5 Caribbean Ports Not Worth Getting Off The Ship

5 bad caribbean ports not worth
Some Caribbean ports were clearly not designed with tourists in mind. - Photo by Ramunas Bruzas / Shutterstock.com

The Caribbean is full of fun, beautiful islands to explore, which is why we don't understand how certain ports are still a staple of so many itineraries. Here are the 5 lowest-rated ports according to over 40,000 reviews submitted by Cruiseline.com members since 2015. (And since we know that not everyone has a bad time in these ports, we threw in a couple positive reviews for the sake of fairness.)

1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

bad caribbean cruise ports punta cana
Photo by Lena Serditova / Shutterstock.com

Avg. Rating: 3.19 / 5

The Gist: Punta Cana is not a typical stop on cruise itineraries, which likely explains why the biggest gripe seems to be a lack of options. The few excursions there are generally don’t live up to the hype, and certainly don’t seem to justify the price. 

Common Complaints:  “This was a waste of time. There was nothing near where the ship was tendered .Taxi drivers wanted too much money . So we just turned around and returned to the ship and had a very enjoyable day poolside.” - MaxiD

“Beach day with “snacks” (old plate of french fries) was only a few hours rather than advertised “day” and it was over $100 per person, not worth it” - JJSunshine

“I understand that this is not a regular port. We only spent about 15 minutes on shore. Would not return.” - dalepelton

Worst Review: “The excursion was supposed to be a tour of Rum factory, Chocolate factory, Coffee factory and Cigar factory. They were all within one compound. There was no factory tours at all. HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT! MONEY WASTED!” - Margaret2017Ann

Redeeming Review: “Beautiful area. We chose to use our time at the beach and some shopping near the dock. It was a very wonderful and relaxing experience.” - Cruiser51462334


2. Freeport, Grand Bahama Island

bad caribbean cruise ports freeport
Photo by John Panella / Shutterstock.com

Avg. Rating: 3.28 / 5

The Gist: Freeport was heavily damaged by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, and again by Hurricane Irma in August 2017. Not surprisingly, many reviewers agreed that the island hasn’t fully recovered, noting that many signs of the devastation are still very visible. Even so, earlier reviews were not exactly glowing either, with complaints focusing on the industrial focus of the island, the distance to the main shopping areas, aggressive salesman, and general lack of things to do and places to explore.

Common Complaints:  “I really sometimes wonder why the cruise ships still stop in Freeport unless you have an Excursion there's really nothing for you to do you will spend more time standing in line to get off the ship then you will once you get out there. There are a few little shops, but the port is heavily industrialized it's really not designed for cruise passenger comfort or enjoyment in my opinion.” - DonnieB2017

“The main (very small) shopping area is 12 miles from the cruise port. Not much to do on the island except go to a beach or do a water sport excursion (expensive). I thought Freeport was a wasted stop...........Carnival could do better.” - 7timecruiser

“The island is dirty and looks like a war zone. I know the island was hit by a hurricane last October/November time frame. But come [on] people who live in Freeport. Have some pride in your houses and yards. Pick up the trash and clean up the storm damage. Beach resort was rundown and they ran out of chairs and umbrellas. Wound up sitting under a Palm tree. No the best beach to snorkel on. The only thing I saw underwater was tires and blocks.” - RichandChalley

Worst Review: “Freeport was not my favourite, I'll probably never go there ever again. as soon as you step off the boat you are bombarded with people trying to sell you stuff and they get mad [if] you say no, we had to rudely walk away from a few of the locals because it was borderline harassment how they were acting. then we took a taxi to port lucaya and it got worse! my husband was bombarded with locals trying to sell him DRUGS of all kinds, like these people were following him saying they had "party favors" for sale, he said no numerous times and they would ask me well why not?!? like seriously? because we don't want to buy drugs in a different country....we don't want to buy drugs in general! leave us alone! we bought a few shirts and necklaces for our kids back home and the next guy started yelling at us because we "bought crap and what he was selling was good quality" when it all looked like the same cheap "made in China" souvenirs, we ended up going to the beach and were offered drugs again numerous times (I think because we are a young couple)” - MarButler89

