Christopher Columbus claimed the island of Hispaniola for Spain on his 1492 voyage of exploration. About 200 years later, the Spanish ceded the western third of the island – now known as Haiti – to France. Spain retained the eastern two-thirds of the island, the present-day Dominican Republic.
In the capital city of Santo Domingo, cruise ships dock at the Sansouci Pier, the main cruise terminal. It’s a quick taxi ride to the sights of the city, which include the Zona Colonial (Colonial City), a UNESCO World Heritage site with the first cathedral, first hospital and first fort built in the Americas.
No one is certain where the remains of Christopher Columbus lie, but residents of Santo Domingo will tell you they are at El Faro a Colon, where a tomb is watched over by an impressive lighthouse. Pope John Paul II visited during the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival, and his “Popemobile” is still on display.
To explore shops, restaurants and casinos, head to the Malecon, an oceanside walkway. Or, choose an excursion to the town of Boca Chica, which has great shopping and a lovely beach dotted with food stalls that offer local specialties, such as empanadas stuffed with fresh fish, rice and spices.
Some ships that call on Santo Domingo also visit La Romana, a town next to the resort village of Casa de Campo. Many cruise ship visitors take a shuttle up to Altos de Chavón, a hilltop re-creation of a 16th-century European village. The lovely stone buildings house restaurants, art galleries and shops with handiwork from local artisans. Don’t miss the 5,000-seat Roman-style amphitheater or St. Stanislaus Church and plaza, a popular site for weddings. There’s also a museum of archaeology with a collection of pre-Columbian artifacts found in the area.
Serious golfers will love the resort’s 18-hole course, Teeth of the Dog, ranked 46th in the world by Golf Magazine in 2013. Visit the Cueva de las Maravillas (Cave of Wonders) to see fascinating cave drawings; or, simply relax on nearby Bayahibe Beach.
To select a Caribbean cruise that will take you to the Dominican Republic, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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