Cruise Ship Travel
Cruise Travel to La Romana
Ships enter the Casa de Campo International Tourist Port (Muelle Turïstico Internacional Casa de Campo). A group of folkloric dancers and local musicians, playing merengue, greets passengers as they come down the gangway. An information booth with English-speaking staffers is there to assist cruise-ship passengers; the desk is open the entire time the ship is in port.
It is a 15-minute walk into the town of La Romana, or you can jump into a waiting taxi. It's safe to stroll around town, but it's not particularly beautiful, quaint, or even historic; however, it is a real slice of Dominican life. Most people just board the complimentary shuttle and head for the Casa de Campo Marina and/or Altos de Chavón, both of which are within the Casa de Campo resort. Shuttles run all day long.
Taxis line up at the port's docks, and some, but not all, drivers speak English. Staff members from the information kiosk will help to make taxi arrangements. Most rates are fixed and spelled out on a board: $15 to Casa de Campo Marina, $20 to Altos de Chavón. You may be able to negotiate a somewhat lower rate if a group books a taxi for a tour. You can also rent a car at Casa de Campo from National Car Rental; rates are expensive, usually more than $70 a day. Driving into Santo Domingo can be a hair-raising experience, and isn't for the faint of heart, so we don't recommend it.
Cruise Travel to Samaná
Cruise ships dock at Embarcadero (name of dock) in Santa Bárbara de Samaná. Tenders will take you to one of three docks, on the Malecón, referred to as the Samaná Bay Piers. The farthest is a five-minute walk from the town center.
Renting a car, although possible, isn't a good option. Driving in the Dominican Republic can be a hectic and even harrowing experience; if you are in port one only day, don't risk it. You'll do better if you combine your resources with friends from the ship and share a taxi to do some independent exploring. Negotiate prices, and settle before getting in the taxi. To give you an idea of what to expect, a minivan that can take eight people will normally charge $90 for the round-trip to Las Terrenas, including a two-hour wait while you explore or enjoy the beach. Similarly, you'll pay $80 to travel to Las Galeras round trip. Many of the drivers speak some English. Within Samaná, rickshaws are far less costly and are also fun. Called motoconchos de carretas, they are not unlike larger versions of the Thai tuk-tuk, but can hold up to six people. The least you will pay is RD$10. They're fine for getting around town, but don't even think about going the distance with them.
Cruise Travel to Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo has two stellar cruise-ship terminals, and has become a growing port for cruise passengers, despite the sluggish economy.
The Don Diego Terminal is on the Ozuma River, facing the Avenida del Puerto, and across the street are steps that lead up to the main pedestrian shopping street of the Zona Colonial, Calle El Conde. A lovely yellow-and-white building, with stained-glass windows and faux gaslights, it has a small cafeteria, and potted palms soften the cordoned-off lines where passengers wait to have their tickets checked and go through immigration. The reception area has telephones, Internet access, and a currency exchange. Just down the dock is an ATM; in front of that is a counter where you can get cold drinks and snacks.
The Sans Souci Terminal complex, diagonally across the Ozama River from Don Diego Terminal, on Avenida España, has been operational since 2010, but this long-term redevelopment project is still a work in progress. Its mezzanine level accommodates immigration and customs, duty-free shops, and both Internet and information centers. Like the Port of Don Diego, it has stunning lighting systems that cover the exterior and perimeter areas for greater security and visibility for visitors. When completed, the complex will have finished its marina, and have a full complement of stores, a 122-acre real-estate development, a new sports arena, and more. This major project is aimed at integrating the port area and the Zona Colonial to create an appealing destination for cruisers, yachtsmen, and high-end tourists.
Airport Transfers for Cruise Passengers:
If you are embarking in Santo Domingo, you should fly into Las Américas International Airport (SDQ), about 15 miles (24 km) east of downtown. On arrival you will have to pay US$10 in cash for a tourist tax. Transportation into the city is usually by taxi; figure on $40 to or from hotels on the Malecón or in the Zona Colonial. You'll be greeted by a melee of hawking taxi drivers and sometimes their English-speaking solicitors (who expect to be tipped, as do the freelance porters who will undoubtedly scoop up your luggage). If you're spending a night or two in Santo Domingo before a cruise, you can arrange a driver through www.dominicanshuttles.com or possibly through your hotel, so that you'll be met with someone holding a sign with your name. (It's worth the extra $10 or so to avoid the hassle.) If you're going straight to your cruise ship, do consider taking the cruise line's prearranged transfer. When you disembark from your ship, expect long lines at check-in, and be sure to give yourself a full two hours for check-in and security. The government departure tax should be included in your airline ticket.