I’ve visited more than 30 countries, and the best trick I’ve found to avoid crushing crowds is a free online tool

Cruise ship tourism is at an all-time high — and so are the crowds. Shutterstock
  • In March, I left New York to travel around the world as Business Insider’s international correspondent. In total, in my life, I’ve travelled to 30-plus countries.
  • I visited top Caribbean destinations like the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, and St. Maarten, and top Mediterranean destinations like Mykonos, Croatia, and Ibiza.
  • Many of those destinations become overloaded with far more people than they can handle when cruise ships are in port, but are relatively quiet otherwise.
  • If you are taking a beach or island vacation, the best thing to do before booking dates is to look up when and how many cruise ships will be in port on a site like CruiseCal.

I hate cruise ships. Personally I think they are the worst way to travel – overpriced for their value, boring, bad food, bad for the environment, and never providing enough time to enjoy a destination. You end up spending a whole lot of time staring at an overcrowded pool, the endless ocean, and a smelly cramped cabin.

But I’m not myopic enough to think everyone shares that view. In fact, cruise tourism is at all time high with an expected 27.2 million passengers this year, according to The Telegraph, up from 17.8 million in 2009.

That’s good news for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian’s bottom lines. But it’s bad news for those of us who want to hopefully (hopefully!) avoid the overtourism that plagues hot cruise ship stopping points like Mallorca, Venice, and the Galapagos Islands, among other places.

Dubrovnik Croatia King's Landing Gaspar Janos Shutterstock
Dubrovnik, Croatia, is a popular spot for cruise ships. Gaspar Janos/Shutterstock

Thankfully, I found a hack a few years ago when planning a trip to Croatia – a destination that has only recently become overrun with cruise ships – that has helped me avoid much of the crowds.

Before booking my dates, I consulted a cruise ship calendar like those on CruiseCal,CruiseTT, or Crew Center. Such calendars will show you how many cruise ships are in port on certain days and the passenger load of each ship.

While it’s pretty much impossible to avoid every cruise ship that’s coming into port for certain locations (like Dubrovnik, Croatia), you can navigate your way to less busy days.

Read More:
I visited the glittering Greek island of Mykonos, the summer destination of choice for billionaires – and it’s a very different experience if you aren’t swimming in money

Or you can plan your big sightseeing days on days when fewer cruise ships are in port. There’s nothing worse than trying to scale Dubrovnik’s breathtaking city walls on a day when four or five cruise ships-full of people are trying to do the same thing.

Using CruiseTT helped me avoid crowds as I visited Split, Dubrovnik, and Hvar Island in Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro, all top cruise ship stopping points. I simply booked my dates for each place based on the days when less ships would be in port. It made all the difference.

Unfortunately, I forgot to consult a cruise ship calendar this past summer when I was visiting Mykonos, the Greek island best known as a glamorous destination for the world’s wealthy.

It looked a little something like this:

Greece Mykonos Santorini Travel Billionaires Islands (31 of 44)
Mykonos Town, overrun with tourists at sunset. Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

While it would likely have been impossible to avoid every cruise ship, I had the distinct misfortune of spending two days on the island when there were five cruise ships in port. You could barely move in the Old Town it was so crowded.

If I had come two days later, there would have been one or even zero cruise ships in port.