You can cruise the Caribbean year-round, and all the islands have beautiful beaches, warm waters and breathtaking natural spaces. Plus, cruise lines now offer an enormous range of activities ashore.
When deciding to visit the Caribbean, it is soon apparent that no two islands are alike. Each comes with its own unique style, culture and cuisine.
You can cruise the Caribbean year-round, but the best time is between November and May (although prices are typically slightly higher then).
June 10 to November 30 is the official hurricane season in the Caribbean (including Bermuda and the Bahamas). Note that cruise ships may change course quickly to avoid storms or other weather problems, which can also mean a change of ports or itinerary. However, if a cruise line needs to change course, or abort a port call due to weather-related problems, they are under no obligation to pay compensation of any kind.
Although there are many islands within the Caribbean, they are generally set out into Eastern, Western and Southern Cruises.
In the East, cruises typically include the Leeward and Windward Isles, with ports such as Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St Croix, St Kitts, St Maarten, St Lucia and St Thomas.
The Western cruises typically include the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Mexico while the Southern area covers Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and possibly La Guaira (the port for Caracas, Venezuela), and Tortola.
What is common to all are the beautiful white sand beaches, waters as warm as a hot bath and breathtaking natural spaces. But each have their own different vibe, from the Latin feel of Mexico’s Isla Cozumel to the sophistication of Georgetown in the Grand Cayman islands and the enclave of Basseterre in St Kitts.
The most well-known of the Cayman Islands is Grand Cayman, a global financial hub and home to the stunning Seven Mile beach. Enjoy sophisticated shopping and dining, or experience some of the world’s best swimming with rays and sea turtles.
Cozumel, the Mexican ‘Island of Swallows’, is as rich in culture old and new as it is in wildlife. The crystal-clear waters around the coral reefs offer a world-class encounter with majestic eagle rays, whilst the isle’s centre is home to tropical bird species that you won’t need a keen eye to spot.
Many cruises also stop at Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan, where you can enjoy exploring colourful colonial city streets alongside fascinating museums and architecture. When you are hungry, stop at a local restaurant or café for a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean cuisine that gives the capital its unique style.
Cruise lines now offer an enormous range of activities ashore. You can go mountain biking in Antigua, go on an off-road 4×4 jeep safari in Tortola, go swimming with dolphins in The Bahamas, or go on a zip-line over a tropical forest canopy in Belize.
If you don’t have time to do a seven-day or longer cruise, you could try a short three- or four-day jaunt (known as a “taster” cruise) to the Bahamas, which is useful if you are already holidaying in Florida, for example.
Alternatively, you can also leave the UK winter behind by sailing from the UK (and cruise or fly back from somewhere like Antigua, Barbados or Santa Domingo) aboard the ships of Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cunard Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and P&O Cruises, depending on the cruise length and programmes featured.