Cruising the Caribbean
Tranquil, turquoise waters, beautiful white sand beaches, scenic landscapes, vibrant culture and lots and lots of sunshine are some of the things that have contributed to the Caribbean becoming the number one cruise destination in the world. With over 7,000 islands, 13 sovereign states and 17 dependent territories, options for the traveler are boundless and there is no better way to tour the many islands, islets, cays, and port towns than aboard a cruise ship.
When planning your Caribbean cruise, it is useful to know that for cruising purposes, the Caribbean is divided into three main cruising regions:
Eastern Caribbean Cruises
- Popular Eastern Caribbean ports of call:
- St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands), St. John (US Virgin Islands), Princess Cays (Princess Cruises’ private island where you can enjoy sun, sand, water sports, steel drums and cocktails), Turks & Caicos, San Juan (Puerto Rico), St. Maarten, Tortola (British Virgin Islands), Jost Van Dyke (British Virgin Islands), Nassau (the Bahamas), St. Croix, St. Martin, and Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands)
- Embarkation ports:
- St. Thomas, Nassau, and San Juan are the traditional embarkation points for Eastern Caribbean cruises, however, more and more cruise ships are leaving from US based ports including Miami, Tampa, and Ft. Lauderdale.
- Best time to cruise the Eastern Caribbean:
- high season in the Eastern Caribbean runs from December through April, however, summer cruises are available from May through November, when the weather is warmer. Summer cruises tend to have more families. Two things to note: Hurricane season runs from June 1 – November 30th, maxing out in August, September and October. That being said, you can often find the best deals on cruises during the hotter months and hurricane seasons. So, if you don’t mind the heat and can be flexible if a storm encroaches, great deals can be found. Use our comparison tool to compare prices on different dates across all major cruise providers to find out when the best cruise deals are available.
Southern Caribbean Cruises
- Popular Southern Caribbean ports of call:
- Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Bequia, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Nevis, Port of Spain (Trinidad), San Juan (Puerto Rico), St. Barth’s, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent
- Southern Caribbean embarkation ports:
- San Juan, Puerto Rico is the main departure port and best option for Southern Caribbean cruises, however, many longer itineraries (10 days or more) depart from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Also, Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America Lines offer round trip sailings from New York City
- Best time to cruise the Southern Caribbean:
- unlike cruising other parts of the Caribbean, many of the islands on Southern Caribbean itineraries were thought to be safe (or relatively safe) from hurricanes, because they lie below the “hurricane belt”. However, in 2004 and 2007, hurricanes did affect islands in the Southern Caribbean (including Grenada and Aruba). While the hurricane risk is much lower here, it is still worth noting that hurricane seasons runs June 1 – November 30th.
Western Caribbean Cruises
- Popular Western Caribbean ports of call:
- Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Falmouth (Jamaica), Grand Cayman, Havana (Cuba), Key West, Labadee (a 260 private island owned by Royal Caribbean), Mobile, Montego Bay (Jamaica), New Orleans, Ocho Rios (Jamaica), Playa del Carmen, Princess Cays (a 40 acre private island owned by Princess Cruises and visited on both Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises), Progreso (Mexico), and Roatan (Honduras).
- Western Caribbean Embarkation ports:
- Miami, Ft. Lauderdale’s Port Everglads and Port Canaveral are the traditional and most frequent points of departure for Western Caribbean cruises, however, new ports of embarkation that have gained popularity in recent years include Galveston, Tampa and New Orleans.
- Best time to cruise the Western Caribbean:
- The cruise season for the Western Caribbean is very similar to the Eastern Caribbean (described above). Year round cruising, with the “off-season” running from May through November. And remember, hurricane season runs from June 1st – November 30th.