Why go to Puerto Quetzal (Antigua)?
Nearby Antigua boasts volcanoes, museums and stunning architecture
The port itself is purpose-built for cruisers; enterprising and pushy locals all sell similar wares
There's fun to be had, but it requires leaving the immediate port area
Puerto Quetzal (Antigua) Cruise Port Facilities?
If you're at the cruise terminal, all you need do is walk off your ship, and you'll pass over an open-grate bridge as you make your way to a small visitors' center, which offers local information, shore tour sign-ups, a desk that sells postcards and stamps, and performances by local musicians. Just outside, you'll find a compilation of wooden signs that serve as a directory to various areas like shops, restrooms and restaurants. Cruisers docked at the cargo pier will need to take a courtesy shuttle to the passenger terminal. The shuttle runs every 10 minutes or so.
Good to Know?
Persistent locals can try your patience if you just want to stroll around the shops inside the visitors' center to browse without buying. They'll use high-pressure sales tactics, but a firm "no, thank you" or no, gracias usually does the trick. Also beware that prices are rarely posted on items; it's a sign that haggling is fair game. Never accept the initial price a salesperson quotes you, unless the prices are clearly marked on items from the start. If you can withstand the pressure to buy immediately, don't feel bad about checking prices elsewhere before making a purchase. Sales tactics are much less fierce in Antigua, where street vendors might follow you for a bit but will take no for an answer and vendors inside the Old Cinema Market barely try to sell you at all.
The best (and most affordable) way to do get around is by booking a shore excursion. You'll also find local guides selling excursions at the visitors' center. Taxis are available, but because Antigua is 90 minutes away, they can be pricey.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The official monetary unit in Guatemala is the quetzal (named after the country's official bird), but American dollars can be used throughout Puerto Quetzal, as well as in Antigua. Be sure to have small bills available, as change might not be given back to you in U.S. currency. Also be sure that your dollars are free from even the slightest rips or tears, or they might be refused by shop owners. Credit cards are not generally accepted. If you run low on cash, an ATM is available at the welcome center.
Spanish is the primary language spoken throughout Guatemala, but most folks working in the port speak at least some English. It's still a good idea to study up on common phrases and numbers, download a translation app to your smartphone or carry a phrasebook. In Antigua, restaurant waitstaff speak some English, but most others do not.