San juan cruise port royal caribbean: Embarkation on your Royal Caribbean cruise in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Embarkation on your Royal Caribbean cruise in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Royal Caribbean offers cruises that begin in San Juan, Puerto Rico that offer some great Southern Caribbean itineraries to try.  If you’re considering going on one of these cruises, here’s what you need to know about embarkation day in San Juan.

It’s not where you think it is

If you’ve ever taken a cruise that stops in San Juan for the day, you’ve likely been to the San Juan Cruise Port, but that’s just for cruise ships that are in the city for the day.

Royal Caribbean cruises that originate in San Juan will dock at the Pan American Pier, which is across the channel from the San Juan Cruise Port.  It’s adjacent to the Isla Grande Airport and is about a 5 minute taxi drive from Old San Juan.

As you’re driving in, you should be able to see the ship docked since there isn’t much around there.  As of the writing of this blog post, Jewel of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas are offering cruises out of San Juan.

Getting checked in

Once you arrive at the pier, the check-in process is similar to other ports but we’ve also noticed a few differences too.

There will be porters at the pier to help take your luggage and load it onto the ship.  In addition, there is a special line to enter the building for Platinum and above Crown and Anchor Society members.  Everyone else will wait in a separate line.

Waiting to check in for our Jewel of the Seas cruise #cruise #JewelOfTheSeas #cruiseship #travel

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean Blog.com (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

We’ve gotten to the pier as early as 10:30am and we’ve generally heard passengers are let into the embarkation building around 11am.  One potential issue is the check-in building is not very large and the staff will only allow batches of passengers in at a time, so you may get stuck outside waiting to get in.  Given this is Puerto Rico, the temperature and humidity outside can be quite high.

Since most Royal Caribbean ships do not leave port until later in the evening (usually around 8pm), so getting to the port early in the morning is not as critical but lines outside the building are possible.  The good news is, often the lines outside are infrequent.

Embarkation

Once inside the building, you will find lines for Crown and Anchor Society members and lines for everyone else.  

You will be subjected to a security check that consists of an x-ray machine and metal detector.  Once through there, you will enter your line and get checked in.

We should also note there is a duty-free liquor store inside the check-in area, which is a great place to pick up a few bottles of wine to bring onboard your cruise. Remember, Royal Caribbean allows up to two bottles of wine per stateroom to bring onboard.

After check-in, it’s just a short walk onto your Royal Caribbean cruise!

Boarding #jeweloftheseas!

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean Blog. com (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

Have you embarked in San Juan?

Did you have a chance to take a Royal Caribbean cruise out of San Juan?  Share your tips and suggestions for embarkation day in San Juan in our comments below!

San Juan for the day: What to do while your cruise is in port

Colonial history, splendid natural beauty and trendy nightlife make San Juan a must-visit Caribbean port of call. In fact, it’s a staple on Eastern and Southern Caribbean departures sailing round-trip from Florida ports such as PortMiami, Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades and Port Canaveral near Orlando.

San Juan attracts ships from across cruising’s various categories, due in large part to its rich colonial history and fascinating combination of African, Caribbean and European cultures that are expressed in cuisine, the arts and music.

San Juan is also a modern metropolis with upscale dining and shopping. Its numerous attractions make arriving a day or two early a rewarding option for travelers whose ship home-ports in the city.

Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America, MSC Cruises and other lines all have scheduled multiple San Juan calls for 2021. Several Royal Caribbean ships will target San Juan as both a home port — a city from which voyages depart round-trip — and as a port of call in 2021.

San Juan is also found on Caribbean itineraries from premium lines including Celebrity Cruises, Viking and Windstar Cruises. Luxury operators Crystal Cruises and SeaDream Yacht Club will also feature San Juan among their 2021Caribbean port calls.

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3 things TPG loves about San Juan

  • A walkable historic district
  • Delicious local cuisine
  • Charming cultural attractions

What we could do without

  • High prices, as restaurant meals tend to be expensive
  • Limited beach access in the Old San Juan/Condado core districts

San Juan basics

San Juan became a Spanish colonial settlement in the 16th century, and today’s cruise visitors primarily disembark in what is one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic districts, known as San Juan Viejo, or Old San Juan. The quarter features imposing city walls, massive forts, cobblestone streets and terraced mansions. Visitors will find just walking about is a great way to spend time in the city.

