Going on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise and wondering what each port of call has to offer? Or perhaps you’re booking a Caribbean cruise and don’t know which itinerary will suit you best. We’re here to help by giving you insight into the 10 best Eastern Caribbean ports of call (in our opinion!).
Read about the highlights of each island, top shore excursions and things you can see and do independently during your visit. We also throw in a few tips for unique things you won’t want to miss. Ready to cast off and set sail? Here we go!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cruise shore excursions in Puerto Rico
Capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is a popular port of call for Eastern Caribbean cruises. A pleasant blend of old and new, the compact colonial city is just a short stroll from the pier. Within the historic walled city, the 16th century El Morro military fort presides over the town and can be visited as part of a City Walking Tour with a local guide.
Most cruises have a host of shore excursions including culinary tours, zip lining, horseback riding and caving. Fun Segway tours are available along with kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving trips.
Independent Activities in Puerto Rico
Walk to the historic El Morro Castle and pay the admission fee, which includes a guided tour and access to the nearby San Cristobal Fort, a popular place for kite flying. If you want to visit the Bacardi Rum Factory, take the ferry from Pier 2 to Catano for $1. Then catch the bus for the 10-minute ride to the factory. Upgrade to a mixologist course and create your own cocktail!
San Juan Travel Tip!
Share a taxi or book a guided tour in El Yunque for an amazing rainforest experience. The lush jungle has over 400 species of plants and trees that are home to many exotic birds and mammals. You may not see them, but you will certainly hear their calls.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Cruise Shore Excursions in St. Maarten
If you want to see both the French and Dutch parts of St Maarten, you will need to book an Island Tour to get around. Cruises offer the usual beach, snorkeling, Snuba diving and watersports tours as well as mountain biking and visiting a butterfly farm.
Independent Activities in St. Maarten
It’s a short water taxi ride or a 20-minute walk along the road to the designer shops, waterfront market and beach in Philipsburg, capital of the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. Browse the shops, sit at a beachfront café or visit the Sint Maarten Museum. Alternatively, the French cuisine served in the gourmet restaurants in Grand Case is well worth the 30-minute taxi ride.
St. Maarten Travel Tip!
Don’t miss the Guavaberry Emporium National Monument in Philipsburg. Sample the rum, liquor and hot sauce made from these rare local berries. The painted bottles are beautiful!
Charlotte Amelie, St Thomas, U.S.Virgin Islands
Cruise Shore Excursions in St. Thomas
St Thomas is a cosmopolitan cruise port that can accommodate up to six ships. You might want to consider a shore excursion to escape the crowded pier area!
City and Island Tours introduce visitors to the island’s history and architecture while foodies will love the St Thomas Rum and Food Tour. Coral ledges and walls provide excellent snorkeling and diving or book a Snorkel and Sail experience around nearby St John for a relaxing half-day on the water. Boat charters, catamaran trips and lagoon kayaking trips can all be booked from your cruise excursion desk as part of your Eastern Caribbean cruise.
Guided tours to the Baths and White Bay on the tiny island of Jost Van Dyke take cruisers off-the-beaten-path to see the photogenic wave-sculpted rock formations both above and below water. Relax at one of the bars lining the world-famous white sandy beach before returning to the cruise ship.
Independent Activities in St. Thomas
The historic district in Charlotte Amelie is a 30-minute flat walk from the port and is delightful for photographs. Do some duty-free shopping and visit Fort Christian, built in 1680 by the Danish/Norwegian rulers and now housing the St Thomas Museum.
Burn off those cruise buffets by climbing the famous 99 steps (there are actually 103!) and visit Blackbeard’s Castle Tower for amazing bay views. Beach lovers should head across the island to Magen Bay, four miles away. It’s one of the top beaches in the Eastern Caribbean and well worth the small admission fee.
St. Thomas Travel Tip!
Take the 20-minute ferry ride from Red Hook to the tranquil island of St John and enjoy snorkeling from the beach.
