These 11 Ports Are The Worst Places to Get Off The Cruise Ship

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Going on a cruise might sound like a dream, with sunny decks and beautiful stops, but sometimes the experience at certain ports doesn’t meet expectations. 

One of the worst cruise ports' aerial view with a red thumbs down mark on the bottom right

Instead of finding charming local culture and relaxing shopping, you might encounter uninspiring commercial areas or beautiful views that come with safety concerns. 

Researching your cruise stops carefully is essential, as some may not be as enjoyable as others. Reviews from other cruisers can indicate which destinations might be disappointing. 

Knowing these details can help you get the most out of your cruise and set realistic expectations for each part of your trip. So, I’ve researched for you and analysed reviews from sites such as Cruiseline.com. The websites don’t rank cruise ports from best to worst, so I personally went through the reviews and gathered opinions on why some ports were considered the worst.

1. Prince Rupert, Canada

Prince Rupert, Canada's view from the sea.

Prince Rupert in British Columbia finds its way onto many an Alaskan cruise itinerary. But if you dive into what people say online, it’s been dubbed the world’s worst cruise port. 

It seems the downtown area doesn’t really wow visitors, with a scant selection of shops that don’t do much to capture the imagination. For some, the highlight is hitting up familiar spots like Safeway and Seven-Eleven, which tell you something about the local offerings.

Some describe the town’s downtown vibe as “skidrowish,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Add to that the frustration over the lack of engaging activities and the early closing times of the few shops, and you can see why visitors might be left wanting more.

As for things to do, the Prince Rupert City Highlights and Museum excursion seems like the go-to, but even that’s been a letdown. Picture a quick drive around town with a stop at the local museum that wraps up quicker than you’d expect, often in less than two hours, and you’ve got the gist of it.

There’s talk among travellers that Prince Rupert’s role on these cruises might be more about ticking a box for regulatory reasons than anything else. It’s all to do with the cabotage laws in the U.S., like the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which mean ships must stop in a non-U.S. port when sailing between two U.S. spots. 

Prince Rupert fits the bill nicely for cruises heading through the Alaskan and Pacific Northwest routes, not to mention it’s a handy spot for ships to refuel and restock.

However, despite its practical purposes, it doesn’t seem to be a stop that leaves tourists thrilled about their visit.

2. Samana, Dominican Republic

The view of Samana, Dominican Republic with a prominent church that can be seen

Samaná, in the Dominican Republic, is one of those spots you might see popping up on Caribbean cruise itineraries with Costa Cruises, Holland America, and MSC’s Explora Journeys. But honestly, from what I’ve read online, it seems like it’s missing the mark for many tourists looking for a fun and engaging stopover.

Much of the feedback concerns feeling uneasy about safety, especially with kids. One family even decided to head back to the ship early because the local kids were being pretty aggressive.

And then there’s the whole vibe of the place. It sounds like people were expecting something a bit more lively and tourist-friendly but instead found themselves dealing with rough roads, not much infrastructure, and really not much to do. Some reviews just straight-up called it a “crappy place”, which kinda says it all.

Sure, a few people mentioned picking up some cool local art, but even that experience gets overshadowed by super pushy sales tactics and, sadly, lots of kids around begging and hassling tourists. It paints a pretty bleak picture of the local struggles.

The excursions are a bit hit-and-miss. For example, there’s a hike to a waterfall that’s supposed to be amazing. Still, it turns out to be underwhelming and not worth the trek for many.

3. Santa Marta, Colombia

An aerial shot of Santa Marta, Colombia with small boats scattered around the sea

As your cruise ship docks at Santa Marta, you might notice the surroundings give off more of a business vibe rather than the conventional holiday port one might expect. Primarily tailored for shipping purposes, the sight of cargo and the absence of designed tourist regions may stand out.

Despite its urban persona, Santa Marta is a launching pad for the renowned Tayrona National Natural Park. It’s worth considering a planned tour of this natural sanctuary. Santa Marta has received mixed reviews due to its raw and less-than-polished character.

