There are 2 groups of us. 1st group (3) arrives the day before. I am in the 2nd group of 5 inc. an elder and a child will arrive at two-ish. The RCI check in can be as early as 4:30p and as late as 6:30p. The ship departs at 8:30p, Jan 15th. We have been to SJ two times before while others have one day stop there from a cruise ship.
What is a best way for us to use for the transfer in term of cost, convenient, and usage? ... car rental, transfer service, or taxi?
Also, when we return in the morning, our flight back is at four-ish. I would think a car rental may be good so we could have luggage there while having lunch and site tour a little before return. Where is a good place to pick up a car rental coming from the port?
For the 1st group which are all young and probably travel light, is there a public transportation from SJU airport to Old Town?
It depends. Presumably that group will not be going directly to the cruise port, but to some hotel. Where are they going? And what day of week and time of day will they be arriving? None of this matters if they are going to take a taxi or rent a car, but since you asked for public transportation, all of this matters.
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If you must take public transit, take the B40 bus to the Isla Verde transfer depot, and from there take the A5 bus straight into San Juan. On the bus, budget 2 hours for this, mostly spent waiting. Explain to the bus driver where you're going, and they should speak enough English to explain to you how to get to where you're going.
Conversely, take a cab or drive and in 15-20 minutes, you'll be there.
We did a 7 night cruise onboard Celebrity Summit in November 2011 to/from San Juan & had one night pre-cruise accomm (booked direct via www.priorityclub.com) at the Holiday Inn Express SJU.
The average taxi fare seemed to be approx USD15.00 for our journeys:
a) SJU Airport to Holiday Inn Express
b) Holiday Inn Express to Plaza Las Americas (large shopping mall)
c) Plaza Las Americas to Pan American Pier where ship was berthed
It was maybe USD25.00 from the Pan American Pier to SJU Airport at the end of the cruise, I forget exactly but it wasn't an excessive amount.
We had flown LAS/xDFW/xMIA/SJU (KUPP fare ) but AA misplaced our luggage so we had to buy some new stuff as we didn't know when we'd get our bags back.
If flying out of SJU the same day the cruise arrives back I would book a flight mid-afternoon as despite the ship docking at 0600, they didn't start disembarking the first group of pax until 0830. Our 'muster' time to disembark was 0915 but we didn't start to disembark until 1030 due to the long queues in customs.
We ended up arrived at SJU Airport at 1115 for a 1245 departure which IMHO was cutting it a bit fine.
Note that when you fly from the US to SJU there's no customs on arrival as SJU is classed as domestic, however as your cruise visits ports in other countries you need to clear customs on arrival which takes time.
Definitely liaise with the concierge on the ship & let them know your flight details to get a decent priority when disembarking.
We have returned from our trip. We recommend taking taxi to/from airport to cruise port as the price is fixed … $19 for 5 pp, $2/add pp, $1/each luggage. Some taxi drivers may want to charge more perhaps include good tip.
Taking taxi within Old San Juan can be expensive compares with the airport rate. One can walk or take the free trolley. It is a small city, narrow streets, traffic, steep slopes, and difficult to locate a parking space.