Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico offers tourists a variety of historic sights to visit and shortened cruise times. / Contributed

When most travelers think of going on a cruise, they usually think of departing from a US mainland port.

Here in Georgia we most often think about New Orleans, Mobile, Charleston, and the five Florida ports. However, particularly if you are destination focused, like myself, you might want to consider going out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The biggest plus for going out of San Juan is that you minimize “sea days” since you begin your cruise already in the Caribbean. This will leave more time for more destinations.

On our last 7-night cruise out of San Juan we also visited St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten. I think the biggest drawback is that it requires the added cost of a flight. (You can often find round-trip flights out of Atlanta for as low as $300)

Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean all have sailings departing from San Juan with the lowest prices typically found in September/October and March/April depending on the cruise line and itinerary.

For a full 7-night cruise, you can get an Interior or Oceanview stateroom for just a bit over $500 per person including cruise fare, taxes, and port fees. You can also get a balcony stateroom for as little as $750 per person. Even when you add airfare, that is not too bad at all!

While I recommend flying in at least a day in advance, if you choose to fly in the day of your cruise start, note that most cruise lines do provide free transportation from the airport to the ship pier.

7-night cruises out of San Juan also open up the potential of visiting the Southern Caribbean ports of Aruba, The Netherlands Antilles, and Bonaire, all of which would be tough to do departing from a mainland US port.

Besides a great place to begin a cruise, I recommend coming in at least a couple days early to take advantage of what Puerto Rico has to offer. It is especially convenient for U.S. citizens, because they do not need a passport to go to Puerto Rico and the currency there is the U.S. dollar.

San Juan, in particular, offers stunning beaches, a treasure trove of Spanish colonial architecture, history and old-world charm, shopping, great food, and lots to do. The old city of San Juan is a really cool place just to walk around and observe the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. However, do take care in walking due to old uneven cobblestone and cement necessitating an alert step.

Typical excursions may take you on a tour of the city, a rum distillery or the rain forest, or you can choose more vigorous activities, such as golf, rock climbing, hiking, kayaking or a trek through the mountains on horseback. You can also tour the forest canopy via a zipline or take an excursion to the west shore.

Note: Puerto Rico sustained severe damage during Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Recovery efforts have made great strides.

Cruise operations resumed in October 2017, and air travel was also rapidly restored: Luis Munoz Marin International is functioning at its pre-hurricane level. More than 85 percent of hotels are now open and most tourist attractions are also now open.

If you would like help planning and preparing your next vacation, contact Mike Hunter at 678-901-0993.