We have made a list of the 10 most popular cruise ports or destinations visited from the United States along with some of the perks of these locations. The Caribbean sees more cruise traffic than anywhere else in the world, and it’s not an accident that so many cruisers are drawn to these exotic locations. These ports top the list also because Florida has the 3 most popular cruise departure ports with Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Port Canaveral. While there are many other popular cruise ports around the world, this list will be composed of the most popular ports visited among American cruisers.
#1 Nassau, Bahamas
The Bahamas are composed of over 700 islands, and their capital, Nassau, is usually on the itinerary for almost any eastern Caribbean cruise. On its busiest days, Nassau will see 6 to 7 cruise ships in port at one time, although on the day this article was written there were just 3 ships in port. 60% of Nassau’s economy is based on tourism, and with 3 million cruise passengers a year, this popular cruise destination easily tops our list. Other popular ports right near Nassau are CocoCay, Half Moon Cay, Great Stirrup Cay, and Freeport. A must see at Nassau is the posh resort, Atlantis. Read our Nassau review here.
#2 Cozumel, Mexico
Cozumel is the king of ports in Mexico and the western Caribbean. This popular destination has around 2.5 million cruise passengers every year. While the island takes up about 190 square miles of real estate and 100,000 people live there, much of the limestone land is uninhabited and full of vegetation. The three main draws to Cozumel are the snorkeling and scuba diving, Mayan ruins, and shopping. Be sure to check out our video review of Cozumel along with some helpful tips when visiting the island (we loved the snorkeling).
#3 St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
It’s not uncommon to see 6 cruise ships in port at St. Thomas, another of the Caribbean’s most popular cruise destinations with anywhere from 2 million to 3 million cruisers visiting every year. The main draw of St. Thomas is that there is a little something for everyone. There’s the unparalleled shopping frenzy at Charlotte Amalie, and also the quiet, secluded beaches that can be found all around the coast of the island. There’s also a lot of history on the island for the history buffs. The world’s largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, is in port at St. Thomas every Tuesday, bringing in as many as 6,300 cruise passengers, pushing St. Thomas closer to the #2 and #1 spot. St. Thomas has been called the gem of the Caribbean and many cruisers also love to travel to nearby St. John.
#4 Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman and the Cayman Islands make #4 on our list with around 1.4 – 1.6 million cruise passengers visiting every year. Grand Cayman is world-renown for its beautiful reef all around the island. Some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving is done here and the beaches are a main attraction for visitors to the island. As a British Crown Colony you will notice the British influence right away, so be sure to drive on the left and enjoy the other colonial idiosyncrasies of the islands. Plenty of sun and turquoise beaches make the Cayman Islands a popular port, and its 50,000 residents enjoy year-round tourism at its duty-free shops as well. Read more on Grand Cayman here.
#5 St. Maarten/Martin
The number of cruise passengers to St. Maarten/Martin have increased steadily with some of the largest ships in the world coming to the port. Ships like the Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and the Norwegian Epic frequent this French and Dutch island with between 1.2 and 1.4 million visitors a year just from cruise ships. This is a busy island that presents a lot of fun opportunities and activities. Being the smallest island in the world that is under the control of 2 different countries (Holland and France) St. Maarten/Martin adds a unique experience to the island. The Dutch side is bustling and offers a lot of shopping, and the French side is more low-key and laid back.
#6 San Juan, Puerto Rico
With about a million cruise visitors a year to Puerto Rico every year, this popular cruise port offers exquisite beauty. Besides attracting history buffs from all over the world with its forts and cobblestone streets, Puerto Rico also offers beautiful beaches and unique rain forests that are only an hour from the port. San Juan is the capital and largest city in Puerto Rico. You can read more about our experience at San Juan Puerto Rico here.
#7 Juneau Alaska
Just under a million cruise passengers every year visit Juneau, Alaska, which has a population of only 32,000 residents. Although the port is very seasonal with May through September being the only months that cruise ships will actually visit the port, those months are very busy with anywhere form 4-6 ships being in port at one time. It’s only a short walk from the port to the city’s shopping, eating, and historic areas.
#8 Key West
Key West is the southernmost point of the Continental United States and attracts about 750,000 cruisers every year. Most of the area relies on tourism but there is also a strong military presence with the US Naval Air Station based on Bolsa Chica Island. Key West is usually included in 7 and 10 day cruise itineraries to the Western Caribbean. Read more about our visit to Key West here and get some tips on your next cruise there.
+#9 Roatan, Honduras
About 650,000 cruisers visit Roatan Island every year. What makes this largest island of Honduras such a popular cruise destination is the beauty of the place. The island is thin and long and is surrounded by coral reefs which is excellent for snorkeling or scuba diving. The beaches are very popular with cruisers and there are plenty of water sports to keep you busy as well. Over 200 ships visit Roatan every year.
#10 Grand Turk
Grand Turk is part of the Turk and Caicos Islands, and although it is #10 on our list, it is still relatively low-key and quiet. For those wanting a respite from the hustle and bustle of shore excursions and shopping, Grand Turk might be the place, although plenty of excursions are offered as well. With around 600,000 cruise passengers a year, Grand Turk attracts divers from all over the world. The island sits on the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world. In the past only smaller cruise ships would visit the island, but with its beauty and serenity more cruise companies are taking passengers to this paradise of 40 islands.
#11 Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Yes, this is supposed to be a list of the top 10, but we thought we would toss in Jamaica as a bonus. With over 300,000 cruisers visiting this laid back paradise every year, Jamaica is a fun place to visit. Despite a down-town that is bustling with strip-malls, shopping, and street vendors, a short trip to the surrounding areas of Ocho Rios will reveal a more scenic Jamaica with cozy villages and a land lush with vegetation. Read our Ocho Rios review here.
Have you been to any or all of these 10 most popular cruise destinations? Let us know in the comment section below or on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.