Cruises to San Juan

4,186 Reviews
San Juan (Photo:Gary Ives/Shutterstock)

About Cruising to 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 Cruise to San Juan?

  • San Juan Cruise Port Facilities?

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Oceania's new Vista docked alongside in Valletta, Malta on May 8, 2023 (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

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Eastern Caribbean Cruise

1,675 Reviews
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More about San Juan

Why Cruise 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
Unfortunately the Niew Amsterdam could not dock at the main port as there were already 3 other cruise liners, therefore our ship was docked 5 miles away from San Juan center. Although the situation was somewhat chaoRead More
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Al_23
We took a bus tour of the city that include a visit to Castillo San Cristóbal which was very beautiful. The tour provide information on Old San Juan and New San Juan. It was a good time and very informative. Read More
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Hoosier Travelers
Did the walking tour of old San Juan with Alexandra it was great. I loved old San Juan Read More
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Joe&Barry
Saw both the forts in San Juan. Read More
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Bethb bethb

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