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Cruises to San Juan

San Juan (Photo:Gary Ives/Shutterstock)
San Juan (Photo:Gary Ives/Shutterstock)

About San Juan

As an anchor on Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries -- not to mention a turnaround port for many ships -- San Juan is a place where just about all cruisers, at some point or another, are going to wind up. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and San Juan is its urban hub. The city, by and large, is divided into new and old. The new includes a business district and outlying neighborhoods, concentrated with hotel chains like Isla Verde. The old is, of course, the historic city within ancient walls. Both offer many Americanisms. (Senor Frog's has a prime outpost, and you'll never want for a McDonald's Big Mac.)

Get beyond that, though, because of all America's Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico offers the most exotic aura. The melange of indigenous Taino culture, combined with European and African influences in San Juan (and all of Puerto Rico, for that matter), is one major factor. Add to that its own unique influences in areas ranging from cuisine and music to history and art. And there's more: folks who have traveled to Cuba say that Old San Juan reminds them more of Cuba, at times, than Cuba itself! It's also very Spanish (think Seville) and even a bit Italian (reminiscent of Naples). Finally, the city evokes just a wee taste of South America (like Buenos Aires).

For those who visit San Juan as a day-stop on a Caribbean itinerary or embark or disembark there, the island's biggest appeal is the old city. Most cruise ships dock right in the heart of Old San Juan, which dates back to the 16th century. The old, walled city has been exquisitely preserved, and its sprawling forts, cobblestone streets, antique shops and art galleries make it an ideal first stop. Its mainstream attractions include the imposing El Morro fort, which dates back to 1539; the Cathedral of San Juan, where the island's first governor, Ponce de Leon, is buried; La Fortaleza, the oldest governor's mansion on U.S. soil; several colonial plazas; and the triumvirate of Calle del Cristo, Calle San Jose and Calle Fortaleza for shopping. Calle del Cristo, in particular, is chock-full of art galleries, artisan studios and distinctive boutiques.

But, if you're a "been there, done that" visitor to Old San Juan, there's much more to explore.

And there's one more thing to keep in mind: many cruises stay in port until late at night. That makes it possible to sample some of the city's vibrant restaurants and nightlife (as long as you keep an eye on the clock).

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DAY 1: Tampa

13 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Tampa

12 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Tampa
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Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: San Juan

7 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
Aruba, Curacao ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Tampa

11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Key West, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Grand Turk, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Kitts ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Labadee, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
Barbados, Grenada ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Hamilton, Bermuda ...
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Cruise Line:
Windstar Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Key West, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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12 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Boston
Visiting:
San Juan, Bonaire ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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11 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
Tortola, St. Kitts ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
San Juan, Tortola ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Port Canaveral
Visiting:
San Juan, Amber Cove ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

8 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
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San Juan, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Port Canaveral
Visiting:
Great Stirrup Cay, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
St. Thomas, St. Kitts ...
see more
Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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12 Night
Cruise to San Juan

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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Why go to San Juan?

Pros:

This city, split into new and old sections, shares vibes with Europe, South America and even Cuba

Cons:

Shopping malls and chain restaurants can make it difficult for visitors to see the "real" San Juan

Bottom Line:

This U.S. territory does a great job of mixing American influences with old-world culture

San Juan Cruise Port Facilities?

There are two port facilities in San Juan -- one is a 10-minute ride, close to the airport, called the Pan American terminal, while the main cruise terminal (Piers 1, 3 and 4) is just a short walk from downtown Old San Juan. A 10- to 15-minute walk will get you to most restaurants and attractions (about 25 minutes to El Morro). A free trolley is also available from the port to explore the sights. At the terminal itself, local vendors usually set up stands selling knick-knacks as souvenirs. Otherwise, the immediate port area can be very commercial with a mall, ice cream shops and chain stores like Domino's and Senor Frog's. For a more authentic meal, venture into town.

Good to Know?

Sidewalks in Old San Juan are narrow and uneven. When more than one ship is in town, they're almost impassible. Also, beware that crowds do inspire pickpockets; keep an eye on your wallet.

Getting Around?

On Foot: It's walking distance into compact, yet fascinating, Old San Juan. Streets are uneven (constructed of blue cobblestones, cast from furnace slag), and hills are steep, so wear comfortable shoes.

Taxis: They're available at the dock. You can also hail mini-buses (called "omnibuses"), which shuttle along main routes; to hail one, respond with a wave when the driver toots his horn.

Trolleys: There's a free trolley that will take you around Old San Juan and to the forts. You can pick it up across from the information booth, between cruise piers three and four.

Renting a Car: There is a Hertz Rent-a-Car in Old San Juan on Calle Brumbaugh, and other agencies in Condado (about 5 miles away) or closer to the airport -- but due to a severe lack of parking around Old San Juan, we don't recommend a car if you're staying in town. Only consider renting a car if you have time on either side of your cruise to explore further into Puerto Rico.

Rideshare: Uber is available in San Juan, but not Lyft. It might be easy to find a ride downtown, but be cautious of traveling far outside of the city -- it might be trickier to find a ride back.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Since Puerto Rico is an American territory, the currency there is the U.S. dollar. ATMs are widely available throughout Old San Juan and in tourist beach resort areas, and credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and attractions.

Language?

Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico. In tourist areas, English predominates.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2017 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations
  • 2016 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations

San Juan Cruise Reviews

CasaFenice
Sail Date: Jan 2020
Old San Juan is always old San Juan!... Read More
StevenLaChance1
Sail Date: Jan 2020
Old San Juan is one of the most beautiful and fun places on earth. We always love going to San Juan.... Read More
Norwegian Gem
LJRat
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Old San Juan by taxe... Read More
Norwegian Epic
explore rest repeat
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Really enjoyed a couple of days in San Juan, walking the streets and seeing the forts.... Read More
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