Port of Spain (Trinidad) (Photo:lidian Neeleman/Shutterstock)
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Port of Spain (Trinidad)

Trinidad is not your typical Caribbean port. Cruise ships dock right next to Port of Spain's downtown, which has an urban feel, with skyscrapers, a financial center, arcade malls and debilitating rush-hour traffic. The city is a regional, financial and business center and has one of the fastest-growing economies in the Caribbean. Oil and natural gas production, not tourism, is the island's biggest industry. The nearest swimming beach is an hour away.

About Port of Spain (Trinidad)


Pro

A birder's paradise, Trinidad also offers a lovely beach, hiking and cultural attractions

Con

The beach is an hour from port (or on sister island Tobago), and rush hour is crazy

Bottom Line

Enough to do for a day, especially for nature enthusiasts, on the rare cruise line port call


Find a Cruise to Port of Spain (Trinidad)



Port of Spain, with 50,000 residents, is the largest city in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, made up of the two sister islands. Trinidad was "discovered" by Columbus in 1498 and controlled by the Spanish (hence, the name) until the British navy showed up in 1797 and took control. Although the island nation gained independence in 1962, remnants of British rule include the use of English as the national language and left-hand driving.

Other than that, Trinidad's culture is mostly influenced by the Indians, Africans and Chinese brought over in the 19th century to be indentured workers in the sugar industry. The island is now 40 percent people of Indian descent, 38 percent of African descent and the rest a mix of Europeans (with a small percentage of Chinese). The multicultural society is quite harmonious, and visitors can benefit from the wide variety of ethnic cuisines -- including Indian, Creole and Chinese -- found in Port of Spain's restaurants.

Port of Spain's biggest draw is the Queen's Park Savannah, once a sugar plantation and now a public green space. Surrounding the park are early 20th-century mansions, a botanical garden and a zoo. But, you'd be remiss if you didn't venture farther afield to visit the island's more natural areas. Trinidad is a birding haven, with more than 400 species of birds that can be seen at the Asa Wright Nature Centre and Caroni Swamp. Hikes through the mountains and rainforests lead to natural pools and waterfalls, as well as wildlife sightings. And, although Tobago (out of reach for short port calls) is better known for its beaches and water sports, Trinidad's Maracas Bay could be the ideal Caribbean beach, with its white sands, turquoise waters and notable lack of large hotel and resort complexes cluttering up the shoreline.

Only longer cruises to the Southern Caribbean and South America will call in Trinidad; its southerly location off the coast of Venezuela prevents it from being a mainstay of seven-night Southern Caribbean cruises. Lines that visit Port of Spain include Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Fred. Olsen and Compagnie du Ponant.

Where You're Docked

The King's Wharf cruise terminal at Port of Spain is located in the city center on Wrightson Road, within easy walking distance of restaurants, shops and banks.

Good to Know

On Sundays and public holidays, downtown Port of Spain is deserted, and it's not recommended for tourists to walk around by themselves, as they run the risk of getting mugged. Also, watch out for unauthorized taxis. The rates are cheaper, but they are not regulated by the government.

Rush hour is fierce in Trinidad between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. and 2:30 and 6 p.m. With 50,000 people living in Port of Spain and 300,000 commuting into the city for work, the streets are jammed with cars, and the going is slow. If you're on an independent excursion, leave plenty of time to get back to the port. Driving is British-style, on the left.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Local currency is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar; check www.xe.com for current conversion rates. The Trinidad and Tobago dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of TT$6.30 to $1. U.S. dollars are accepted in many places, so be sure to ask which type of dollar is being quoted if you're unsure. You can find many banks and ATM's along Independence Ave., a short walk from the port. Credit cards are accepted in most restaurants and shops and even at some Bake & Shark stands on the beach.

Language

English is the official language, but most people speak a Trinidadian Creole English dialect.

Shopping

For a Trinidadian souvenir, consider purchasing steel pan drums (small ones that will fit in your luggage), Angostura rum or bitters, fabrics, local condiments like tamarind chutney, leather goods or handmade soaps and lotions. In Port of Spain, you'll find shopping opportunities in the port terminal and in the arcade malls along Charlotte, Henry and Frederick Streets.

Best Cocktail

Any drink made with locally produced Angostura bitters or rum is worth a taste.