Jump to content

Questions about San Juan as a departure port


steverk
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm pumped! I've got a southern Caribbean sailing on Explorer of the Seas for Thanksgiving 2021!

The whole family is going, which includes my wife and I, plus our 4 adult children.  I'm really looking forward to it. ?

That said, I've never been to San Juan PR and certainly never sailed out of there. My plan is to fly in on Friday night before the cruise and get a hotel for 2 nights.  The ship sails on Sunday.

That will give us all day Saturday and a little bit of Sunday to explore.

Some of the things we'll probably want to do:

  • Explore old San Juan, including the umbrella street
  • Visit at least 1, and perhaps 2 of the forts.
  • Go to the beach.

So here are a few questions:

  • Does anyone have a good suggestion for a convenient, moderately priced hotel?
  • Am I missing any of the really interesting things to do in San Juan?
  • Is it better to use UBER/LYFT or rent a car?
  • I know Puerto Rico is part of the USA, but it isn't a state. Does my cell phone need international roaming? What about the US Virgin Islands?
  • Google says Royal docks at the Pan American pier, which is across the harbor from old San Juan.  Is this correct?
  • Is it better to get a hotel in Old San Juan or should I find something closer to the pier?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

35 minutes ago, steverk said:

So here are a few questions:

  • Does anyone have a good suggestion for a convenient, moderately priced hotel?
  • Am I missing any of the really interesting things to do in San Juan?
  • Is it better to use UBER/LYFT or rent a car?
  • I know Puerto Rico is part of the USA, but it isn't a state. Does my cell phone need international roaming? What about the US Virgin Islands?
  • Google says Royal docks at the Pan American pier, which is across the harbor from old San Juan.  Is this correct?
  • Is it better to get a hotel in Old San Juan or should I find something closer to the pier?

We cruised out of Puerto Rico for our honeymoon.  Yes it is part of the USA in all ways including cell service.  I haven't specifically checked the USVI but I would assume the same.  Yes, Royal docks across from old San Juan at the PanAm pier.  We did an airport pickup & drop-off through Royal so I can't answer anything else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the great things about sailing from San Juan is that you get this as an extra port on your vacation.  You are wise to spend a day or two exploring the area.  

Hotels in OSJ (Old San Juan) will trend upward in price but if you are into walking you can walk all over OSJ.  Hotels near the airport do trend less expensive but you will need to take taxis or Uber everywhere.   In between there are many resort style hotels along the North shore just watch out for daily resort fees on top of the room rate.  

The Sheraton is a popular OSJ hotel that is right at the pier for where ships calling on OSJ will dock for the day.  It really depends what you are looking for - a smaller boutique hotel or a big name chain hotel and what your budget is.

The Pan American cruise terminal is across the harbor from OSJ next to an older mostly domestic airport.  This isn't SJU airport which is the main airport most people fly into.  There are some hotels in nearby areas but you may be better off staying closer to OSJ and taking an Uber to the cruise port when it's time.    

The "umbrella street" is Fortaleza Street with the umbrella display area near one end.  

Without knowing your cell phone provider I'd be surprised if your U.S. cell provider didn't include Puerto Rico.  Most do.  If we go back a decade or so some didn't but I think we have moved past that for most U.S. cell phone providers now.  It's probably best to inquire with your cell phone provider.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

43 minutes ago, steverk said:

So here are a few questions:

  • Does anyone have a good suggestion for a convenient, moderately priced hotel?
  • Am I missing any of the really interesting things to do in San Juan?
  • Is it better to use UBER/LYFT or rent a car?
  • I know Puerto Rico is part of the USA, but it isn't a state. Does my cell phone need international roaming? What about the US Virgin Islands?
  • Google says Royal docks at the Pan American pier, which is across the harbor from old San Juan.  Is this correct?
  • Is it better to get a hotel in Old San Juan or should I find something closer to the pier?

 

  • Have stayed at Decanter Hotel in Old San Juan, very reasonably priced and great location
  • I think you have a good intro to the city. Just walking around is a good option too, you'll see other cool stuff
  • Uber/Lyft
  • As far as being a tourist goes, everything is like being in a state, including cell phones - for P.R. and USVI
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Does anyone have a good suggestion for a convenient, moderately priced hotel?
    • The Embassy Suites in Carolina (right by the airport) has always been my go too. Has a beautiful pool area, right across the street from the beach and within the hotel there are two restaurants, a casino and you cannot beat the breakfast in the morning and the complimentary evening happy hour. It is about a 10-15 minute uber to the port and old san juan, but being a little further away from the hub means less of a crowd and slightly cheaper prices. The area in general is also great. Some great restaurants in walking distance as well as some some resorts a few blocks away (royal sonesta & el san juan)