Redeeming Reviews: “People say there's nothing here, but I found the little colorful shop huts right at the port to be delightful, and we enjoyed looking around and buying things. It was a charming little area, with lots of shopping for souvenirs. No one was pestering us for taxis or excursions there too!” - cathyrose

“Freeport has a beautiful little diamond hidden on this tiny island! When you get off the ship, hop a taxi and take a cruise across the island to Port Lucaya! There is lots of shopping to be done and the beaches are beautiful! It isn't a well know destination so it's secluded and not too heavily populated by tourists.” - KarlsenKruisers


3. La Romana, Dominican Republic

bad caribbean ports cruise la romana
Photo by Shutterstock.com

Avg. Rating: 3.29 / 5

The Gist: La Romana is one of the larger cities in the Dominican Republic, with over 130,000 people living within the city limits. The cruise port is not located near the city center, so cruisers will often spend their day at a resort or doing an excursion. Complaints often focus around the usual lack of things to do, pushy vendors, and a general feeling of unsafety. 

Common Complaints: “No excursion because of the lack of choices. The port is extremely industrial with nothing to do within walking distance.” - Sherryandclyde

“Either book an excursion or stay aboard. We went into town and turned around and left within minutes. The people are aggressive and continually hound you for money. It was non stop. The bus drops you in a park full of vendors. It's like walking through a gauntlet of aggressive beggars. Worst port I ever visited.” - kenlmhc

“This should not even be a port to visit. We took carnival train and had to be escorted by police the entire ride right be our ship. Frightening to think just taking a walk off the ship by ourselves could have been like.” - clydeloreng

“Next time I will book an excursion. Decided to walk the port which was not much & paid to go downtown that was a NIGHTMARE. I paid $10.00 roundtrip & I was there 10 minutes if that & came back to ship. Carnival has this as an excursion for $40. I think you guys need to remove this excursion. It only aggravated me as the locals harass the tourist not fun at all.” - ValerieHerrera

Worst Reviews: “Police officer actually pulled me aside and told me to hide my jewelry.” - duckie1210

“We tried to do an excursion ( off ship)and were given a price, paid and loaded in the van. We could not all fit ( 21 people) and then insisted we sit on laps and then tried to double the price. Words were exchanged and we were threatened. We got out and hung out at the port having $5 mojitos and had fun there instead. Complete downpour of rain all day anyway.” - kathy1870

Redeeming Reviews: “The people are friendly and very proud of their country (compared to what they think of Haiti). Explore the city. See the big "department" store on the main street (left from the port) to pick up stuff you missed. Walk up the hill to the big Catholic church and there are lots of vendors.” - FLCardsFan

“Get off the boat and take a taxi to the beach. Absolutely beautiful crystal clear water. We paid the taxi driver extra to take us on a tour around the town. Had an amazing time!” - Cruisegirls


4. Fort-de-France, Martinique

fort de france bad caribbean ports
Photo by Claude Huot / Shutterstock.com

Avg. Rating: 3.31 / 5

The Gist: It’s hard to read through our member reviews of Fort-de-France without feeling like the natives don’t really want American cruisers in their city. While we didn’t see too many reviewers who were afraid for their safety, we did see plenty of complaints about unfriendly locals who don’t speak English and businesses that refused to take American currency.

