Have you ever been on a cruise and as your ship is making its grand entrance into the port, suddenly it looks like you are in a traffic jam with a bunch of other ships and cruisers? When you are at sea, it feels like your ship is the only ship on the entire ocean. That’s part of the fun allure of cruising. You can see water for miles on end. But that feeling of exclusivity can suddenly go away when your vacation meets up with five other ships, each with well over 2000 passengers, and you all get off your ships and invade the port.

A packed port with lots of people is one of our least favorite aspects of certain itineraries.  The number of potential people who could be in port on a given day is called the port load.  To give you an idea, here are some of the crazy number of people you may be fighting with to grab a chair at that local beach or a spot on that cool shore excursion.

  • Nassau — on January 24, 2014 had a port load of 17,294 people! All from 6 ships in port that day. Not sure that would have been a good day to hit Atlantis.  Compare that to July 14, 2014 when the port load will be just 6,446.  Huge difference right?
  • St Thomas — on January 22, 2014, the port load was 21,528. Compare that to just a few days later on January 26 when the port load was 5,560.
Coco Cay, COURTESY Royal Caribbean
Coco Cay, COURTESY Royal Caribbean

Most of the private islands in the Bahamas have just one ship there per day. If you are on a larger ship (like one with 4,000 plus passengers), your experience on one of the private islands may cause some congestion or lack of lounge chairs.  Just be prepared in advance and plan accordingly to be strategic on when you get on and off the ship.  No one likes to wait in a line or get stuck with a crappy lounge chair.

We don’t share this information to scare you that every port is super busy. We want you to be informed, so if you have your heart set on a certain excursion, you will know you should book it in advance instead of waiting because it will probably sell out if there is a big port load the day you are in port.  Or, if you really, really hate crowds, work with your travel professional to find an itinerary that would feature ports with fewer ships there the same day you are.