Advice

6 Cruise Ship Ports That Suck

cruise ship ports suck avoid skip
The Canadian port of Prince Rupert, on Alaskan Inside Passage itineraries, is notoriously quiet. - Photo by BPacific / ThinkStock

It’s a great big world, so it’s no surprise that while there are numerous cruise ship ports that are beloved by travelers — and plenty that have both lovers and haters — others are generally regarded as awful. Based on the analysis of responses from members of Cruiseline.com, here are six ports around the world they are least likely to recommend:

1. Prince Rupert, Canada

Alaska Itineraries

prince rupert cruise ports that suck

Prince Rupert has not yet adapted to the influx of tourism. - Photo by Sirius79 / Shutterstock

Perhaps because it’s mist-shrouded natural approaches — alive with whales, eagles, and grizzly bears — are so awe-inspiring, the Canadian port of Prince Rupert, serving an economically struggling city that shows a bit too much of its commercial fishing and mill town roots, leaves many cruise passengers looking more forward to departure than arrival. It does have its attractions — the shore excursion to Canada’s only grizzly bear sanctuary is enormously popular — but if you’re looking for a port to skip in favor of the spa on your Alaskan cruise, this may be the one.

"This is the worst port I have ever been to. We had great weather (unusual for this town) but nothing to do. We visited the Safeway and the Seven-Eleven" - PauletteB2

 

2. Bari, Italy

Eastern Mediterranean

bari italy bad cruise ship ports

Bari is pleasant, but rather boring compared to other Italian ports. - Photo by peuceta / Shutterstock

The nice often do finish last, as illustrated by this southern port on Italy’s east coast, which members claim to love less than any other in Europe. Perfectly pleasant, it suffers in large part because Italy has so much more to offer, especially since many cruise ship passengers arrive after having just visited Venice. A 15-minute walk from the ship, the town center (with apologies to the Basilica di San Nicola) has relatively little architectural or historical appeal. You would do best to stroll around on your own for an hour or two and save your euros for Santorini or Dubrovnik.

"We did not do a tour and just walked around the city. It has an interesting castle, but is otherwise a boring stop. I would not choose a cruise again that wastes a day stopping here.” – JonG3

 

3. Fort-de-France, Martinique

Southern Caribbean

fort de france martinique bad ports

Don't expect a warm welcome at this shady port. - Photo by Angela N Perryman / Shutterstock

English is little spoken, which you would expect on a very French island like Martinique, but not on shore excursions presumably designed with a fair number of Americans in mind. Fort-de-France’s main dock area doubles as a cargo terminal and, through its grime, shows it. The town is a good hike away, past sketchy areas where drug use seems evident. And, on Sundays, almost everything is closed.

"We had high expectations of this historic island. After all, it was the site of the Mt. Pelee volcanic explosion in 1902, which killed more than 20,000 people. It also was the birthplace of Napoleon’s mistress and wife, Josephine. We found the capital seedy and vaguely threatening, reminiscent of an old Graham Greene novel. We were cheated out of the few purchases we made, and our friends encountered the same treatment.” – Dr.L

 

Caribbean deals from $

 

4. La Romana, Dominican Republic

Southern Caribbean

la romana bad cruise ship ports

Reaching the city center is no easy feat. - Photo by SF Photo / Shutterstock

For cruise ship passengers who venture ashore here, at a sparse facility a long ride down the coast from La Romana, the poverty and overly aggressive vendor hustling are apparent. Yet what cruise passengers complain about most is the difficulty of getting from their ship to the resort area of Casa de Campo, with its shopping, restaurants, and even golf. And to make matters worse, you have to sign up for a shore excursion, or Casa de Campo won’t even let you in the gate.

