Cruise Ship Life Part 3 – Ports and what to do there

Dear Reader,
One of the most asked questions I used to get on board from guests was: Are you allowed to leave the ship when we are in port?
The simple answer to that is YES. Of course, you can’t always go, because of some companies have port manning (meaning a specific number of crew members always have to be on board from each department) or you might have to work. However, if you have free time and energy you can leave the ship and go explore the port.
At this point comes the hard decision. What is your priority when going off the ship? Do you want to see the place where you are? Do you want to eat food that wasn’t made on board? Do you need wifi to be able to talk to your friends and family since the one on board is crazy? Or do you need to do some shopping for whatever you might need? Since most of the time, you tend to only have about two maybe three hours, and the port is not always in the center, you have to leave the ship knowing what you want to do.
the theater in palermo
Theatre in Palermo, Italy
So let’s say you actually want to see the port (which most crew members don’t), you can either just walk around and get lost (in which case you might not see much) or you could find out what is worth seeing by asking one of the guys from excursions. They will tell you exactly what is worth seeing, might even give you a map. TIP: if there is a shuttle bus to town, it is always free to use for the crew, even if the guests have to pay. Once you are in town, look around a little and enjoy your time. DO NOT forget about time. Always make sure you head back to the boat early enough, especially if there is a bus. If you don’t, you might end up running (which happened to my friend and me a couple of times).
the open courtyard in muscat
Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman
Most likely the people will tell you a ton of things to see in each city. Don’t try and see everything at once. If you have only been on board a couple of weeks, you probably still have tons of energy and life in you and can run from one attraction to another. After a couple of months, you might not be so motivated anymore. You get tired and all you want to do it sleep. Do as much as you can when you have the time, but don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t seen everything you wanted to. Your ship probably does the same route every week or every second week, so you will get the chance to go back to the same ports more than once and explore as much as you want.
On the other side, you might decide to get food. First question: budget. Do you want to spend a lot of money going to an actual restaurant or do you just want something cheap? Do you want to eat in a nice place close to the center or just a couple of steps from the dock? I suggest asking some of your friends or colleagues, who embarked before you. Most ports have on place everybody goes to (which tends to be close, cheap, and have great wifi). If you want something a little different, you can always go out with some friends and try your luck. You never know, maybe you will discover your new favorite place.
Now let’s get to one of the important things you might need when going to port: WIFI. Even though you might have internet connection on board, it is normally very slow and limited. If you want to call home, check your emails or do anything else productive online, you will need a better connection. Sometimes the port offers free wifi. If not, then most ports have coffee shops close that tend to have free wifi. Again, I suggest asking your friends or colleagues, since most of these places are famous with the crew.

The last thing you might want to do is shopping. Some ports are better for this than others. Sometimes there is a shopping center very close, such as Palma de Mallorca. With some ports, there is nothing at all for miles. Again, relying on intel on board can save you a lot of trouble with this one. This is the only point during your contract knowing the day of the week is also useful. I have gone to town with the intention to do some shopping, then realized I was in Italy on a Sunday……meaning everything is closed.

One last thing, please don’t be the person who walks around town with their name badge still on. Many people will treat you differently if they know you are a crew member, so you are better off if they do not know.

So there you have it. Some useful tips for going ashore in port. If you missed it, in Part 1 and Part 2, you can read all about embarking for the first time and the first week on board. You can read all about friendships and love in Part 4. If you are wondering what it is like to live with a roommate and how to do it the best way, you can find them in Part 5. Also here are some answers to many people ask, which you might have been wondering as well. Lastly, if you need some ideas about what to do in ports, read my port guide here.
Share your port tips and stories with me in the comments or on social media.

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