Modern, busy and a gateway to the rest of China, Xiamen has long been an important port. The city's name literally means ‘door to the house' and your ship will dock close to the city for convenient shore excursions. The city itself is affluent and vibrant, located on an island that's approximately eight miles wide.
The outskirts stretch to surrounding smaller islands and to mainland China. If you can make your way through the crowds, then you'll have no trouble walking to most major attractions, though you might want to make things easy by using a public bus or a taxi.
Xiamen's scenery is a sight to behold. The city's surroundings are naturally beautiful and include long stretches of coastline and a number of calm and peaceful lakes. Local artists have created sculptures that have been placed around the city, which are lit up at night.
Many buildings also host their own laser and light shows, which let tourists see a whole new side of the city after dark. The beaches are perfect for water sports, the bars and nightclubs are ideal for evening excursions and open-air BBQs are a common occurrence and a great way to socialise with the locals. Alternatively, use your time to visit any of the bigger and more popular attractions:
This small island is the city's most luxurious district. It's free from cars and motorbikes and is dotted with beautiful colonial houses. You'll need to take a ferry to the island, with the most luxurious seats costing a little extra. Attractions on the island include the Statue of Koxinga, the Shuzhuang Garden, Underwater World, Sunlight Rock, The Aviary which is home to more than 1,000 birds and the interesting and unique Piano and Organ Museums.
Music is an important part of Xiamen culture – something that's clear as you walk through this precinct. It's a lovely park area, with interspersed statues of musicians and composers and with a musical theme that spreads to surrounding buildings.
Lam Soon Crocodile Park
This relatively new attraction is a farm home to more than 2,300 crocodiles. They come from all over the world and live in ornamental pools. Occasional crocodile shows are worth waiting around for, and you'll want to browse the on-site shop selling crocodile products including bags, belts, art and toys.
Shopping in Xiamen
Xiamen's shops aren't all aimed towards the city's tourists. The student population has a big influence, so you'll find plenty of stores that sell fashionable clothes and accessories, as well as a number of book stores that are worth a quick browse and which occasionally stock English-language literature. Take time to visit the markets, where you're more likely to find hand-made jewellery and more typical souvenirs and gifts.
The city's shopping malls have chain stores including recognisable big names from the UK and US. The closest to the city centre is the World Trade Mall, which is a great place to pass some time and buy your holiday essentials.
If you're specifically searching for one-of-a-kind items that you can buy as souvenirs, then you'll find art, ornaments, beads, sculptures, ceramics, antiques and pieces of jade on Dragon Head Road. Dried nuts are a cheap item sold in many of the shops on Dragon Head Road and are perfect if you're looking for something to take home to share with friends or hand out in the office.
Eating out in Xiamen
If you're dining in Xiamen, then you'll find plenty of restaurants serving authentic local dishes. There are a few American fast food eateries, but try to resist in favour of some of the more unusual meals on offer. Fish balls are a specialty, and are created by mixing fish and pork before adding a savoury sauce.
These are often served with noodles, and can be found in restaurants just moments from the cruise ship. Shrimp, crab and oyster dishes are also common, with oyster omelettes and crab porridge being favourites amongst locals and visitors, though less adventurous cruisers might prefer a rice wrap, peanut soup or crispy spring rolls. If you prefer meat to seafood, try braised duck which is flavoured with ginger and is particularly soft and tender.
Don't return to your ship without sitting down and relaxing in one of the city's many tea houses. You'll be able to select from an extensive menu of flavoured teas, and can sit outside and watch passing tourists and city locals.