"Scary — felt very nervous and hounded." - Jodym

 

5. Cayo Levantado (Samana), Dominican Republic

Southern Caribbean

somana cruise ship ports that suck

Cayo Levantado is beautiful, Samana is less so. - Photo by Don Mammoser / Shutterstock

Some sleight of hand is going on here, because while the Dominican Republic’s tiny private island of Cayo Levantado might be listed as your port, most ships anchor in Samana Bay, off the city of Samana. Even more than La Romana, Samana is commonly criticized for being dirty and crime-ridden, with levels of poverty that shock cruise visitors. Although to be fair (Are you listening, tourism officials?), that’s probably because they haven’t seen some of the rest of the Dominican Republic.

"The poverty here is striking and although some do cruise to see more of the world as it really is, the Discover Samana tour was a sad experience. We wished that for the enjoyment we had gone to spend the day at the all-inclusive resort, which was one of the tours offered. Hard to ‘vacation’ amid such sadness.” – ElinorK

 

6. Ensenada, Mexico

Mexican Riviera

ensenada mexico worst cruise ship port

It doesn't look any more inviting after you disembark. - Photo by Creative Jen Designs / Shutterstock

The comedian on your ship might make a joke along the lines of "Ensenada is Spanish for stay on the ship." The thing is, it's not really a joke, it's sage advice. There's very little to see or do in this town that exists as a cruise port primarily because of an outdated legal requirement that cruises from the US stop at a foreign destination.You'll likely be wowed by the huge Mexican flag as you sail in, so take a good look - it's the best thing the port has to offer. If you must go ashore, head to El Bufadora blowhole as it's the only excursion worth doing. Then, get back to the ship and enjoy a little extra time at the pool.

"This town was not like the Caribbean ports I was used to. A short walk off of the ship brings you a main street filled with sidewalks of aggressive shopkeepers, rentals, handbills, and beggars. Strolling this gauntlet can be pretty exhausting. Initially, the wife wanted to escape in a taxi to somewhere, but reconsidered after getting generally creeped-out by the number of military personnel armed with rifles that they seemed to have a lot of out in this town too." – CMHcruiser

 

 

Join the discussion

What is your least favorite port?

Posted by unlvqasl

I disagree w regard to Prince Rupert. However, you do have to accept that Prince Rupert is a real functioning town and not just a cruise ship destination. They do not get enough cruise ships per year to have become economically dependent on the cruise ship business.



The town has a wonderful museum. It has a number of interesting out-of-town sights that require transportation. It even has a really nice library. It also can have a lot of rain.



The reason I mention the library is that we spent 3 days in Prince Rupert off the Alaska Marine Highway and it rained wither all or part of all 3 days. On day three, we went to the library and spent the day reading.



Take Prince Rupert for what it is and you will enjoy it.

Posted by Pinnie

My husband and I went to Bari - one of the most interesting Ports we visited. Lunch where the locals eat, cheap and amazing. We thought everyone was very friendly. Followed by criminal activity - Police, arrests…the lot! (locals not us!) Can't get that on an organised tour.

Posted by Gtidan

We visited both Prince Rubert and La Romana and agree totally with the comments. Picked up a couple of bottles of Havana Club rum at the Safeway and did enjoy a few cold cans of Presidente beer. Otherwise a waste of time.

Let me add one more port to the list: Cornerbrook, Labrador. Absolutely nothing there but commercial businesses. Took a free tour that had six stops I think. The first: Walmart, the second: MacDonald's. the third: Hudson Bay store, well I think you got the idea.

Posted by TaraBonVoyage

Sorry to hear you empathized so much with the experience in Prince Rubert and La Romana, Gtidan, but glad you made the most of it. Thanks for contributing to the list and sharing your experience at Corner Brook, Labrador. You should consider leaving your own port reviews on http://cruiseline.com/. We’d love to hear more from you!

Posted by AussieBlue

Really shocked to see Prince Rupert on this list. We spent one of the best days of our entire cruise at this port in 2012. Didn't do a shore tour just wandered around, found great places to eat and share a drink with the locals. Was overwhelmed by the welcome we received from the locals, even the Mayor was there to welcome the passengers ashore. The port was decorated with hundreds of balloons, there were markets set up at the wharf, people in period costume and lots of giveaways for visitors. The local museum was one of the best I have visited and the hot chocolate was awesome! Was sad to leave this port and would love to go back again one day.

