Why go to Santo Domingo?
You're only there for a few hours
Few locals speak English, the downtown is dangerous and driving is a nightmare
Venture to Zona Colonial (the colonial zone), book a tour or stay on the ship
Santo Domingo Cruise Port Facilities?
Minor amenities (bathrooms, duty-free stores and Internet access) are located inside the cruise terminal, but there is nothing of interest in the immediate vicinity outside the terminal. The closest attractions are the Colonial City and Christopher Columbus' lighthouse tomb. They're all within walking distance, but hoofing it isn't recommended. Your best bet is to arrange a tour ahead of time, or hire a taxi. The latter won't set you back more than a few pesos. Note that tour operators and taxis are required to wait outside the port gates, which are guarded by tourist police.
Good to Know?
Crime, violence and gang activity are prevalent in Santo Domingo. Always be aware of your surroundings, stay in groups, and don't venture to unfamiliar parts of the city when not on an organized tour or with a reputable guide. As a general rule, leave all jewelry and valuables onboard in your cabin safe, and carry only as much cash as you think you'll need. We recommend a money belt to keep valuables safe while you're ashore.
Also, be sure to pack bug spray; you won't have much of a problem outdoors, but you might use some restroom facilities that don't have air-conditioning, making them perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes -- and they're vicious.
On Foot: It's possible to walk, but it's not recommended, particularly if you don't know where you're going and don't speak Spanish. There is a lot of crime in Santo Domingo, and it's much safer to take other means of transportation.
By Taxi: This is the most economical option if you're staying within a half hour of the port. Be warned, however, that local drivers might not speak English, and it's best to agree on a roundtrip price before going anywhere. If you happen to snag an English-speaking cabbie, he or she can be a great resource if you'd like a tour of the area, information about its history or recommendations for sights that are worth seeing. Be aware that some taxis, known as "carros publicos" carry multiple passengers, and they usually aren't air-conditioned.
By Motochoncho: Say what? Enterprising locals with motorbikes will offer rides to anyone in need of transportation for very reasonable prices. However, this can be exceedingly dangerous because of their tendency to weave among larger vehicles and the aggressive habits of other drivers. It's also not the best method in inclement weather, and it's likely that you won't be provided with a helmet.
Via Public Transportation: Bus transportation is available, but, although inexpensive, local buses are often overcrowded, hot (no air-conditioning) and slow. An underground Metro system is also in place, and it's easy to use for first-timers, but there's only one line at this point, and you should really know where you're headed before using this option.
Renting a Car: We strongly discourage this. Driving conditions in Santo Domingo are horrendous. Motorbikes dart between cars incessantly, and the few traffic signals are generally ignored. Street signs are not in English, and it's extremely easy to get lost in the wrong part of town, where gang members will attempt to sell you kites and windshield wiper blades. (No, we're not kidding.) If you know where you're going and how to drive defensively and still want to give it a go, you can take a cab to Avis (517 Avenida George Washington, 809-535-7191), National (Avenida Independencia Esq, 809-221-0805) or Budget (Avenida John F. Kennedy, 809-566-6666).
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Dominicans speak Spanish as their primary language. Some, particularly those who work in tourism areas, speak English. That said, communication can be a problem, so either carry a pocket dictionary or bone up on basic phrases like hola (hello), buenos dias (good day), por favor (please), gracias (thank you), cuanto cuesta? (how much does it cost?) and donde esta el bano? (where is the bathroom?).
Where You're Docked?
You'll be docked at the Sansouci pier, the city's main cruise terminal. Plans are in the works to turn another terminal -- Don Diego, about five minutes from Sansouci pier -- into a facility that can accommodate cruise vessels, but there is no word yet on when that will be completed.