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Cruise Shore Excursions in Tortola
Tortola is a premier sailing destination and many private yachts offer full and half-day sailing tours around the neighboring islands. The mountainous island is one of the safest, friendliest and driest in the Caribbean.
With few rivers and run-off, the surrounding waters have exceptional visibility making Tortola a top choice for snorkeling and diving tours. There are several wreck diving sites including the RMS Rhone, sunk in 1867. Catamaran cruises usually include snorkeling, a light lunch and a rum punch. Alternatively, swim with dolphins on an unforgettable pre-booked tour.
Independent Activities in Tortola
Just a short walk from the Tortola Cruise Ship Pier you’ll find Crafts Alive. Local artisans make a living by selling genuine handmade rugs, batiks and ornaments in the colorful tents in Road Town.
Other useful souvenirs of your Eastern Caribbean cruise include spices, hot sauces and delicious Tortuga Rum Cake. Offerings that are more exotic include the Arawak Love Potion and the Hangover Cure Kit! Visit one of the Rum Distilleries in Tortola by local taxi or bus. Guided tours explain the rum-making practices that have been passed down through the generations for over 400 years.
Tortola Travel Tip!
Walkers will enjoy hiking in Sage Mountain National Park on well-marked trails surrounded by arid-loving plants and stunning sea views.
Cruise Shore Excursions in Haiti
Haiti is on the mountainous western side of the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic to the east. Amber Cove offers a day of sand, sea and watersports in a private beach resort atmosphere as part of Eastern Caribbean cruises.
Book your own beach bungalow on Nellie’s Beach and sip the local tipple – a Labadoozie – or enjoy stunning sea views from the Dragon’s Tail Coaster Ride. Fun watersports such as kayaking, snorkeling. speed boat rides and parasailing can be booked ahead of time to make the most of this beautiful port of call.
Independent Activities in Haiti
Once ashore you can enjoy the beautiful beach and sea in Labadee, but there is nowhere to go independently.
Labadee Travel Tip!
Trek up the mountain as part of a guided tour then ride down the exhilarating Dragon’s Breath Zip Line at around 40mph.
Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
Cruise Shore Excursions in Grand Turk
The small island of Grand Turk is a perfect port of call for those wanting some amazing watersports as part of their Eastern Caribbean cruise. Prebook a cruise excursion snorkeling and diving, kayaking or swimming with stingrays in the clear warm waters on the coral reef.
Catamaran cruises are a peaceful way to appreciate the tranquility and natural beauty of Grand Turk. Other shore excursions include guided walking city tours, island tours, ATV and Segway Tours and self-drive Dune Buggy excursions.
Independent Activities in Grand Turk
There are plenty of ways to enjoy Grand Turk without booking a tour. Edged with powder-soft white sand, the island’s beaches are perfect for sunbathing and shelling.
To see more of this laid-back island, head into Cockburn Town, a 4-mile taxi ride from the port. The pastel-painted buildings include churches, the Governor’s House, the National Museum and the Columbus Monument – marking the arrival of the world’s most famous cruiser, back in 1492!
Worth Reading: Things to Do in Grand Turk During a Cruise Vacation
Most cruisers don’t get more than a few steps from the pier where you’ll find the Grand Turk Cruise Center. It has 18 acres of duty-free shopping, swimming pools, beaches and landscaped grounds.
Surf the amazing FlowRider, try on some glittering jewelry, chill out on the sand or book a poolside cabana. Snorkelers can see fish and cannons submerged in the pool while Jimmy Buffett fans can spend the day soaking up the music, cocktails and food at Margaritaville.
Grand Turk Travel Tip!
Visit the free NASA Interactive Exhibit on the waterfront. It commemorates the fact that astronaut John Glenn splashed down just offshore after his historic space flight orbiting the earth in 1962.
Basseterre, St Kitts
Cruise Shore Excursions on St. Kitts
Eco-adventurers on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise will love what St Kitts has to offer. Shore excursions include dolphin encounters, kayak safaris, hiking and zip lining in the rainforest, visiting historic plantations and riding the double-decker St Kitts Scenic Railway.
