Caribbean Cruising: Helpful Hints

Decided to go on a Caribbean cruise, but having trouble choosing your itinerary? Contrary to popular opinion the Caribbean is quite a large place with dozens of ports across quite a few countries. To see them all you might need a year off (wouldn’t that be nice!)…

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

It is worth remembering that regardless of the final destination, you’ll be faced with crystal clear turquoise waters, pristine beaches, yummy tropical cocktails, to-die-for sunsets and a relaxing time, so don’t despair.

Some Geography

Most Caribbean cruises have itineraries covering eastern, western or southern Caribbean destinations.

On a Western Caribbean cruise you are likely to visit Mexico, Central American countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica or Panama, and the islands of Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Caymans. 

Eastern Caribbean ports of call include San Juan in Puerto Rico, Nassau in the Bahamas, and Grand Turk in Turks & Caicos.

Southern Caribbean cruises are nowadays increasing in number and venture out to the ports of Aruba, St. Lucia, Barbados and Martinique.

The starting point for most Caribbean cruises are US cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Port Canaveral in Florida, Galveston in Texas, New Orleans in Louisiana, Charleston in South Carolina, Baltimore in Maryland, and San Juan in Puerto Rico.

Choose Your Experience

Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

Those looking purely to relax, should choose beachy locations that don’t offer too many distractions beyond swaying palm trees, isolated lagoons, luscious food and a spot of dancing in the evening, like the Bahamas, Barbados, Turks and Caicos Islands, so choose an Eastern or Southern Caribbean itinerary.

For more of a cultural experience venture over to Cuba or South America side, to Mexico, with its fabulous food and rich history, hike the lush rainforests Puerto Rico, or choose to stop in Haiti, for those willing to brave post-earthquake conditions and help the local economy.

The middle ground would probably be Jamaica, a location with the mysterious ability to make everyone happy, as the legendary laid back attitude to life prevalent here has a tendency to be rather infectious! Plus, you get to enjoy a lot of reggae music and the fabulous, spicy seafood dishes and Rastafarian-influenced veggie cuisine.

Some Practicalities

Cruising is a highly addictive activity and during high season – Northern hemisphere summer months and Christmas and New Year – cruises are likely to sell out, so book early. For bargains, try booking for September and October, but they do come at a price: it’s hurricane season, so itineraries, just like the weather, may change without notice. If you can, book your cruise between February and April, as the weather is at its balmy best then.

The standard and most popular cruises in the region are seven nights long, so if you miss out on your preferred itinerary, consider taking a shorter four or five night cruise instead and add a few extra days in a starting or finishing port of your choice, especially if it’s somewhere like New Orleans! Either way, you’ll have a fabulous time.

  • 1. flickr photo by mzmo
  • 2. flickr photo by7 pazzani

Author – Patricia Bieszk+  – Freelance travel writer and lover of adventure