San Juan Cruise Terminal Addresses:
Old San Juan Terminal
Paseo Gilberto Concepcion de Gracia
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
Pan American Terminal
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
The most important thing to know about cruising in or out of San Juan is that there are two ports. One is nicely situated in Old San Juan; the other, located next to the airport, has few services and no curb appeal.
The good news is that the majority of cruise ships dock in Old San Juan, though a handful of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney ships use the Pan American terminal, a 10-minute taxi ride from the town center.
Cruisers leaving from Old San Juan have lots to see before they cruise. The old town's two forts, museums, restaurants and shops are all within walking distance of the dock. If limited mobility is an issue, there's a free on-and-off trolley (no narration) that takes in the major attractions. Just look across the street from the sidewalk between Pier No. 3 and Pier No. 4 and you'll see Trolley Stop No. 1 on Calle J.A. Corretjer. There's a GNC on one corner and a Domino's on the other. The trolley operates three different routes and runs from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Old San Juan cruise port has three piers -- Pier No. 1, Pier No. 3 and Pier No. 4 -- for cruise ships. Pier No. 3 reopened in late 2014 after undergoing a $6.3 million makeover that allows it to accommodate Royal Caribbean's mega Oasis-class ships. A single passenger terminal is shared by Pier No. 3 and Pier No. 4, which serve Royal Caribbean, MSC, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival and Holland America, among others. Pier No. 1 handles small ships, including those operated by Azamara, Windstar, Silversea and Seabourn. It has its own bare-bones terminal.
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Getting There from the Airport
Regardless of whether you're sailing from Old San Juan or the Pan American Terminal, taxis and cruise line shuttles are pretty much the only way to get to your cruise ship from the airport.
By Taxi: The 15-minute cab ride from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport to the port at Old San Juan costs about $19 plus a buck a bag. It's generally cheaper to take a cab than pay the cruise line's transfer fee. The vast majority of taxis are vans that can load up on passengers and luggage. Taxis Turisticos is a program in San Juan sponsored by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Participating taxis are white and have the Taxis Turisticos logo on the door. They follow fixed rates for fares to and from the airport and the piers in Old San Juan. Some taxis take credit cards, others don't. Tip is not included.
A taxi ride to the Pan American Terminal takes about 10 minutes and the fare is $15.
What Time to Arrive
Ships sail year-round in San Juan with high season between November 1 and April 1. Typically, ships at Old San Juan arrive at 7 a.m. and depart at 5 p.m. or arrive at 3 p.m. and depart at 10 p.m. Either way, there is plenty of time to take in the sights. Best to contact the cruise line about arrival time suggestions. Ships that dock at the Pan American terminal generally arrive around 6 a.m. with disembarkation completed by late morning and new passengers welcomed at 1 p.m.
Both terminals in Old San Juan, as well as the Pan American Terminal, have separate VIP check-in lines for suite staterooms. There are also special check-ins for those in wheelchairs.
Old San Juan and the Pan American Terminal do not routinely supply wheelchairs for embarkation although they can be arranged in advance by contacting your cruise line.
There are porter services if needed. At both cruise ports, cruisers disembarking from a cruise are required to go through a customs checkpoint with their luggage. There is no customs process for embarking passengers.
Where to Grab a Bite or Last Minute Essentials
There are a few souvenir shops but no bar or restaurant at the Old San Juan cruise port. Just across the street are a Senor Frogs and Domino's, but best to wander into Old San Juan to sample some of the terrific dishes the city is known for. Aguaviva at 364 Calle Fortaleza, Las Arcadas at 350 Calle San Francisco and Inaru at 311 Recinto Sur are all good choices.
If you've forgotten any essentials and you're leaving from the Old San Juan terminal, no worries. Across the street from Pier 2, a ferry pier, is a large CVS that sells all manner of goods, including sunscreen, USB flash drives memory cards, adult beverages and souvenirs. It's open daily from 7 a.m. to midnight.
If you're cruising out of the Pan American cruise port, you'll find a few duty free shops at the terminal but no restaurant or bar.
Porters are stationed curbside to assist with the check-in of your luggage at both cruise ports.
Where to Sit
There's no reason to tarry in either terminal at Old San Juan. There are roughly 150 seats at the terminal that serves Pier 3 and Pier 4. The small air-conditioned terminal at Pier 1 is basically a pass-through for passengers. The Pan American port terminal houses about 100 seats.
There are restrooms at both ports.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is expected to become available in 2016 at the Old San Juan port, but not at the Pan American port.
There is no luggage storage at either port.
Watch Out For
Old San Juan is lined with uneven and often slippery cobblestones. Sensible shoes are definitely in order. It's worth shopping around when it comes to city tours. Independent tour operators like San Juan Happy Tours might seem a little pushy at first as they hawk their excursions at the pier but the tours are well-priced: $10 for a narrated hourlong coach tour of Old San Juan with photo stops (insist on an air-conditioned bus). Some of the operators also offer tours to El Yunque, the rainforest that is Puerto Rico's top attraction.