Island Tours are a good way to learn about plantation history and the charming villages, lush scenery and volcanic peaks are breathtaking. Tours are also the easiest way for those interested in military history to visit Brimstone Hill Fortress. This 18th-century British stronghold is one of the best-preserved military structures and the views are definitely worth a photo.
Independent Activities on St. Kitts
The city port of Basseterre has centuries of history in its museums, architecture and culture. Stroll 700 yards from the cruise port to Independence Square with its Cathedral, explore the Old Treasury and National Museum and buy fragrant fresh mangoes from the market.
Share a taxi with fellow passengers and head to the Wingfield Estate (free admission) and Romney Manor. For sandy beaches and snorkeling, hop aboard the ferry and visit Nevis, St Kitts’ quieter sister.
St. Kitts Travel Tip!
The Amazing Grace Museum is dedicated to abolitionist John Newton. While he was rector at St Anne’s Parish Church in Sandy Point he wrote the famous hymn Amazing Grace.
Cruise Shore Excursions in Barbados
The upscale island of Barbados has first-rate attractions including the UNESCO-listed capital, Bridgetown with its Parliament Buildings and Museum.
Word Reading: Things to Do in Barbados for Cruise Visitors
Island tours combine amazing scenery with a taste of history and culture including a stop at the Mount Gay Rum Bottling Plant. Atlantic Submarine Tours offer undersea adventures which youngsters will love.
Independent Activities in Barbados
Walk about a mile into downtown Bridgetown for rum shops and sightseeing, passing Cheapside Market and St Mary’s Church along the way. Beaches are a short stroll or bus ride from the port. Local taxis are inexpensive and will take you to visit plantation homes and beautiful botanical gardens without the crowds.
Barbados Travel Tip!
Book an unforgettable Swim with Loggerhead Turtles.
St John’s, Antigua
Cruise Shore Excursions on Antigua
Known for its sandy beaches and UNESCO-listed Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua has plenty to offer visiting cruisers. Official tours are an excellent way to explore the island’s highlights including Devil’s Bridge and Betty’s Hope, a sugar estate with windmill.
Also Read: Things to Do in Antigua for Cruise Visitors
The Antigua Experience includes visiting a private home, a pineapple farm and ends at the beautiful beach. Go zip lining and horseback riding or enjoy sailing and snorkeling experiences on organized tours. RCI also offers a Taste of Antigua Rum Tour
Independent Activities on Antigua
It’s just a short walk from the cruise dock into St Johns, the bustling capital with plenty of shops, restaurants and the Antigua Museum. Hop in a local taxi and head to the lively beach at Dickenson Bay or visit Nelson’s Dockyard (11 miles away) with its museum in the former Admiral’s House.
Antigua Travel Tip!
An exciting helicopter tour from Antigua will include views of Montserrat and the volcanic landscape created by the 1995 eruptions.
Castries, St Lucia
Cruise Shore Excursions in St. Lucia
If you get the chance to visit, St Lucia is a stunning port of call on longer Eastern Caribbean cruises. This lush volcanic island has many unique attractions including the drive-in volcano, sulphur springs and lush botanical gardens.
Catamaran tours offer the chance to see the island’s twin volcanic peaks, the Pitons, from the sea while the Rainforest Aerial Tram Tour sails through the treetops. Popular cruise tours include snorkeling and diving expeditions and whale watching in the migratory season.
Independent Activities in St. Lucia
Walk to Castries Central Market on the waterfront and pick up chocolate produced from the local cacao plantations. Stroll into Castries, a historic town with a Folk Research Center (cultural museum) and a museum in Government House.
The Cathedral stands on Derek Walcott Square, named after the Nobel prize-winning poet. There are several nice beaches within easy reach of the port for those who want to chill out.
St. Lucia Travel Tip!
Forget the cruise ship spa – head to the Sulphur Springs at Malgretout for a mineral-rich mud bath then rinse off in the hot springs nearby.
We’ll See You on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise!
Armed with all this information, it’s easy to book your next Eastern Caribbean cruise based on places to visit and things to do that appeal to your personal taste.