Cruising with kids in the Caribbean? Don’t feel bad about skipping these 6 ports

View of cruise ship as it comes into a Caribbean port
Cruise ships docked in Nassau, Bahamas (Photo: Yujie/Adobe Stock courtesy of Humble Boots)

One of the best parts about a Caribbean cruise with kids is the chance to immerse them in a handful of cultures that satiate their curiosity, inspire adventure, and open their minds. Young minds also get exhausted more easily and might need a break. We never want to feel like we’re missing out, but sometimes not getting off the ship in a port is what our children (and heck, even us) need to recharge before the next stop.

Gearing up for a cruise and trying to determine the best and worst Caribbean cruise ports for families? Here’s my list to help you better plan. My intention is not to deter you from booking excursions at these six islands; in fact, your family can still savor incredible experiences through organized tours in these destinations. But as a cruise expert with more than a decade of experience—and as a mother—I recommend that families think twice before going in without a plan at these six cruise ports.

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Note: Some cruise ports anchor offshore, versus docking, and thus require a small boat known as a tender to transport guests from the ship to the terminal.

1. Falmouth, Jamaica

Falmouth port in Jamaica island, the Caribbeans. With old houses and duty free zone. From above, picture from cruise ship liner.
Looking out over Falmouth, Jamaica (Photo: Irina Schmidt/Adobe Stock courtesy of Humble Boots)

Jamaican cruise ports like Ocho Rios and Montego Bay are easy stepping stones to explore some of the country’s top family attractions (i.e. Dunn’s River Falls, Dolphin Cove, and Doctor’s Cave) on your own. Falmouth, on the other hand, requires between a 30-minute to one-hour drive to reach top attractions—and the taxis cost a pretty penny. The port town is also not particularly good for wandering on foot with kids. (Note: Regardless of where you dock or anchor in Jamaica, make sure you hire a licensed versus private taxi service.)

2. Grand Cayman (George Town), Cayman Islands

Determine if the juice is worth the squeeze for you and your kids to get off the ship in Grand Cayman, which requires a 20-minute tender ride to reach the port. Once there, you’ll quickly notice the city doesn’t have much nearby for families to explore by foot. Much of the immediate terminal area feels like a tourist trap, with tacky souvenir shops and waterfront bars serving overpriced pina coladas. Beaches such as Seven Mile Beach and Smith Cove, as well as the Cayman Turtle Centre, make for memorable visits, but they’re at least another 10- to 20-minute drive away.

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3. Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago

Beach on Tobago island with boat in water and people swimming
Families swimming at Pigeon Point Heritage Park beach in Tobago (Photo: michaelgalli_/Adobe Stock courtesy of Humble Boots)

It sounds crazy, but hear me out: If your cruise ship stops in Tobago, I highly recommend having an excursion already booked. Yes, the island is replete with raw, natural beauty in the form of unspoiled rainforests and beaches, but getting a guide to make the most of your time on the island is key. And bonus: Tobago also happens to be one of the islands you can safely visit during hurricane season, with a low chance of being affected by storms due to its location.

If you don’t have the budget or ability to secure a tour, you might consider hanging on the ship with your kids. Pigeon Point Beach is the nearest attraction but tends to get crowded and isn’t the best for swimming.

4. Nassau, Bahamas

Bahamas’ cruise ports, including cruise lines’ private islands, are popular stops on Caribbean itineraries. Nassau is one that often comes up in discussions of the best and worst Caribbean cruise portsand it’s one your family won’t have FOMO foregoing. While the downtown does have its hidden gems, you’ll have to wander quite a bit (and bypass some aggressive peddlers) to find them.

The go-to destination for most families in Nassau is the famed Atlantis Paradise Resort, on Paradise Island. But be prepared to feel like packed sardines on its beaches, and to be met with tantrum-inducing, long lines for the waterslides.   

5. Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

Grand Turk cruise port terminal and pier crowded with cruise passengers
Carnival Corporation’s private island port of Grand Turk (Photo: Mikolaj Niemczewski_/Adobe Stock courtesy of Humble Boots)

Owned and operated by Carnival Corporation, Grand Turk is an island off the coast of Turks and Caicos with your usual gamut of beach activities. It’s one of several cruise line private islands found throughout the region. Swimming, water sports, shops and straw markets, and a few restaurant-and-bar establishments round out the offerings. The atmosphere feels very “five o-clock somewhere,” and while the beaches are nice, they quickly fill up, especially if multiple ships are docked or anchored. Because of its over-touristy feel, party vibe, and hefty price tags on rentals, Grand Turk leaves a lot to be desired for families with younger kids.

6. Belize City, Belize

A history of high crime has bolstered security in Belize City, and even locals caution you not to venture past the terminal gates on your own. (The Central American city, which is included on some Caribbean cruise itineraries, does have a small, confined tourist village. But it’s not worth the 15-minute tender boat ride to get there.) If you’ve booked an excursion through the cruise line or another reputable company, you’re in good hands. Belize is an eco-wonderland, home to several “bucket list” experiences. But if doling out more money to see them isn’t an option, think about staying onboard instead. 

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Gina Kramer
Flip through Gina's passport, and you might be surprised to see that her extensive stamp collection excludes a lot of major cities. Her appetite for exploring more underrated destinations complements her work in the cruise industry, in which she has more than 10 years of experience – most notably as an editor and video personality at Cruise Critic. Now as a mother of two toddlers, Gina and her family continue to seek out “hidden gems,” whether they’re cruising or musing on a landlocked adventure.