Category Archives: 2018

J = Jamaica

A to Z Ports: Jamaica’s Montego Bay

The port for Jamaica’s Montego Bay is fairly boring, but it is an easy cab ride to the city that should cost a flat rate of $5.00. Montego Bay is lined with different beach bars, shops, and Colonial houses. It’s a nice beach town. For cruisers, if is also a stopping point for other excursions. These include trips to Dunn’s River Falls and Negril.

I spent my day in Negril on the beach at Margaritaville and then at Rick’s to watch the cliff divers.

I = If you don’t have a plan on your cruise

A to Z Ports: If you don’t have a plan…

Now I really do not understand this, but I have been on several cruises where people have no clue where we are going and what ports we are visiting. I plan my cruise by the places it will go – and you can probably imagine how strange it felt for me to take a “Mystery Cruise” where we did not know where we were go!

So, if you don’t have a plan, what can you do when you sail into a port?

  1. You can arrange to take one of the ship’s excursions. For people who plan, you can reserve before you board the ship and your excursion tickets will be waiting for you I your cabin. But, if you do not plan, get to know your shore excursion staff. They can help you choose the best option for yourself. Just know that you will probably be on a large bus with 35 to 40 other people and the tour guide will need “herd” you around in order to see everything on the list and get you back to the ship on time. One very good policy, if you are on a ship’s excursion, you are guaranteed to make it back to the ship before it sails.
  2. Can you just walk off the ship and take your chances? Of course!  When I am travelling alone, there are times I make no special plans (although I like to do research, so I know if you can walk off the ship and into town, or if there is a shuttle bus or hop, on, hop off bus that will runs to town). In many ports, there will be various tours you can arrange at the port and, as a solo traveler, I have found groups of people who will share a small tour. There is also an organization called Greeters that will also provide tours of their cities.
  3. Don’t want to do a lot of planning? Join a Cruise Critic Roll Call!  There will be several people in your roll-call who are trying to put together smaller tour groups. Let them to the work, and you can join the tour! This has been a great advantage for me in several ports as I was able to see things farther away from the port and get to know some of my fellow passengers who had similar interests.  I would really suggest doing this for St. Petersburg, Russia. We used SPB Tours and they were amazing!
  4. There is always just wandering around to see what will draw you. Yes, I’ve done this too – and it is a great way to spend a day.

#AtoZChallenge

H = Havana

A to Z Ports: Havana, Cuba

Sailing into the port of Havana as only been open for four years on a cruise ship has only been available for the past few years. A Canadian company setup a partnership with Celestial Cruise Ships. For the first two years, they did a week-long cruise around the island and allowed passengers to board at either Havana (mostly for Canadians and Europeans) or Montego Bay, Jamaica (for US citizens). The ship was older, some of the cabins were a bit funky, but the entertainment was amazing and the mostly Cuban staff was friendly and extremely helpful. Because it was a small ship, it would dock in some unusual places.

For the Port of Havana, the dock is across the street from the plaza in front of the San Francisco of Assisi Plaza, making this an easy walk throughout old town Havana.

If you walk along the beginning of the Malecon, you will come to a stand for Coco taxis. I highly recommend negotiating a tour with one of these and heading down the Malecon! I had such fun and my driver, Nadia, was very good at showing me the highlights of Havana – as well as some of her personal favorite places.

It is so easy to just walk off the ship and explore this fascinating city. Language can be a barrier, so learn some basic Spanish so you can talk to the locals. Most of the people who work in the bars and restaurants speak English, but it is always nice to know a little of the local language.

In some of the plazas, you will see people dancing or dressed in colourful costumes. Don’t just take their pictures, but ask or permission. Most will agree, some may ask for something in exchange. I was standing on a street corner with several other people waiting for a bus when some guys came by pushing a cart filled with vegetables to sell. All of a sudden, everyone (except me) seemed to have their camera or cell phone out to take a picture. Finally, one of the guys looked over and said “hey, this is our life. If you want a picture, ask.” There is something to be said for being polite.

Celestial runs its own Cuba cruise now, and changed the itinerary, missing the north side of the island completely. Some US-based cruise lines are now visiting Havana. If you get the chance, go! There is no place like Havana!

For more posts, click on the menu above for Cuba or the A-Z Challenge for 2016!

#atozchallenge

G = Greece

A to Z Ports: Greece’s Port of Rhodes

One of my favorite ports to visit is Rhodes, Greece. I visited it on my first cruise and I decided to forgo a group tour and explore Old Town Rhodes on my own. I had prepared and studied the maps of this port and yet, I learned an important lesson. I can get lost in a walled city, but I can also find my way back.

Cruise ships dock very close the one of the gates in the wall that surrounds Rhodes. From there, it is very easy to wander your way through this charming, ancient Greek city.

The walls were originally built by the Knights of St. John who made this their headquarters until they were defeated and forced to relocate and ending up in Malta. There is the Palace of the Grand Master and the Avenue of Knights that tells their story.

There is also a Archaeological Museum and, at the base of the Avenue of Knights, are the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite.

And, of course, there are cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by. Of course, I had to get my usual cup of espresso (with a thanks to my waiter who took the photo.

IMG_0576

Rhodes is a place I enjoy visiting and would love to spend more time there.

Here is a previous post about Rhodes.

#AtoZChallenge

 

F = Finland

A to Z Ports- Helsinki, Finland

Most ships sailing to Helsinki will dock close to the commercial area, which is not close to any of the attractions. However, when a cruise ship is in port, the hop-on, hop off bus makes a special stop at the ship, so it is a good option forgetting to most of the main sites of the city, with great drop off points. Once in the city centre, it is easy to find the craft and food market, high-end shopping and great places for a nice coffee or a bite to eat.

