San Juan

Answers to many commonly asked questions about Royal Caribbean cruises sailing out of San Juan


Understandably, many guests are concerned about their upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises that leave out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, or just apprehensive about booking a cruise departing from there. The damage caused by recent hurricanes can still be felt across the island.

Royal Caribbean has released a new set of frequently asked questions to address the current state of affairs in San Juan, and what guests can expect.

This information was up to date as of October 30, 2017.

What is the current status of Puerto Rico, more specifically the city of San Juan?

Rebuilding is underway! The Puerto Rico Tourism Company has collaborated with government agencies and the private sector to provide relief following the damage caused by recent hurricanes. The safety of all visitors and residents remains a top priority as the island takes steps towards a full recovery. Airports, hotels, and cruise infrastructures are operational and are on a steady path to rebuilding an even stronger Puerto Rico.

Is the port of San Juan open and fully functional?

San Juan Harbor is open and has resumed homeporting operations.

Have airports in Puerto Rico returned to normal flight patterns?

Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan is fully operational with scheduled domestic and international flights. Other airports in surrounding areas are operational with limited service.

Have hotels reopened? Is there availability?

At this time, approximately 69% of hotels are operational and accepting reservations. Availability varies by hotel and can change at any time.

Has electrical power been restored across the island?

Roughly 70% of Puerto Rico remains without power. 

Are services available to safely transfer cruisers to-and-from the airport?

Though transportation services remain somewhat limited, ongoing clean-up efforts and increased availability of fuel are improving the outlook. Currently, 83% of gas stations on the island are functioning. To assist in this arena, those Royal Caribbean guests arriving and departing San Juan on the embarkation and debarkation days of their cruise vacation are eligible to receive complimentary transfers from the airport to the pier and vice versa. This service will remain complimentary for Jewel of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas guests traveling through December 31, 2017. Specific flight parameters apply.

Have cell towers and telecommunication services been restored across the island? 

Nearly 70% of the island’s cell phone towers and telecommunication services are working in full capacity.

What attractions and/or tours are available for cruise guests to participate in?

The following tourist locations have been restored:

  • Old San Juan / Old City shops
  • Some restaurants & bars
  • City has been cleaned but some debris and damaged buildings will be visible in New San Juan
  • Plaza Las Americas (Mall of San Juan)
  • Biking, Segway, & Walking tours
  • Food tours
  • Yoga on the Green

What humanitarian efforts are available should cruise guests wish to assist?

Guests can opt to participate in relief assistance through monetary contributions or through the donation of much-needed, essential supplies. For many of these recovering islands, tourism plays an instrumental role in their overall economic status, impacting local jobs and livelihood. Now more than ever, these impacted islands need you!

Royal Caribbean announces return to San Juan and St. Maarten following hurricane damage


Royal Caribbean announced today the cruise line will return to two major cruise ports largely impacted by hurricanes earlier this year.

Royal Caribbean will return to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Philipsburg, St. Maarten, which will be a, "major milestone towards the revival of these Caribbean gems which were impacted by recent hurricanes."

On November 30, Freedom of the Seas will be the first ship in the fleet to call on San Juan, Puerto Rico

Grandeur of the Seas will follow suit on December 17 as the first cruise ship to sail into, St. Maarten since Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas arrived to provide humanitarian relief last month.

As of November. 30, all scheduled calls to San Juan and St. Thomas across 10 ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet will operate as planned

This announcement comes on the heels of Royal Caribbean’s recent news that Adventure of the Seas will be the first ship to call on St. Thomas on November 10.  

"Royal Caribbean is encouraged by the commendable progress that has been made by the governments of Puerto Rico and St. Maarten towards the recovery of these destinations and it means a lot to us that we are heading back home. We have been part of the Caribbean community for almost 50 years, and for all of us it has been paramount that we focus on supporting our long-standing partners – who feel more like family after so many years," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. "Supporting these destinations that are so reliant on tourism is key to the future of the islands and the best thing we – as travelers and businesses – can do for the islands."

Royal Caribbean has been working closely with the governments of Puerto Rico and St. Maarten, and local businesses, and plans to offer destination experiences that will allow guests to enjoy the natural beauty, historic landmarks and culture of these idyllic islands. Power and transportation is on track to be readily available in San Juan by November 30.

Similarly, the return of power and water to most of St. Maarten means that a majority of the shops, restaurants and bars, and tour operators around Philipsburg will be fully operational for guests to experience a diverse and extensive array of dining, shopping and activities in the area. The sun and vistas of the region’s best beaches, Great Bay Beach and Kimshaw Beach, will be a beacon for guests wanting to dive into the turquoise blue waters and admire the sea life, whether by boat or catamaran, or from the relaxing comfort of a beach lounger.

