Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a perfect 24 hours at the Punta Cana Cruise Port. I always cruise with Royal Caribbean, and Punta Cana is one of their newer destinations. You can tell because the port and its shops were still a bit under construction as well arrived.
But the Dominican Republic in general, and Punta Cana specifically, are lovely places to visit, full of history, yummy food, and friendly faces. I suggest checking out the Punta Cana cruise port before everyone and their brother decides to visit. Come with me, and I’ll show you how!
Punta Cana Cruise Port
How To Get There
Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest rum. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to the Caribbean.
But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to London, and then I took a shorter flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where my cruise was docked. I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to the Caribbean at the best time of day.
You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)
Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your Punta Cana Cruise port shore excursion ASAP.
Punta Cana Cruise Port
Where To Stay?
Since we’re just visiting the Punta Cana cruise port during the day, we’ll be returning to our cruise ship in the evening, so we won’t book a hotel. Instead, you’ll need to book a cruise itinerary that includes a stop at the Punta Cana Cruise Port.
I always cruise with Royal Caribbean because I get loyalty points, and I’ve become an expert in their ways. Plus, how else am I supposed to enjoy the drink of the day?
Punta Cana Cruise Port
What to Pack
- Cute sandals so you can dip your toes in the water on the river cruise.
- An umbrella that will help you stay dry even if it rains in the Punta Cana Cruise Port.
- A cell charger so you won’t need to run around looking for a place to charge your cell phone in the Punta Cana cruise port.
- The best travel adapter in case you are not American and still want to plug in your electronics.
- A fabulous vintage swimsuit for getting some of those famous Dominican Republic rays.
- A great spray sunscreen that even a solo traveler can apply alone. (But everyone needs sunscreen in the Dominican Republic, solo or not.)
- My favorite guidebook to the Dominican Republic
- Many Caribbean islands have been responsible for wonderful writers, and the Dominican Republic is no exception. Start with the fascinating In the Time of the Butterflies by Dominican-American writer Julia Alvarez.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. You never know when extreme weather will strike or some other emergency. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by deranged sentient coconuts on your Punta Cana cruise port.
Punta Cana Cruise Port
Morning: River Cruise
I can’t guarantee what shore excursions will be available when you visit the Punta Cana cruise port because it changes from cruise to cruise. But look for a shore excursion that takes you out on a river cruise and also gives you some time to explore Punta Cana. That way you’ll get to see some of the beautiful nature of the Dominican Republic, but also experience a bit of culture.
Our morning kicked off with the river cruise, and though I can’t take you down the river myself, I can share with you…
Three Fun Facts: Punta Cana River Cruise
1) What can we expect from the guide?
Well, if you’re lucky, you’ll get the same guide we had because he was what my grammy would call “a character”. We got his thoughts about everything from what the most important industry is in the DR (agriculture), to his thoughts on crime in the Dominican Republic (not as bad as people say), to who the national hero of the Dominican Republic is (David Ortiz, aka Big Papi).
He certainly helped keep the drive from the Punta Cana cruise port to the river cruise entertaining! I could have listened to his thoughts on the guy who shot David Ortiz all day. (“We HATE him! Everyone loves David Ortiz here! How dare you shoot our national hero? How dare you?)
2) What was there to do on the river cruise?
Our guide tried to talk to us about birds and things, but all most people seemed to want to do was party. Fortunately there was plenty of rum for that! Do you see the coconut above? Well, don’t be fooled! Once I drank the water from the coconut, they poured some rum inside for extra fun! That’s both clever and good for the environment.
Once the drinking had gone on for a little while, the dancing began! Some of the staff on the boat started to circulate to dance with the customers. One young man, who I guess was the DR equivalent of Johnny Castle from Dirty Dancing, asked me to dance but I declined because I am the worst dancer in all of human history.
Sometimes I look back and regret not dancing. I always say people should live a little and say yes to life! But I don’t regret not losing my balance and knocking that poor young gentleman into the sea because I am so clumsy, so I guess it all worked out for the best.
3) What was the most surprising part of the river cruise?
That would have to be when we came across some sort of gladiator challenge show filming in the Dominican Republic that everyone else seemed to have heard of but me. Maybe it was The Bachelor? Usually when everyone is talking about a reality show that I don’t know anything about, it is The Bachelor.
In any case, the entire cast seemed really excited to see us and waved at us for a long time. Thanks Gladiator Bachelors! You made us feel like the real celebrities!
Punta Cana Cruise Port
Afternoon: Explore Altos de Chavon and Environs
The afternoon portion of this shore excursion to the Punta Cana cruise port consisted of a couple of hours of free time in an adorable town called Altos de Chavon. This unusual spot is a recreation of a 16th century Mediterranean village. Yes, it’s touristic, but it’s also adorable and fun, so I’m sure you’ll love it.
