I'm a market researcher based in Australia. I would like to hear from cruise enthusiasts what makes a really good port to stop off at? When you first get off a cruise and into a port city, what are the things you first want to see/have access to etc. It might be really good visitor information, shops, food and beverage, anything!
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Since the vast majority of the time we are meeting a shore excursion, either ship's or independent, the main thing we are looking for is a good bus/van parking area with easy access from the ship. Then when we return a nice terminal with good restroom facilities, and perhaps a few decent souvenir shops for a quick memento.
Some of the best we have run into are in Israel. And actually St. Petersburg is not bad at all.
When my wife and I get off the ship, when not on an excursion, shopping and places to eat make a difference. It's difficult to get off the ship and have no idea where to go. For example, Cozumel Mexico had both right off the ship. Cayman Islands, you could just walk around and find all sorts of things. However, San Juan Puerto Rico, outside the gates you don't know where to go. A map would have been great. (We had a map provided by the cruise lines but it didn't really tell you much.) You ended up mostly just walking around until you finally found someplace.
For excursions, variety I think is the main thing. In some ports we just want to relax and look for a place just to kick back. Other times we want to see the sites. However, a lot of that just depends on the city itself or the history such as ruins. A fishing village, for example, turned into a port doesn't usually offer a lot in the way of activities.
I enjoy ports where there are some good excursions and where the locals are friendly, but are not pushy. We see some really pushy locals at some spots, the same with taxi drivers, to me it is a big turn off.
i think that a good visitors center on or right next to the pier is key, staffed with knowledgeable people, and clean restrooms. Safety is so important, i want to feel safe walking around town if i choose to do that. Like some of the others i just hate pushy pushy vendors and taxi drivers
For, me, distinct areas, with good signage, planned well, so there is no mistake where you want to go. Taxi/bus, area, excursions, clean rest rooms are a must, and I would love to see local crafts people selling their wares.
Knowing what I would like,and getting what I would like, I know is not always possible. Local goverment, regulations, topography of the area,and the cost of it all, to make cruisers comfortable, I can be sure, is not always as easy, as it is, when I plan it in my mind.
RCI had, in a few ports, a respite for cruisers, to get a bite to eat, restrooms, and, if you needed, a service, to leave your packages, and have them taken to the ship for you. Sadly, this lasted just a few years. For me, bring something like this back, would be wonderful.
Thanks for listening.
Trip, with her book & tea!
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Would you say then that easy access to the attractions and sites of the port city is key to your experience there? Is there anything else that could/does help you get around?
Yes I would agree about the easy access. When we went to St. Martin, we were able to exit the ship and they had an area for tours. For example, we wanted to go to the beach, and they had signs and a waiting area for various places. We just walked right up and used their services.
In another port, they had a place for a dolphin excursion. We had not planned on going but my wife thought it looked like fun, so she went with a friend. If they had not had information handy, we would probably never have gone.
Not meaning to synopsisize but actually the comments offered are all, as they say in Great Britian, "spot on."
Any port or any Travel Agent or organization should actually send representatives to confirm the comments of those who use those facilities.
In essence, it boils down to:
1. An honest, friendly, well kept welcome area with very informed personnel who don't "direct" cruisers to the highest bidder. As so many have said, they should have very clean restrooms, brochures, advice, etc.
2. If there are questionable areas (as there are in any country), then cruisers should be advised to avoid those areas.
3. Cleanliness, Cleanliness, Cleanliness and yes of equal importance, knowledge and honesty of those staffing these welcome centers.
In short, it's common sense. That is why anyone who is issuing advice on such a matter have first hand knowledge at least of the ports, wherever they might be, about which a tourist would routinely ask. To put it all together, you gotta' spend money to make money. Put people out around the world to the at least, most visited ports.
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Explorer of the Seas 2009, Eastern Caribbean
Explorer of the Seas 2007, Eastern Caribbean
Explorer of the Seas 2006, Eastern Caribbean
Oh Trip, I do remember those rest spots, there was on in Old San Juan and we took advantage of it, rather than lug our carry-on's, we left them there and explored. When we came back it was nice to sit down and have a cold drink...Too bad they don't still have those.
Great, thanks Mike. Can you tell me what you mean by easy access from the ship? Are you refering to signage?
When we get off the ship, we like to see signs directing us to the transportation, but even more we like the transportation to be nearby and not a long walk down a huge pier! I am slightly mobility limited, and to be confronted with a long walk to the excursions is daunting to me. But for some reason many ports seem to arrange access linearly instead of straight through. In ports with light ship traffic, there is no reason the welcome building cannot be parallel to the ship so that it is only a short walk through it to the buses.
Of course in ports like Cozumel or Juneau it is more efficient to build long piers perpendicular to the shore with several slots for ships. That forces pax to walk the length of the ship, sometimes the length of another ship, before even getting to shore. To then be encountered with a long walk through a building full of vendors before the parking lot is adding insult!
What makes a great port is easy access to information about the port, friendliness of the local people, a welcome center where the people there are able to speak several languages, information about the history and culture of the area and good directions to places of interest in the port and last but not least, where the best places to shop are.