No matter how much travelers enjoy the food, drinks and fun onboard, new adventures await once a cruise ship glides into port. Cruise ports offer the chance to shop, explore and sample island culture. Here's a quick guide to some of the best cruise ports in the Caribbean.
Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, is a charming Caribbean cruise port with elaborate pastel-painted buildings. Enjoy fresh seafood at Arawak Cay and shop for souvenirs at the Straw Market. Or, take a quick ferry to Paradise Island to marvel at the enormous Atlantis resort. You'll have to pay to see the famous aquariums and use the water park, with its Mayan temple water slide, but most cruise travelers say it's well worth it.
Ocho Rios is a touristy cruise ship port, with an abundance of souvenir shops and bars on its two main streets, Main Street and DaCosta Drive. It's fun to walk around for a few hours here, but the main attractions lie nearby: Dunn's River Falls and James Bond Beach, where scenes from "Dr. No" were filmed. Many cruise ship passengers go to Mystic Mountain, a rainforest park that offers ziplining, a bobsled ride and a waterslide.
Many cruise ships dock near Old San Juan, one of the best Caribbean cruise ports for historic attractions and shopping. Explore the El Morro fort, which dates to 1539, and walk along the city's stone walls. You'll find artisans' work and fashion in the boutiques on Cristo and Fortaleza streets. The Bacardi Rum factory is another popular destination for cruise ship passengers.
Cozumel is one of the most popular Caribbean cruise ports, with more than 1 million passengers disembarking here each year. It's a small island just off the Yucatan Peninsula that offers shopping as well as natural beauty. From your cruise ship, you can walk into downtown San Miguel or take a taxi. Shops offer Mexican handcrafts and silver jewelry, as well as tacky souvenirs. Just off shore, fantastic snorkeling opportunities abound.
There's no place quite like Key West, which is one of the first cruise ports visited by many ships bound for the Caribbean. This legendarily laid-back island is home to picturesque cottages, gorgeous sunsets and Duval Street's infamous watering holes. Fans of Ernest Hemingway can visit the writer's house, famous for its six-toed cats. Key West also offers beaches and snorkeling opportunities.