When you think of a Caribbean cruise, crystal clear water, powdery white sand beaches and cloudless blue skies often springs to mind. It is true what they say, the Caribbean really is paradise on earth making it one of the most sought after cruise destinations in the world but what most people don’t realise is, there is so much more to a Caribbean cruise than you could ever imagine.
With temperatures dropping and winter just around the corner, there has never been a better time to escape the UK on a sunny Caribbean cruise. Cruising the Caribbean during the months of December to May is the best time to go as you will miss out on hurricane season which is generally from June through to November and the weather is still warm allowing for some much needed winter sunshine.
Which region is for me?
Picking your itinerary can be tricky as it depends on what type of holiday you are after. A Western Caribbean cruise often includes longer time at sea because the islands are further apart and is a popular choice for first time cruisers as the ports of call are generally alive with tourism. You can expect places such as; Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Mexico and Cuba.
An Eastern Caribbean cruise is perfect for those looking to enjoy shopping, relaxing on the beach, exploring the rainforests and a whole host of adventures. Itineraries here include; Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St Maarten.
The Southern Caribbean is ideal for those who have sailed the Caribbean before and are looking for some more diverse exotic islands which are a little less crowded than you may find in the other regions. Itineraries include; Barbados, St Lucia, Dominica and Antigua.
A glimpse into the regions…
Mexico is a favourite destination for many to visit whilst on a Caribbean cruise. If you are visiting Acapulco then you can expect one of Mexico’s best beach resorts. Cozumel is the gateway to all of the Mayan history and the ideal port of call to see ‘Chichen itza’ – the Mayan Pyramids. Mazatlan offers a whole host of historical sites including a Moorish-style cathedral, and the Plazuela Machado square with quaint cafes and theatres, or you can visit ‘Museo de Arqueologia’ which is an archaeological museum.
Jamaica offers everything from tropical gardens and rainforests to pristine white sand beaches and out-of-this-world snorkelling opportunities. The capital city, Kingston is a vibrant city and a popular port of call. Rich in life and culture, there is plenty to do here including exploring the Blue Mountains where you will be able to taste the infamous Jamaican coffee bean, pay tribute to the Jamaican legend Bob Marley, or even spend your day shopping in the bustling Kingston Markets.
The largest of the three Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman will not disappoint. Taking a helicopter ride is the perfect way to getting to know the island and swimming with stingrays is quite an adventure here. You can discover the historical sites such as Fort George and Elmslie Memorial Church in Georgetown, or even take a submarine expedition 100ft under the water to see a whole host of marine life.
Havana is the capital city of Cuba and a beautiful port of call. Havana boasts spectacular beaches, sparkling crystal clear waters and a romantic atmosphere. During your visit to Havana you can discover the Old Town of Havana with its fascinating history and architecture, visit the National Museum of Beautiful Arts of Cuba, or simply unwind amidst the glorious scenery of the Caribbean ocean on the Playas de Este beach.
The two main ports of the Bahamas are Nassau and Freeport. The city of Nassau is perfect for shopping in boutiques and sightseeing around the city. Freeport is where you can take part in active activities such as touring the national parks by bicycle or jeep, explore the coral reef with snorkelling and scuba diving or take part in swimming with dolphins – a favourite shore excursion for so many.
As one of the largest islands in the Eastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico offers untouched rainforests, quiet beaches and plenty of Caribbean culture to take in. The capital city, San Juan, is the perfect place to visit to soak up the islands Spanish colonial culture. You can take a tour around the city’s famous landmarks including the 17th century fort of El Morro and no trip to the island would be complete without visiting the Bacardi Rum Distillery where you get the chance to take a fascinating tour to see how rum is made.
The island of St Marteen/St. Martin is split into two sides, French and Dutch, offering two distinctly diverse cultures. The Dutch side, St Marteen, is alive with tourist attractions, where-as the French side of St. Martin offers a more casual and relaxed atmosphere. This island is the perfect playground for water adventures and is the ideal place to take advantage of snorkelling and scuba diving.
Turks/Caicos are a group of 40 islands which lie just south of the Bahamas and are relatively unexplored making them an interesting port of call. You can expect an untouched and unspoiled paradise at this stop. During your time here you can take a tour through the national park or take a fascinating boat ride along the coast. The islands also provide some amazing underwater activities including diving, deep sea fishing, parasailing, and water skiing.
The Dominican Republic is an undiscovered island with a whole host of adventures yet to be discovered. Santa Domingo is the capital of the island and definitely a place worth exploring. With Old World Spanish architecture, a wander around the ‘Colonial Town’ is a must. Steeped in five centuries of history, you’ll discover many original buildings here, including the ‘Cathedral Santa Maria’ – the very first cathedral in the Americas. La Romana is another popular port of call here and offers an extremely picturesque experience with palm trees, white sand beaches and crystal clear water. Home to the largest handmade cigar factory in the world – Tabacalera de Garcia certainly is a popular attraction.
St Lucia is the perfect destination for romance, adventure and relaxation. Castries is one of the main ports of call in St Lucia and popular due to its awe inspiring cathedrals, bustling shopping markets and breath-taking scenery. The Pitons are of course the most stunningly famous landmarks on the island and a World Heritage Site. Standing 797 metres above sea level, these dormant volcanoes attract visitors from all over, making them one of the most famous Caribbean landmarks.
Antigua offers an extremely laid back lifestyle, with 365 beaches on the island to choose from, this is the perfect port of call to relax and unwind. One of the premier tourist destinations in the Caribbean, there are many tourist hot spots here, including ‘Nelson’s Dockyard’. Situated in the English Harbour, the dockyard pays tribute to Antigua’s past as a Royal Navy base. And, journey a little further up the hill and you’ll discover ‘Shirley Heights’. The ruins of the former lookout fort of the Royal Navy, the most stunning views can be had from here too.
Definitely one of the less visited places in the Caribbean, the French-owned island of Martinique is a fascinating port of call. If you are looking for a taste of French culture, then this is the place to be. Fort-de-France is the capital city that’s rich in history and culture with a whole host of attractions. Martinique is also known for being one of the few islands that still grows sugar cane and bananas and with this comes beautiful rolling green hills and lush countryside views. You can take a trek to Mt. Pelee and explore the islands rainforest or simply take some time to relax on the beaches along the coast.
The capital city of Barbados, Bridgetown, is a popular place to visit due to its exceptional shopping facilities and cultural landmarks. You can explore St. Michael’s Cathedral or visit the bronze statue of Lord Nelson in ‘Heroes Square’. If you are looking for sun, sea and sand then head to ‘Holetown’ on the western side of the island with an array of boutique waterside shops and beautiful beaches. Exploring Harrison’s Cave is a favourite of many with bubbling pools and gushing waterfalls to be seen, or you could visit the national park of Welchman Hall Gully with a whole host of birds and monkeys to discover, perfect for any wildlife lover.
By Ian Lewis