Caribbean Cruises - What You Should Know Before Going

Contrary to what people has been lead to believe by the iconic Titanic movie, most cruises happen in warmer and calmer waters. In fact, the most popular cruises are done in the Caribbean. These cruises are usually short, and you get to see multiple places in the span of a few days. 

While the idea of escaping to a tropical island paradise may have been the initial inspiration for a visit, you’ll quickly learn there is a lot more to the Caribbean than just sun, sand and surf. Based on your vacation preferences, your vacation length, embarkation port and your personal interests will determine which Caribbean cruise is best for you.

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Best Caribbean Cruise Destinations

The most important thing for all cruises is picking the right ship to suit your vacation’s style and mood. The last thing you need while on vacation is sailing with people who are the complete opposite of you in preferences and temperament, hospitality and food, experiencing entertainment, which can make you feel excluded. 

Every cruise line and its ships have a unique feel and look, catering to specific nationalities only, like North Americans, Germans, or the British, or cater to international guests from all nations. In order to be truly prepared, you’ll have to dig deep and research every cruise line to find one suitable for your vacation style. 

You have choices from massive cruise ships that can accommodate up to 5000 passengers, packed with a lot of onboard activities, parties, different dining options, to smaller cruise ships that let you experience a more intimate vacation with better service and more remote locations. 

Eastern Caribbean Cruises

Paradise Island, Bahamas
Paradise Island, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean

Eastern Caribbean Itineraries offer turquoise blue waters, wonderful beaches, water sports, and a lot of shore activities on all the cruise line private islands and ports of call. You can hike through dense jungle, visit amazing waterfalls or take one of the longest zip-line in Labadee, Haiti. 

If you are a true sea lover, you can also snorkel or swim with dolphins in the crystal blue waters at Blue Lagoon Island in the Bahamas. Eastern Caribbean itineraries are shorter, and can range from 3-4 night weekend sailings, 7-night sailings and sometimes up to two weeks.

Once you embark your standard ports of call(stops) include dreamy places like: Bahamas, St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands), St. Martin, San Juan, cruise lines private islands and more exotic ports like: Turks & Caicos and British Virgin Islands.

Eastern Caribbean Cruise Ports

  • Nassau, Bahamas

One of the most common and frequently congested cruise ports in the Caribbean and Bahamas is Nassau. You can find some of the finest duty-free shopping and a beautiful blend of architecture, both old and modern, from the waterfront to the end of Bay Street.

But besides shopping, there’s plenty to do: swim with the dolphins, try your luck at a casino, or snorkel with colorful fish. Nassau’s central location, just off the South Florida coast, is one of its key advantages, making it a straightforward port of call for mini-cruises for ships on the way to the Caribbean islands.

  • St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

If you cruise to the Caribbean daily, chances are you’ll end up in St. Thomas. The city of Charlotte Amalie has one of the world’s most stunning harbors. Its prominence as one of the most highly trafficked cruise ports in the world is well-earned. The island has something for just about everybody and has the facilities to support a sizeable regular influx of people. Other on-the-beaten-track locations include the world-famous beach at Magens Bay, in addition to a duty-free shopping scene that is practically unmatched.

  • Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

On your Eastern Caribbean cruise itinerary, you might find Grand Turk, but this island in the Turks and Caicos is actually in the Atlantic — just a quick hop from the Bahamas. Despite being the Turks and Caicos capital, Grand Turk is less than 7 square miles and has a decidedly more casual feel than other more touristy Caribbean outposts. There are plenty of excellent shore excursions for beach bums, fishers, and snorkelers as it lies along with one of the most extensive barrier reefs in the world.

Usually for Eastern Caribbean itineraries, cruise lines depart from the East Coast of the US. Your Embarkation Ports include:

  • Boston, MA
  • New York, NY
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Charleston, SC
  • Port Canaveral, FL
  • Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Miami, FL

Best Time to Cruise Eastern Caribbean

The best time for an Eastern Caribbean cruise is the peak season, December through April, with mild, dry weather, ample sunshine, calm seas, and delightful ports of call. Whatever you are passionate about, the weather is perfect for all Eastern Caribbean activities during the peak season.