Common Complaints: “If we ever go back I will stay on the ship, waste of money, time and everything else.” - jslane080694

“Very unfriendly locals. It was our 2nd time there and if we go again, we'll stay on the ship!” - rtr365

“We chose not to do an excursion and instead explore the downtown area of Martinique. It was a [waste] of time. The town was filthy and the shops were not very good.” - jayhook28

“This island should never be a port of call. If you don't have Euros, forget about seeing any of the museums.” - tsmcgee1

“If you don't speak French you may as well not get off the ship...hard to find places that took US dollars too..could do without going there again” - CoralS2

“Rude people, no good beach near port, taxis would not try to communicate. Took a ferry over to a beach that was two small coves with $25 pp to rent a chair & umbrella. Ate lunch and it was poor and expensive. Should have stayed on the ship!” - adow2

“Worst experience ever. Everyone was rude, nothing was in English, and the people tried to rip us off all the time. Nothing was a fair price. Would never go back” - hunterrhayden

“MISERABLE! This port was added to replace one that was damaged in the hurricane last Sept. A total waste of time. The French are snotty, nothing was in English, stores were closed, city smelled like raw sewage!!” - bblonde722

Worst Review: “..while there are some lovely resorts and upscale mountainside homes, the houses of the average folks are mostly ramshackle hovels made of concrete blocks and metal roofs that are in a terrible state of repair. Because of the humid climate, the walls of homes and public buildings are covered with mold. The old capital - St. Pierre - is a mess. The French government should be embarrassed and ashamed.” - historymann49

Redeeming Review: “We loved this island. The tour of the rum distillery, north beach, ruins, and rain forest was unmissable. Beautiful waterfalls.” - MNRN


5. Montego Bay, Jamaica

bad caribbean cruise ports montego bay
Photo by Shutterstock.com

Avg. Rating: 3.45 / 5

The Gist: Most Americans seem to have a romanticized notion of Jamaica that doesn't line up with reality. Being offered marijuana in the birthplace of reggae music might not sound like the craziest thing, but plenty of reviewers found themselves constantly propositioned for drugs during their time ashore. Notoriously reckless drivers and sketchy vendors also led to many cruisers vowing to never step foot in Montego Bay again.

Common Complaints: “One of our least favorite ports. The vendors are very aggressive and most of the people we encountered were not particularly friendly. LOTS of drug dealers, and the place was very dirty. We have avoided booking cruises with this stop on the itinerary.” - jonrob01

“I have nothing good to say about this port. We did the hop-on-hop-off bus tour and it was awful. Firstly they drive like maniacs and I literally feared for my life. Plus everywhere you went people were high pressuring you to buy things and I'm not talking about like in Cozumel where it's a friendly little barter thing I literally felt uncomfortable and almost scared not to buy anything. If I ever take this Cruise again I will not get off the ship in this port.” - fergie64

“Sadly did not enjoy this stop, not the cleanest place, was propositioned for weed about 20 times, no exaggeration, even from my tour bus driver when I was last on the bus lol, I'm 6'3 240 not little by any means and I didn't feel safe walking from the shops to the port... Next time I will either stay on the ship or plan better and pick a better place there to explore....” - tfeldt

“This is not an enjoyable port and should not be visited. I could not get off the ship without being attacked by people trying to sell me things or take me somewhere. Our excursion was disorganized and dirty. They charged us for every little thing, like the chairs we were sitting in. I was waiting for them to charge me for breathing. I absolutely would discontinue sending people here.” - awolffe

Worst Review: “I’ll never visit Jamaica again. Couldn’t walk five feet without someone either begging for money or asking me to buy weed. It was VERY dirty & had needles laying around as we exiting the ship. There was no entertainment. Our taxi forced us to pay for round trip & said they’d be back to get us, but did not return, so we paid for a round trip, plus paid for another taxi to bring us back to ship.” - YaYa28

Redeeming Review: “I heard a lot of negative things about Jamaica from anyone who had ever been before. "It's beautiful, BUT..." So I was very cautious and aware of our surroundings. We did the Martha Brae bamboo raft tour. It was absolutely beautiful. It took my breath away. We saw some pushy salespeople who waded out into the river to try to sell us trinkets, but it wasn't anything too intrusive. I never felt uncomfortable. Our raft captain Clive was very informative and showed us things in nature that I had never seen before. Afterwards they dropped us off for a very quick stop at a shopping area, and we bought a Red Stripe and a meat pie that was knock-your-socks-off good. Back at the port we did some shopping, which was very relaxed and felt safe. I hated to leave. I'd like to come back here and spend a week.” - andreaahlers


Join the discussion

Which ports do you avoid at all costs?


