As a cruiser, I find ports to be more important than the ship. I base this on the fact that after 5 cruises (a LOT fewer than our more senior posters) I have yet to find a ship that I did not fully enjoy. I just assume that I am going to have a good time on whatever ship I sail. Given that perspective, the ports are what drive my decision on which cruise to take.
Based on that, I would take a different perspective than the posters who have preceded me.
St. Thomas (Charlotte Amalia)is basically one big T-shirt shop. It does, however, have Megan’s Bay – a beach that National Geographic has called one of the three most beautiful beaches in the world. When in St. Thomas, we buy our allotment of liquor – have it delivered to the ship – and then rent a motor bike to Megan’s Bay for a delightful day on a world class beach that will be virtually unknown to most of the other people on the ship. This is the port that just calls out for a quiet, relaxing day at the beach.
On the other hand, San Juan is a port just made for exploration. The El Yunque rainforest (just 30 miles from San Juan) is the oldest forest preserve in the western hemisphere and its 28,000 acres is home to well over 250 native species of trees – many of which can only be found in El Yunque. It has exquisite hiking trails, grand vistas, cool mountain air, and refreshing waterfalls.
And then there is old San Juan. Dating back to the 1500’s, Old San Juan’s narrow cobblestone streets, 400 restored historic buildings, churches and schools from the 16th and 17th Centuries, and grand fortresses are part of the oldest walled city in the Western Hemisphere. You can visit the tomb of Ponce de Leon, explore El Moro, take the ferry across the bay to visit the Bacardi Distillery (and get some great prices), or simply find one of the great Spanish restaurants in the city. I like this city because it is a real working city. No zip lines, no banana boat rides, no cold barbeque lunches prepared on the ship and ferried over to a crowded beach – but great fun to see and visit.
Anyway…that’s my take.