Western Caribbean Cruises

Dunn's River Falls Beach, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Dunn's River Falls & Park, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Western Caribbean Itineraries offer very rich natural scenery, vivid marine life, history of forgotten civilizations and relaxing pristine beaches. There is a great  blend of eco friendly adventures and cultural attractions, with stops in Cozumel where you can hop on a kayak and paddle around one of the world’s largest coral reefs or enjoy the relaxing vibe in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Western Caribbean Cruise Ports

  • Cozumel

Cozumel is a major cruise port these days, hosting more than four million cruise passengers annually and up to eight ships per day. Located off the coast of the country’s Yucatan peninsula, this tiny island, only 28 miles long and 10 miles wide, offers extremely diverse choices for water sports enthusiasts, partially because of its proximity. Scuba diving is one of the main attractions of this sunny destination, along with snorkeling, beach bumming and boating.

  • George Town, Grand Cayman

Imagine the stereotypical cruise port—one with white-sand beaches, a multitude of duty-free shops selling gems and liquor, and water sports such as snorkeling and scuba diving—and Grand Cayman is likely to come to mind. With its lovely Seven Mile Beach, George Town’s shopping center, and plenty of places for swimming, snorkeling, and other water sports, the cliché could just be focused on the destination. At Stingray City and the Cayman Turtle Estate, Grand Cayman also honors marine life.

  • Montego Bay, Jamaica

For the many tourists who arrive here by air or sea, the north coast town of Montego Bay makes for a very vibrant and colorful welcome to Jamaica. It provides a steady food and cultural events schedule, and its shores are fringed by some of the most entertaining beaches in the Caribbean (offering water sports, waterfront bars, and more). Add golfing, duty-free shopping, and quick access to the island’s active adventures and tourists can have as lazy a day as they want or as action-packed.

For Western Caribbean Itineraries, embarkation ports include:

  • Port Canaveral, FL
  • Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Miami, FL
  • Tampa, FL
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Galveston, TX
  • Houston, TX

Best time to cruise Western Caribbean

Consider flying during the peak season, December through April, to witness beautiful weather in the low to the mid-80s, the lowest humidity, and almost no rain if you want to cruise to the Western Caribbean.

It’s the perfect time to visit the Western Caribbean on a cruise if you have wished to see the Mayan ruins, hike a tropical rainforest, or lay on a powdery white-sand beach as the clear blue water is lapping at the shoreline.

Southern Caribbean Cruises

St. Lucia, Caribbean
St. Lucia, Southern Caribbean

Reaching the Southern Caribbean region, requires more travel time, routes are farther apart than those on eastern and western sailings, however they do provide more exotic and private experience. When you were dreaming of a remote island vacation, you’ve probably imagined some of the islands in the Southern Caribbean.

You can enjoy one of the most spectacular rainforests in the world and natural beaches with plenty of beautiful weather and sun throughout the day. Horseback along the coastline, zip line, enjoy the marine life, experience local culture and cuisine.

Once you embark your standards ports of call will include places like St. Thomas, Barbados, more exotic islands like Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and Grenada.

Southern Caribbean Cruise Ports

  • St. Lucia

St. Lucia’s growth is mainly in Castries’s area, the island’s lively, energetic capital city. But to enjoy the natural beauty of St. Lucia, rent a car or take a cab out of town. In the south, the most beautiful part of the island is, and most tourists go there to see the lush Diamond Botanical Gardens and the only ‘drive-in’ volcano in the world.

Hiking through the rainforest, snorkeling off the sunken wreck of Anse Cochon, and horseback riding along the coast are other possibilities.

  • Barbados

For its natural beauty and attractions, Barbados is renowned. It is the only island that is non-volcanic in the Lesser Antilles. On the west side, your cruise ship will dock. In comparison to the wild east side, this is where we find the lovely white beaches. Bridgetown is the capital, and Bridgetown Port is at the center of cruise tourism on the island. But we will encourage you to get out of town for some lovely bounty time and visit one of the many beaches, coves, hills, or golf courses!

  • Antigua

Antiguans like to boast that 365 beaches are available—one for each day of the year. And while no one counts to ensure this catchy marketing assertion’s authenticity, there are indeed beach gems on the squiggly shaped island, each with its unique appeal. Antigua appeals to tourists who fly on cruise ships as distinct as Carnival and Seabourn, Norwegian and Crystal, Royal Caribbean and Silversea, thanks to the variety of its charms that range from paradisiacal beaches, ease to discover on your own, natural beauty, and historical landmarks.

