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A major port of call on both the Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries -- as well as a turnaround port for several ships -- San Juan is really a place where nearly all cruisers are likely to find themselves. San Juan is the urban hub of Puerto Rico. The town, generally, is split into old and new. The brand new features a business district and outlying communities, concentrated with hotel chains like Isla Verde. That old is, obviously, the historic city within ancient walls.
 
Out of all the American Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico exudes the most fascinating vibe. The amalgam of indigenous Taino culture, with a dash of European and African touches in San Juan is a major factor. Additionally its very own unique influences in areas varying from cuisine and music to background and art have given it a very exotic character. Visitors that have traveled to Cuba state that Old San Juan reminds them much more of Cuba, and in some parts Italy as well.
 
For individuals visiting San Juan like a day-stop on the Caribbean itinerary or embark or disembark there, the island's biggest highlight may be the old city. Most cruise ships pier right in the middle of Old San Juan, which goes back towards the 16th century. That old, walled city continues to be exquisitely maintained, and it is sprawling forts,  old worldly cobblestone roads, tiny antique shops and galleries allow it to be a perfect first stop. Its mainstream points of interest range from the imposing El Morro fort, which goes back to 1539 the Cathedral of San Juan, in which the island's first governor, Ponce p Leon, is hidden La Fortaleza, the earliest governor's mansion on U.S. soil several colonial plazas and also the triumvirate of Calle del Cristo, Calle San Jose and Calle Fortaleza for shopping. Calle del Cristo, particularly, is chock-filled with galleries, artisan galleries and distinctive boutiques.
 
Where You're Cruise Ships Docked
Ships dock in two places. The best location is just across from the Sheraton Old San Juan (formerly known as the Wyndham) because you walk off the ship into the heart of the old city. Other times, your ship will dock just across the bay -- a stone's throw away -- but it's farther than it looks, and you'll need to take a taxi to get anywhere. Several cruise ships remain in port until late during the night. That causes it to be easy to sample a few of the city's vibrant restaurants and night life.  
 
The Pan American Pier serves as one of two ports of embarkation and debarkation for the Port of San Juan. The other is the Old San Juan Cruise Port.
 
Pan American Pier & Cruise Terminals
The Pan American terminal is across the harbor from Old San Juan and serves the largest cruise ships. It is near the Puerto Rico Convention Center. This is how you find out if your ship docks in Old San Juan or the Panamerican Pier. 
 
The Pan American Pier has two modern two-tiered passenger terminals (I & II) and is located on Isla Grande, beside the Isla Grande Airport and near the Puerto Rico Convention Center.  Two mega-ships can dock at the Pan American Pier terminals.  Depending on your cruise line and cruise ship traffic, your ship may arrive and dock here for the day and will most likely embark from here if San Juan is the home departure port.  The only thing within reasonable walking distance is the Isla Grande Airport, Puerto Rico Convention Center, Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, and the Hyatt House Hotel.  You will have to take a taxi  or tour bus in order to visit historic Old San Juan, or New San Juan.  It is a 10-15 minute ride into Old San Juan and will cost you $10, if your cruise line does not pay for it.  The most convenient hotels to stay at near the Pan American Pier terminals are the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino and Hyatt House Hotel.
 
Disney Magic cruise ship has San Juan as its Home Port and it docks at Panamerican Pier
All Carnival ships (Transit and Home port) docks in Old San Juan. 
Royal Caribbean Home port ships dock on the weekend and at the Pan-American Pier. 
The Royal Caribbean transit ship docks on weekdays - one in Old San Juan and the other 2 at the Pan-American Piers. 

The largest Royal Caribbean ship of the 3 in transit the same day, will be docking in Old San Juan.
The Celebrity ships will be docking at Pier 3 in Old San Juan.
All Princess Home Port ships docks at the Pan-American Pier.
The other Cruise ship companies only have transit ships and they dock in Old San Juan.
 