Some previous visitors have expressed concerns regarding their comfort and safety, citing encounters with persistent vendors as a notable challenge. Santa Marta may not fulfil the typical Caribbean cruise stop image. Still, its proximity to natural beauty spots like Tayrona can offer you a different adventure.

4. Santos, Brazil

Aerial shot of Santos, Brazil with a huge cruise ship ported alone

Santos stands as Brazil’s premier port and the doorway to the sprawling metropolis of Sao Paulo. With over 100 cruise ships docking each year, it’s clear that the real treasure lies in heading straight to Sao Paulo, as Santos might not capture your interest as much.

The journey from ship to city in Santos presents challenges, primarily due to the port’s industrial nature. Travellers often find themselves navigating a somewhat perplexing shuttle system just to reach the main terminal, followed by a bus ride into the city, all amidst the hustle of traffic. This cumbersome process tends to consume a considerable chunk of the visit.

Safety concerns also surface for those opting to explore Santos, with many labelling the area as somewhat risky and lacking appeal.

Moreover, the main excursion touted by cruise lines—a visit to a local shopping centre—hardly scratches the surface of Brazil’s vibrant cultural landscape, leaving much to be desired.

Further explorations, whether independently undertaken or through cruise-organised tours, frequently traverse less-than-ideal neighbourhoods, failing to highlight the region’s more charming facets. This has led to a consensus that such excursions fall short of providing a meaningful or enjoyable experience regardless of cost, underscoring a preference for making the most of your time by venturing into Sao Paulo.

5. Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Bird's eye view of Sihanoukville, Cambodia with prominent high-rise buildings near it

When you’re heading off on a cruise to Southeast Asia, you’re probably expecting to drop anchor at some pretty spectacular ports. But, heads up, if you’re bound for Cambodia’s Sihanoukville with high-end lines like Seabourn or Oceania Cruises, you might want to temper those expectations.

The biggest letdown with Sihanoukville seems to be the rampant construction everywhere. It’s like the place is swamped with building sites, mostly for casinos, and what used to be a charming fishing village now feels more like a construction zone gone wild.

Then there’s the environmental side of things, which sounds pretty grim. We’re talking about serious pollution issues, from plastic littering the beaches to, unfortunately, the smell of urine and even sewage problems in the water—not exactly the beach day you’d dream of.

Getting around can be a hassle, too, with taxi and tuk-tuk drivers being a bit too pushy for comfort. This adds a layer of stress when you’re just trying to explore.

And here’s the kicker: you need a visa to step off the boat, whether you want to brave the construction and pollution or not. On top of everything else, this extra cost is rubbing many people the wrong way, especially when the port itself isn’t living up to expectations.

6. Brest, France

Brest, France port that can be seen behind the city area of Brest

Nestled within the scenic landscapes of France, Brest emerges as a port of call that, unfortunately, hasn’t been meeting the expectations of many cruise passengers. Despite France’s reputation for its enchanting charm and warm hospitality, Brest appears to struggle in delivering a visit that resonates well with its guests.

The predominant feedback from visitors points to a noticeable scarcity of attractions, leading to descriptions of Brest as a place with “nothing there.” This sentiment is further intensified by the inaccessibility of excursions or the untimely closure of available attractions due to local holidays, significantly narrowing exploration opportunities.

Furthermore, logistical challenges mar the experience, with issues such as the discontinuation of complimentary shuttle services and bus drop-offs inconveniently far from the city’s heart. These factors complicate visitors’ attempts to delve into what Brest has to offer.

Adding to the concerns are the interactions with local residents, which some travellers found to be less than cordial. Whether rooted in cultural misunderstandings or isolated events, this perception undeniably affects the anticipated welcoming environment, leaving visitors somewhat alienated.

Brest’s primary role as a working port, rather than one tailored for cruise ship tourism, is also evident. This focus on industrial and shipping activities over tourism-friendly features likely plays a part in its failure to enchant cruise guests, drawing a stark contrast to the expected picturesque and accommodating nature.