San Juan is also a modern metropolis and the city’s Isla Verde and Condado resort districts feature trendy hotels, gourmet restaurants, pulsating nightclubs and bars, and upscale shopping.

El Yunque National Forest is one of several natural attractions found across the greater San Juan region, and cultural attractions include rum distilleries offering tours and tastings. Each is accessible within the limited hours of a daytime port call.

Related: How to get to Puerto Rico on points and miles

Arrival details

The San Juan cruise terminal. (Photo by Darryl Brooks/Shutterstock.com)

The Old San Juan Piers are at Marina Street, conveniently located at the center of the district. This places most of the significant historic and cultural sites, including the iconic El Morro fortress, within easy walking distance. The piers feature modern terminal buildings and passengers will also find tours and transportation staged nearby.

Pier 3 mainly serves Royal Caribbean and its Oasis-class ships, the cruise industry’s largest. The terminal features a two-story complex that houses restaurants, galleries and a duty-free shopping center. Pier 4 is managed by Carnival Cruise Lines and generally serves that line’s ships and affiliated vessels. San Juan’s Pan America Pier is situated south of the Old San Juan district of Isla Grande and serves larger cruise vessels.

Most ships call at the port for up to eight hours, giving cruisers time to explore several Puerto Rico highlights. Ships arrive in San Juan as early as noon and sail late in the evening.

Fast facts

  • Time zone: Eastern time zone
  • Languages: English and Spanish
  • Currency: U.S. dollar

How to get around

On foot: Several of the island’s major sights are within walking distance of the piers, although it’s simple to book a tour of local sites through your cruise line.

By bike: Travelers can rent bikes at establishments that are within walking distance of the cruise piers. Try Rent the Bicycle at 100 Calle del Muelle. A daily rental is about $32, or rent by the hour (around $10).

By taxi: You can also arrange for a taxi or private car, or even a luxury or premium automobile tour.

By car: While you can rent a car, we think it’s far easier to explore on foot, by bike or taxi/ride-hailing service.

By bus: Public buses are also available.

Top sights and shore excursions

The historic Puerto Rican capital of San Juan offers every element of a contemporary warm-weather vacation, with sun-filled skies, white-sand beaches and brilliant blue waters. San Juan also features historic and architectural attractions, from grand colonial palaces to airy public plazas to the massive stone walls that encircle parts of the city.

San Juan’s Condado and Isla Verde districts offer a multitude of bars, restaurants, craft shops and boutiques, plus plenty of nightlife, open-air music and entertainment. San Juan provides visitors with another variable treasured by travelers: fun. There’s an unmistakable atmosphere of good times running across this pulsating port city. Here are some favorite pastimes for cruisers visiting San Juan:

San Juan highlights

Air-conditioned bus tours of San Juan encompass the primary highlights of the new and Old San Juan districts. The tour passes Condado Beach’s luxury hotels and condominiums and the Window of the Sea coastal outcropping. Continuing into Old San Juan, the tour passes the Capitol City Building and San Cristobal Fort. The outing ends at iconic El Morro Castle, the majestic 16th-century fortification. Other tour highlights include San Jose Church, the Western Hemisphere’s second-oldest church, and Paseo de la Princesa, which offers sweeping views and a grand fountain overlooking the sea.

Bacardi Rum Distillery

This guided tour of the family-founded Casa Bacardi provides visitors with a historic view of San Juan and Puerto Rico through its sugar-cane industry and rum-making legacies. An introductory video follows the rum-making process from raw cane to molasses to the spirit, from vat to barrel to bottle, after which guests can sample the finished product, pick up some rum recipes and enjoy free time to browse the on-site gift shop and museum, as well as post images and short videos to social media via an in-facility production room. There is also an open-air restaurant adjoining the facility.