The Pier’s location will determine if transportation will be needed to Old San Juan. Taxis are available when exiting the Pier. Taxi service is need from the Navy Frontier and Pan-American Piers. It is highly recommended to ask for the taxi rate at the Ground Transportation booth found outside the pier's exit. To learn about the taxi fares visit the web page of the government in charge of establishing the rates.  http://www.seepuertorico.com
 
Pier 1 to 6 is a short walking distance to Old San Juan.  Make a left when exiting the dock and you will find the The Puerto Rico Tourism Information Center at the end the street to the right.  Ask for a map or join our DAY or NIGHT walking tours or Spirtis of Puerto Rico tour that departures from the flag poles next to the Sheraton Old San Juan hotel.
 
Pier 3 is for transit Royal Caribbean cruise ships only. By the way, if you find the design of Pier 3 different, the original designed submitted by Royal Caribbean in 2006 turned out to be an obstacle for there large ship, such as the Oasis, to dock; therefore, on Sept 28, 2010 The Puerto Rico Port Authority demolished the design and cover the changes 100%. Our specialized walking, cultural and food tours start from across the street from this pier.  Check the new schedules for the DAY or Night waling tours and experience the culture through the food with the Spirits of Puerto Rico tour
 
Hanging Out
Old San Juan is going through an incredible makeover off late. Visitors will be surprised to witness how beautiful and spiffed-up its European-esque structures are, specially the many who are freshly colored in cheerful pastels of lavender, blue, yellow and pink. The Latino music phenomenon has brought towards the rebirth of recent, fresh "nuevo Latino" cuisine, which, consequently, is bringing in more focus on the island's quality art, crafts and antiques.
 
Making Your Way Around
On Foot: It's walking distance into compact, yet fascinating, Old San Juan. Streets are uneven (constructed of blue cobblestones, cast from furnace slag), and hills are steep, so wear comfortable shoes.
 
Taxis: They're available at the dock. You can also hail mini-buses (called "omnibuses"), which shuttle along main routes; to hail one, respond with a wave when the driver toots his horn.
Trolleys: There's a free trolley that will take you around Old San Juan and to the forts. You can pick it up across from the information booth, between cruise piers three and four.
Renting a Car: Rental car agencies, such as Hertz (800-654-3131) and Avis (800-831-2847), operate out of Condado (about five miles from Old San Juan).
 
Planning your tours and time by yourself when exploring
Arrival time is different to the disembarking time.  The ship time is different from Puerto Rico time.  Ask your travel agent for both schedules. Double check the local time by asking a local when on land.  The time the passengers disembark will influence in the pre-planned tour schedule; therefore, save money and coordinate the tours to begin an hour after disembarking time; remember the long line you will make to exit the ship.  Our tour's pages has a clock with Puerto Rico time.
 
Old San Juan is best seen and appreciated on foot.  Touring on narrow streets on board a vehicle you will pass by the monuments, and your vision will be limited to the angle and size of the tour bus or taxi window. The driver has to pay attention to traffic while trying to present basic scripted information. Read our tips on how to enjoy Old San Juan.
 
Our walking day, and night tours specialized in Old San Juan departures from the flag poles next to the Sheraton Hotel that is across the street from the Piers - a short walking distance from Piers 1 to 6.  Make a right when exiting Pier One and a left when from Pier 4 and 6. Cross the street from Pier 3.  Our tourist guide will be holding a Legends Walking Tour sign.
 
Ships docking at 5PM and/or departing at 10PM, have limitations to experience the culture of Puerto Rico.  An alternative could be to experience the Puerto Rican culture through the food and rum at a restaurant where the locals socialize.  The Spirits of Puerto Rico tour provides a 1 hour dinner with rum tasting in a safe and enjoyable atmosphere.
 
You need at least 7 hours in port to enjoy the rainforest tour. Remember you must be at least an hour on board the ship prior to the departing schedule.  Travel time is approximately 1 hour one-way with some traffic.  It is suggested to leave the Pier on or before 2PM.  The forest's gates closes at 6PM.
 
Look for a tour that will allow family or friends with walking limitations to hop on and hop off the tour bus at the Old San Juan sites with time to enjoy them, laugh, take pictures and talk among each other.
 
