You’ve finally made the decision to treat yourself to a glorious Caribbean cruise but which itinerary is the best for your family?
Caribbean cruises can range from 3 to 10 days – sometimes more depending on the cruise line. It can be overwhelming picking one – especially if you’re a first-time cruiser.
To make it easy for you, we’re going to look at each region individually and explain the main differences between itineraries.
Each region differs primarily by the cruise departure point, the number of ports each cruise ship stops at and the different ports of call.
Eastern Caribbean cruises are ideally suited to travelers who are active and love exploring new places. In this region the ports of call are fairly close to each other so you can easily visit a different island every day.
In fact, you might be so busy exploring these fascinating islands, that you’ll need a relaxing holiday after you get home! Ports of call on Eastern Caribbean cruises are some of the most popular ports so it’s not unusual to see 3 or more ships on the same day.
These cruises generally depart from ports in Florida or from San Juan in Puerto Rico.
Ports of call can include Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Haiti, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.
Islands like St. Thomas and St. Maarten offer some of the best duty free shopping and beautiful white sandy beaches.
If you’re looking for a bit more adventure, you can enjoy the Reef Snorkel and Stingray Safari on Grand Turk. Not only can you snorkel on a private reef just off the coast but you can also hold and play with wild Atlantic stingrays in shallow crystal clear waters.
For a more relaxing day, how about a catamaran sail, snorkel and beach tour from St. Thomas? These half day tours take you out to St. John – a neighboring US Virgin Island. Here you can swim and snorkel with turtles or relax on the beach with a cooling drink.
A cruise around the Western Caribbean is a popular pick for first-time cruisers. Those looking for a more relaxing vacation may find it on a Western Caribbean cruise. There’s also a more diverse selection of travel experiences. This area is best known for their water sports but the Western Caribbean also provides plenty of opportunities for cruisers to experience the rich culture and history of the Caribbean.
Western Caribbean cruises are more budget friendly as well. Due to the distance between ports, you’ll easily enjoy around 2 full days at sea where you can relax and enjoy some of the onboard activities.
These cruises typically depart from ports in Florida – Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami or Port Canaveral. Other departure ports include Texas and New Orleans.
They will generally make between 3 and 4 stops on a 7 day cruise. You can expect to spend anywhere from 8 to 24 hours in each port.
Ports of call can include Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Mexico’s Mayan coast, Jamaica, Belize and sometimes the Bahamas.
Western Caribbean cruises are also ideal for outdoor adventure seekers as some of these ports have some excellent tours which you can take. Grand Cayman is well renowned for its excellent snorkeling so its a great place to enjoy some underwater discovery.
For history buffs, a visit to the Mayan ruins in Mexico is an absolute must but if you’re looking for some thrills, how about a zip line ride through the jungle in Cozumel.
And if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at Jamaican bobsledding, you’re in for a treat if you visit Montego Bay or Falmouth in Jamaica. Here you can ride a Jamaican bobsled through the rainforest. But first you have to hike up a waterfall to get to the top!
Water shoes are a must for families cruising in this part of the Caribbean.
Southern Caribbean cruises are usually a little longer than 7 days as the distance between ports is a greater. These cruises are ideal for travelers who like to explore different destinations and those who enjoy some history. A lot of the ports of call on Southern Caribbean cruises have a distinct European charm.
Southern Caribbean cruises usually depart from San Juan, Panama and Barbados. Longer cruises can depart from ports in Florida.
Port stops can include St. Lucia, Martinique, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Grenada, Curacao, Antigua, Guadalupe, Margarita Island and St. Kitts.
Several ports of call have an interesting colonial history which is evident as you walk through the streets and admire the architecture and history.
Nature lovers will enjoy scuba diving in Bonaire or visiting the impressive volcanic Pitons of St. Lucia.
One of the highlights of some Southern Caribbean cruises is the trip up the Panama Canal. The Canal itself is referred to as ‘one of the seven wonders of the modern world’ and is definitely something not to be missed. Experience the unique sensation of traveling through its twelve locks which operate simply by gravity.
So whether you just want to sit back and spend a few days on a relaxing cruise around the Western Caribbean or keep yourself busy island hopping on an Eastern Caribbean cruise, there’s definitely an itinerary to suit everyone. If you can plan a slightly longer cruise however, then a Caribbean cruise around the southern region including a trip up the Panama Canal is something you should strongly consider.