Cruising Feature

When Cruising Do I Have To Go Ashore?

28 Day Panama Canal Cruise

There is a question that comes up on occasions when talking about cruising. It is a question that does not seem quite as silly as you might think when you first hear it. The question of “Do I have to go ashore when we are in port?”

In most cases, the answer is a very simple “no.” However just like every answer there always a time that the regular answer does not apply. But let’s take a look at a couple of examples that I have experience or friends have followed.

Sometimes Leaving The Ship Is Mandatory

Before getting into other examples I will say that yes there have been times that it is a requirement to leave the ship in a port. The ports that this occurs in are generally few and far between and it is often an immigration requirement more than anything else.

In some 40 or so port calls while cruising there have only been two instances where I was required to leave the cruise ship. Of course, I did leave the ship in every port, in some way. The two instances were in Fort Lauderdale and Barcelona.

On my first cruise, the halfway point was Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Since the ship had visited multiple ports in Central America, we were essentially re-entering the United States. What this means is that every passenger had to pass through the US Customs. Even if you were continuing onboard the ship you still had to disembark to pass through this check. In some ways, I am glad this happened, as I had planned to stay onboard for the day. But while waiting in line met some people who I end up spending the day exploring Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale - USA

The second time was on my third cruise when the ship arrived at Barcelona. Essentially, the reason behind the requirement to disembark was the same. However, it seemed to be more a formality than any stringent process. I say this because the ship had already visited multiple ports in Europe and Spain before arriving in Barcelona. But I suppose they have to designate somewhere as the entry point to Europe for such purposes.

Barcelona - Catalonia Square

Staying Onboard is Just Fine

There have been days when cruising when I have spent the vast majority of a port day onboard the ship. One that comes back vividly is the city of Acapulco in Mexico and another was Antigua in Guatemala. In saying that I did spend some time off the ship in both ports.

When I visited Acapulco, I was not keen on heading out into the town after hearing stories from fellow passengers. There had been a number of passengers who when heading for the old town had people try and lure them down alleyways with offers of directions. Being a solo traveller I was not keen to test my luck and opted for a short walk around the terminal and a drink in a restaurant in the cruise terminal. In total spending probably less than 1 hour off the ship.

Acapulco - Mexico

The story was rather similar in Guatemala. It was Good Friday there was not much close to the cruise dock except for a small market and a bar/restaurant. I took a short walk around the port area and had a drink in the restaurant before returning to the cruise ship. Again I spent maybe an hour off the ship.

In comparison, a friend I cruised with in February 2017 opted to stay on board for the majority of the cruise. There end up being four port calls on the cruise and she only left the ship for a short walk around the markets in one port.

It Is Your Holiday

Just remember that when you cruise it is your holiday. There is no one there saying that you must get off the ship and explore the port. While there may be the occasional port where you must go ashore due to immigration requirements. Ok and maybe that very last port when you must leave the ship to go home. Every other port it is generally your choice to go ashore or stay onboard. Of course, though remember to enjoy your cruise.

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