Is there such a thing as a Perfect Port?

As I spend my life writing about cruising and what do to ashore in port I am often asked, “Which is the best port, which one is your favourite?”

I  can’t really answer because of course, I don’t have one! It is impossible, there are so many wonderful places that you can visit on a cruise that one individual port in the whole world won’t stand out above all others. But the question got me thinking… I decided that there are definitely a few things that would go together to make my perfect port – see if you agree!

Early morning fjords breakfast view
Breakfast on the balsony, watching the view heading into Bergen Early morning fjords breakfast view

So first it would have to have a nice scenic approach (almost any of the Fjords?) maybe with a few pretty islands too, something to make it worth getting up early to sit on my balcony and watch the ship come in. Something to build up the anticipation and excitement!.

Regal Princess, Trieste
Regal Princess, Trieste

Then I think it would have to be a deepwater port so that the ship can dock alongside. It is not that I particularly dislike tender ports but they do seem to waste so much time. I hate all the queuing for tenders and much prefer to walk off the ship. Preferably straight into town so it will probably need to be an old port so that the harbour is an integral part of it (Trieste?) not be stuck out twenty miles away in the middle of an industrial wasteland (Laem Chabang?- see previous blog post!)

Cadiz Seafront
Cadiz Seafront

An old port usually comes with it a rich colourful history too, so that’s just perfect. I’m not a huge museum fan (unless its raining) but I really love the feel of an old port that has seen traders, soldiers, sailors and travellers pass through it for centuries (Cadiz?).  Those different cultures and influences show in the architecture of the town and finding a beautiful Cathedral, Church or Mosque really brings you to the heart of the city. If the town itself has been a wealthy trading post then I am perfectly happy walking around the beautiful merchants houses, shady market squares and old warehouses (Havana) for hours. Ports that have been homes to Conquistadores, Venetians, Crusaders, Romans or Ancient Greeks just beg you to see what you can find around the next corner (Split?) – maybe an old Roman Temple built into the side of a Christian Church…

Old Merchants square, Havana Cuba
Old Merchants square, Havana Cuba

Narrow cobbled streets are very picturesque and cool so a few of those would be great but as they are murder on the feet so maybe not covering the whole town (Trogir?). I do love a good city wall though, preferably one that completely encircles the city and maybe even climbs up some hills to give spectacular views back over town over the little town safely tucked inside it (Dubrovnik?). Sitting on the wall listening to church bells chime the hour in the town below…perfect!

Dubrovnik from the city walls
Dubrovnik from the city walls

Although of course, you get even better views from a mountain overlooking the port, so maybe we need one with a cable car or funicular (Gibraltar?) for a quick trip up to the top. We can get a blast of fresh air, a different perspective and amazing photos back down over the town, port and ship. Maybe we could walk back down for a bit of exercise or choose to come down by something a bit more exciting – maybe a toboggan ride (Funchal?) to bump us back down to town?!

Looking down on Dubrovnik from the cable car
Looking down on Dubrovnik from the cable car station

Once we’re back in the town I think we need to find a wonderful local Artisanal market, with some lovely local food – sausages, dried herbs and spices (Barcelona) and wine by the glass.

Le Boqueria Market, Barcelona
Le Boqueria Market, Barcelona

Or possibly some cool and shady bars with a sea view and some gentle music. A little light lunch, fresh seafood maybe, with a glass of local beer, people watching opportunities and a bit of free WiFi (Saint Martaan?). 

Perfect Beach Bar in Saint Martaan
Perfect Beach Bar in Saint Martaan

A little shopping next maybe? Nothing too much, just a few Arty little shops, selling jewellery and pottery or perhaps even a little light glass blowing (Tallinn). 

Glass Blowing and shop in Tallinn
Glass Blowing and shop in Tallinn

Then we could go for a gentle wander along the seafront, maybe take a short boat trip out to see the seals basking on the rocks(Soller?) or a rib-crunching back breaking rib ride?

beach and islands St kitts
A perfect Beach on St Kitts with Nevis in the distance

Alternatively, we could go to the local sandy beach for a swim and some snorkelling (St Kitts) and just a little paddle to cool our toes in the bright blue waters of the Aegean (Mykonos?) before heading back to the ship in time for tea.

perfect pier in Greece
Do you have time for a paddle in the Aegean?

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it! Yet although most cruise ports, especially in the Mediterranean or the Baltic have some, maybe even half of those things in one place, the majority of our fellow cruisers on the ship will have rushed off on a coach trip, driving miles inland to the nearest big city.

Rows of excursion coaches
Coaches on the Quayside – Laem Chabang

Madness – maybe! I would always rather be a traveller than a tourist but the upside of half the ship driving miles away is that it leaves the local town quieter for a visit from portExplorers just like us! 

A shady spot to have a break in cadiz
A quiet corner of Cadiz

What features would your perfect port have to include?


All photos by portExplore


Published by Cathy Rogers

Organised, bossy, untidy, inquisitive Gemini - lover of cruising and all things cruise. Author of 'The Confident portExplorer' and 'The Cruise Planner' sharing my passion for cruise organisation and onshore adventures.

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