The scheduled visits to St. Maarten will operate as planned starting on Dec. 17 with the exception of Oasis of the Seas, which will make its first call to the island on January 1 during her New Year’s Eve cruise. Additionally, the global cruise line will return to St. Croix on January 8 with the arrival of Jewel of the Seas, which will sail from San Juan. All calls to Dominica are cancelled through June 2018 and the cruise line is working closely with the local government on a return date to the destination.

Royal Caribbean announces partnership with Puerto Rico to improve San Juan pier


Governor Ricardo Rosselló, along with the executive director of the Ports Authority, Lic. Omar Marrero Díaz, announced Thursday improvements to San Juan's Pan American II Pier, in partnership with the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

The announcement comes as Royal Caribbean announced its intention to homeport Freedom of the Seas in San Juan in May 2018.  To do this, investments will be made in this port facility to optimize the infrastructure and in turn improve the experience of the passengers at the dock.

As part of the agreement between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the Ports Authority, a number of works will be carried out including: improvements to the boarding bridge, improvements and reconfiguration of safety checkpoints, adding passenger registration desks, The capacity of the baggage inspection area, improvements to the bathrooms, dredging to the dock area of ​​the Pan American Wharf II, improvements to the mooring structure of the ships and other miscellaneous improvements to the building.

The economic impact is expected to be momentous and have an increase in Ports Authority revenues of $2.8 million.

For fiscal year 2015-2016 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. brought a total of 574,140 passengers and is expected to increase to approximately 700,000 passengers by 2018.

Royal Caribbean to relocate Freedom of the Seas to San Juan for 2018-2019 season


Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas will call San Juan, Puerto Rico its new home in 2018-2019.

The cruise line's 2018-2019 Caribbean deployment has a number of 7-night Southern Caribbean cruises that will sail round trip from San Juan.

View Freedom of the Seas' entire deployment here

Freedom of the Seas will depart her current home of Port Everglades, Florida on May 5, 2018 and reposition to San Juan at the end of that sailing.  From then, through March 2019, Freedom of the Seas will homeport from San Juan.

Freedom of the Seas will replace Adventure of the Seas, which will be moving to Cape Liberty, New Jersey. 

Thanks to Erik Clauson aka Cruiseboy for discovering the deployment plans.

Excursion Focus: Castillo El Morro and San Cristóbal in San Juan, Puerto Rico


Exploring a port of call's history can be just as interesting and fun as spalshing at the beach or enjoying local cuisine.  In Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, history comes in spades and among the most popular historical spots tourists can see are the two old Spanish forts that guard the city,  Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) and San Cristóbal.

These two forts are among the most popular historical sites to see in Old San Juan, and they offer an intriguing look back at the island's rich history as well as provide amazing views of the surrounding area.


The two Spanish forts are located on the north side of Old San Juan, and are within walking distance of each other.

El Morro is the more famous of the two forts, as it guards the entrance to the harbor, while San Cristóbal was built to defend the city itself.

The city of San Juan provides a free shuttle from the cruise area up to the forts, although the distance is walkable by most people and there is a lot to see and do along the way.

Starting with El Morro, the fort is set opposite a rather large grassy area, where you will often spot locals and tourists flying kits, taking dogs for walks and otherwise enjoying the wide open space.

Like San Cristóbal, once inside the fort, guests are able to tour the fort on their own and explore every aspect of it. The park staff do offer guided tours at certain times that narrate the experience. Nonetheless, you should feel free to explore the fort on your own, as there is plenty of signs to help tell the fort's story.

There are many areas of the fort to explore, as El Morro is rather large and offers views of the entrance to the harbor, the ocean and the surrounding areas.

Admission to El Morro gets you admission to San Cristóbal as well (and vice versa).

After a walk to San Cristóbal, you will find a fort similar in nature to El Morro, but this fort offers better views of the city and harbor.

San Cristóbal was built to defend the city against land based attacks and is larger than El Morro. In fact, it is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World.

Like El Morro, San Cristóbal provides a self-guided tour of the facility and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.

If your Royal Caribbean ship happens to be in port during the evening, El Morro is lit up quite nicely and provides even more beautiful photo opportunities.


The two Old San Juan forts are among the most famous historical sites in Old San Juan and they are to Old San Juan what the Statue of Liberty might be to New York City.

There are two good tips we can offer for seeing the forts: try to go there early in the day before the temperatures rise and take the complimentary trolley from the cruise ship terminal.