Remember to include in your traveling papers the phone number of the tourist guide or tour company you have signed a contract or interested in calling when you are in port.  A phone call made from a pay phone costs 50 cents. Calling cards are available at the pharmacy. Our phone number is 787-605-9060.  Puerto Rico has the same cellular companies as the United States.
 
Hop on and Hop off a comfortable vehicle when exploring Old San Juan.  Wish to see the sites up-close, but members of the group have walking limitations...
 
If you are the type of traveler that likes to improvise, ask for available shore excursions and suggestions at the Tourism Information Center across the street from Pier One. Perhaps you might see and meet our uniformed tourist guide next to the flag poles the Sheraton Old San Juan and be interested in taking one of narrative and entertaining walking tours schedules for the DAY or at Night
 
It is highly recommended informing the cruise ship administration that you have scheduled and paid for a tour with another company that the cruise ship has no contract with, so they will let your group disembark immediately. Contact The Puerto Rico Tourism Company's office near you and ask for the traveler planner magazines. Immigration and Customs agents have delayed disembarking in many occasions.  You also want to learn of any traveling requirements suggested by the Department of State -http://www.travel.state.gov
 
Attractions
Shopping in Old San Juan. While San Juan isn't a duty-free port, a minimum of its stuff is not taxed. You will for sure find lots of craft and T-shirt shops (mainly along Fortaleza and Bay Area Roads). The further east you walk (going from the cruise pier), the greater interesting the businesses and restaurants become.
 
One great street for browsing is Calle Cristo highlights include Magia (99 Calle Cristo), an artisan who crafts pieces of art from recycled objects -- old mirrors, wooden shutters, antique home windows as well as pocket-sized religious symbols. Prices start at $15 for just one-of-a-kind pieces.
 
And, whilst not exactly exotic, we have had best of luck at factory stores for Rob Lauren, Coach and Gant on Calle Cristo. Sunny Caribbee (154 Calle Cristo) is definitely an offshoot from the Tortola classic featuring crafts, hot sauces and capuccinos, produced from Puerto Rican quality recipes over the hall, El Galapon has gorgeous masks.
 
A brand new find on the newest trip to Old San Juan was the pocket-sized Plaza Arturo Somohano. Only a block behind the Sheraton Old San Juan (situated at pier central), this tree-shaded park hosts artists, who sell hands-made and designed crafts. They ought to be authorized by the government to spread out stalls (no "produced in China" stuff here). While suppliers vary, on my small trip, there have been superbly perfumed soaps from Taino Soapworks (the anise lavender is really a favorite), hands-tooled leather devices, pretty (and fairly listed) beach-glass jewellery, gourds and coconut shells and charming, hands-made, burlap handbags.
 
Browse the historic sites of Old San Juan, for example El Morro (tours from 11 a.m. to three p.m., entry fee for grown ups), whose original parts were carried out 1539 (and which effectively discouraged would-be colonial forces from taking the area). And in Old San Juan is San Cristobal Fort (tours from 10 a.m. to two p.m.), that was built-in 1771. On weekends, the causes of both forts are thick with local people flying kites.
 
Have a tour of La Fortaleza (9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to three p.m.). Go to the Catedral San Juan, which goes back to 1540. Fans from the The spanish language cellist Pablo Casals should browse the Museo Pablo Casals (Plaza San Jose, Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.), in which the The spanish language masters collection includes manuscripts, photographs along with a library of video tapes of Festival Casals concerts (performed on request).
 
While Old San Juan does not really boast any one of its very own, beaches within the nearby regions of Condado and Isla Verde stretch along high-rise hotels and therefore are a 5- to 10-minute taxi ride (longer throughout hurry hour) in the cruise pier.
 
Go to the Bacardi Rum Factory. This really is generally offered like a ship-backed tour, but it's not hard to go by yourself, too go ahead and take ferry (which leaves from Pier 2, next to the cruiseship pier, every 30 minutes and charges $1, roundtrip, for that six-minute ride) to Catano, after which catch a bus or ferry for that 10-minute ride towards the factory. (Don't walk -- it's lengthy and hot.) The factory is lovely. You will find beautifully designed grounds (plenty of hibiscus), a wide open-air pavilion for Bacardi-affected drinks, a present shop along with a tour which includes a fascinating film around the background and other pursuits (for example testing your olfaction, making postcards and researching rum distillation).
 
