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Cruises to San Juan

3 Awards
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).

  • More about San Juan

  • Why go to San Juan?

  • San Juan Cruise Port Facilities?

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Seven Seas Splendor
Seven Seas Splendor (Photo: Regent Seven Seas)

21 Night
Caribbean - Eastern CruiseDetails

19 Reviews
Leaving:San Juan
Cruise Line:Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Mar 24, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Silver Dawn
Silversea's Silver Dawn on its sea trials (Photo: Silversea Cruises)

9 Night
Caribbean CruiseDetails

14 Reviews
Leaving:Barbados
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
Feb 18, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Getaway
Norwegian Getaway

7 Night
Eastern Caribbean - Port CanaveralDetails

3,081 Reviews
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Silver Dawn
Silversea's Silver Dawn on its sea trials (Photo: Silversea Cruises)

13 Night
Transoceanic CruiseDetails

14 Reviews
Leaving:Lisbon
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
Dec 3, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Southern Caribbean - New YorkDetails

4,223 Reviews
Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Dec 16, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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8 Night
Fort Lauderdale To San JuanDetails

1,686 Reviews
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Feb 3, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

2,515 Reviews
Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Jan 25, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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10 Night
Eastern Caribbean - MiamiDetails

2,069 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Jan 24, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

2,300 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Jan 14, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

10 Night
West Indies ExplorerDetails

1,429 Reviews
Leaving:San Juan
Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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15 Night
Transoceanic CruiseDetails

Leaving:Lisbon
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
Dec 4, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Southern Caribbean - New YorkDetails

3,081 Reviews
Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Jan 20, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Southern Caribbean - New YorkDetails

3,081 Reviews
Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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9 Night
Eastern Caribbean - MiamiDetails

2,069 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
May 17, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

12 Night
Repo - Panama CanalDetails

2,300 Reviews
Leaving:Colon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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More about San Juan

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.


San Juan Cruise Reviews
We like the San Juan port for its proximity to Old San Juan. Definitely walking distance. Plenty of great, authentic Puerto Rican cuisine to be found.Read More
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Newbie777
Just walked around old San Juan. Beautiful!Read More
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FoodieLuxury
way too far to walk to get to Old San Juan the map only shows shopping no information on transportation, restaurants, etc. very, very hillyRead More
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Slider2022
We've been to San Juan multiple times so we just walked around the city and took pictures. We were supposed to dock at 5 pm but we weren't able to get off the shop until 6:45 and it was complete chaos!! Read More
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loco1969

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