6 tips for making the most of your time in port

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One of the best things about a cruise vacation is the opportunity to see several destinations on one trip without having to worry about the details. You can simply enjoy your time aboard the ship, take advantage of the amenities and then, once you’re in port, you can get out and explore. But since there’s a time constraint involved, it’s important to make the most of the time you have so you can get as much as a feel as possible for whatever destination you happen to be in. So just how do you that? We’ve put together some tips that will help you maximize port time.

Do advance research

Image: Brittany Dietz
Image: Brittany Dietz

Before you even leave for your cruise, spend some time researching each port of call so you have a better idea of what they offer (i.e. shopping, cultural attractions, important sights, etc.). This way you can make an informed decision about what your priorities are going to be in terms of what you want to do with your time. Make sure you also look into just how far the city centre is from port. Sometimes most of what you want to see is close, but other times the port will be far away from the main attractions.

It’s also a good idea to research alternatives to any must-see sights or attractions on your list in case they happen to be closed or crowded (see next tip). In addition, research what kind of excursions your cruise line is offering and whether any appeal to you. These can often be booked well in advance depending on the cruise line.

Find out how many ships will be in port

Monaco Harbour and Monte Carlo in France.
Monaco Harbour and Monte Carlo in France.

Knowing how many other cruise ships will be in port on the day you’ll be in a particular destination can really help in terms of deciding how and where you’re going to spend your time. A site like Cruise Timetables is a good tool for figuring this out. Choose your destination, like Cancun for example. and the date you’re going to be there and you’ll get the information you need. If the port will be overrun with other travelers, you may want to consider staying away from the most popular sights or shopping areas and getting out your list of alternate options that will be less busy.

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Decide on the type of shore excursion you want

How to make the most of your time in port
Roger W, Philipsburg – Equinox and Adonia via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Once you’ve done your research into port destinations and the excursions offered by the cruise line, decide whether you’re more comfortable booking something via your cruise line or taking a DIY approach to your time in port. There are pros and cons to both. Booking something via your cruise line means everything is planned for you and you can take a hands-off approach. There can be a bit more work involved in planning shore excursions on your own, but this will ensure that you are getting to see and do what’s most important to you.

Calculate travel times

Image: Brittany Dietz
Image: Brittany Dietz

If you’re opting to do some exploring on your own rather than through a pre-planned excursion, timing is a very important factor to consider. First off, the boat won’t wait so you need to be absolutely sure you’re able to get back before the ship leaves. You should also consider creating a timeline to work with so you can plan exactly what you’re going to do in order to really make the most of it.

Think about private guides or tours

How to make the most of your time in port
Joe Loong, DSCN1782 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Depending on where you’re going to be, hiring a private guide or joining a small group tour might be the best option to maximizing your port time. Organizing your own tour can often be significantly cheaper than buying through the cruise line and you can customize it to see everything that’s important to you. It can be a good idea to visit forums to ask about reputable companies and guides.

Have fun and don’t spread yourself too thin

6 tips for making the most of your time in port 1

While you want to see and do as much as possible while in port, it’s important not to try to do too much. You want the experience to be memorable, not feel as if you’re madly rushing around so fast you can barely take note of much. Travel should be about savoring the experience, not only crossing things off your must-see list.

Featured image: kansasphoto, Cruise Ships via Flickr CC  BY 2.0

6 tips for making the most of your time in port was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (91 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.