7. Agadir, Morocco

Agadir, Morocco with no cruise ship ported but various small boats present on the outskirts of the port.

Agadir, one of the stops for loads of cruise ships hitting Morocco, seems to be struggling a bit to give visitors a really good time. From what I’ve been reading from other travellers, there are a few big issues popping up.

First off, getting around is a bit of a headache. The port’s more on the industrial side, so it’s not exactly prime for tourists wanting to check out the city. You’ve got shuttle buses and taxis, but everyone says they’re pricey and kind of a hassle. Some suggest getting a taxi for the whole day to save some cash, but then you’re into the whole haggling game, which can be a pain.

Safety’s another big worry. Everyone’s saying to steer clear of walking from the port into town because it’s not safe, and the city itself comes off as dirty and not too friendly. There are loads of stories about locals being a bit dishonest and vendors getting too pushy.

The souk, or local market, should be a cool spot to see the real Agadir, but even that’s hit or miss. It’s shut on Mondays, and even when it’s open, you’ve got to watch out for vendors trying to pull a fast one. It leaves a lot of people feeling ripped off.

And then, when you stack Agadir up against other Moroccan cities like Casablanca, it just doesn’t hold up. It feels less lively, a bit poorer, and you’ll see way more begging.

8. Alotau, Papua New Guinea

Beautiful view of Alotau, Papua New Guinea from the sea

Papua New Guinea conjures up images of stunning volcanic landscapes, lush rainforests, and untouched beaches. Yet, the reality for cruise ship passengers docking at Alotau can be quite different from this idyllic picture.

A big talking point among visitors is the state of the environment in Alotau, especially the litter scattered everywhere. This, mixed with the heat and humidity, doesn’t make for the most comfortable visit.

Then there’s the simplicity of the local markets and the rough-around-the-edges infrastructure – think big potholes and uneven roads – which might not live up to the expectations of those looking for a bit of luxury on their travels.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. A lot of people actually rave about the cultural experiences Alotau offers. The local village visits and cultural performances are often described as both entertaining and enlightening. Plus, there’s a lot of love for the people of Alotau, who come across as genuinely friendly and welcoming.

Reviews are a bit of a mixed bag, though. While some visitors label the town as “very poor” and “dingy,” others see it as a chance to really connect with the local community and dive into their way of life. It seems like Alotau is one of those places where your mileage may vary, depending on what you’re there for.

So, the takeaway? Keep your expectations in check. Remember, Papua New Guinea is still finding its feet in many ways. Maybe focus on soaking up the culture and the warmth of the people rather than letting a few potholes spoil your adventure.

9. Salvador De Bahia, Brazil

High buildings near Salvador De Bahia, Brazil with a  slight view of other ships cruising near the port

Salvador, the heart of Bahia in Brazil, pops up on the radar for MSC and Costa Cruises, drawing in crowds expecting the vibrant Brazilian charm. Yet, it seems from what I’ve heard the reality’s a bit off the mark, with cleanliness, safety, and overall vibe not quite hitting the spot for many travellers.

The city’s caught up with litter in the streets, unwelcome graffiti, and buildings that look like they’ve seen better days – mouldy and falling apart. It’s a far cry from the lively, colourful Brazil we all imagine, which is a bit of a letdown for visitors.

Safety feels a bit iffy, too. There’s a lot of chat about tourists feeling on edge, with petty theft like pickpocketing not being uncommon. And then there’s the constant badgering by beggars and some locals getting too close for comfort, especially around marketplaces, which doesn’t help ease the tension.

Interactions with locals can be pretty hit or miss, veering more towards miss, according to some tales. Rather than the friendly, welcoming vibe you’d expect, there’s a lot of pressure from street bands and others pushing for money, which can get pretty overwhelming.

Even the guided tours aren’t doing much to lift Salvador’s rep. Places visited are often described in less-than-glowing terms, with “dirty” and “slum-like” being thrown around. It’s not exactly the highlight reel of Brazil you’d hope for.

