Even the most fervent sailing fans are bound to suffer burnout, at least when it comes to certain cruise ports. Once you've climbed Dunn's River Falls, do you really need to go back to Ocho Rios? And sure, Monaco holds the glamorous appeal of the Grimaldi Royal Family -- but there's only so many times you can gawk at the Grand Casino before ennui sets in.
Here is our unofficial list of worst cruise ports for a repeat visit. Lest we sound jaded, keep in mind that every cruiser has their own list of likes and dislikes -- and we're making our decision based on the variety of things to do. Cozumel or Cabo San Lucas, for example, might feel "been there, done that" and be at the top of some worst cruise ports lists, but cruise lines and tour operators in those ports always seem to be coming up with new excursions and activities.
Read on for our list of worst cruise ports for repeaters -- and ideas for how you can make your next stop better.
If you read the Cruise Critic forums, you'll soon learn that many veteran sailors never even get off the ship in this Bahamas stalwart -- and we can't say we blame them. Perhaps it's because they've been to the archipelago's capital so many times, they're over it. (Nassau appears on almost every Bahamas and Eastern Caribbean itinerary.) Or maybe they are saving their beach time for a cruise line private island, many of which are also in the Bahamas.
Something Different: Food tours of local restaurants and markets have come to Nassau -- and it's become one of our favorite recommendations to get beyond the pre-fab fun of Atlantis and other resorts. If you're an art lover, the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, set in a historic villa, is a lovely little museum, a short walk from the port. It's got a great gift shop, too, and is located near other shops selling local crafts, chocolate, cigars and rum.
The first time cruisers visit this Jamaican port stop, they'll be encouraged to visit Mystic Mountain adventure park or climb Dunn's River Falls, often joining hands with others making the rocky climb in a human chain. The second time cruisers visit Ocho Rios, they might be left wondering what the heck to do. The port is particularly challenging for people who dislike tours or who aren't active.
Something Different: Irie! Reggae fans can get their groove on by visiting Bob Marley's Mausoleum at Nine Mile in nearby Saint Ann Parish. Excursions leave from the cruise terminal.
With glitz, glamour and Princess Grace, the port of Monte Carlo in the tiny principality of Monaco might sound ideal for Mediterranean-bound jetsetters. Invariably, though, people find themselves at loose ends. The Grand Casino requires a dress code; the cafes carry high prices; and you may feel like the proverbial outsider with your nose pressed against the (yacht) window.
Something Different: To really experience the port at its best, visit during the Formula One Grand Prix when race cars roar through town -- and a cruise cabin might be the cheapest accommodations in town. Or drive your own fast-paced F430 F1 Spider Ferrari along the French Riviera -- with an experienced instructor, of course; shore excursions are available.
There's nothing inherently wrong with Halifax, Nova Scotia's largest city (which is still pretty small, with a population under 300,000). It's nice. But once you've made the lovely day trip out to Peggy's Cove, eaten your lobster and snapped your requisite lighthouse photo, there's just not much left -- and other maritime stops may be more enticing.
Something Different: It's hard to sample the fruits of Nova Scotia's burgeoning wine and craft beer scene outside the province. So either take a tour or take yourself to some of the vineyards and microbreweries in the agricultural areas outside town; Annapolis Valley is the best-known wine region.
To find this Alaskan port's soul, you have to dig deep -- and wade through all the souvenir and Diamonds International shops that crowd the waterfront. Once you've gotten to Creek Street, things get more interesting, but really, beyond shopping and the quirky art galleries, there isn't much within city limits to keep you there.
Something Different: To make the most of Ketchikan, you have to get out of town. Floatplane and boat rides to Misty Fjords National Monument are among the most popular tours. Danger Island, just off the coast near Ward Cove, is a tour offering through Allen Marine that aims to give visitors a more authentic look at local Alaskan life. Here, explore self-guided activity stations including kayaking, fishing, beach combing, Alaska Native storytelling, crafting, cooking and more.
A stop on Norwegian Fjords cruises, Flam is home to the world-renown Flam Railway, consistently ranked as one of the world's most beautiful train trips (and we highly recommend training up and taking a bike back down). But once you've done that, the pickings in town are nonexistent.
Something Different: Aurland shoes, an exceptionally well-made leather-soled footwear that inspired penny loafers, are still made in a factory about 8 kilometers (5 miles) away. You can visit and buy your own to take home. If you're an active type, take advantage of local hiking trails accessible from the port.
This oil-rich island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia is relatively new to cruisers. The problem is, there's not all that much to see in Bahrain. A highlights tour will take you to a mosque that on our visit was not open to non-believers and a racetrack where no one is driving. Two attractions -- the Bahrain National Museum and Qal'at al-Bahrain, the Dilmun fort that's one of the country's two UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- can easily be done in a few hours. Then what?
Something Different: Nothing yet. If it's your second Arabian Gulf cruise, choose a sailing that goes to Oman instead.
Updated March 06, 2023