San Juan

Pastel facades and balconies in bloom
Spanish colonial architecture
The Paseo de la Princesa

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San Juan

A bracing walk along the sea front

San Juan is one of the world’s top cruise ship destinations, with most of the pleasure boats docking at the port by the old town.

As recently as the 1970s, Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan) was a reminder of better times, a run-down collection of Spanish colonial relics, in little better shape than the collapsed empire that constructed them. Now, however, after extensive and careful restoration, this seven-block-square area is considered one of the best-kept troves of Spanish colonial architecture and has become a World Heritage Site.


Before continuing your holiday across the Caribbean you just have to stop off at San Juan, with its steep, narrow streets distinctively cobbled with smooth, iridescent bricks known as adoquines, originally used as ballast in ships, and feature buildings – some of the oldest in the Western hemisphere – with bright pastel facades and wrought-iron balconies abloom with plants and flowers.


The old town occupies the headland of a 4km-long island (connected by bridge to the mainland) that shelters the San Juan Bay, for centuries a key port in the New World. It was originally known as Puerto Rico, or “rich port”, because its position made for such a fine stop for shipping.


Begin your wanderings in the old town along the Paseo de la Princesa, a busy cobblestoned promenade, and head west along the southern city wall. The prim, grey and white Neoclassical building you'll see is known as La Princesa. Built as a prison in 1837, it now houses the main PRTC offices, as well as a gallery showcasing the work of contemporary Puerto Rican artists.

The city wall itself, known as La Muralla, is an impressive sight. Until the late nineteenth century, it encircled all of Old San Juan with 3900 metres of sandstone, culminating in the fortress of El Morro at the headland.

Must see place in San Juan

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    Caguas City

  • Calle del Cristo

    Calle del Cristo

  • Botanical Garden

    Botanical Garden

Discover our excursions

8 results found

  • Canopy Adventure

    ACTIVE & ADVENTURE

    SJU12

    The lush tropical rainforest that characterises the countryside of northern Puerto Rico is not only a paradise of rich diversity and stunning tropical fauna, but also provides the setting for this amazing treetop adventure, a unique opportunity to view the world from above. With the assistance of an experienced guide, you will make your way through a course of 8 traverses, Twelve platforms, a rappel, also known as a rope-guided vertical descent, and a series of elevated walkways which will round off this special experience. A knowledgeable guide will remain on hand to assist you every step of the way from the moment you leave the ground until you return to the forest floor. Please note: guests must be at least 5 years of age, weigh at least 45 lbs but no more than 250 lbs and measure a maximum of 46 inches around the waist to take part in the tour. You are recommended to wear comfortable clothes and closed shoes or tennis shoes. The tour is not suitable for pregnant women, for guests suffering from pre-existing heart or back problems and for guests with seizures, problems with balance, vertigo or acrophobia. As there are inherent risks associated with this activity, all guests will be required to fill out and sign a waiver and/or release form to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions. Guests are required to be in good physical health and in peak condition. Safety equipment (harness, gloves and helmet) will be provided and must be worn at all times. The tour involves extended periods of physical exertion, extensive walking and climbing. Duration of the canopy ride will depend on skills and quantity of participants. Lines may form in the platforms depending on group's speed.
    • Limited seats

    • Active excursions recommended only for guests in good physical health

      Difficulty Level
      Strenuous

    • Duration
      3:30 h

  • El Morro & More Walking Tour

    CULTURE AND HISTORY

    SJU29

    Old San Juan's enchanting streets, located on a peninsula jutting into the Caribbean Sea, are perfect for exploring on foot - something this tour gives you ample opportunity to do. Escorted by your guide, you'll first board a coach to reach Fort San Felipe del Morro, or simply El Morro, perched on the tip of the promontory. Built in the 16th century, the imposing fortress features six different lines of defence, including a water battery tower and casemate guns. After a look around, you'll move on to the adjoining Ballajá Barracks area and then the totem dedicated to the indigenous Taíno people at the Plaza del Quinto Centenario. Right next door you'll find San José Square and its white-fronted church, a jewel of Spanish Gothic architecture completed in 1735. You'll also see many French- and Spanish-inspired buildings from various eras, so keep your camera at hand. Next up is an inside look at the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, whose earliest parts date back to 1540, followed by a photo stop and water break at the Rogativa monument in honour of Puerto Rican women who stymied a British invasion in 1797. The spot also affords great views of San Juan Bay, the nearby 16th-century Fortaleza and the governor's private residence. The last visit on your walk will then be the mid-18th-century Chapel of Christ the Saviour before time will be yours to do some shopping on your own. The tour comes to a close with your return to the ship. Please note: the walking tour of Old San Juan concludes with 1 hour of free time to go shopping, after which the guide will escort guests back to the ship. Guests wishing to remain in Old San Juan for longer can return to the ship on foot (approx. 15-minute walk) or take a taxi at their own expense. The price of the tour includes admission to the San Felipe del Morro Fort, visit included in the tour, and San Cristobal Fort, which guests may choose to visit at their leisure. Guests are advised to ask for and keep the receipt at the Fort of San Felipe del Morro as proof of purchase. Daily fort opening times are between 09:00 to 18:00 hours.
    • Limited seats

    • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

      Difficulty Level
      Moderate

    • Duration
      3:30 h

  • Old San Juan Historical Walk & Coffee Tasting

    CULTURE AND HISTORY

    SJU27

    Favoured by Puerto Rico's rich volcanic soil and climate, coffee has numbered among the island's major crops since the 18th century and has given rise to a rich coffee culture, a taste of which you can savour on this interesting tour through the historical district of San Juan. To set the mood, the tour begins with a delicious cup of freshly brewed Puerto Rican café con leche, to which your friendly barista will add his own personal latté-art flourish. As you then stroll through the streets of Old San Juan, your guide will tell you about the island's historical ties with the black beverage as well as how coffee and the church are connected. A photo stop will be made at Plaza de Colón and the statue of Christopher Columbus, which was erected to mark the 400th anniversary of his discovery of Puerto Rico. You'll also get to see some of the oldest churches in the western hemisphere, the main Plaza de Armas with its "Four Seasons” fountain as well as San Juan city hall, a replica of the one in Madrid. Your historical walk ends at the shopping district, where you can sit down and try some iced blends of coffee and tea with flavours such as coconut truffle, chocolate chai or papaya ginger. Please note: the tour involves approx. 1 mile of walking over cobblestones. This tour is not available for the call of MSC Divina on December 31st, 2014.
    • Tasting included

    • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

      Difficulty Level
      Moderate

    • Duration
      3 h

  • EL YUNQUE RAINFOREST TOUR

    NATURAL WONDERS

    SJU02

    Drive to the north-eastern central area of the island and visit the only tropical rainforest in the United States territory, El Yunque. On this amazing excursion you will pass through several rural communities on your way to one of Puerto Rico's finest spots of natural beauty. Marvel, its small horsetail waterfalls, giant ferns and tropical hardwoods. Encounter countless photo opportunities from these high mountaintops. Stop at the tourist visitor center and at one of its small bridges where a river crosses under. Come along and enjoy this truly remarkable journey! Please note: This is not a hiking tour; therefore it is suitable for all ages. We recommend for guests to wear comfortable clothing with flat, comfortable shoes and bring their respective raincoat.
      • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Easy

      • Duration
        4:30 h

    • SAN JUAN PANORAMIC TOUR

      SCENIC ROUTE

      SJU01

      Discover San Juan! Leaving the pier by air-conditioned minibus or motor coach you'll visit Old San Juan and view the massive, ancient fortresses and great stonewalls that have protected the capital city since they were built by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century. A guided visit is made at the San Cristobal Fortress considered the largest fort ever built by the Spaniards in the New World built in 1634. A drive through the Old City lets you see all the different Spanish architecture. Enjoy a brief stop at the Capitol Building. Once the visit to the old Colonial city has ended, you'll continue the tour to what is known as New San Juan, a modern city with its high-rise condos, luxurious resort hotels and casinos. This tour is a blend of this city’s old and new interesting history. You will return to the Old City for some free time at Plaza Colón to do some shopping, take pictures or to explore the local surroundings before returning to the ship. Please note: Wear comfortable walking shoes and to bring a hat and sunscreen. Some stops are unguided, allowing guests to be at their leisure and browse on their own. Tour price includes the admission to the San Cristobal Fort, visit included in the tour, and San Felipe del Morro fort which you may choose to visit at your leisure. Please ask for and keep your receipt at San Cristobal Fort, as proof of purchase. Fortifications are open every day from 9:00AM to 6PM.
        • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

          Difficulty Level
          Easy

        • Duration
          3 h

      • SUNSET STROLL THROIGH OLD SAN JUAN - EVENING TOUR

        SCENIC ROUTE

        SJU28

        What better way to end a relaxing day on the ship than with a leisurely stroll through beautiful Old San Juan? Situated on its own little island and home to a slew of historical landmarks, Old San Juan is not only a joy to explore, but also affords priceless views of the sun setting over the Caribbean Sea. Your fully guided tour begins with a short transfer to Ballajá Barracks, a beautiful Spanish-built 19th century building. Soak up amazing views of San Juan bay at dusk as you walk through the cobbled streets, passing such notable landmarks as the Plaza del Quinto Centenario, San José Church and Calle del Cristo en route to the Monumento a la Rogativa which commemorates a torch-lit procession held by the town’s womenfolk at the end of the 18th century to thwart British attempts to besiege the town. The ladies succeeded, the British fled and the city was spared. You’ll have some time to take photos and buy refreshments at this special spot before continuing on through San Juan gate and down Paseo de la Princesa, one of the city’s grandest boulevards. At the end of your guided walk, you can choose either to return to the ship or spend some extra time on Calle Fortaleza, at the end of which lies the 16th-century fortress that is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.Please note: This tour is only available for when the MSC Divina calls on San Juan on November 8th, 2015; April 27th, 2016; May 25th, 2016; June 8th, 2016; July 20th, 2016; October 12th, 2016; October 26th, 2016; and November 9th, 2016.
        • Tasting included

        • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

          Difficulty Level
          Moderate

        • Duration
          1:30 h

      • PUERTO RICAN COUNTRY FEAST & FIESTA - EVENING TOUR

        SOMETHING SPECIAL

        SJU30

        Hop on an air conditioned bus for this unique gastronomic experience and have a great evening in the mountain town of Cayey and La Ruta del Lechon for a dish of delicious roast pork. Enjoy the same flavors that locals get to enjoy regularly and head to the famous Lechoneras in Guavate. Lechoneras are outdoor restaurants that specialize in seasoned roast pork, where the whole pig is slow roasted over an open fire, a major part of Puerto Rico’s culinary culture. Meet your chef and hear great insights as to how this slow roasted delicious meal is prepared and taste some juicy pork and the crunchy pork rind which locals call “cuerito”. Enjoy a dizzying array of side dishes, as it’s your chance to taste various local favorites like rice and pigeon peas, green bananas, blood sausage or delicious pasteles. Not only is the food a draw, but also the live music which is sure to get you dancing and singing! Sip on some complimentary Sangria as the mountain air cools you and watch as your dance instructors show you the stylish moves of Salsa dancing. It’s an evening of food and fiesta and you are the guest of honor. Buen Provecho!Please note: Guests should wear light, comfortable clothing. Guests must be 21 years of age or older to consume alcohol. Please let the Shore Excursions Office know well in advance if you have any special dietary restriction which does not allow you to consume pork so an alternative dish can be coordinated. This tour is only available for when the MSC Divina calls on San Juan on November 8th, 2015; April 27th, 2016; May 25th, 2016; June 8th, 2016; July 20th, 2016; October 12th, 2016; October 26th, 2016; and November 9th, 2016.
        • Lunch or dinner included

        • Limited seats

        • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

          Difficulty Level
          Easy

        • Duration
          4:30 h

      • SAN JUAN PANORAMIC & BACARDI

        SOMETHING SPECIAL

        SJU06

        A scenic, air-conditioned drive begins your tour, first heading to the town of Cataño and Casa Bacardi, where you can find out about both the time-honoured process of making rum and the history of the Bacardi family. Naturally, a chance to sample one of the delicious rums is included in your visit. As you leave the town towards the district known as New San Juan, you will pass through the Condado district – a modern area with high-rise condominiums, luxurious resort hotels and casinos – en route to Old San Juan to see the ancient strongholds and huge stone walls that were built by Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century. Due to the superb views afforded of the enormous San Cristobal Fortress from Plaza Colon, a stop will be made there for you to take photos and do some shopping before returning to the ship.Please note: You are recommended to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring a sunhat and use sunscreen. The Bacardi distillery is a popular site, for this reason there may be extended waiting time to get in. Some of the stops are unguided, allowing guests to browse on their own. Entrance fee, a commemorative Bacardi Cup and a Welcome drink are included. Participants must be at least 21 years of age to sample alcoholic beverages. Should you decide to enhance your experience with an add-on tour option once at Bacardi, the return transfer to the ship will be on your own and at your own expense.
        • Tasting included

        • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

          Difficulty Level
          Easy

        • Duration
          4 h

      The excursions in the programme above are intended to provide MSC Guests with an idea of the different tours that can be arranged in each port of call; this programme is merely a guide and confirmation of each excursion and its description and prices will be made during your cruise.
      Shore excursions programs and itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour.

       

      Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The guides are guaranteed in English. Only for South America cruises, the guides are guaranteed in Brazilian Portuguese. Narration in other languages depends on the availability of guides. Please note that the final language of the tour will be confirmed on board during the cruise.

      Puerto Rico

      Nature and modernity

      Nature and modernity

      Puerto Rico commands a pivotal spot in the Caribbean, the last substantial island before the sprawling arm of the Antilles swoops south towards Venezuela, fragmenting into the tiny Leeward and Windward Islands.

      A holiday to Puerto Rico can be a rare opportunity to experience its unique status as a commonwealth of the US, which keeps it a world apart from its island neighbours, over a distance that can be measured not just in kilometres, but in dollars. 


      It’s a place that combines island life with a level of infrastructure seldom seen in the region: excellent interstate highways allow travellers to zip from coral reef to five-star restaurant. 

      American influence is strongest in San Juan, where even the ramparts of El Morro – which staved off European aggressors for 500 years – haven’t managed to prevent the influx of American fast-food and retail chains. But the capital's core retains a distinctly Latin character, with Old San Juan host to a treasure trove of pastel Spanish colonial architecture on exquisitely restored cobblestoned streets. 


      During your cruise to Puerto Rico, even in the crowded capital, it’s hard to find a sullied beach, and nature is largely untouched outside the major cities – especially in the jungly, mountainous interior; on the relatively hidden beaches along the south coast; and on the offshore islands.