Your Cruise Itinerary
morning arrival in Venice
Unless a ship is doing
a trans-Atlantic crossing or "cruise to nowhere," it will
eventually arrive in a port of call.
To satisfy the
greatest number of passengers, cruise lines scour the globe to
create itineraries that include a wealth of activities—everything
from snorkeling to major city sightseeing.
After unpacking and
settling in, a cruise ship becomes a carefree mode of
transportation—as well as a floating resort—moving between
numerous destinations with ease. While it's only possible to enjoy
sea days on a cruise vacation (and they can be relaxing to the point
of decadence), days ashore in a variety of ports offer the
opportunity to explore new places, learn about different cultures,
and just have fun. A mix of sea days for relaxation and port days to
explore is sublime.
Passengers interested in spending as much time in port as
possible should select their cruise itinerary carefully. When
researching a cruise, one of the first things to do is evaluate the
schedule to determine whether a particular ship spends enough time
in port to see the places that are the most appealing.
a ship arrives in port at 8am, passengers will probably be able to
leave the vessel within a half hour or so. However, the ship must
"clear" before anyone goes ashore. In other words, local
officials come aboard to make sure all paperwork is in order and, in
some cases, to examine passengers' passports. Depending on the port
of call, this can be a very brief or drawn-out procedure. There's
really no way to anticipate how long it will take, particularly if
fellow passengers hold up the process by not reporting to
immigration officials as required.
When vessels call on ports where they cannot dock, passengers on
scheduled shore excursions are usually the first to go ashore in the
ship's tenders. Everyone else queues for a numbered "tender
ticket" (first-come, first-served) and then waits to be called
for a boat to shore.
Keep in mind that passengers are required to be back on board the
vessel at least a half-hour before scheduled departure. In a perfect
world, an 8am to 4pm port call is realistically a maximum of seven
While a day, or even a half-day, might be all the time needed to
explore a tiny tropical island or a small town in Alaska, there are
other destinations that demand more. Two examples are Venice, Italy
and St. Petersburg, Russia. It just is not possible to experience
Venice in a day and, although most cruise ships spend two days in
St. Petersburg, seeing the most fascinating sights can be a mad blur
of rushing from one place to another to take it all in.
port calls offer an attractive bonus—the
ability to dine ashore, attend a show, or take in the nightlife.
This is especially desirable in South America where a tango show is
a must-see in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or where sightseeing
opportunities are some distance from the port city, such as a day
trip to Seville, 80 miles from the pier in Cádiz, Spain. Options
for overnight port stays are generally broader on luxury cruise
lines that sail to far flung worldwide destinations and some
segments of world cruises feature overnight port stays. In the
Caribbean, some ships overnight or have late night departures in
Cozumel and Aruba, which allows passengers to sample the clubs. A
rare late night sailing from Key West is a sublime treat for viewing
the legendary sunset.
Port days are unique. Whether the ship sails past St.
Mark's Square to tie up at Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice or
anchors offshore at Grand Cayman, there is a different rhythm to
days spent ashore.
What is there to do
and how should you do it? Cruise lines offer a dizzying variety of
shore excursions. Passengers in the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, and
South Pacific find choices that include numerous "soft
adventure" tours, while those on Canada/New England, European,
and other far-flung itineraries often find a wealth of historic and
cultural destinations at their fingertips. Many passengers want to
go it alone and plan independent touring. Either way, there are many
options to consider while in the planning stages...
Excursions vs. Independent Touring
to Read an Excursion Description — What are you getting?
Time" vs. "Island Time" — What's that all
More Info on Ports
Stay Safe in
Ports of Call —
Getting away from it all shouldn't mean getting into trouble.
If you haven't done it
already, isn't it about time to get a passport?