 

  • Am I missing any of the really interesting things to do in San Juan?
    • I think just staying in and around San Juan will give you more than enough to do, but in the past I have gone to the El Yunque rainforest. Haven't been in a few years, but it was definitely something I was happy I did. Both times I have gone, the trip involved a hike with one time stopping at a waterfall and the other to the banks of a river with some rope swings and a smaller waterfall. I do not really have much better information than that (went when I was in college for a training trip, so was just kind of following the leader). 
    • This would probably be a little bit of a stretch (and I personally have never done it), but taking the ferry to the islands of Culebra or Vieques. It would be an all day adventure and some logistics around it (driving to Ceiba ~1hr and then the ferry), but is definitely different and from what I hear, is beautiful.

 

  • I know Puerto Rico is part of the USA, but it isn't a state. Does my cell phone need international roaming? What about the US Virgin Islands?
    • Per everyone else, I think you are fine. Honestly, I have never worried or paid attention while there. And since I never had 'uh oh' moment when I got bill after visiting you should be ok.

 

  • Google says Royal docks at the Pan American pier, which is across the harbor from old San Juan.  Is this correct?
    • That is correct. Also, depending on how you get there, all the ubers & taxi's know exactly where to go and understand the difference between the two piers.

 

  • Is it better to get a hotel in Old San Juan or should I find something closer to the pier?
    • I think this is just personal preference. The two cruises I have taken out of San Juan I have always stayed near the airport at the aforementioned embassy suites and never had an issue getting to the port, getting a uber, etc (many cruises use this hotel as well). 

 

  • Is it better to use UBER/LYFT or rent a car
    • Uber/lyft
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My thought has been, if staying for 1 night, the Sheraton OSJ is great.  If for 2 or more, one of the resort hotels.  They are pretty cheap right now.

 

Here is my hint.  When walking into Old San Juan for the first time, it will make sense to enter through the old city gate on the West side of OSJ.  Follow the wall around to the gate.  The layout of the entire area will make a lot more sense than just walking in from the East or South.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, rshov said:
  • I know Puerto Rico is part of the USA, but it isn't a state. Does my cell phone need international roaming? What about the US Virgin Islands?
    • Per everyone else, I think you are fine. Honestly, I have never worried or paid attention while there. And since I never had 'uh oh' moment when I got bill after visiting you should be ok.

 

Unless someone has the most obscure, bottom-of-the-barrel provider/plan, there's no difference in calling from Puerto Rico or St. Thomas as opposed to Kentucky, Utah, or Florida. Even then, with the absolutely lowest of the low Bob's Mobile plan, I would be shocked. I have a friend who goes back and forth between Chicago and San Juan for work (usually 2-3 months in one, 2-3 months in the other, back and forth) and has a standard AT&T plan with a 630 (Chicagoland) area code...no problemo, no need to notify AT&T or have any special plan. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I loved the Caribe Hilton, the tower rooms had amazing views of the pools, ocean, city and all the way over to the Pan American pier where the ship will be docked. It was about 5 minute Uber to the pier, 5 minutes into OSJ.  

As for missing anything, I really really loved visiting Luquillo Beach and the 50+ food kioskos they have there are packed with tons of authentic Puerto Rican staples. The beach was also pretty and calm with umbrellas/chairs for rent as well as water activities. This was about 30-40 minutes car ride away from Old San Juan. 

If you're getting a rental car I highly suggest it! That and seeing El Yunque were my favorite parts of PR. 

 

Pics of Caribe Hilton view, Luquillo Beach and El Yunque 

IMG_0502.thumb.jpeg.ec2a946cf952c717ad7a96fdc4da07fc.jpeg

IMG_0549.thumb.jpeg.28a8782a3fdade0fab6d315be0246089.jpeg

IMG_0416.thumb.jpeg.bb555412a6c6ad12b44faa0f6d691283.jpeg 

IMG_0427.thumb.jpeg.7758ba765983d8d0ac7c7a20e8a62785.jpeg

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just be prepared to allow extra time to get to the port.  When we cruised out of there last year, the traffic was horrific. I believe it took us 20 minutes to make it down the final half mile or so to the port.   It's hard to sit patiently in traffic when your ship is in view. 