Posted by TaraBonVoyage

Hi AussieBlue! It’s great to hear you had such a different and memorable experience in Prince Rupert. This is just the kind of review we would love to have on http://cruiseline.com. We hope you’ll share it there for more cruisers to see.

Posted by PnB

Formal night? Never, why go to that nonsense? Carry a bunch of fancy clothes? We cruise a lot, we do not Formal night, good time to go to the spa and eat as we choose. Try to consider those hard working ship personnel who got up at 5, worked all day, then hauled your 100 pounds of stuff around, then waited on you at dinner, then cleaned the pools etc. Yes, some of them go to bed at 10 pm every night,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, exhausted. They do that for 8 or 9 months, seven days a week, try this on folks, be kind.

Luggage? We never check luggage. We each have a 21 inch roller bag, yes, that is it. It goes in there or it does not go. The airline or the ship cannot lose our luggage, we are the first ones off the ship.

Posted by PnB

Prince Rupert is an older fishing and logging port and a terminal for the BC Ferries. It is so sad how some folks want to make a port that is not there to cater to the high end crowd, it is a working port, it has a lot of purpose in what it was created for, not the cruise ship. If you want the high life, get a Carnival cruise to New York or Boston, breathe in the fumes, burn your eyes with the pollution, then maybe go to Prince Rupert to clear up your nasal passages. Want an interesting trip involving Prince Rupert? Take the BC Ferry system either to or from Kelsey Bay to PR. Don't take your tuxedo, do take some casual clothes, and only one 15 to 18 inch inch bag, that will be more than enough. Have fun and a good time and meet some non stuffy folks.

Posted by CrusinTim

Belize, MX...Unless your a diver. Other than diving, Belize SUCKS!!

Posted by scout1996

My vote for worst port would be Nassau Bahamas. You are warned ahead of time to be careful of where you go & what to bring because crime rate of tourists is up. The minute we got passed the cruise security checkpoint & were on Nassau grounds we were hounded & harassed by the locals who so aggressively try to sell their wares to you or offer you a taxi. You can't stop & think about where your going because people are shouting & getting very close to you. Not fun! It made me not want to get a cab or buy anything because it wasn't fun (you could never browse & enjoy the shopping experience), I didn't trust them not to swindle us & they're aggressiveness made me feel unsafe. Very dirty area too. It's clear that they're very poor which is sad but as a cruise stop & especially since it was our last stop we wished we had stayed on the ship by the pool. I wouldn't go back there.

Posted by SouthernGent63

Just went on a 5-day RC cruise to Belize and Cozumel. I had high hopes for Belize (don't remember why) and was sorely disappointed. Belize City is just sad. There's no other word for it. It is only a place to gather to go somewhere else. On a side note, we went to the caves in the interior of Belize. While a nice excursion, it's the getting there and back that's the problem. A long, hot, dusty ride on progressively worse and worse roads. Litter is strewn on nearly every square inch of road shoulder the entire way. But the caves were cool. Literally, cool. Was a very hot day.



I just can't recommend Belize for shopping/touring, etc.