Since Puerto Rico is in the tropics, it tends to get quite hot and humid in the afternoon, especially between the months of March through November.  Given that the fort is almost entirely outdoors, ideally you will visit it in the morning before it gets too hot outside.

If you are wondering about which fort to see if you only have time or energy for one, El Morro tends to be the better choice for its photo opportunities and slightly smaller footprint. Keep in mind that admission to one fort gets you into both (for up to 7 days), so there is no financial reason not to see both.

Be sure to bring your cameras to either fort, because the views offered are really quite impressive.  

Both fortifications can be explored everyday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm either on your own or on one of the ranger led programs held throughout the week.

Cost: $7 per adult. Children 15 and under are free.

Things to do in Old San Juan


Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is a popular cruise port because of it's close proximity to the United States and ample cultural and relaxing activities to choose from.

If you're looking to explore Old San Juan and get a taste of the city without paying for a formal excursion or guide, there are a lot of great places to see that are walking distance from your cruise ship.

We visited Old San Juan on a recent cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas and had a full afternoon and evening in the city to take it all in.  What I love about Old San Juan is how easy it is to explore without fear of getting hopelessly lost.  Since Old San Juan is on a hill, it's fairly easy to get your bearings at any time.  

While there are plenty of excursions available in the surrounding San Juan area, I really like walking around the city to see the many sights (and smells) that are mere minutes from your cruise ship.  When you dock in Old San Juan, you will be let out in the heart of the city and that means you can walk to most everything available.

It is recommended to bring good walking shoes and appropriate clothing for a hot and humid environment.  With San Juan's many hills, temperatures regularly over 80 degrees and lack of natural shade, walking around will definitely burn some calories.

Let's take a look at my picks for things to do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The forts: El Morro and San Cristobal

Perhaps the best known tourist attractions in Old San Juan are the two old Spanish forts that used to guard entrance to the city, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristóbal.

El Morro

San Cristobal

Both of these forts are on the northern coast of the city and both are United States National Parks.  There is not much to do to prepare to see these forts, you just walk in, pay the admission and then take as much time as you like to explore.

What is amazing about these forts is they give you a very good sense of what life was like for the Spanish troops guarding these fortified positions.  If you take the time to visit the exhibits, you will see the kind of threats Spain faced and tales of when foreign powers tested the Spanish resolve to defend the city.

In addition, the views of the city and ocean are unparalleled and you absolutely need to bring your camera here to take some great shots.

Admission to one fort gets you admission to the other fort for up to 7 days, so if you have time you can visit both.  The popular theory these days is El Morro is the more interesting and distinguished of the two forts, so you have time for just one, go with El Morro.

San Juan Gate

The San Juan Gate is the only remaining city gate and was one of six original massive wooden doors that centuries ago allowed passage into San Juan.

All the gates except for this one remain, and it's a bright red with a Latin inscription at the top that says, "Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini" (blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord).

Besides being an important piece of San Juan's history, it's located along the Paseo del Morro, which is a 3/4 mile walkway that follows the city wall below El Morro.  It's impressive to see the city walls that at one time controlled complete access to the city and with its location right on the harbor, it's a beautiful spot to enjoy a walk.

The path to and from the gate are quintessentially old San Juan.  Once again, there's little shade here so bring water for the walk and some sunscreen.

Access to the San Juan Gate is free and you can walk here anytime during the day.

Paseo de la Princesa

Located near El Morro is the Paseo de la Princesa, a beautiful area between where your cruise ship docks and the San Juan Gate.

The Paseo was originally built in 1853 and has been restored quite beautifully in recent years.  It's essentially a tree-lined promenade that is great for walking, people watching or enjoying the breeze.

You will also find local street vendors and artisans selling local food and crafts as well.

There are great examples of art to be found here as well.  

If you are thirsty, try a shaved-ice topped with your choice of flavoring known as piragua. For something more filling try alcapurria, Bacalito or Empanadilla’s.


Old San Juan is all about history, including the spot where the Pina Colada was invented, a small restaurant known as Barrachina.

Barrachina is located right in the middle of Old San Juan and it offers a lot of Puerto Rican cuisine, including the original Pina Colada.

While you are indulging in some coconut spirits, you should also have another Puerto Rican specialty: mofongo.  Mofongo is mashed plantains that are usually topped with a meat like shrimp, steak, chicken or octopus and drizzled with a special sauce.


It's hard to describe what mofongo tastes like except that it is quite good and something I always order when I am on the island.

You can certainly try a pina colada or mofongo pretty much anywhere and everywhere in Old San Juan, but for a bit of history (and somewhere to sit down and rest after all that walking), Barrachina is a great spot.

