Cruises: Making the most of a day in port

A day in port makes for a pleasant change to the regular shipboard routine. Crowds of passengers disembark and pile into coaches for excursions to some or other top attraction.

But with only five or six hours available, how do you squeeze in as much as possible without things getting hectic?

Researching and planning the day
A bit of up-front planning can make all the difference to your holiday.

You could form a small group of two or three other people, as you are far less likely to be bothered by street vendors, and you have people with you whom you know.

In this case, an itinerary becomes essential, so you more or less agree on what you want to do. Some research beforehand is paramount. You can even start planning your days in port while you are still at home, before you set off for your cruise.

Take a look at the ship’s library, since they make a point of stocking resources relating to their current schedule. Published travel guides are often well-researched. By contrast, articles on the internet can be excellent, but many simply rehash what others have said.

A good place to look online is the town’s official website, since it is run by people who live in the place and know it well. They cannot afford a bad report by a visitor. Their motivation is to create passionate enthusiasts for their town who praise them on social media. They also do not have a direct financial interest in directing visitors to a particular restaurant or attraction.

Choosing a few things to see and do
Since you cannot do more than scratch the surface in a single day, it makes no sense to try to do everything. Agree a basic plan with the group before starting research. Are you going to have breakfast on board first, or head out early to somewhere authentic where the locals dine?

You will probably want a top-up midday snack, so make sure to be seated and eating before the lunchtime crowds arrive. If you are having dinner back on board in the evening, you might choose just to get lunch quickly, unless there is a particular restaurant you wish to visit. If you can get a big breakfast on board, you might not need lunch at all, which will give you more time to look around.

This leaves morning and afternoon spaces of a few hours each to do something different. Consider staying away from hackneyed destinations like famous palaces and churches unless you like crowds!

Your stay in port comes alive on the day
A day in port comes alive when you visit lesser-known points of interest that tour buses avoid. This could be because parking is difficult, or the driver does not get a kickback. They may even be so peaceful you get the feeling you discovered them, as you potter through soaking up the local atmosphere.

If you plan in advance, your day will flow smoothly because you have time to relax. You may not even see your fellow passengers for a couple of hours; spare a thought for them in buses chasing tight deadlines! You will have a different story to share over supper.