7 Ports You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Visit

October 27, 2011 | By | 14 Comments

So many ports, so little time. It’s a big ol’ world, and cruise lines are constantly finding new places to explore. But what are the little treasures out there that you may not have considered visiting before? During the recent CruiseOne/Cruises Inc. conference onboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, you couldn’t lob a wiffle ball without hitting a cruise agent, so I took the opportunity to ask a few where they send their clients who want to go somewhere special.
Yes, some old reliables popped up in the discussions, but that’s only because familiarity doesn’t always mean “boring.” It can also mean “Don’t just go once.”
Here are seven spots you may want to consider visiting — or return to:
Samana, Dominican Republic: Agent Alan Rosenbaum, from Alpharetta, Georgia, has found a new love in the Caribbean. “It still is relatively undeveloped from a tourist point of view. That is, there isn’t a Diamonds International on every corner,” he says. “But what impressed me most, other than the lack of tourist traps, was how beautiful the area is. If there was no building on a spot, that spot was green. To date it is the most beautiful and laidback place I’ve visited in the region.”
Bermuda: This speck in the Atlantic with pink-sand beaches and a British accent isn’t exactly off the beaten path, but there’s something about it that begs repeat visits. “I’ve been there 12 times and there’s always something new,” said Mara Hargarther, an agent from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Jost Van Dyke: Few cruise lines (Windstar and SeaDream Yacht Club among them) visit this eastern Caribbean cubbyhole in the British Virgin Islands, but Hargarther says it’s worth the effort — mainly because it’s “so remote.” Her must-see pick: The island’s Soggy Dollar Bar, so named because you can only get there by boat, and your money will get wet if you leave it in your pocket when you wade to shore.
Roatan, Honduras: It’s a little rough around the edges to be sure, but that’s just what Ohio agent Becky Piper loves about the place. “People don’t realize how wonderful this island is,” she said, adding, “I like that it’s an under-developed port.” Translation: You get a real feel for the culture and the people.
Messina, Sicily: Piper isn’t such a booster of the city itself, but . . . well, just wait to you venture out. In particular, she urges anyone who’ll listen to head to Taormina, an ancient cliff-top town packed with bars and restaurants on the island’s east coast. Gushes Piper: “Oh my gosh, I want to live there.”
Homer, Alaska: Fewer ships means more charm, insists agent Debby Hughes of Big Bear City, California — hence the appeal of this nook southwest of Anchorage. “Not a lot of ships go there,” she notes, “so there’s still a small-town feel.” (Interested? Holland America is among the lines that drop anchor there.)
Anywhere on a European river: No doubt about it, river cruising is on an upswing, and almost everyone I talked to said you just must visit these inland treasures scattered about the Continent. But if you think journeys aboard the compact, more leisurely vessels are best for mature travelers, it’s time to adjust that point of view. Hughes said she took her 17-year-old daughter, a self-described Francophile, on a French river jaunt and “she just adored it.” Agent Kathy Freer of Cocoa Village, Florida, is a fan as well: “Whatever you do, don’t give up on Europe.”
Get your pick of the world’s top cruising destinations on our Ports Page.
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    14 Responses to “7 Ports You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Visit”

    1. Scott
      October 27th, 2011 @ 10:24 am

      Roatan was great when I was there in 2005. It was relativly undeveloped, a nice quite island. I was looking forward to going there again when I went last year, only to find giant condos on what was previously my favorite beach. It has just gotten too built up. The snorkeling wasn’t as good as it once was either. It was very disappointing now.

    2. Brian
      October 27th, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

      I’m not picky. I’d visit any of them in a heartbeat.

    3. John Kennedy
      October 27th, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

      What about St. Kitt’s? I always describe St. Kitt’s as St. Thomas 30 years ago. Scott is right Roatan has been crazy built up. But there are parts of Roatan that remain undeveloped…

    4. liz pereira
      October 27th, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

      St. Kitts should definitely be there! Beautiful unspoilt island.

    5. Shar Miltano
      October 27th, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

      Taormina Sicily was the most gorgeous place ever! Friendly people and great little shops.I’ll go back for sure!

    6. Pam MacIntyre
      October 27th, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

      St Kitts and Antigua!

    7. Irena
      October 29th, 2011 @ 9:51 am

      i’ve been to messina in 2010 with Louis Cruise Lines. A great experience! Italy itself (and the ice-cream on every corner). if have a chance to visit Sicily again – will definitely visit Taormina and have several ice-creams in Messina))))
      Also liked the shopping in Messina – accesories and cosmetics shops busted there like trees)))

    8. Char
      October 29th, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

      Sorry folks but I hated Roatan. As soon as we left the ship we were hit with a very strong odor of urine which only got worse the more we walked on the streets. Though the weather was nice when we arrived in port it had rained earlier which made us wonder whether it was rain or something else running in the streets. I suspect it was “something else”

    9. Jeff
      October 30th, 2011 @ 12:14 am

      I agree about Bermuda, it’s a great place to visit and there’s more than enough there to go back again and again, or to spend several days in a row there. West Bay in Roatan is beautiful and has the best snorkeling of any place I’ve seen. Also agree about Messina, both for Taormina and also to visit Mount Etna. Samana not as much, not that it’s bad or not worth visiting but it’s just not great in my opinion.

    10. LeeAnn
      November 2nd, 2011 @ 11:51 am

      We loved Roatan. We went zip-lining with our kids & it was the best–beautiful & so much fun. Then we were taken to a quiet beach by the zip-lining bus which was perfect. The kids played in the sand & a local gave my husband a massage. There were lots of locals lounging around in the “canteen” area behind the beach, but no one bothered us to buy their wares like in Mexico. It was beautiful & peaceful. The 1st impression just off the ship is not the greatest, however. YOu have to get out onto the island. Also, the views of the island from the ship as we departed were stunning.

      My husband & I also loved Taormina. We hiked all the way up to the little church at the top of the steep hill overlooking the bay. What a view! And there was an Italian wedding going on up there which only added more flavor to the expedition. Everything is within walking distance, which was nice.

    11. Eleanor
      November 2nd, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

      Roatan — we went in 2004, and it was a lovely port – many local craft-type shops, many native people who were delightful. Went back recently – Carnival has built a new port – Mahogany Bay, and it is all newly built stores, very artificial, like a movie set. Same shops as many other ports, all over-priced.

    12. Elizabeth
      November 2nd, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

      We went to Jost Van Dyke on an excursion when our RCCL ship stopped in Tortola. We LOVED it, and it was at the top of our list of favorite things we did on our cruise!

    13. terry
      November 2nd, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

      Sitka and Icy Straight Point are also not on many iteniraries but were two of our favorite stops on our last Alaska cruise. Holland America was our line for the cruise.

    14. thomas kloss
      November 4th, 2011 @ 8:11 am

      We love st.kitts. Green and lush. Views from
      fort out of this world.

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