Posted by eh24fan

We loved Samana! My son and parents went on a cruise in April 2013 with NCL and one of the stops was Samana. It was their favorite port and the reason my then 13yr old son INSISTED we all take the same trip the next year. So we did. In April of this year we were on the NCL Gem and Samana was our last and most anticipated port. It did NOT disappoint. We were a group of 9, ranging in age from 85 to 7. We all did tours with Tour Samana with Terry. My husband, 7yr old son and step dad with an ATV tour, while the rest of us did the "low impact" tour. Samana is much like any other Caribbean city/town. There is poverty, it isn't super clean, it is busy. But our tours were amazing. We were able to see the beautiful countryside, meet some incredibly kind, friendly residents who were eager to show us their home...literally! We went to the home of a lady who supports her family by baking coconut bread and selling it every day. Her kitchen is basically a shed with dirt floors and her bread tastes amazing. She invited us inside her home, we met her two young daughters. In fact, my mom's friend that was with us had her camera that still had a picture of the little girls from the previous year. She showed the lady and her little girls...the lady started crying, saying she couldn't believe that Maggie remembered her from last year. SHE couldn't believe that a TOURIST remembered her. And she had never seen a picture of her daughters, so she was so happy to see how little they were a year ago. It was quite the experience to say the least. It was the best day of our trip. It isn't commercialized and ruined with Senor Frogs and a Diamond's International on every corner. You won't be buying yet another Del Sol t-shirt to take home. We were so sad when we learned that NCL was no longer stopping at Samana and it seems the issue is that the city wouldn't build a huge dock and cruise center there. I applaud them for that.

Posted by unlvqasl

I disagree with regard to Prince Rupert although you do have to accept it for what it is - a real functioning town instead of just a cruise destination. The town has a fantastic museum, some interesting sites that are out of town and need transportation and a very good library.



The reason that we know about the library is that we spent 3 days in Prince Rupert on a driving trip off the Alaska Marine Highway and it rained for most of all 3 days. On day 3, we went to the library and read books and magazines. After all, into everyone's life a bit of rain must fall.



Go into Prince Rupert with the correct attitude and you will enjoy the place.



DON

Posted by mapsmith1

Prince Rupert is a great little town. We did not visit as cruise passengers, but made an independent land trip to PR. (I have been twice, wife once.) Great museum. Great historic Canning Factory available for tours. You can see how the town was and to an extent is still connected to the Salmon Fishing. and of course the shoe tree.

La Romana, is not really a cruise port. It just happens to be the closest to Casa de Campo. However, when there is a cruise ship in port, the people do set up a straw market in the square. There are many quality pieces of artwork done by the locals (not imported from Indonesia like many Cruise ports) And a Baseball "Walk of Fame" with busts of famous Dominican Professional Baseball players. (Most recent is Tommy Lasorda?!) We did find that the artwork was somewhat pricy and the vendors don't really bargain. Would you if you produced the artwork.

Semana is like La Romana. But it is also the port for Puerto Plata. PP has a great Amber Museum and a great old fort. And there is a very large American Ex-Pat population in Puerto Plata. Enjoyed our honeymoon in Puerto Plata.

Fort de France has a new Cruise Port right downtown and you no longer have to schlep in from the Commercial Port. The people speak French and close on Sunday. Well, I speak English and close my store on Sunday too. We love Martinique because it is probably the most "foreign" of the Caribbean Islands. Why visit a Foreign Land if you want to speak English, eat at McDonalds, and buy stuff from a flea market. I would rather stumble through High School French and deal with Vendors that appreciate my business.

Posted by travelshopgirll

I have to completely disagree about the port of Bari. While there may not be huge tours available out of this port, that doesn't mean that the city itself doesn't have a lot to offer. There's the Norman-Swabian castle, Basilica di San Nicola, Eataly, but most importantly --- Bari's importance in World War II. Don't know about it? Read up on it online or check out my post about the port of Bari here: https://travelshopgirl.com/bari-italy-to-eataly-or-not-to-eataly-that-is-the-question/



On a port intensive cruise, this port was a great way to begin and I would definitely recommend it to others.

Posted by askeegan

I think you seriously need to add Nassau to that list. It sucks, people are terrible there and there is not a whole lot to do other than Atlantis and that is so over priced it is just better to stay on the ship.

