8 Best Ways to Avoid The Crowds In Cruise Ports

8 Best Ways to Avoid The Crowds In Cruise Ports

Discover the eight best ways to avoid
crowds in a cruise port. I’m Gary Bembridge, and this is another of
my tips of travellers. I’m here on a cruise and one of the things I realized is
there are a couple of ports where I wanted to avoid crowds, because I knew
there would be a lot of people descending in one place at one time off
cruise ships, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to share with you my
eight tips on how to avoid crowds in cruise ports, starting with this one.
I always check before I go on a cruise how busy each of the ports are going to
be. There’s some good sites that you can do it very easy on. For
example, the one I like to use is called cruisetimetables.com. You input
the ports or you can input your itinerary and check how busy each
of the ports are going to be. This is fantastic as bear in mind some Caribbean
ports could have 15,000 to 20,000 people. Places in Europe like Santorini
for example can be absolutely swamped depending on how many
ships are there, so I always take a look at how busy the ports are going to be
and then plan what I’m going to do around how busy I know the ports are going to
be, so I can avoid the big crowds there. The other thing to do, linked to that, is if
you book to cruise in shoulder periods, for example, in the
Mediterranean if you go May /June time or September / October time you’re going to
find that the crowds are much less, because the land tourists are not going
to be there to the same degree, as they’re going to be there in the summer
months July / August. The same in the Caribbean if you go in the August period
or you even go in the December period, all those places are going to be really busy.
Look at the shoulder periods as it’s a really good way of avoiding
crowds. Check and know how many people are going to be there. My second tip is a very obvious one, and stay on board. There’s an enormous amount of
things to do on board a ship in a port. Cruise lines run full
activity programs even on port days, so there’ll be loads of things to do. There
will be classes, talks, and facilities to use. There’ll be
loads of things to do, so you’ll be able to keep busy and happy on
board. A good way of avoiding crowds in a port is go local. Seek out and find
people who live and work locally and ask them for tips
and advice. There’s a couple of things you can do. The simplest thing of
course is to just get a taxi and ask the taxi driver to take you to places that the
locals go to and will be less busy with tourists. There are a
couple of organised things you can do and plan in advance and
there’s a whole load of sites which are set up by locals. Some are just local tips, some will provide local guides, some of which
are free guides. An example of some of those is spottedbylocals.com,
globalgreeterNetwork.info. freewalking toursbylocals.com and toursbylocals.
dot-com I find those sites really These are helpful as a resource because these are
people who live there, they’ve grown up there, they work there and know all
the tricks and tips around how to avoid the big crowds. Many of them provide free
tours and all you do then is pay gratuities for their
time. Definitely go local and look for locals to help you avoid the crowds.
They’re experts at avoiding the crowds in their
home towns so go local. Another of my favourite ways of avoiding crowds in ports
is quite a simple one, and that’s to get as far away from the port as possible,
and to be as active as possible. Most of the people on a cruise ship will come
off the ship and stay close to the port, and that’s where most businesses and
activities set up because they know that’s a captive audience. You’ll
find a lot of the activities are focused around the port. However, if you
head off in the opposite direction and find little local back streets, for
example in Venice crazy busy but if you head off in a different
direction down the side streets you find lots of really interesting places and
you won’t find all the crowds. Get as far away as possible. There’s different
ways you can do that. There’s a lot of places where you can hire bikes or
ebikes or go hiking. Plan in advance but get as far away as
possible and as important, the more active you are you’ll find less crowds.
For example if you go to Kotor, there’s lots of people and it’s very
busy, but if you walk up the huge hill behind the
old town almost no one does that because it looks really scary and it looks
really active, it’s not actually that bad at all. If you look for more active
things there will always be less people there, so go as far away as possible and
be as active as possible as you can. That’s something that I do a lot,
and I find it’s a really good way of avoiding crowds crowds from cruise ships who
tend to congregate close to the port. Another
great way of avoiding crowds, which is linked to that, is avoid the obvious and the
famous places. Most ports of call have a iconic and significant things that people
want to go and see, that’s often why the cruisers are going there but everyone is
going to go and see it, so that’s where all the crowds are going to congregate.
What you should do is look for either tours or places that
are not the obvious ones, so in Barcelona everyone heads off to
the Ramblas but very few people actually head up the hill where the
Olympic Park was, or if you’re going to Grand Cayman everyone goes to Seven
Mile Beach so go to the beaches on the other parts of the island. In
Civitavecchia everyone heads up to Rome. There are other excursions that go to an
ancient Etruscan City of the Dead called Ceteri. So when you head to
a place, don’t just go to the famous places. If you want to avoid the crowds
look for the things that are off the beaten track, look at the things that are
lower down the list of things to do either though the excursions offered by either
the cruise line or independent providers. Look at the tours which are
going to places you perhaps never heard of, because it’s unlikely that the crowds
are going to be heading there. One thing linked to that is I love in ports using
the hop-on hop-off bus. I find them a really inexpensive way of getting around,
hear some commentary and take you to the usual places. As you head around on the
hop-on hop-off bus, you’re going to find that people are getting off at certain
stops where the famous things are, but get off on the stops where no
one’s getting off because then the crowds are not going to be there, but there’s
going to be something interesting to do otherwise the bus wouldn’t be stopping
there. I have found some great places, some great
beaches and some really interesting sites by getting off at the stops that other
people aren’t. Another really good tip and thing that I do to avoid crowds is
timing. The way the cruising works is the minute that the ship is cleared in a
port, the tours start going and people are in a rush to get off the ship. People
leave as early as the ship docks, and they tend to then come back around
lunchtime to eat on board the ship, and often then spend the afternoon on board
the ship. The critical thing to do is to go against that flow. For example,
go out exploring in the afternoon or if you’ve got an overnight stay out late, or get up early in the morning (even before breakfast) head out
and do your sightseeing really early and perhaps have breakfast out. The morning
is going to be really busy wherever you go. Lunch time is a great
time to go to some of the key sites. You’ll find a lot of the cruise
passengers will head back to the ship to have their meals as people don’t like to
then pay for meals out and about, so lunch time is a really great time to go
to some of the famous and big sights if that’s where you want to go. Bear in mind
as soon as the ship arrives, everybody will be rushing out on
excursions. Afternoons, lunch times and as late as possible is when to go. If you have an all
aboard time of 7pm, 8Pm or later do your
sightseeing at the end of the day. It’s also really good of course for
photography, because the light is better for it. Timing is key to
avoiding crowds. Cruise passengers are very predictable in the way that they
see places and sights, and go against that flow. Another thing that I like to
do to avoid crowds is to go on tours that have either early access or after
closing access, or to book tickets which enable you to go early to
places or will give you a skip the line entrance into a place. There’s a couple
of ways you can do that. Some cruise lines have tours which have early
opening access. For example, in St. Petersburg we were able to get into the
Hermitage Museum an hour before it opened, so we’d almost finished our tour
before the big crowds arrived. There was a slight premium for that.
You can also usually go online to the places you want to go and see and book
Fast Pass entries. What I often do if there’s specific sites, museums or tall buildings like the Empire State Building or whatever that want
to go and see, I buy the Fast Pass pass and scoot past
everybody and go and see the sight, a avoid the lines and crowds. It’s much
more efficient. There are a couple of resources online, for example avoid –
crowds.com which at the moment is focused on Europe. They give you
lots of tips for all of the key cities on how and when you
should go to avoid crowds, so look at resources like that. Cruise lines
will often offer early access tours and those fast passes, or you can use resources online to
find ways of going when the crowds aren’t there.
Even on some sites like Google, for example, they often show how
busy things are by the hour, so look at when the crowds are going to be there
and try and plan to buy tickets for entry or to go on tours when it’s not
going to be busy. It sounds kind of obvious but people don’t look before going usually. I’ve also
learned another little trick over the years of cruising to avoid crowds, and
that’s particularly in really busy ports, which is go on home cooking or craft type
tours. There are increasingly lots of tours
where you can go and eat in families homes, go to a small artisan
bakery or cooking class with small numbers. It’s a great way of avoiding crowds because you’re going to have a small
group. Increasingly Cruise Lines are starting to offer those excursions, or
you’re also able to find a lot of those yourself. For example one of the sites
that I like to look at is a site called eat with calm. In lots of places
around the world you’re able to book home-cooked meals or cooking
classes with people who live locally. It’s a great way of avoiding the crowds
because some of them only take 4 to 6 people. you can avoid the big crowds and the
busy places this way. I hope you found these tips on avoiding crowds helpful, I have loads of videos of cruising tips
and advice so why don’t you watch another one of those right now?

