According to CLIA's 2016 Asia Cruise Trends Report, the Port of Jeju was the most visited Asia cruise port that year, with more than 450 calls and 1.2 million passengers visiting its shores. Port officials have set a goal to double the number of calls to receive 2 million cruise tourists by 2020. However, since March 15, 2017, cruise ships departing from a Chinese port have been prohibited from calling on Korean ports. Since 90 percent of cruise visitors to Korea are from China, Jeju and other Korean cruise ports have taken a significant hit with far fewer cruise ships calling on the port since.
Jeju is South Korea's largest island, located off the Korean Peninsula in Northeast Asia where the Yellow Sea meets the South China Sea. From its unique history and traditional female divers to its natural scenic beauty and modern K-pop culture, Jeju has plenty to offer cruise visitors of all ages.
Hallasan, the nation's tallest mountain and the volcanic island's centerpiece, stands at 1,950 meters or approximately 6,400 feet. Although the island was created by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, it has not erupted in centuries.
Jeju Island is South Korea's only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and features a unique set of lava tubes and spacious caves -- one of which, Manjanggul Lava Tube, is open for tourists to explore.
Jeju also features unique museums and theme parks and was once was a popular honeymoon destination for mainland Korean couples -- many of whom were the result of arranged marriages and often lacking in romantic experience. Love Land, an erotic sculpture theme park, pays homage to this history with its interactive, instructional and even humorous displays. Other popular attractions include the Teddy Bear Museum and Mazeland.
Jeju Island offers some breathtaking scenic areas. Although they are located on the other side of the island in Seogwipo city, they are well worth the visit. You will have to spend a good bit of time traveling to the other side of the island, and you will most likely have time to see only one or two attractions within your time in port.
Finding a taxi can sometimes prove challenging and you may encounter long queues at the cruise terminal. Taxi drivers have been known to overcharge -- or take the long route to bump up your fare. To minimize the risk of being overcharged, be clear in stating your destination and not allowing for detours. This will help ensure a direct route to your destination with no extra charge. It's also worth taking a photo of the driver's license posted on the dashboard -- when the driver sees you doing this, it lets him know you are paying attention and keeping careful records.
Use a bilingual map to facilitate clear communication and engage with taxi drivers during the trip regarding the route they are taking. This can ensure that they don't take a longer route than is necessary.
The local currency is the South Korean won. Check www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for up to date current currency conversion rates. Theoretically, it is possible to make purchases using a credit card at tourist-oriented shops and restaurants. However, many local shops will often only accept local currency.
The local language is Korean. While many Koreans are excellent English speakers, don't be surprised if your taxi driver or locals you meet in Jeju are not. Being able to greet someone or express gratitude in the local language is always appreciated. "Hello" is annyeonghaseyo and "thank you" is "gamsahamnida."
Other than the Dongmun Traditional Market, Jeju's main modern shopping district is centered on Jungang-no, the main street running north to south through the old part of Jeju. There's also Jiha Sangga underground shopping area, which sells clothing, cosmetics, food and souvenirs.
Jeju citrus, which can be bought fresh, dried, used to fill chocolates or to make honey or tea, is probably the most popular souvenir from the island -- though don't forget to check with your cruise line if you can bring local food back onboard. Alternatively, replicas of the iconic Dolhareubang Jeju guardian statues made of local stone are also popular souvenirs when made into items such as magnets or keychains. Standard South Korean souvenirs such as Korean dolls and ginseng, as well as skin care products such as facial masks, are also unique buys.