Posted by jpezz333

Agree with all of these. I could not believe the trash in the water in La Romana. Carnival would not allow my review on their site because it was so bad. The reef near Catalina island has trash all over the sea coral and sea floor as well as trash floating in the water column. The port had so much trash floating in the water that you could walk on it. Trash everywhere.

Posted by Twistalimes

Nassau, Bahamas - Royal Caribbean Very pretty and I’m not downing “Atlantis” however Atlantis is very expensive even for a day pass. Taxi rates will lessen the further you walk down the taxi line. I wanted to go to Cable Beach, the taxi driver refused and instead took us to the park adjacent to Atlantis. It was ok but storm ravaged. Vendors will walk the beach offering drinks and souvenirs. The worst part is the beggars in the port making it impossible to walk through. “Sing you a song for a $1, mister”. “Braid your hair for $1/row”. It’s pretty sad. The last cruise I was on (also with Royal Caribbean) we didn’t leave Oasis and had a fun family pool day.

Posted by mghersi

These are my recommendations for the ports in each one you can find great options if you have enough time for go and back with at least 1hr in advance you never know. 2) Nassau, Bahamas you can go to Atlantis or take a taxi for US$ 7 and go to the beach Cabbage Beach is a public beach on the Paradise Island crossing the bridge. 3) La Romana, Rep. Dominicana the best option is to take the excursion to Isla Saona is a bus trip to Playa Dominicus and the by boat. You have an stop in a natural pool for snorkeling. 4) Fort-the-France, Martinique rent a car and go to Grande Anse des Salines is 1hr trip but the beach is great! or Grande Ante du Diamant (30min) to be near the port. 5) Montego Bay, Jamaica you can go to the beach or in my second trip rent a car (left side) and drive 2hrs. to visit Ocho Ríos - Dunn's River Falls & Park worth the trip great experience and because you arrive late the falls are almost empty for you.

Posted by EStrong

I went on my first cruise at 51, girls cruise with 14 of who left our husbands home. We were celebrating my godmother's 70th Birthday and yes, I was the 3rd youngest one on there (two others in their 30's and 50's) We had an AMAZING time it was 4 days and 3 nights to Bermuda. We took a tour of the town and even shopped! Our tour guide was amazing and was so well versed of his country and told us everything about it including the Bermuda triangle. Plus, showed us the smallest drawbridge in the world. WE ALL LOVED IT! The beautiful Carnival Horizon was outstanding from soups to nuts and our cabin gentleman was a plus! I cannot wait for my next cruise from Boston to NY we took the bus and then NY to Bermuda cannot wait! It was Blessed and even safe in September 2018 right after the hurricane passed by. The waters were a bit choppy the regular's told me but still I will do it again and LOVED CARNIVAL HORIZON! Please do not just take my word for it, you must experience this wonder for yourself, The Lord's Blessings to all that read. Elder Strong

Posted by Canuck75

The comments on Martinique made me facepalm. I’m going to make a WILD assumption that the commentators were generally from a certain North American country. “Nothing was in ENGLISH! Why doesn’t the world cater to ME?!?! I know I’m in a French country, but—still—they should be speaking English for my comfort. Don’t they know that?!” Yeesh. If you’re only visiting a port to eat and shop, stay on the bloody ship! Travelling to different locations is supposed to be about the authentic experience of a different culture and environment. And you wonder why the natives might not want American cruisers in their town.