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

I usually do not try to visit cemeteries but the colonial-era cemetary near El Morro is a pretty interesting spot.

Located outside the walls of El Morro, the cemetary is a famous landmark and is the final resting spot for many prominent residents of Old San Juan. Actors, poets, politicians, artists and more are all buried here and the layout of the graveyard is fairly impressive.

Since I do not particularly care for walking all around the cemetary, you can get a great view of it from El Morro and the area surrounding it so you can get a sense of the spectacle the cemetery is without going inside.

See it all (again) at night

If you are lucky enough to be in Old San Juan at night, the city transforms after the sun goes down.

Nearly all the sights we mentioned already in this post and others are lit up in the evening and it gives them all a very different look that has to be appreciated even if you just visited them a few hours earlier.

The city does a wonderful job of lighting up the city, so be sure to give yourself time to walk around at night and bring your camera too.

Your thoughts...

Where are your favorite places and things to do in Old San Juan?  Which of these would you most like to see for yourself?  Any questions? Share these and any thoughts you have in the comments!

Embarkation on your Royal Caribbean cruise in San Juan, Puerto Rico


Royal Caribbean offers cruises that begin in San Juan, Puerto Rico that offer some great Southern Caribbean itineraries to try.  If you're considering going on one of these cruises, here's what you need to know about embarkation day in San Juan.

It's not where you think it is

If you've ever taken a cruise that stops in San Juan for the day, you've likely been to the San Juan Cruise Port, but that's just for cruise ships that are in the city for the day.

Royal Caribbean cruises that originate in San Juan will dock at the Pan American Pier, which is across the channel from the San Juan Cruise Port.  It's adjacent to the Isla Grande Airport and is about a 5 minute taxi drive from Old San Juan.

As you're driving in, you should be able to see the ship docked since there isn't much around there.  As of the writing of this blog post, Jewel of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas are offering cruises out of San Juan.

Getting checked in

Once you arrive at the pier, the check-in process is similar to other ports but we've also noticed a few differences too.

There will be porters at the pier to help take your luggage and load it onto the ship.  In addition, there is a special line to enter the building for Platinum and above Crown and Anchor Society members.  Everyone else will wait in a separate line.

Waiting to check in for our Jewel of the Seas cruise #cruise #JewelOfTheSeas #cruiseship #travel

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

We've gotten to the pier as early as 10:30am and we've generally heard passengers are let into the embarkation building around 11am.  One potential issue is the check-in building is not very large and the staff will only allow batches of passengers in at a time, so you may get stuck outside waiting to get in.  Given this is Puerto Rico, the temperature and humidity outside can be quite high.

Since most Royal Caribbean ships do not leave port until later in the evening (usually around 8pm), so getting to the port early in the morning is not as critical but lines outside the building are possible.  The good news is, often the lines outside are infrequent.


Once inside the building, you will find lines for Crown and Anchor Society members and lines for everyone else.  

You will be subjected to a security check that consists of an x-ray machine and metal detector.  Once through there, you will enter your line and get checked in.

We should also note there is a duty-free liquor store inside the check-in area, which is a great place to pick up a few bottles of wine to bring onboard your cruise. Remember, Royal Caribbean allows up to two bottles of wine per stateroom to bring onboard.

After check-in, it's just a short walk onto your Royal Caribbean cruise!

Boarding #jeweloftheseas!

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

Have you embarked in San Juan?

Did you have a chance to take a Royal Caribbean cruise out of San Juan?  Share your tips and suggestions for embarkation day in San Juan in our comments below!

San Juan, Puerto Rico to expand cruise ship pier to make room for Quantum of the Seas


Puerto Rico's Governor announced plans to expand the cruise pier in Old San Juan to be able to handle cruise ships carrying 6,000 passengers.

The plan according to Alejandro Garcia Padilla will be able to accomodate Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, which will visit San Juan in December 2014, with nine more visits scheduled for 2015.

The new pier expansion will cost $8.7 million and will extend the pier by 182 feet as well as build a new baggage inspection office.

Quantum of the Seas will be 167,000 tons and carry at least 4,180 passengers when she begins sailings in November 2014.

Oasis class cruise ships coming to Puerto Rico in 2014


The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC) has signed a deal with Royal Caribbean that will bring Oasis class cruise ships to the island of Puerto Rico in 2014, according to Caribbean Business.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis class cruise ships are the largest in the world and bring 5,400 passengers.   PRTC Executive Director Luis Gerardo Rivera Marín did not indicate weather Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas would visit the island, but Marín did say the ship would dock at Pier 3 in Old San Juan.  Furthermore, naval architects have been at the pier to verify pier compliance.