Bioluminescent Bay kayak adventure

Kayak the waters of Laguna Grande, a bioluminescent bay located within Las Cabezas de San Juan Reserve, whose waters glow green with each paddle stroke. Kayakers traverse the calm channel through a tunnel of mangroves on their way to the lagoon. Once there, guides discuss the birds, fish and other aquatic life while kayakers have time to enjoy the natural bioluminescent phenomenon, visible only after dark.

El Yunque National Forest tour

El Yunque National Forest. (Photo by HPH-media/Shutterstock)

Passing charming towns and rural communities on the 25-minute drive from San Juan, this tour of the pleasantly cool, 28,000-acre El Yunque National Forest begins with a leisurely walk amid splendid rainforest flora and fauna, followed by a short bus ride within the park to the Yohaku observation tower for panoramic views. Guests also visit an interpretative station at Coca Waterfall, once believed to be the legendary fountain of youth.

Old San Juan walking tour

Puerto Rico’s rich history and architectural heritage comes alive on this guided walk of the colonial city’s oldest sections, which date back 500 years. Stroll the quarter’s cobblestone streets, lined with tropical-hued buildings. Visit elegant plazas as your guide introduces key sights and monuments. The tour also includes San Felipe del Morro fortress.

Best beaches in San Juan

Many of Puerto Rico’s best beaches are found on the island’s eastern and western edges, beyond the San Juan proper. Yet there is still a handful of local beaches worth visiting.

While relatively small and at times a bit crowded, Condado Beach extends for several miles east of downtown and is a short taxi ride from Old San Juan. The entrance to this public beach is tucked between high-rise resorts. The beach offers the added convenience of proximity to the nearby Condado shopping and entertainment district.

Condado Beach. (Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Two-mile-long Isla Verde Beach is located 15 minutes from central San Juan and is very popular with families who enjoy its white sands and warm water. The beach is shared by a strip of premium hotels and features several restaurants. Parasailing, Jet Skiing and other water sports are available, and many consider Isla Verde Beach among the Caribbean’s best urban beaches.

Another intimate beach, El Escambron, borders Old San Juan and the modern Condado District. Framed by a combination of ancient city fortifications and modern skyscrapers, El Escambron is San Juan’s most picturesque beach and is located within Tercer Milenio Park, which offers recreational activities including stand-up paddleboarding.

Where to eat and drink

Dining out in San Juan encompasses everything from white-tablecloth fine dining to local food trucks serving delicious indigenous cuisine. Indeed, Puerto Rico has emerged in recent years as a “foodie” destination whose cuisine incorporates African, Caribbean, Latin and European influences and traditions.

San Juan is also recognized for a vibrant cocktail scene. The pina colada originated in San Juan and innovative refreshing drinks continue to be a city hallmark. There are numerous hip, trendy bars and classic bars and restaurants in Old San Juan, as well as across the Condado and Isla Verde districts. Brewery tours and rum tastings are also available.

Look for these local specialties:

  • Mufungo: Deep-fried green plantains mashed with garlic and served with pork, chicken, crab meat or skirt steak.
  • Tostones: Deep-fried plantain wheels, usually served with “mayoketchup” and garlic.
  • Lechon: A slowly spit-roasted pork dish with juicy meat and crispy skin.

The San Juan suburb of Santurce is home to a lively art scene punctuated with hip restaurants featuring international cuisine spiced by locally sourced ingredients and traditional Puerto Rican recipes.

Food parks like Lote 23 and the Miramar Food Truck Park feature kiosks and food trucks operated by innovative chefs offering exquisite bite-sized dining in a casual atmosphere. Entire streets now feature popular restaurants, including Calle Loiza and Calle Fortaleza. Other top restaurants include:

1919

The “ocean to table” cuisine at this upscale restaurant at the historic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is the product of Executive Chef Juan José Cuevas’ sophisticated palate. Special selections include crispy grain salad, braised veal cheeks over an apio polenta, passion fruit curd, coconut ganache and pineapple-cilantro sorbet.

Cocina al Fondo

This small, inconspicuous family restaurant on Ponce de Leon Avenue in the Miramar neighborhood can be easy to miss as it is in the back of an art cooperative and lacks obvious signage. Reservations are recommended. Dishes feature creative, fresh and flavorfully spicy Creole food at reasonable prices (between $10 and $24 per entrée).