If you decide to go on a Southern Caribbean cruise your embarkation ports will include:

  • San Juan, PR (Primary Embarkation Port)
  • Miami, FL
  • Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • New York, NY

Which Cruise Line is the best for a Caribbean cruise?

  • Disney Cruise Line

Disney’s ships sail to various ports across the Caribbean, including Barbados, Jamaica, and St. Lucia. Plus, most of Disney’s Caribbean cruises stop at Castaway Cay – the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas.

  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean is well known for its numerous island routes, including stops in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten.

  • Celebrity Cruises

In the minds of many cruisers, Celebrity’s varied Caribbean itineraries make it a star. You will sail to spots like the United States. The Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, or the St. Lucia Islands and other islands by ferry.

  • Carnival Cruise Line

With its lively boat, Carnival takes the party to the Caribbean, sailing to a handful of hot spots, such as Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic.

  • Norwegian Cruise Line

With 13 Norwegian ships sailing from Aruba to Curacao to the Cayman Islands to hundreds of famous islands in the Caribbean, the cruise line has several itineraries to fit your fancy.

Featured Caribbean Cruise Itineraries

  • 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise, Celebrity Equinox

Every imaginable comfort complimented by Celebrity’s unrivaled guest services promises an unrivaled cruise experience. Departing from Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida, the ship makes its way to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. While on the ship, you can feel the grass between your toes At The Lawn Club or enjoy a game of bocce, then go on to grab a massage at Canyon Ranch SpaClub or dance at Zumba for dessert. There are delicious dining options from the elegant main restaurant Silk Harvest, Murano, Tuscan Grille, Blu, Sushi, and more.

  • 6-Night Western Caribbean, Carnival Freedom

Year-round there are sailings from Miami, Florida, to the Caribbean with six-night itineraries. This Western Caribbean cruise travels to Mahogany Bay, Roatan; , Bay Islands, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico.

The interior architecture of The Freedom is more refined and elegant than many Carnival boats. It provides excellent dining options; you can tuck into a juicy burger at Guy’s Burger Joint or fulfill the taco craving at BlueIguana Cantina. During the day, team up for The Game Show with family and friends or make a big splash at Carnival WaterWorks. At night take in a big-name movie at Carnival’s Seaside Theatre under the stars.

  • 7-night Southern Caribbean cruise, Vision of the Seas

Tropical cuisine, European influence around the islands, and amazing people are the highlights of a Southern Caribbean cruise. Departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Vision of the Seas embarks on the ports of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Frederiksted, St. Croix; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; and Basseterre, St. Kitts. You will never be bored on this ship, with a rock-climbing wall, state-of-the-art fitness center, serene spa, and adults-only escape for the Solarium. Daytime sports, spectacular nighttime entertainment, and jaw-dropping aerial spectacles are highlights of the Centrum experience.

Best Caribbean Cruises for Couples

There are few places like the Caribbean where the tropical sea is ideal for a fabulous beach getaway when it comes to romance.

A small-ship luxury cruise is ideal for couples looking to mark a special achievement, reconnect, or be completely spoiled. Cruise lines like Crystal Cruises, Seven Seas Regent offer lush itineraries.

Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean, which deliver action-packed events and entertainment onboard their largest ships, are perfect for couples looking for an adventurous holiday. But for the ideal honeymoon cruise, look no further than Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises.

Best Caribbean Cruises for Families

Undertaking the task of finding the perfect Caribbean cruise for your family can be overwhelming. Sailing to the Caribbean on any of these cruise lines will make for phenomenal experiences and memories of family vacations. It is important to remember that a specific Caribbean cruise will not satisfy your needs. So the best thing to do is find the perfect itinerary and cruise amenities that fit your family.

Some of the best cruise ships for families include:

  • Carnival Panorama, Carnival Cruise Line
  • Caribbean Princess, Princess Cruises
  • Disney Fantasy, Disney Cruise Line

Adults-Only Caribbean Cruises

People looking for a relaxing and quiet cruise trip can now opt for adults-only cruises. If your idea of getting away from it all involves getting away from kids as well, you’ll probably want to steer clear of family-magnet ships. Searching for those sailings that lack family appeal is the key to finding adult-only cruises.