Posted by Ontheshipagain

I had the same thoughts as Canuck75. In Martinique, you are in a FRENCH country. Bring euros. Did you not check before you left home? Or do you expect the world to cater to YOU?! It never hurts to learn a few words in the local language, no matter where in the world you sail. We have found some delightful people worldwide that once we attempt to communicate in their language, they are quick to use English with us. And are always far better at it than are we. One of our least favourite Caribbean stops was Turks and Caicos where while the port area had been built up, the rest of the island is a barren rock. We took an island tour that ended up viewing a lighthouse and ramshackle “bar” with the protected donkeys nosing into our food/drinks looking for handouts. The tour “van” was in poor repair and the a/c either wasn’t working or at least wasn’t working well. However, we have cruised multiple times, and staying onboard ship in many ports is always an option. No one is forcing you to get off/spend money.

Posted by NYCBeach

You left off several that were huge disappointments. Aruba is a prime example. And if I never saw Grand Cayman again I would die happy.

Posted by ohringen

My granddaughter and I just got back from a cruise to Jamaica, Montego Bay, 6-9-2019 on the Carnival Freedom, and we had a terrific time. We were met at the terminal by our tour guide, transported in an air-conditioned van to our destination, which included downtown, the beach, and Rose Hill, where we were met with a Jamaican band, that asked me to song along with them. We toured Rose Hill, had lunch, visited a museum, and then back to the ship. We were not approached by any beggars or drug dealers while walking downtown. Mas a matter of fact, I purchased a nice curling iron for 19.95 in a store. We found Jamaican people very friendly and helpful. This was my second time in Jamaica. The first time my husband and I stayed for a week. This time I took a cruise with my granddaughter who also wanted to see Jamaica. As I said before, we had a great time, and made some great friends while there.

Posted by SmartTraveller

In my impression, most of the quoted reviewers are not particularly sophisticated travelers. Their impressions are very one-dimensional. A simple smile and no thanks as they pushed past crowds of aggressive vendors at the piers would have exposed them to elements of each of those ports beyond their imaginations. They all missed out on the very reasons why they went to those islands, mostly because they were ill-prepared for what they faced, had no clue how to deal with it, or were simply afraid of their own shadows. Of course much of the countryside is dotted with ramshackle housing. It's a fact that many of the ports, and for that matter, much of the world, has depressed economy. Empathy, rather than revulsion, would be the appropriate reaction to someone offering to sing for money. As for Martinique, that beautiful tropical island with so much to offer, a few simple learned phrases like "bonjour" and "merci" would be respectful, friendly and fun and go along way to open up the smiles of the local people. You're in a foreign country, and the arrogance to expect them to bend over backward for US dollars when their own currency is euros has no place. It's not hard and would be smart to be prepared. It's no wonder that American tourists are seen as boors. There are many excellent reasons why these places have been chosen as ports, and have been for many years. It's a sad shame that that can't be seen by the people writing the article and the reviewrrs.

Posted by TruwomanDiana

jAruba. Cruise ship docked and I loved it so much I went back for a week. Wonderful place with great weather. I could live there. (Remember folks, other places don't have it nearly as good as we do. Grand Cayman...never sailed there, but I did spend a week in Grand Cayman. Wonderful beach and snorkeling (I suppose diving too) Please show the residents that we really are good people. We are their guests; they are not our servants. I have been told to pretend to be Canadian as we have given folks such a poor image of Americans (I am ashamed). Speaking of poor image, most people in other countries are totally aware of what is going on in our government. Can you say the same? They try to sell you things because that is their living! Would it hurt you to buy a little something?

Posted by stormytexas

I've been to Fort-de-France twice....the first and the last time. I found the people rude, disinterested in service, the city was dirty, the shops were not at all inviting and the food in town was not even close to acceptable. If I saw this on the ship's itinerary, I would probably go on the cruise if it were going other places I wanted to go, but I would not get off the ship at Fort-de-France. The same holds true with Falmouth, Jamaica. What a disappointment.

Posted by rmiller958

For Martinique, I find it pretty ridiculous to complain that you travel to another country and they don't speak English or take US dollars. Imagine if someone from Martinique visited the US and complained that nobody spoke French or accepted Euros

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