Hecho en Casa

This family-run restaurant not only has the feel of an authentic Puerto Rican home, its name literally means “homemade.” The eatery’s “comida criolla” entrees include some of Puerto Rico’s most traditional staple dishes and feature products and ingredients grown locally in Puerto Rico, all made from scratch, in-house.

Where to shop

When you’re shopping in San Juan, look for souvenirs like:

  • Handmade arts and crafts
  • Handmade garments in tropical colors
  • Hand-rolled cigars
  • Custom and high-end jewelry
  • Paintings and artwork

The cobblestone streets of Old San Juan are lined with small craft shops, art galleries and artisan goods. Travelers will find traditional vejigante masks in two styles: classic Loiza coconut masks and the Ponce-style papier-mache version.

Visitors will also find woven hammocks, home decor items and ceramics, serigraphs, paintings and sculptures depicting scenes from the Old City or the countryside of Puerto Rico.

Old San Juan also houses numerous art galleries, such as Galeria Exodo and Galeria Botello, which offer original pieces in different mediums by Puerto Rican artists. Shopaholic travelers should also make time to visit:

Ole Hat Shop

Ole Puerto Rico, located at 105 Calle de la Fortaleza, is a wonderful family-run, old-world hat emporium where the friendly staff will create a custom-made Panama hat for you on the spot. The prices are reasonable, and the customer picks the style of hat and the hatband. By the way, “Panama” hats actually originated in Ecuador, but so many workers wore them during the Panama Canal’s construction that the nickname stuck.

Shopconcalma

Located on Old San Juan’s Calle de San Francisco, this shop sells handmade purses and bags designed in collaboration with local artists using multicolored fabrics and recycled denim, and also carries jewelry, clothing and art by local designers.

Pop

This collaborative marketplace showcases young creatives and has a permanent location in a two-floor warehouse space in Santurce. Look for locally designed clothing and accessories, handmade jewelry, books, art and even services like hairstyling.

Bottom line

San Juan combines historic architecture and attractions that embody the island’s rich legacy and historic past with contemporary authentic Latin and American culture evident in the city’s upscale hotels, trendy restaurants and bars, diverse shopping opportunities and homegrown contemporary art scene. There’s really too much to do in one port call but that’s what return trips are for. If there was ever a must-disembark port of call, San Juan is it.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Caribbean cruise ports — the focus of tourist life on the islands

The Caribbean is the most popular cruise region in the world. Millions of tourists from all over the world go to this paradise every year to soak up the sun, admire tropical landscapes and swim in the warm sea. The Caribbean Sea is adorned with a scattering of hundreds of islands, some of which can be called a real tourist Mecca. These are definitely the main cruise ports of the Caribbean, because a cruise is deservedly considered the best way to get acquainted with this exotic paradise.

Most Caribbean cruises depart from major US ports: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Port Canaveral and others. Dozens of mega-liners with a capacity of up to 5,000 passengers and smaller cruise ships leave these cities every day so that you can enjoy the splendor of an island vacation.

On the islands, thousands of tourists are ready to meet modern and developed cruise ports. The top three in terms of equipment and the number of accepted liners are Nassau (Bahamas), Bridgetown (Barbados) and Oranjestad (Aruba).

Nassau in the Bahamas can rightfully be called the main cruise port of the entire Caribbean. At cruise berths, 6 large liners can moor at the same time. Tourist life is in full swing here all year round. The beaches around the port are equipped with everything you need. Any kind of entertainment is presented: water sports, diving, snorkeling, island tours, bars, discos and much more. Nassau is found on most Caribbean itineraries, whether it’s short weekend cruises of 3-4 nights or full Caribbean cruises of 7-14 nights.

Not far behind Nassau is Bridgetown, Barbados, the next record port. Cruise berths of this city can also accept up to 6 liners at the same time. Before heading out to enjoy a beach holiday, most tourists prefer to explore the capital city of Barbados itself. Many people call Bridgetown a copy of London under the palm trees. The city has many Victorian buildings and architectural monuments. And duty-free shopping centers will not leave indifferent shoppers.

