With so many beaches on the island, it's easy to think of Antigua as a cruise port where you can spend the day lying in sand — but you'd be missing a lot if you did. From the history of Nelson's Dockyard to Bird Island and Antigua's own award-winning rum distillery, this destination offers many options for a port day on your Caribbean cruise.
The British Royal Navy used Nelson's Dockyard in the early 18th century to monitor French Naval activity and watch out for hurricanes. Its importance only grew through the years as it also became a spot for ship repairs. In the 1950s, needing repair itself, the dock and the buildings surrounding the dockyard were restored. It still operates today as a working dockyard, named after the captain who controlled it for many years, Horatio Nelson.
During a visit to Nelson's Dockyard you can see the forts around the park, linger in the museums, and browse through shops and art galleries. You'll even find a restaurant to grab a bite to eat of such local favorites as salt fish or ducana, a dumpling made from sweet potatoes, and look over the water while you sip a drink. Excursions on your cruise to the Caribbean will allow you to visit the dockyard by bus or Jeep — even in combination with a visit to Antigua's beaches.
Bird Island National Park
Less than two miles northeast of Antigua is a 20-acre islet known as Bird Island. Home to vibrant birds and pristine beaches, Bird Island attracts over 20,000 tourists each year. While you're in the Caribbean, take a catamaran to Bird Island National Park. There, you will not only see exotic creatures such as red-billed tropicbirds, West Indian whistling ducks, and brown pelicans, but you can also snorkel the coral reefs on one of Antigua's most beautiful beaches.
Regardless which tour you take when Caribbean cruises stop in Antigua's port, be sure to allow some time to explore the shops by the pier. The modern Antigua pier, a very short walk from the cruise ship, offers everything, including duty-free jewelry and local handmade treasures such as seashell jewelry and hand-dyed sarongs.
You won't want to leave Antigua without sampling some of Antigua Distillery's spirits. Among the popular liquors they make right on the island are English Harbor rum and Kokocaribe, a coconut rum.
Explore Antigua on a Caribbean cruise, and come back rejuvenated like never before.