Apr. 16th, 2014

5 of the Most Popular Cruise Ports in the Caribbean: Where to Shop, Dine & Discover

Photos Courtesy of Shutterstock

With beautiful weather and sparkling blue waters, there's no question why the Caribbean is such a hotspot for cruise ships. Whether you're looking for great shopping, fine cuisine or some the  perfect place to kick back and dig your toes into the sand, these five destinations are the islands’ most popular ports and offer something for every traveler.

grand cayman

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Often visited for its remarkable sea life, Grand Cayman is also one of the last areas in the world where the endangered blue iguana can be seen. Likewise, the area's Seven Mile Beach offers visitors an uninterrupted view of the Caribbean Sea that's perfect for truly soaking in the good life.  

Population: 53,000

Languages Spoken: English, some Jamaican lingo

Local Currency: Cayman Dollar, USD Accepted Everywhere (Credit cards widely accepted, there's really no need to exchange money)

Popular Attraction: Stingray City

Recommended Restaurant: Blue by Eric Ripert 

Don't Miss: Snorkeling at Devil's Grotto

Philipsburg, St. Maarten

Philipsburg, St. Maarten

With a surrounding area that's split into two sides, one Dutch and one French, visiting Philipsburg offers everything you could ever want from a vacation. Philipsburg itself has some of the best duty-free shopping on the globe, while nearby Grand Case and Marigot have a mouth-watering collection of French-inspired cuisine. 

Population: 38,000

Languages Spoken: Dutch, English

Local Currency: Antillean Guilder, Euro (on French side), USD Widely accepted. Most locations will not accept personal checks, but will take credit.

Popular Attraction: Little Bay Beach

Recommended Restaurant: Ocean Lounge 

Don't Miss: The Boardwalk

st. thomas

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

One of the busiest cruise ports in the world, Charlotte Amalie has become a beacon for duty-free shoppers looking for great deals on products ranging from clothes and jewelry to perfumes and consumer tech. Known for its Danish Colonial architecture, the city holds many historic buildings and a storied past of pirates such as Bluebeard and Blackbeard roaming its streets.

Population: 11,000 (in 2000)

Languages Spoken: Virgin Islands Creole, English

Local Currency: USD

Popular Attraction: Blackbeard's Castle

Recommended Restaurant: Amalia Café 

Don't Miss: Market Square to sample the local produce and interact with friendly residents

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

Steeped in culture and unbeatable weather, Cozumel has gained a stellar reputation over the years and has remained largely undeveloped. With tons of ocean activities like snorkeling, kayaking and scuba diving (the most popular activity), this Mexican island destination has plenty to keep you busy.

Population: 100,000

Languages Spoken: Mexican Spanish, US English is fairly widespread

Local Currency: Peso, USD widely accepted

Popular Attraction: Ecoparque Cuzam

Recommended Restaurant: Guido's, For killer "Hole-in-the-Wall" eats, hit up Burritos Gorditos

Don't Miss: Scuba Diving at the Santa Rosa Wall


Nassau, Bahamas

With prime shopping and hundreds of islands to visit, the Bahamas has become a favorite for cruise ships to pass through. Nassau has earned its spot as the most popular Caribbean cruise port, and with the city’s endless amount of new hotels, resorts and shopping areas, it will most likely keep that position for years to come.  

Population: 245,000

Languages Spoken: English

Local Currency: Bahamian Dollars, USD accepted everywhere

Popular Attraction: Sandy Toes' Rose Island Tour 

Recommended Restaurants: Café Matisse or Blue Lagoon Seafood Restaurant 

Don't Miss: Nettie’s Place