8 Ports You Can Skip

by Donna Heiderstadt

8 Ports You Can Skip

by Donna Heiderstadt

Most places on your cruise itinerary will add to your appreciation of the world, but some ports fall a bit short when it comes to interesting sights and beautiful scenery. They might be the disembarkation point to other towns, cities, or cultural sites worth seeing (sometimes hours away by bus), but if you prefer to explore on your own, you can probably skip these eight ports.

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Bari, Italy / iStock / RudyBalasko
Colon, Panama
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1. Colon, Panama

Gritty and industrial, this port on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal has little to offer passengers beyond being the entry point to the interior. Passengers gather here for tours to view this Central American nation’s jungle canopy and wildlife, such as the ring-tailed coatimundi.

Our Advice: A better option is to choose an itinerary that calls on Panama City (the Fuerte Amador cruise port), with its historic quarter and prosperous, modern downtown showcasing attractions that include the colorful, Frank Gehry-designed BioMuseo.

Gritty and industrial, this port on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal has little to offer passengers beyond being the entry point to the interior. Passengers gather here for tours to view this Central American nation’s jungle canopy and wildlife, such as the ring-tailed coatimundi.

Our Advice: A better option is to choose an itinerary that calls on Panama City (the Fuerte Amador cruise port), with its historic quarter and prosperous, modern downtown showcasing attractions that include the colorful, Frank Gehry-designed BioMuseo.

Bari, Italy
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2. Bari, Italy

How can any port in Italy not be worth visiting? What if we said it’s boring? Bari, on the Adriatic in the Puglia region, is a small city that, despite its lovely location, feels rather sad. Lacking the vibrancy of better-known cities, it’s an authentic and pleasant enough place to stretch your legs, but aside from the Basilica di San Nicola, there’s not much to see.

Our Advice: Fortunately, this is not a common stop. 

How can any port in Italy not be worth visiting? What if we said it’s boring? Bari, on the Adriatic in the Puglia region, is a small city that, despite its lovely location, feels rather sad. Lacking the vibrancy of better-known cities, it’s an authentic and pleasant enough place to stretch your legs, but aside from the Basilica di San Nicola, there’s not much to see.

Our Advice: Fortunately, this is not a common stop. 

La Romana, Dominican Republic
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3. La Romana, Dominican Republic

This Caribbean island nation has yet to truly develop its cruise tourism infrastructure. Unless you book an excursion to the beaches or golf courses of the nearby Casa de Campo resort or partake in an underwater or jungle adventure, this gritty port (a taxi ride from downtown) is defined by pushy souvenir vendors. Some passengers report feeling uncomfortable walking on their own.

Our Advice: Plan to hit the beach or the golf course as soon as you arrive. 

This Caribbean island nation has yet to truly develop its cruise tourism infrastructure. Unless you book an excursion to the beaches or golf courses of the nearby Casa de Campo resort or partake in an underwater or jungle adventure, this gritty port (a taxi ride from downtown) is defined by pushy souvenir vendors. Some passengers report feeling uncomfortable walking on their own.

Our Advice: Plan to hit the beach or the golf course as soon as you arrive. 

Progreso, Mexico
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4. Progreso, Mexico

Aggressive merchants and unappealing beaches make this port on the Yucatan Peninsula a buzzkill for those looking to spend a relaxing day ashore.

Our Advice: If your ship does call here, you should definitely book an excursion to either Merida (known as the White City for its distinctive architecture) or one of the region’s spectacular ancient Mayan ruins.

Aggressive merchants and unappealing beaches make this port on the Yucatan Peninsula a buzzkill for those looking to spend a relaxing day ashore.

Our Advice: If your ship does call here, you should definitely book an excursion to either Merida (known as the White City for its distinctive architecture) or one of the region’s spectacular ancient Mayan ruins.

Pylos, Greece
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5. Pylos, Greece

Pylos is a pretty little port on the Peloponnese Peninsula, but it has little to offer aside from lovely views of the Bay of Navarino. It gets incredibly hot here in summer, making a walk up to the 13th-century Palaiokastro (Old Pylos Castle) a sweat-drenched hike.

Our Advice: Be sure to cool off with a Greek coffee frappe beneath the giant plane tree in the central square.

Pylos is a pretty little port on the Peloponnese Peninsula, but it has little to offer aside from lovely views of the Bay of Navarino. It gets incredibly hot here in summer, making a walk up to the 13th-century Palaiokastro (Old Pylos Castle) a sweat-drenched hike.

Our Advice: Be sure to cool off with a Greek coffee frappe beneath the giant plane tree in the central square.

Ensenada, Mexico
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6. Ensenada, Mexico

This city on the Baja Peninsula, about 75 miles south of San Diego, attracts hordes of tourists (more than 4 million annually) while lacking authentic Mexican charm. There are shopping opportunities galore — if you are looking to haggle over the price of tequila, T-shirts, and trinkets. La Bufadora blowhole on the Punta Banda Peninsula, which spouts seawater into the air every minute or so, receives mixed reviews from cruisers.

Our Advice: This may be a good day to stay onboard and take advantage of port-day discounts in the spa. 

This city on the Baja Peninsula, about 75 miles south of San Diego, attracts hordes of tourists (more than 4 million annually) while lacking authentic Mexican charm. There are shopping opportunities galore — if you are looking to haggle over the price of tequila, T-shirts, and trinkets. La Bufadora blowhole on the Punta Banda Peninsula, which spouts seawater into the air every minute or so, receives mixed reviews from cruisers.

Our Advice: This may be a good day to stay onboard and take advantage of port-day discounts in the spa. 

Market in Nassau
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7. Nassau, Bahamas

This port is overrun by ships practically every day of the year and is a frenetic place to make landfall with its dozens of duty-free shops and casinos. If you luck into a day when there are fewer ships in the harbor, it is significantly more pleasant — especially at the popular straw market — but that's out of your control. 

Our Advice: There is the over-the-top Atlantis Resort water park (for those who like that sort of thing), or you can sign up for excursions to snorkel, take a boat tour, or try conch fritters.

This port is overrun by ships practically every day of the year and is a frenetic place to make landfall with its dozens of duty-free shops and casinos. If you luck into a day when there are fewer ships in the harbor, it is significantly more pleasant — especially at the popular straw market — but that's out of your control. 

Our Advice: There is the over-the-top Atlantis Resort water park (for those who like that sort of thing), or you can sign up for excursions to snorkel, take a boat tour, or try conch fritters.

Port in Belize City
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8. Belize City, Belize

Crime, poverty, and ramshackle infrastructure mean cruise ships anchor offshore and tender passengers ashore to awaiting buses for tours or boats for scuba excursions.

Our Advice: You'll find that Belize is much more appealing when you get away from its biggest city. The country's coral reefs and Mayan ruins are spectacular, so booking an organized tour is the way to go.

Crime, poverty, and ramshackle infrastructure mean cruise ships anchor offshore and tender passengers ashore to awaiting buses for tours or boats for scuba excursions.

Our Advice: You'll find that Belize is much more appealing when you get away from its biggest city. The country's coral reefs and Mayan ruins are spectacular, so booking an organized tour is the way to go.

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