Odessa (Photo:Pe3k/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Odessa

Editor's Note: Due to ongoing issues in the Crimean peninsula, stops in Odessa have been halted by most cruise lines.

Odessa is a beguiling and beautiful city that possesses a distinctive character. In contrast to other cities in the former Soviet Union, the "Pearl of the Black Sea" features a warm Mediterranean climate and cafe society feel, enhanced by the annual average of 300 days of sunshine.

The third-largest city in Ukraine, it was founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great, who decreed that a sea port should fortify the southern edge of the Russian Empire and resemble a St. Petersburg of the south. The result is a city of pastel-colored buildings steeped in French and Italian style and punctuated with grand boulevards, statues and fountains.

Odessa was once one of Russia's largest and wealthiest cities. Now, many of the buildings are shrouded in faded elegance. A huge amount of restoration work has been completed or is under way to restore crumbling facades to their original grandeur, most notably illustrated in the jaw-droppingly beautiful Odessa Opera and Ballet House.

Life in Odessa is encapsulated on Primorsky Boulevard. Elderly babushkas dressed in black with knotted headscarves sit on benches; local girls in vertiginous heels gracefully walk past tourists trudging along in trainers; skateboarders show off their skills; and talented musicians and singers display Odessa's musical heritage with the help of the stringed bandura, Ukraine's national instrument. The shady tree-lined boulevard, less than one-third of a mile long, has a friendly and inclusive vibe; whatever time of day you visit, there will be something going on.

About Odessa


Pro

Unlike much of the region, Odessa has a warm climate and a friendly, charming atmosphere

Con

Exotic animals like eagles, snakes and crocodiles are used as streetside attractions, which can be off-putting

Bottom Line

This city boasts a rich culture and interesting history, and has a personality all its own


Find a Cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean

Where You're Docked

Opened in 2005, Odessa Commercial Sea Port is the largest and most modern port facility in the Ukraine and one of the biggest ports in the entire Black Sea region. It can accommodate five cruise ships and caters to about 4 million passengers per year.

Good to Know

Hawkers will offer eagles, snakes and small crocodiles (with their mouths taped shut) for photographs in return for unspecified amounts of money. The eagles are particularly prevalent on the Potemkin Steps, and animal-lovers might not like the sight of these magnificent birds of prey tied to railings or flapping upside down while being taken up and down the steps by their handlers.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the Ukrainian Hryvnia. For current currency-conversion figures, check oanda.com or xe.com. Some souvenir stalls accept U.S. dollars and euros, but it's best to take out small amounts of the local currency. There is an ATM and currency exchange in the port's passenger terminal, and all major credit cards are accepted in restaurants and shops.

Language

Ukrainian is the official state language. English is widely spoken in shops, restaurants and tourist attractions around the port.

Shopping

Matryoshka, or nesting dolls, are a fun souvenir. Unlike their Russian equivalents, which are miniatures of the same doll in diminishing size, the Ukraine dolls often represent a family, starting with the father, mother and children and sometimes including a tiny pet or chicken in the middle. The open-air market beside the large park on Preobrazhenskaya Street is a fun place to browse for everything from kitschy Odessa sailors' hats to hand-made embroidery and ex-Soviet era memorabilia.