Oranjestad is not only a major cruise port, but also the capital of Aruba. The berths of the port are designed for the entry of 3 cruise liners at once. Oranjestad welcomes guests with vibrant tropical landscapes, museums, shopping centers and picturesque colonial architecture. The best beaches of the island with snow-white sand, which does not heat up from the sun, are located within a 5-minute drive from the city.

Among the major Caribbean cruise ports, Montego Bay in Jamaica, Cozumel in Mexico, San Juan in Puerto Rico, Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas and others are also worth mentioning. There are also a large number of cruise stops on islands where large ships cannot dock, such as St. Barts or Virgin Gorda. In this case, the vessels are anchored, and passengers are delivered to the shore on tender boats.

Each cruise port in the Caribbean is unique, but one thing is 100% certain. Whichever itinerary you choose on your Caribbean cruise, amazing entertainment, unforgettable landscapes and developed tourist infrastructure await you.

Sea cruises in the Caribbean and the Bahamas on liners Roayl Caribbean

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Anniversary cruise

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To the Bahamas from New York

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Perfect Day Short Cruise

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About a trip to the Caribbean

The coast of Santa Lucia

There is no pronounced season for visiting the Caribbean, the sun shines here all year round, so this is a great destination to find warmth.

Caribbean cruises are attractive for tourists because one trip can visit from 3 to ten islands of the Caribbean.

Tourists can choose from Caribbean and Bahamas cruises for 3 and 4 nights, weekly, 2 or even 3 week cruises. We will help you find the right cruise for you.

Visa

You will need a US visa to go on a cruise to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

Locations

Caribbean cruises most often depart from Miami or Fort Lauderdale (Florida), New York, New Orleans, Port Canaveral, and Tampa. Our liners make stops in the San Juan Islands (Puerto Rico), the Bahamas, Saint Martin, Perfect Day at CocoCay and other islands in the region, as well as in the cities of Mexico and Honduras.

Cruises with Royal Caribbean

Our customers are waiting for the best conditions on board and a whole week of a completely unforgettable new world that no one wants to leave. We will find you a route that suits your schedule and finances. Visit the archipelagos of the Caribbean — find out what kind of adventure awaits you!

Zipline Labadie Island, Haiti

Comfortable cabins

We offer cabins of different classes, but each of them is equipped with a private toilet and shower, you will be comfortable!

Entertainment programs

Theaters, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, casinos — this is only a small part of what is placed on our liner.

Family holidays

We invite animators on our cruises, there are several playrooms and playgrounds on board the ship, and special meals for children are included in the menu

High quality food on board

we also offer a specialized menu for children and vegetarians.

Zipline Labadie Island, Haiti

The liner you will sail on

Oasis class

Symphony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s newest ship. His first cruise took place in March 2018 from Barcelona. Symphony of the Seas is the largest liner in the world. This 18-deck giant can accommodate 6,780 passengers and 2,175 crew members.

  • 2775 cabins

  • SPA, Wellness

  • Aquapark

  • Broadway Musicals and Aquatic Theater

  • Over 20 restaurants on board

  • Ice rink, climbing wall and surf simulator

Details →

Oasis class

Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas is one of the largest ships in the world. It has everything for an unforgettable holiday — shows, more than 20 restaurants on board, a kids club and a water park, as well as a surf simulator, an ice rink, a climbing wall and much more.

  • 2775 cabins

  • SPA, wellness

  • Aquapark

  • Broadway Musicals and Aquatic Theater

  • Over 20 restaurants on board

  • Ice rink, climbing wall and surf simulator

Details →

Freedom class

Navigator of the Seas

Navigator of the Seas was updated in early 2019. Now it is the ideal ship for short cruises from Miami for 3-4 nights. Here you will find a beauty salon, and a spa center, and pools for relaxation, as well as entertainment for outdoor activities — laser tag, ice rink, climbing wall, surf simulator.

  • 1900 cabins

  • Liner updated in 2019

  • Slides, water park and kids club

  • Over 15 restaurants

  • Unique Shortcuts in the Caribbean

  • Skating rink, climbing wall and laser tag

More →

Places you will visit

Charlotte Amalie, St.

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