Most modern cruise lines, such as the Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruises, even though they have larger ships that are more crowded, have adult-only accommodation on board.

However, Celebrity Cruises is another major cruise line with its very own exclusive onboard adult-only sanctuary. It is one of the very few cruise lines in the world that offer their butler, private restaurant, and exclusive lounge to every Retreat guest. On a massive cruise ship, this is the ultimate adult-only experience.

All-Inclusive Caribbean Cruise & Luxury Caribbean Cruise

Everything about a vacation, especially the planning, should be simple. That’s why, by making sure everything is included, you can make the planning process quick. An all-inclusive cruise will take you to some of the best holiday spots in the world on a global adventure and lift the experience of luxury cruising to the next level.

Few cruise lines like Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean offer all-inclusive packages, as well as Regent Seven Seas Cruises that provide the ultimate luxury cruising.

Caribbean Shore Excursions

people-swimming

Another thing to keep in mind is that all cruise lines have their own shore excursions and programs that you can go to. You can even book them in advance once you have your itinerary chosen. If you wish to research and see all the different shore excursions available you can check them on this link here.

Need to Know/ FAQ

What is the best time to go on a Caribbean cruise?

For first-time cruisers and experienced ones alike, knowing when is the best time to cruise the Caribbean is key to enjoying these pristine islands. One of the best months for cruising to the Caribbean is May if you are looking for the ideal weather conditions and reduced fares. This is before the peak or high season that runs from December to April. This time is also perfect if you don’t mind the crowds. 

Hurricane season runs from June to mid-September, so it’s best to avoid these months or take precautions. However, there are cruises year-round so if they don’t mind the crowds, anytime is ideal for visiting the Caribbean.

Do I need a passport for a Caribbean cruise?

The passport requirements for the Caribbean were nonexistent in previous years. However, now, most Caribbean countries do require a passport, even on a cruise ship. However, there are a few exceptions; U.S. territories and commonwealths do not need a passport for U.S. citizens’ entry. These include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

You are required to have a government-issued I.D., such as a driver’s license. For U.S. residents, you can always cruise the Caribbean without a passport in what is called a “closed-loop” cruises. That implies that the cruise must embark and disembark at the same U.S. port. But, we recommended always check in with your cruise line to see if you need a passport for entry or exist (as individual Islands like Barbados, Haiti, St. Barth, St. Martin, etc.), so you don’t get stranded on your ships as the others explore the Islands. Also, if something comes up during your cruise, and you have to fly back home, not having a passport might be a problem, as all air travels require passport identification.

What to pack for your Caribbean cruise?

Now that you have picked your cruise line and cruise ship, you have chosen your itinerary the next thing you need to do is start preparing for your vacation and organize your Caribbean cruise packing list.

 First thing you should know about Caribbean cruises is that the temperatures will be hot, not only throughout the day, but also throughout the night. For that reason, make sure you have light and slim clothes to wear at all times, including sleepwear. And although it’s hot, you still need to be mindful of small pests like mosquitoes and bugs that are carried off by the coastal streams of air and towards the sea, which is why you need to bring a bug repellent with you, just in case. Our advice is to keep it simple, don’t pack too heavy because you’re going on a vacation after all.

For the ladies, pack a couple of nice and light dresses, sandals, don’t forget your sunglasses, hat, and light scarf so you can enjoy during the day. For evening, depends on your cruise line, make sure you have something classy with you because some cruise lines have formal nights and if you’re not dressed accordingly you can’t join the party.

For the men, you can pack your sandals, flip flops, don’t forget your swimwear because you’ll definitely want to enjoy all the great beaches, hat, sunglasses, nice shirt and you’re good to go. For evening if there is a formal night you can opt in for a tuxedo, or a nice suit.

Over To You...

Share with us if you have already been on a Caribbean cruise and what are your thoughts about it. 

If you haven’t now is the perfect moment to start thinking about booking your first Caribbean cruise, it won’t disappoint. Go ahead, give as a call or start planning online with one of our vacation specialists and let’s get you one step closer to your dream vacation!

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