The craft market was a great place to wander, see local artisans at work and meet some of the friendliest people who wanted to share information about their work.

If you are lucky, there will be performances in the park across the street from the market. We were entertained by live jazz music and various street performers.

A special hint, sometimes it is hard to find public washrooms. While the train station’s architecture is beautiful, skip the washrooms (they were dirty and you still had to pay). Instead, the City Hall, which is near the market, has free washrooms and they were clean.

Here are some links to my previous posts about Helsinki.

#atozChallenge

E = Ephesus

A to Z Ports – Ephesus

The closest port of Ephesus, Turkey is Kusadasi. It is easily accessible and there is a lot to do at the port, especially if you like to shop, haggle and eat amazingly fresh seafood and Turkish cuisine.

If you want to see the various sites of Ephesus, you will have to arrange a tour, either through the ship’s excursion desk or, as I did, with a private group of people that I met from the Cruise Critic Roll-Call chat room for the sailing I was on. Our tour took 8 of us to the Archeological Museum, St. John’s Basilica, a 14th century mosque, the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, the House of Mary and the archeological site of Ephesus, including the excavations of some houses.

We had lunch at a rug consortium where we saw silk worms and met some of the women who were learning how to weave the intricate Turkish rugs.

While we were at the Temple of Artemis, a young boy approached us to sell postcards. I did not think much of it until we were back in Kusadasi and I was walking through the market back to the ship and there, in front of one of the souvenir shops was the same boy that we saw at the temple. He grinned sheepishly at me as I passed the shop and I laughed a bit. It was a nice way to end a long but wonderful day.

Here are my past post about Ephesus.

#atozchallenge

D = Denmark

A to Z Ports = Denmark’s Capital, Copenhagen

In many ways, the cruise port in Copenhagen feels like a small one, even though it is deep and can dock larger ships. Most ships, especially ones that are only in port for the day, will dock at Langelinie Pier. This dock is about a mile from the city centre, but only a few hundred feet from one of the most famous attractions in Copenhagen: the Little Mermaid statue.

Little Mermaid
Little Mermaid

It also has a line of shops and places to eat along the way. There is also a hop on, hop off bus stop at the ship that will take you to all the important stops in the city itself. At one of the main squares, you can visit one of the royal palaces, shop, find great places to eat and take a canal cruise.

One warning – bicycles rule the road!  So remember to watch for them and be careful wandering across squares and open spaces!

 Here are some of my previous posts about Copenhagen.

#AtoZChallenge

C = Cartagena, Spain

A to Z Ports: Cartagena, Spain

The sail-in / out for Cartagena, Spain is beautiful and gives you an understanding of why this port is so important to Spain. It is large, deep and much protected. The hills surrounding it have several fortresses that blend into the rocky landscape and, while they may look worn-down, are still partially in use to protect the harbour.

IMG_6843

Because this is a deep harbour, all sizes of ships are able to dock very close to the city centre – just walk off the ship!

Along the pier, you will find restaurants, a nautical museum and a harbour tour. If you cross the boulevard, there is a tourist office that can sell a number of package tickets, including a hop on, hop off bus. The bus can give you an understanding pf the city’s layout and a stop to the elevator that takes to you a castle that overlooks the entire city and harbour.

 You can easily walk to the entrance to the Roman theatre and a city centre. The museum is usually closed on Mondays, however both times I docked, it was supposed to be closed, yet it opened just a little latter than the posted time because there was a ship in port.

I love how easy this port is to navigate and find your way around.  It is not crowded and the people are amazing. It has become one of my favourite ports of call.

 Here is my previous posts about Cartagena.

#AtoZChallenge

 

B = Barcelona

A to Z Ports: Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the busiest cruise ports  in the Mediterranean with many cruises starting or ending there and some spending an extra night or two because there is so much to see. There are several cruise ports in Barcelona, however most larger ships dock at Adossat Quay Terminals. There is no direct way to get there, except by taxi. If you are docked for the day — or longer — there is usually a shuttle bus that will take you to in front of the World Trade Centre, which is a stopping point for the two hop-on hop-off bus services. It is also a quick walk to Las Ramblas and and Port Vell.

Barcelona ports

Smaller ships may dock at the World Trade Centre Terminals.  This is a special treat because you don’t have to take a shuttle or taxi — you get stuck in traffic when the bridge is “open” to allow for ships to sail through it. I’ve docked in Barcelona several times and only once did my ship dock at the World Trade Centre Terminal.

I’ve written a lot about Barcelona. Here are some of my posts:

#atozchallenge

A = Amsterdam

A to Z Ports: Amsterdam

There is always a lot to see in Amsterdam and, because of its location, it is an important port, both for cruise lines heading North and as a starting point for river cruises. There are roughly around 900 cruise ships that use this port — 100 ocean-going and 800  river vessels. Over 250, 000 passengers pass trough this terminal yearly.

 

The port terminal is very easy to get to, and once there, it is very modern and easy to navigate. It is an easy ten-minute walk from the Central Station — one that I’ve done with my luggage and an umbrella due to a light rain.  Central Station is a great connection point, not only for trains to Schiphol Airport and other parts of Europe, but also for trams and buses that travel throughout Amsterdam. You can also take Tram 26 and Bus 326 that both drop you in front of the cruise terminal. There is Tourist Information in front of the Central Station.

014

Central Station also has a stop for the different canal cruises — a great way to get to know Amsterdam if you are only in port for a day.

 

Leaving Amsterdam to travel to the Baltic Sea, you sail through a canal. It is a beautiful sailing.

 

Here are some of my past posts about Amsterdam.

#atozchallenge