Taino, African and Anglo cultures made their marks on Puerto Rico, but the Spaniards left the greatest and most lasting influence. Christopher Columbus claimed the land for Spain in 1493, naming it San Juan Bautista, after St. John the Baptist. Spanish colonists began to arrive soon after, building cities, roads, forts and churches and establishing the foundation for modern-day Puerto Rico’s language, religion, traditions and art. Conquistador Ponce de Leon was named the island’s first governor in 1508.
Cruises most often stop at the capital, San Juan. A foray into charming, historic Old San Juan reveals cobblestoned streets, seaside promenades, lively plazas and colorful buildings sporting wrought-iron balconies. Here, you can walk the old city ramparts and see three Spanish colonial fortresses -- El Morro, San Cristobal and La Fortaleza.
Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colony until 1898, when it was ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American War. Today it’s a self-governing U.S. commonwealth, and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917.