Posted by CjWalsh

The worst island, by far, is Nassau! Not only is there nothing to do (unless you shell out $200/pp for Atlantis) but it's dirty, dangerous, and unfriendly. I went for the first time Jan 2016 on the Escape (NCL) and it was so crime riddled that there were police everywhere with machine guns; there were also military ships docked next to us. We were heavily warned not to get off the ship but my husband figured he knew the drill since he was year not too long ago. The locals were like cockroaches, trying desperately to force feed merchandise and tour packages, one even tried to force me on to a horse drawn carriage and we barely made it to the rum cake shop in one piece. Our plan was to get off, grab rum cake, get back on the ship and spend our time at the pool. The shop was only a few blocks away and it took us 2 hrs to wade through the nonsense and get back to our ship. I will NEVER get off at Nassau again!! Ill buy the dam cakes on board from now on. Even my 6'1'' 250lb+ hubby had a hard time forcing his way through the crowd. TERRIBLE!!! If I go back to the Bahama's I'll stick to a private island, maybe CocoCay or something without locals.



My husband and I are thrilled to be going to Belize, no idea why some people said it was terrible. It's known for its water so, frankly, if you dont go in the water then dont bother going. We're going to NCL's Harvest Cay for snorkeling.

Posted by Costwo

I was terrified at Belize . We wanted to take a horse drawn carriage ride through the town see the cathedral etc. We left the confines of the marina walked into that alleyway where al the Hawkers are . Got into a carriage with a seedy looking man made our way to the end of the alley way when he jumps out of the carriage and another man jumps in. He ended up being extremely knowledgeable and helpful , he showed up how poor Belize is and how you have to be really careful .Over 1 million residents he said and half under 21 and uneducated and unemployed so they sell and do drugs.If you went on an excursion to go diving oe snorkeling I would say go , if not do not get off the ship. Oh we couldn't get to see the cathedral as there was a protest going on and the government wanted no tourists around so we were rerouted.....Nassau is only good if you go to Blue Lagoon Island excursion or atlantis, costly but nice...........didn't care for Honduras either nothing worth seeing there

Posted by racer71

Worst, Labadi, Haiti, Second, Nassau, Third, Cozumel

Posted by macnicol

Evidently none of you have ever been to the port of La Paz, Mexico!



You have to take a 30 min bus ride into town thru some of the most desolate countryside you've ever seen with some occasional views or the bay. The town is OK IF you don't want to do much except to walk along the shops, bars and restaurants on the "Malecon".



The port where the ships are tied up is atrocious. It is an industrial port with cargo ships off loading building supplies. It is also the site of a cement loading company and that is all you can see along one side of the ship.

I dare anyone to find a port that is as ugly and with nothing to do within 25 miles.

Posted by Stealthagent

I must be one of the few who have stopped in St. Vincent in the Grenadines. It is worse than Samana and Martinique. Only slightly better than La Romana.

Posted by Tinkerslm

Ochos Rios sucked for us.

Posted by goldredger

We sail to Ensenada a lot, rarely getting off the ship. Living in California the ride can be relaxing and economical and also given some of the specials I see it can be a great gift. This year we're taking my grandson and his buddy for a Christmas present for 5 days, $167,/p/p, so they can chase the girls, they're 19 now. If you get off at this port just be aware of your surroundings, one cruise to this port we were followed by a group of men down the street and back till we boarded the bus for the ship. Read into that statement what you want.

Posted by LisaBea

We did not even get off the ship in Bari a few years ago because I could not find out anything about it. I am a traveler who always does my homework, and although I searched feverishly, I was unable to find out anything out other than it was a cargo port. So while it may be lovely (or not), their tourist board needs to provide some information.

Posted by Blaarg

Your criticisms of Prince Rupert are not very fair. Perhaps you don't understand that there are real coastal cities, and tacky tourist trap towns. Prince Rupert is a real working city. Ketchikan, Sitka and Skagway are tacky tourist traps. Perhaps Prince Rupert would be a bit more to the liking of the average cruise ship passenger if it was full of Diamonds International stores and crap souvenir stores?


Notify me when others comment