Also, we booked a sunset cruise for the evening before debarkation through Viator on the Ohana 2. Your group sounds like it would just about fill the ship and it was absolutely one of the highlights of our vacation! https://www.viator.com/tours/San-Juan/San-Juan-Sunset-Sail/d903-11949P2

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stop worrying about pinching pennies, and spend the money to stay in Old San Juan. A $100 difference isn't going to make or break you, but will add SOOOO much more to your vacation memories.  Remember, it's one of the oldest cities in the western hemisphere, full of history and charm. I can't recommend staying there highly enough!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just booked Hotel Casablanca for 11/5-11/7/21 so we'll have the whole day Saturday and most of Sunday to explore before the 8:00 PM sailing. Hotel is is in old San Juan and  .4 miles walking or 1 mile by car to cruise port.  $159 - $250 night depending on room. Never been to San Juan and went by Trip Advisor.

Open to opinions - can always cancel and go elsewhere....

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  We stayed at the Old San Juan Sheraton and enjoyed it there.  The porters helped us learn the bus and tram systems (its free) and helped us find a good restaurant with good local food.  The hotel is right across from the pier where cruise ships park (not the pier you will be leaving out)  That is also close to where the bus stop is to catch Old San Juan local  transportation.  They have bus stop signs showing where to catch the bus.  The big buses go around the outside of the city.  The smaller trams go on the inside.   Easier and more convenient than Uber or taxis.  I think the ride to the pier to catch your ship was about $15 for 2.  The head porter near the front desk set it up for us. If you would like to just ride around the city and see the sights take the tram or bus and get on or off when you want. This was years ago so I m sure some things have changed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, KJ1231 said:

I just booked Hotel Casablanca for 11/5-11/7/21 so we'll have the whole day Saturday and most of Sunday to explore before the 8:00 PM sailing. Hotel is is in old San Juan and  .4 miles walking or 1 mile by car to cruise port.  $159 - $250 night depending on room. Never been to San Juan and went by Trip Advisor.

Open to opinions - can always cancel and go elsewhere....

 

This is where I stayed before the RCL Blog Freedom NYE Group Cruise at the the end of 2019.  The rooms are small but you can't really beat the location relative to price compared to everything else I researched that was in the area.  The staff was friendly and the room was comfortable.  

They do have Uber in San Juan and that's what we used to get from the airport to the hotel when we arrived.  Our room wasn't ready for our early arrival and they held our luggage for free.

Note that the cruise port you are referring to that is walking distance is NOT the one where your cruise will depart from.  The cruise ships depart from the Pan American Pier which is 10 minute car ride.  The cruise port that is nearby is the cruise port where the ships port at during itinerary stops.

A tip I will give you is to wake up really early on the day of the cruise and take your luggage downstairs and have them hold it for you.  They offer this for free but space is limited and it fills up very fast.  Usually the ships do not leave until 8pm from San Juan, so you have the entire day to explore the city on embarkation day if you wish and the hotel will hold your luggage while you do so.  Again, take it down early (like 6am early) so there's enough room.  There will be a lot of other cruise ship passengers staying at the hotel.  

The hotel also only has one elevator, so if you have mobility issues and can not do stairs, make sure to try and request ground floor ahead of time because the elevators on embarkation day will be very crowded and slow.

We took Uber from the hotel to the port and it was a 10 minute ride to the port entrance plus another 30 mins from the port entrance to the actual ship because it gets very backed up with one lane in/out and two ships in port usually.  It also took us nearly 30 minutes to get the Uber because San Juan streets are one lane, one-way and there is a lot of traffic stopping and blocking roads.  It can take 10 minutes to go a few blocks.  Give yourself plenty of time for this so you can arrive to get on the ship when you plan to.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hotel Casablanca is nice. We usually stay in a "family suite" with two bedrooms, one with a king bed and the other with two twins. It is great that my spoiled teenagers do not have to share a bed, and I sleep better not in the same room, but same suite as my family. I think Matt the blogmaster agrees on this!!

It's not a Hilton. It is a small, local place, so go in there with that attitude and you will be happy. They have tiny, windowless rooms, rooms with windows, and suites with terraces. We will stay there again. No closets... but it is a night or two before a cruise, so I do no unpack. Many places nearby for all meals, from $ to $$$$, and shopping from typical port stuff, pharmacies, grocery stores, and Marshalls for forgotten items. Church, museums, and parks nearby too.

We have also stayed in the Sheraton Old San Juan, even when it was the Wyndham, it's nice, cold, and has that big hotel feel. We have stayed in the Conando district at what was the Wyndham, and at La Verdanza. Both are fine, and it beach is what you want, or a place to stay before a very early flight.

I like Casablanca the best. But hotels are like food, tastes vary.

I would not want to deal with the hassle of parking in Old San Juan. Uber or taxi both work fine.

Wear your walking shoes!

Ahh... Old San Juan. I can just see the Christmas Decorations now!!

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...