And then there are the hard-to-ignore social issues—lots of homeless people around and areas in disrepair, highlighting the city’s struggles. It’s a bit of a sobering sight and adds a layer of discomfort to the visit.

10. Manzanillo, Mexico

Small boats docked on the Manzanillo, Mexico port.

If your cruise, maybe with Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, or Holland America, stops off at Manzanillo in Mexico, you might want to consider lining up an excursion pretty quickly to avoid the port area.

Manzanillo doesn’t seem to have much going on, especially since it is not close to where the ship docks. It’s got this vibe of just not having a lot to offer for tourists who fancy a bit of independent exploring. No beaches nearby to take a dip, and if you want to find somewhere a bit more interesting, it sounds like you’re in for a long and costly taxi ride.

Being mainly a shipping hub, Manzanillo isn’t winning any beauty contests compared to other Mexican cruise spots. The industrial feel kind of kills the holiday mood, leaving you with the impression of a place that’s more hustle and bustle than holiday relaxation.

Then there’s a bit of chat about safety, with some mentions of seeing guards packing machine guns, which isn’t exactly what you want on a relaxing getaway. And it seems like the local welcome wagon isn’t exactly rolling out the red carpet, which is a bit of a bummer compared to the friendly faces you meet in other ports.

You’d hope that the excursions would save the day, right? But even those are getting a thumbs down from people who’ve been there. We’re talking long bus rides to places that don’t blow your hair back, lunch that’s forgettable at best, and tour guides who seem to have missed the memo on making a good impression.

11. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

A dry terrain near the port of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo appears on some Eastern Caribbean routes for Aida, Marella, and Seabourn cruises, but it’s not exactly topping the popularity charts, both for the number of ships docking and visitor reviews.

As the capital of the Dominican Republic, you’d expect a bustling metropolis, and while Santo Domingo is certainly that, with a population of over a million, safety seems to be a big worry for tourists. 

There are lots of reports from cruisers about being cautioned against robberies and other crimes, particularly if you’re wandering about without a group. And the sight of armed guards around the port, meant to reassure, apparently just adds to a feeling of tension instead.

Then there’s the port’s state of cleanliness – or lack thereof. Words like “filthiest” get thrown around, with complaints about rubbish in the water and grubby surroundings not exactly painting a pretty picture. It’s not just an eyesore; it makes people worry about health hazard,s too.

A common gripe is the sheer lack of anything to do right by the port. No shops, no attractions close by – if you don’t head deeper into the city or sign up for an excursion, you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs.

Even for those who do book excursions, there seems to be a fair chance of disappointment. Unorganised tours, underwhelming beaches, and long hauls to get anywhere seem to be part of the package, leaving many feeling let down.

There are some silver linings, like the occasional shout-out to places like Los Tres Ojos, a stunning natural limestone cave. But these few bright spots seem to struggle to shine through the overarching cloud of negative feedback.

Making the Most of Your Cruise

Here’s a tip: sometimes, the absolute best cruise days are the ones where you just chill on the ship while everyone else goes exploring. Imagine having all the sunloungers to yourself, sprawling out in the hot tub without a care, and hitting up the bar without ever having to queue. These are some of my favourite days.

Don’t feel like you’ve got to disembark at every single stop. Treating yourself to an extra day at sea can feel like a luxury, especially without the usual crowd.

Got a port on your itinerary that’s been getting some iffy reviews? No stress. Now that you’re in the know, you can plan ahead. Do a bit of homework on the best excursions before making any decisions on what you’ll do.

It’s good to remember not all ports are going to drop you straight into a postcard-worthy scene. Some are more about logistics than looks, others might reflect the economic struggles of a country, and sometimes, the locals don’t exactly throw a parade every time a cruise ship docks.

The trick is to stay one step ahead. Savour the standout stops, and don’t let the not-so-great ones dampen your spirits or your cruise experience.


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Thanks for reading!

I'm Hannah and I've been cruising for as long as I can remember.

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