Had The Experience, Done That
Visit El Yunque, the only real rainforest designated like a U.S. National Forest. Situated around an hour south of San Juan, you will see numerous waterfalls, ferns and wildflowers across the marked trails. Since it is a rainforest, it'll most likely, well, rain throughout your visit -- so pack a slicker.
 
The Museo p Arte p Puerto Rico in Santurce (just south of Condado, 299 P Diego Avenue, open from 10 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday) exhibits elegant Puerto Rican art, together with going to designed shows. Additionally a must-see for art enthusiasts may be the Museo p Arte Contemporaneo p Puerto Rico (229 p Diego Avenue), which houses some 700 publish-1940's works from artists of Puerto Rico, someplace sunny and warm and Latin America.
 
Bahia Beach (world wide web.bahiabeachpuertorico.com) is really a hidden treasure a rental car is needed to get at this out-of-the-way, 18-hole public course that sits at the bottom of El Yunque and fronts the ocean having a gorgeous beach, presented by palms and palmettos. Being totally public, it is also available to non-golf-playing site visitors (although the club does ask that you nicely request permission). Golf equipment can be found for rental.
 
Try your luck with casino gambling in the large hotels, in the Sheraton Old San Juan (adjacent to the cruise piers) towards the Ritz-Carlton.
 
Beaches
Best Beach for any Half-Day Visit: Beaches running before Isla Verde's luxury hotels (in regards to a 20-minute cab ride) are the most useful for brief visits request the cabbie to decrease you off in the Ritz-Carlton or even the El San Juan. Luquillo Beach (near El Yunque) is indeed a locals' haunt there, you will find lengthy stretches of sand, aquatic sports equipment rental fees along with a great type of food stands, offering classic Puerto Rican beach food. These Bahia Beach is ideal for individuals searching for some tranquility.
 
Eating Out
La Bombonera (259 Calle Bay Area), is a quick and casual dining place that’s good if you want to settle for a glass of fresh fruit juice or a delicious mallorcas or a filling Cubano sandwich. Nearby, the El Buren Pizza has mouth watering gourmet pizzas.
 
The Parrot Club (363 Fortaleza) may be the restaurant has contributed to San Juan’s gourmet revolution, even though it’s less popular off late. It is among the couple of within the trendy eateries for supper. It's noted for its Nuevo Latino cuisine.
 
Because many ships spend nights in San Juan and do not depart until late-evening. The stylish restaurants at this time include Marmalade (317 Fortaleza), that provides a U.S.-inspired menu. Similarly, try Kudeta (314 Fortaleza), which, using its pan-Asian cuisine, seems like something from Bangkok. Order the paella valenciana risotto or even the shrimp curry. Aguaviva (364 Fortaleza Street) is yet another trendy outfit serving sea food.
 
Baires (Plaza del Mercado 9, off San Sebastian Street) the authentic Argentinean-designed restaurant has live music some nights and scrumptious fare, varying from grilled sweetbreads and meats to pasta. Dragonfly (364 Calle Fortaleza, from 6 p.m.), a wonderful Latino-Asian inspired restaurant, offers "Dragonfries," that are Fried potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and ginger root.
 
The majority of the restaurants and bars are closed from Sunday to Tuesday. How about a journey into Spanish Colonial times under the Caribbean stars?  Have fun with our Night Tales in Old San Juan tour or Spirits of Puerto Rico tour
 
A cultural tour in Modern San Juan combined with shopping at the largest mall in the Caribbean that closes at 9 Pm. is an alternative to have fun. A booklet with discount coupons for the shopper is available. An architectural and historical tour inside the mall available with our private tours called boutique.  Answers our basic questions available at our Contact page
 
Find out if you will be in port on a local holiday. Some places might be closed and your entertainment choices will be limited. All attractions are closed on Holy Friday, US Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Our day, night walking Old San Juan tours and rum tasting with dinner tour are available on most US holidays.
 
