then you must make your way off the ship. In some ports – I’m specifically thinking of St. Thomas – within a 30-second walk you’ll be in the shopping area that is admittedly in the tourist trap zone. But if you’re going to get trapped, you might as well enjoy it.
Since I’ve got St. Thomas on the brain, let’s use them as the point of reference. There are rum vendors outside the shops who have been waiting for you to get off the ship. And they will apply every sales tactic in the book to get you to buy something. Including free samples of everything they sell. And I mean everything.
This is for two reasons. If they can get you to sample the product similar to what happens in Walmart, BJs, Sam’s Club, and other big-box stores, there’s a high probability you’ll make a purchase. Even if you don’t, you got a healthy helping of free rum or whatever spirit they’re selling.
The other reason is because they know most people have a budget when going ashore. These stands – which sell the real thing – are positioned so that you run into them before you get to the brick and motor liquor store. So if they get you to spend your money with them first, you’ll have nothing left to use in the store.
Either way, you come out the winner.
Even More Reasons
These are my top five reasons to get off the ship at port. What are yours? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.