17 thoughts on “8 Best Ways to Avoid The Crowds In Cruise Ports

  1. In Juneau, Alaska, A short walk, I have a walking stick, to the Alaska State Museum. You walk past interesting places, is cheap and really informative on the history of Alaska.

  2. Stay on the ship – what stupid advice, people spend tons of money and have opportunity to see beautiful places, and you advice them to stay in sardine can and eat hamburgers

  3. I appreciate your help and advice. I had a difficult time when I went to New Orleans, and I really wish I had this advice then.

  4. We were in Norway in May this year on the Britannia and the Hop on Hop of Bus was about £30 each so £60 before we had done anything . Is the Barcelona one cheaper ? We are off to Spain with P&O next year on the Iona and Barcelona is an overnight stop

  5. Outstanding Gary! No one else presents this material and so much of it enriches our potential experiences! Thank you!

  6. Thanks you for these tips. Friends on their first cruise were put off by all the hourds of people around the ports. They say they won’t cruise again. I’ll forward your tips may make them change their minds.

  7. Great advice and thanks for all the sites to look at. Already changed plans for a cruise in February to Cozumel – six cruise ships in port the day we are there.

  8. Always guaranteed to learn something interesting and useful when watching one of your videos Gary. This did not disappoint!…thanks for sharing…Ed

  9. You say Go Local and I'd like to add to that and say book excursions by independent providers at the port once you get off the ship or book in advance. Their busses, catamarans, submarines ect tend to be far less crowded then the ones booked through the cruise lines booked by mostly everyone on the ship. Even is you go to the same place such as Sting Ray City in Grand Cayman their catamarans are less crowded then the others booked by the cruise ship providers. Also a good source to avoid crowds to ask the crew members who have sailed in that port multiple times. They can tell you were the less crowded places are and even where the good eating places and best wi fi spots. Keep in mind that besides website the on board crew is the best source of information.

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