Until about 3 years ago, I would rarely plan much for port days, aside from booking a few shore excursions, I would never do thorough research into the places that I would be visiting – I quite liked the idea of just seeing where I ended up when I got there – but since my Caribbean cruise in 2012, I have really enjoyed having my own little port day itineraries.
Online research is always useful
My Caribbean cruise in 2012 was a 35-night voyage and it really needed to be planned in order to make the most of each and every destination. My friend and I spent hours online looking at different attractions in each place: beaches, restaurants, good areas for shopping, you name it, we looked it up.
We trailed the usual travel websites and found ideas, recommendations and tips from others, then we looked for things slightly more off the beaten track. By the time we had finished, we really had a mixture of everything and I was so excited – I’d never looked forward to any previous cruise like I did that one and it was all because all of the research and excitement of the things that we knew we were going to do.
Google Maps, the ultimate route planner
Like I said, we trailed many websites but I have to say that one really stood out for me (and made everything a lot easier) and that was Google Earth/Maps. I literally lived on Google Maps, the street views for some ports were not available as “real life”, but others were and it meant I could literally plan my route from the ship to where I wanted to be, walking it via the laptop and comfort of my chair. The port of call that it helped with the most was Cozumel. It had everything I needed on the street view to plan my various routes and that’s exactly what I did. When I got there, it was very strange, part of me felt like it was Deja-vu, but it was nice knowing exactly where I needed to be without the use of a hand-held map. It also came in useful for Aruba and Tortola. Don’t just use it for directions, use it to check-out the ground level and what is in the area.
Google Maps is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind for some when thinking about shore days, but I really would suggest you give it a try. For some people, even though they are excited to be cruising, the arrival into a foreign port can sometimes create a little apprehension, which is only natural when experiencing something new. I think having the option to see things at ground level, just as you would be walking down the street, could give that added sense of security because you now arrive to buildings and streets you recognise, to a degree.
Don’t forget to check out ships webcams
I also like to check out the ships live webcams, they can come in incredibly useful, I know I found a ship in Antigua one day and being able to see right down the main street was great! City or port webcams are good for this also; you never know what you might come across.
So, when planning your next ocean adventure, give Google Maps a look. My friend and I have used it religiously since that Caribbean cruise and, ironically, we find ourselves back doing the exact same thing for another Caribbean adventure.
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