I had made friends with an extremely nice couple on my cruise ship, so we ended up exploring Altos de Chavon together. This meant I couldn’t spend as much time in museums being a nerd as I usually do, but it did teach me something about what a normie would want to get out of an afternoon in Altos de Chavon. So allow me to share what we learned with…
Approximately Top 5: Altos de Chavon and Environs
1) Lunch at Cafe Marietta
There are several nice spots for lunch in Altos de Chavon, but I recommend Cafe Marietta because it had a friendly staff and a menu that has pretty much anything you could be in the mood for. Go here first because if it takes a while to get your food, you’ll know how much time you have left to explore before you have to meet your tour guide, aka Big Papi’s number one fan.
I wanted something local, so even though it was lunch time, I feasted on the tasty Dominican breakfast. This came with two fried eggs, fried cheese, mofongo, which are mashed plantains that are a super popular delicacy in both Puerto Rico and the DR, salami and a whole bunch of onions.
It was extremely tasty, but I do not recommend either trying to kiss someone or visiting a cardiologist after eating this breakfast. Come to think of it, don’t go trying to kiss any cardiologists either.
2) The Amphitheatre
The Amphitheatre is one of the most famous spots in Altos de Chavon. Back in the 1980s, Frank Sinatra even played a concert here. But I don’t recommend trying to regale your fellow cruise-goers with “My Way” here. They’ll probably be super embarrassed and disavow any knowledge of you.
It’s still amazing to me that this amphitheatre looks so old, when in fact it wasn’t finished until the early 1980s. But you really feel like you could be in a Southern Spanish or French city when you stand here. A magic worthy of David Copperfield!
3) St Stanislaus Church
This spot is one of the other most famous landmarks in Altos de Chavon. It was named after the patron saint of Poland because when Altos de Chavon was built, the Pope was the Very Polish John Paul II, and he had recently visited the Dominican Republic. We weren’t able to go inside, but you can still admire the exterior.
As you can probably guess, this church is extremely popular with weddings. But if you’re in more of a hippie-dippie wedding kind of mood, you might prefer the Tunnel of Love instead.
See! Altos de Chavon has something for everyone!
4) The Art Gallery
Because Altos de Chavon gets so many tourists from the Punta Cana cruise port, the shopping is crazy expensive. I’m not sure I recommend making a shop stop there. Even my female companion, who is a champion shopper, couldn’t find anything she wanted.
But I do recommend stopping at the Art Gallery in Altos de Chavon. Chavon is actually home to a design school, so the gallery features the students along with more established Dominican artists. Because the work is for sale, it wasn’t possible to take photos inside the gallery. But they can’t stop you from taking photos of the outside! MWAHAHA!
Our final stop before heading back to the Punta Cana cruise port was the Casa de Campo marina near Altos de Chavon. The views were lovely, but it wasn’t as charming in my mind as Altos de Chavon. I mean, I didn’t see any mofongos or any amphitheatre where Frank Sinatra performed, so why bother? But it is an exciting chance to see how the one percent live when you visit here.
What the marina did have were the most expensive stores I have ever seen in my life. Like, you would pick up one pair of earrings that might cost ten dollars back home and see that here at the marina the price was approximately one grillion dollars. But I guess when you have a captive audience of yacht owners, you can afford to charge them several arms and several legs because they can always pay their clones to grow them some more.
Punta Cana Cruise Port
Evening: Dinner on the Ship
Now that our time in the Punta Cana cruise port has come to an end, it’s time to dine on board the ship! I like to try Royal Caribbean’s specialty restaurants, but if you don’t spend enough time at the main dining room, someone will call your room worried that you are unhappy with the main dining room, which makes me sad. So let’s visit there tonight.
If you’re not a picky eater, I suggest going with the waiter’s recommendation. They know what’s popular that night, and they have no reason to lie to you because all the dishes are basically included with the price of your cruise. It’s not like a waiter back on land who might recommend the filet mignon because a more expensive meal usually means a bigger tip.
On this evening, the waiter happened to suggest the wedge salad followed by the lobster tail, which is a classy way to start your evening.
This was surprisingly good for cruise ship lobster. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of it.
And for dessert we have a molten chocolate cake. Not sure why they called it a molten chocolate cake because it was not molten and liquid on the inside at all. But it was definitely a moist chocolate cake with a whole bunch of ice cream on top, so I’m sure we don’t need more than that to be happy, do we?
That’s 24 Hours in the Punta Cana Cruise Port!
What would you do with 24 hours in the Punta Cana Cruise port? Is it better to get married in a church, under the Tunnel of Love, or in an amphitheatre while Frank Sinatra sings “My Way” in the background? Would you pay a grillion dollars just to go shopping with some yacht owners? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have 24 hours in the Punta Cana Cruise port.