The very best choices for value-oriented hotel chains are mainly clustered around atIsla Verde, between your airport terminal and the beach. Included in this are Embassy Suites, Hampton Motel and also the Courtyard by Marriott.
 
The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Health spa and Casino is, undoubtedly, the most luxurious hotel in San Juan. It’s located around the beach at Isla Verde. Try the San Juan Water and Beach Club Hotel because of its magnificent rooftop pool along with a tangerine sky evening scene.
 
Shopping
Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth, U.S. citizens don't pay duty on items brought back to the mainland. And you can still find great bargains on Puerto Rico, where the competition among shopkeepers is fierce. Even though the U.S. Virgin Islands are duty-free, you can often find far lower prices on many items in San Juan than on St. Thomas. Since November 2006, a local 7% sales and use tax has been instituted on most goods and services.
 
The streets of the Old City, such as Calle Fortaleza, Calle San Francisco, and Calle del Cristo, are the major venues for shopping. After years of trying, local restrictions on operating hours of stores, aimed at protecting small businesses and the religious nature of Sundays in Roman Catholic Puerto Rico, were finally overturned in 2010. Shops and stores are now free to open anytime except between 6am and 11am Sunday mornings. In general, malls in San Juan are open Monday to Saturday 9am to 9pm and Sunday from 10am to 7pm. In such tourism districts as Old San Juan and Condado, most stores still close by 7pm, but Old City shops remain open late whenever cruise ships are at harbor. There are now more 24-hour grocery stores and pharmacies, and Walmart has instituted the concept at a few stores in suburban San Juan.
 
Native handicrafts can be good buys, including needlework, straw work, ceramics, hammocks, and papier-mâché fruits and vegetables, as well as paintings and sculptures by Puerto Rican artists. Among these, the carved wooden religious idols known as santos (saints) have been called Puerto Rico's greatest contribution to the plastic arts and are sought by collectors. For the best selection of santos, head for Galería Botello, Olé, or Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts.
 
Condado also has a lot of interesting shops, most of which line Avenida Ashford, along with the restaurants, hotels and luxury condominiums.
 
Puerto Rico's biggest and most up-to-date shopping mall is Plaza Las Américas, in the financial district of Hato Rey, right off the Las Américas Expressway. This complex, with its fountains and modern architecture, has more than 200 mostly upscale shops. The variety of goods and prices is roughly comparable to that of large stateside malls. There are also several top-notch restaurants, a full Cineplex, plus art galleries and food stores. If you want a break from the sun (or if it's raining), there are entertainment options here for all.
 
Unless otherwise specified, the stores listed can be reached via the Old City Trolley. Likewise, store hours are noted only when they stray from those mentioned above.
 
Know When the Price Is Right -- The only way to determine if you're paying less for an item in San Juan than you would at home is to find out what the going rate is in your hometown. Obviously, if you can find items in San Juan cheaper than back home, go for it. But know the prices before you go. Otherwise, you could end up lugging merchandise back on an airplane when the same item was available at about the same price, or less, where you live.
 
Grotesque Masks -- The most popular of all Puerto Rican crafts are the frightening caretas  -- papier-mâché masks worn at island carnivals. Tangles of menacing horns, fang-toothed leering expressions, and bulging eyes of these half-demon/half-animal creations send children running and screaming to their parents. At carnival time, they are worn by costumed revelers called vegigantes. Vegigantes often wear bat-winged jumpsuits and roam the streets either individually or in groups.
 
The origins of these masks and carnivals may go back to medieval Spain and/or tribal Africa. A processional tradition in Spain, dating from the early 17th century, was intended to terrify sinners with marching devils, in the hope that they would return to church. Cervantes described it briefly in Don Quixote. Puerto Rico blended this Spanish procession with the masked tradition brought by slaves from Africa. Some historians believe that the Taínos were also accomplished mask makers, which would make this a very ancient tradition indeed.
 
The predominant traditional mask colors were black, red, and yellow, all symbols of hellfire and damnation. Today, pastels are more likely to be used. Each vegigante sports at least two or three horns, although some masks have hundreds of horns, in all shapes and sizes. Mask-making in Ponce, the major center for this craft, and in Loíza Aldea, a palm-fringed town on the island's northeastern coast, has since led to a renaissance of Puerto Rican folk art.
 
