Ships lined up in the port of Nassau in the Bahamas (Photo: Roger Wollstadt/Flickr)
It’s dreary outside and you find yourself dreaming of an escape to the Caribbean. You long for turquoise water and sugar-sand beaches, with plenty of activities to take your mind off work. Cruises offer the perfect smorgasbord of beaches, shopping, scenery, and fun things that you can’t do at home, all served up with a fruity, umbrella-topped beverage. But not every port lives up to the image in your dreams. To help you choose your next cruise itinerary — or rather, figure out which places to avoid — Yahoo Travel did some digging around and found the Caribbean ports with the worst reputations.
Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas
Docked in the not-so-pretty Freeport harbor (Photo: Jon Worth/Flickr)
All the islands of the Bahamas have fallen under crime warnings from the U.S. State Department this year, with armed robberies, kidnappings, and rapes in Nassau on New Providence Island. According to a recent security report from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the weapon of choice on Grand Bahama Island is a machete. In the port of Freeport the problems also include lack of infrastructure. Granted, there is a casino, a straw market, and a resort with an adequate beach, but as one Cruise Critic reviewer pointed out: “This is a shipping port. There is nothing there but a Senior [sic] Frogs and a few overpriced shops.”
Not good for: Shopping, scuba.
Good for: Sitting on the beach, snorkeling, ATV excursions.
Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica
A graffiti-covered section of the Montego Bay port (Photo: me and the sysop/Flickr)
Jamaica has hidden beauty. What that means is that the ports are ugly and scary. One reviewer on Cruise Critic said, “Why anyone would disembark from a $500 million dollar cruise ship to economic ruins is beyond me.”
The most popular tour here is a trip to the Dunn’s River Falls, which gets mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, some critics citing overcrowding and the strenuous hike as reasons to skip the adventure.
Not good for: Snorkeling, scuba diving, shopping.
Good for: Paid excursions to beaches (although several Cruise Critic reviewers mention taking a cab to Doctor’s Cove beach with success).
Leaving dreary Belize City (Photo: Kathy/Flickr)
Another industrial city, with very little to do in the port itself, Belize City does have adventure waiting beyond the city itself. Ships do not actually dock here; they anchor off and use tenders to carry passengers to town, or sometimes directly to activities on nearby tiny islands. There are things to do in Belize City, but you have to plan ahead.
One Cruise Critic reviewer said, “Don’t even think about walking around the town and looking for trinkets. We sought out a beach but couldn’t find one. We asked a cabby where one was and he replied that Belize City HAS NO BEACH!”
Not good for: Shopping, restaurants, sitting on the beach.
Good for: Scuba, cave tubing, zip-line adventures, excursions that involve the surrounding cayes.
A ship dwarfing the dock in Roatan (Photo: Roger Wollstadt/Flick)
In June the U.S. State Department issued warnings about crime in Honduras. The report says, “Although Roatan/Bay Islands, Copan Mayan ruins, and other tourist destinations and resorts have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards.”
As if that’s not scary enough, there is a serious lack of interesting things to do other than water activities. A Cruise Critic reviewer writes about an October stop here, “Docked port-side, but nothing to see but a bunch of trees. The Roatan stop was almost a waste of time.”
Not good for: Shopping, adventure tours, restaurants.
Good for: Snorkeling, scuba, beach sitting, water sports, sailing tours.
Somana and LaRomana, Dominican Republic
Squeezed into LaRomana port (Photo: Go Dominican Republic)
Reviewers on Trip Advisor tell of abject poverty, filth, and drugs in these two ports. Add to those issues the lack of infrastructure for the onslaught of tourists when a ship docks, and many passengers are left wondering exactly why they are included in any itinerary. These two ports were included by Cruiseline.com in a story titled “5 Cruise Ship Ports That Suck.”
Not good for: Anything other than pre-arranged tours.
Good for: Scuba, snorkeling, water sports.
If you can’t avoid an itinerary with these five ports here is some advice to remember:
Do not plan to just hop off the ship and wander the streets. You won’t find interesting shops or restaurants on your own.
Plan a tour of some type. Choose one through the cruise line, or an independent outfitter like cruisingexcursions.com.
Pay attention to your wallet and valuables. Most of these ports have a high rate of crime.
Consider staying onboard for a spa day.
The best advice for any cruise port of call is to do your homework. Read reviews of the excursions and the destination. The more you know in advance, the easier it is to find the fun when everyone else is complaining.
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