With stunning turquoise water, balmy breezes and amazing temperatures year-round, the Caribbean is the ideal cruise destination. There are so many different islands to choose from, there will be something for every passenger to enjoy, from delicious cuisine, luxury shopping and amazing snorkeling and scuba opportunities to a rich and diverse history, stunning artwork and even pirate adventures. Which of these top notch itineraries is perfect for your next Caribbean cruise?
Visiting the Bahamas is a great way to dip your toes in the Caribbean, and you can enjoy a range of ports in this tropical archipelago. Nassau – the capital of the Bahamas – is the country’s top cruise port and its most populous city. While many Caribbean cruises include a stop in Nassau, sailings that focus exclusively on the Bahamas without visiting other destinations may also stop in Freeport as well as various private islands that have been leased to different cruise lines. Depending on where the cruise originates from, a port of call in Florida is also common.
Because the Bahamas is the closest Caribbean destination to the United States, it is popular with many cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line. Cruises visiting the Bahamas often depart from Florida for shorter, 3-4 night voyages, while longer itineraries stretching from 5-9 days may visit the Bahamas from as far away as South Carolina, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
Western Caribbean Cruises
Western Caribbean itineraries are some of the most diverse and popular voyages available in this tropical paradise, and can include a wide range of ports. Depending on the line, ship, cruise length and time of year, popular western Caribbean ports include Key West, Cozumel, the Yucatan peninsula, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Belize, Honduras and even Cuba. This allows passengers to truly experience the region’s amazing diversity, all from the comfort and convenience of a cruise ship.
Because these itineraries are so popular, they are a mainstay with many cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America and Costa Cruises. Other lines that also occasionally schedule western Caribbean voyages include Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and Silversea Cruises, among others.
More familiar, popular lines often offer western Caribbean sailings that range from 3-7 nights in length, though more detailed, elaborate itineraries can span up to 14 days or longer. Departures can be arranged from Florida as well as Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.
Eastern Caribbean Cruises
Eastern Caribbean cruises are a bit more exotic than their western counterparts, and the ports are slightly less frequently visited – which often means smaller crowds and more room to enjoy all the culture, amenities and excursions of these outstanding destinations. The fantastic ports that are often part of eastern Caribbean itineraries include Bermuda, Grand Turk, St. Thomas, San Juan, St. Maarten, the Dominican Republic, Martinique and Haiti. Additionally, some of the popular western Caribbean ports of call are also often part of eastern itineraries, depending on where ships depart from, which may include Florida, New York, South Carolina, Maryland, Baltimore and New Jersey.
While they may not be as frequently offered, particularly in the less busy winter season, eastern Caribbean cruises are still a staple for Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line. Holland America and Azamara Club Cruises also feature occasional eastern Caribbean itineraries. Cruise lengths range from 5-8 nights, with occasional longer, more detailed voyages.
Southern Caribbean Cruises
Visiting the southernmost reaches of the Caribbean leads cruise passengers to the most exotic and untouched destinations in the region. Popular southern ports of call include Barbados, Antigua, St. Kitts, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, Curacao, Aruba and the Dominican Republic. Not every southern voyage will reach all these ports, of course, and depending on where the cruise begins, its route may also include eastern or western Caribbean destinations as well.
Because of the distance to travel to southern Caribbean ports of call, most of these cruises begin in Florida or Puerto Rico, though some longer itineraries can begin in New Jersey or Maryland. Certain Caribbean departure ports also feature shorter southbound itineraries.
Cruise lines that offer amazing southern Caribbean itineraries, which range from 3-14 nights or longer, include Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America.
Private Island Cruises
Private island destinations are a popular part of many Caribbean cruises, whether the full itinerary is for the Bahamas or the western, eastern or southern region. These islands are privately leased or owned by cruise lines, and offer exclusive access to passengers. They often include distinct experiences, such as exploring specially-themed venues or enjoying more intimate shore tours with smaller groups and expert guides. Because the islands are private, crowds are much smaller and the atmosphere is more relaxed.
Most of the major cruise lines that regularly sail in the Caribbean have access to private islands, or at least exclusive private beaches or reserved resort areas. Some cruise lines in the same family share the same private destination. For example, Amber Cove, a private beach area along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, is shared by Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, AIDA Cruises and P&O Cruises. When so many lines share the same port, however, itineraries are scheduled so the crowds are never overwhelming.
Other private islands include Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian Cruise Line), Princess Cays (Princess Cruise Line), CocoCay (Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and MSC Cruises), Half Moon Cay (Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America) and Castaway Cay (Disney Cruise Line) in the Bahamas, Catalina Island (Costa Cruises) in the Dominican Republic and Labadee (Royal Caribbean International) in Haiti. These islands may be part of any Caribbean cruise itinerary from 3-14 nights or longer, and they’re unforgettable ports of call when they are.
Wherever you choose to sail in the Caribbean, you’re sure to have an amazing itinerary to enjoy!