The premier store selling these masks is La Calle. Masks can be seen in action at the three big masquerade carnivals on the island: the Ponce Festival in February, the Festival of Loíza Aldea in July, and the Día de las Máscaras at Hatillo in December.
 
The Coffee of Kings & Popes -- Of all the coffees of Puerto Rico, the best is Alto Grande, which has been a tradition in Puerto Rican households since 1839. Over the years, this super-premium coffee has earned a reputation for being the "coffee of popes and kings," and is hailed as one of the top three coffees in the world. A magnificently balanced coffee, Alto Grande is a rare and exotic coffee with a sweet, pointed aroma and a bright sparkling flavor. The bean is grown in the highest mountains of the Lares range. This coffee is served at leading hotels and restaurants in Puerto Rico. Should you develop a taste for it, it is also available at most groceries in Puerto Rico and through various specialty stores throughout the United States.
 
Besides Alto Grane, there are other well-known specialty brands, such as Yauco Selecto, and an avalanche of boutique coffee blends have popped up recently. My favorite is Finca Cialitos (www.finacialitos.com), which has rich, complex flavor that becomes familiar fast. It is grown by Joaquin Pastor in Ciales, Puerto Rico. Coffee lovers might want to try Joaquin's gourmet coffee and a few more of the new small labels, which manually roast their coffee to maximize flavor. The regular Puerto Rican coffee -- Café Crema or Yaucono, for instance -- is also quite good.
 
Shopping for Santos -- The most impressive of the island's crafts are the santos, carved religious figures that have been produced since the 1500s. Craftspeople who make these are called santeros; using clay, gold, stone, or cedar wood, they carve figurines representing saints, usually from 8 to 20 inches (20-51 cm) tall. Before the Spanish colonization, small statues, called zemi, stood in native tribal villages and camps as objects of veneration, and Puerto Rico's santos may derive from that pre-Columbian tradition. Every town has its patron saint, and every home has its santos to protect the family. For some families, worshipping the santos replaces a traditional Mass.
 
Art historians view the carving of santos as Puerto Rico's greatest contribution to the plastic arts. The earliest figures were richly baroque, indicating a strong Spanish influence, but as the islanders began to assert their own identity, the carved figures often became simpler.
 
In carving santos, craftspeople often used handmade tools. Sometimes such natural materials as vegetable dyes and even human hair were used. The saints represented by most santos can be identified by their accompanying symbols; for example, Saint Anthony is usually depicted with the infant Jesus and a book. The most popular group of santos is the Three Kings. The Trinity and the Nativity are also depicted frequently.
 
Art experts claim that santos-making approached its zenith at the turn of the 20th century, although hundreds of santeros still practice their craft throughout the island. Serious santos collectors view the former craftsmen of old as the true artists in the field. The best collection of santos is found at Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts.
 
Some of the best santos on the island can be seen at the Capilla de Cristo in Old San Juan. Perhaps at some future date, a museum devoted entirely to santos will open in Puerto Rico.
 
A Dying Art: Old Lace -- Another Puerto Rican craft has undergone a big revival just as it seemed that it would disappear forever: lace. Originating in Spain, mundillos (tatted fabrics) are the product of a type of bobbin lace-making. This 5-centuries-old craft exists today only in Puerto Rico and Spain.
 
The first lace made in Puerto Rico was called torchon (beggar's lace). Early examples of beggar's lace were considered of inferior quality, but artisans today have transformed this fabric into a delicate art form, eagerly sought by collectors. Lace bands called entrados have two straight borders, whereas the other traditional style, puntilla, has both a straight and a scalloped border. The best outlet in San Juan for lace is Linen House.
 
Shoppers take note: the stores in Old San Juan will be open after 5:00 p.m. if their are cruise ships dock in port.  Stores that have a contract with the cruise ship companies are opened. It is unpredictable to know the amount of the ships on a specific date, but you have available Puerto Rican artisans selling their crafts at several plazas in walking distance from Pier One to Six. 


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