Caribbean cruises are a popular choice for seeking the winter sunshine. With a range of itineraries available, discover islands that are as varied as they are stunning. From the idyllic ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao – to the laid-back beats of Barbados, there’s an option to suit everyone. Discover your ideal getaway on a Caribbean cruise.
7,000 islands litter the Caribbean and many of them have come to be known as the best on earth for cruisers. The Caribbean is home to many of the world’s most popular and most visited ports of call, from the ever-intoxicating, Banks Beer-fuelled Barbados to the green rainforest mounts of St Lucia, the sleek, chic yachtie nirvanas of Antigua and Martinique, and the Mother Nature’s zoo that is wild Belize. The Caribbean is a world away from the humdrum of home. With salt in your hair, sun on your skin, coconut in hand and the deepest blue stretching out endlessly ahead of you. a cruise to the Caribbean is as much endless activity as it is hours of R&R. All things to all people, one of the most popular cruise regions in the world waits with the promise of sun, sand and some seriously good times.
What can you do on a cruise to the Caribbean? Or rather, what can’t you do? Sail boats over seas, fly planes over reefs, kayak, windsurf, jet ski, paddleboard, discover rainforests, explore the shops, or just…sit. Find your own private paradise, and with coconut scented suncream on, let the hours trickle by as island time takes a hold. Bliss.
It’s always a good time to visit the Caribbean – The Caribbean cruise season runs all year round, and there’s no bad time to visit paradise. The tropical climate brings warm, sunny days, with temperatures ranging between 20 and 30 degrees celsius, even over the winter months – did somebody say winter sun? Storms and rainfall are rare, but when they do happen, they’re amazing to watch; just take shelter in one of the beachfront bars until they pass.
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With 365 beaches scattered around its coastline, the idyllic island of Antigua promises a white sand haven for every day of the year. Having previously played host to Admiral Nelson’s fleet in the late 1700s, Nelson’s Dockyard is now a bustling marina frequented by the crew and passengers of visiting yachts and cruise ships, these vessels now sailing
the historic waters for pleasure rather than for King and Country. Spend time in the vibrant port town of St John, before venturing in search of one of those world-famous beaches; fresh coconut in hand and island breeze in your hair. Antigua’s immaculate beaches never fail to satisfy, but those longing for relative remoteness will find it on the pink-shell sands of nearby Barbuda, a virtually untouched island that sits just a picturesque 90 minute ferry journey away from St John.
Arriving into Aruba feels akin to diving feet-first into a paintbox of colour. It’s arguably the most vibrant of all the Caribbean cruise ports, the suitably-named waterfront city of Oranjestad welcoming you. African, Indian, Spanish, Portuguese, Venezuelan and of course Dutch influences all play their part in creating a cultural mix that has shaped the island. It comes through in everything from the food you’ll eat to the things you’ll buy; Aruba is a shopper’s paradise and you’ll just as easily pick up Danish silverware, as find Madeiran embroidery and Dutch cheese.
Aruba’s appeal is endless, but it’s beaches are a star attraction. Eagle Beach, Palm Beach and Baby Beach are just a handful of the tens of sandy slips on the island, all only a short distance from the cruise port and easily accessible too. Experience the fun of SeaTrek by heading 20 feet underwater in specially designed diving helmets. You’ll walk along the seabed, witnessing colourful marine inhabitants and wrecks whilst breathing normally 20ft underwater.
The vibrant island of Barbados promises something to suit every traveller, from beach-based nirvana on the sheltered stretches of the west, to the raucous ‘fish fry’ in Oistins in the south and adrenaline-fuelled watersports on the windswept eastern coastlines. Cycle or hike your way around the island or see it from a new perspective, deep inside the underground complex of caverns and waterfalls that make up the beguiling Harrison’s Cave. Colourful colonial architecture serves as a reminder of a British heritage in the welcoming capital of Bridgetown, a city whose well-preserved old town earned it a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Renowned for being the smallest country in Central America, Belize still packs a punch when it comes to entertainment and sightseeing pleasures. Belize is a melting pot of personalities and the Belizean people are made up of Maya, Kriol, Garifuna, East Indian, Arab and Chinese heritage. It’s one which makes them effortlessly friendly, always. Like so much of this part of the world, Belize is a natural beauty, particularly as you edge towards its mountainous regions. Waterfalls, rainforest and a myriad of rivers and caves jostle for your camera’s attention, while a coral reef stretching from Mexico to Honduras surrounds Belize’s famous offshore Cayes, helping make the locale a hotspot for dive enthusiasts. This is a location where kings were crowned and Mayans ruled supreme, and you’ll get a feel for how imposing and important a time that was at Altun Ha, a site littered with temples and tombs from the Mayan civilisations.
Belize is a birder’s paradise with followers of our feathered friends heading for the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, grabbing a canoe as they do, as this top birding spot spans an impressive 16,400 acres with more than 3,000 acres of lagoons, swamps and marsh. Here they’ll get a close look at crocodiles, turtles, iguanas and more while keeping a look out for the tropical birds including egrets, snail kites and osprey who live in the area. Elsewhere, with 29-acres of jungle, Belize Zoo is a tropical mecca where guests can meet over 150 different animals with residents of the zoo including jaguars, manatees, howler monkeys, tapirs and more.
Loving Bonaire is a easy as ABC. Sorry, we couldn’t resist. But there really is a simple kind of quiet and laidback thing going on in the least-developed of the three ABC isles that lends it a certain kind of charm. It helps that Bonaire is blessed with unsurpassed beauty on land and pristine waters in which saline thrives. You’ll find no hustle and bustle here, only warm locals extending a ‘Bon Bini!’ welcome as you make your way to beaches that’ll knock your socks off.
Like Bonaire, Curacao helps for the ABC Dutch Antilles. This one is a little larger, the largest of the three ABC islands, with a capital frequented by all your favourite cruise lines. Willemstad is renowned for the Dutch and Spanish-influenced 17th century architecture, the city split into two sides and divided by the Saint Anna Bay. Curacao has everything you associate with the Caribbean, it’s blissful, and little added extras like its floating market bring something a bit different to the table too.
Known for its lush terrain, rainforest hikes, cascading waterfalls and flora and fauna in every colour imaginable, it’s not hard to see why Dominica has come to be known as ‘The Nature Island’. Sample fruit right off the trees, and witness natural beauty from gorges, forests, crater lakes and enchanting waterfalls. It isn’t just the on-land features that take the plaudits however, the sensational offshore attractions of coral reefs and amazing marine life provides the perfect place for snorkelling and scuba diving adventures. Dominica is the nature lover’s Caribbean too, its waters bubbling with sperm, pilot and false killer whales, not to mention countless spotted and spinner dolphins. Boat trips will give you a great view while keeping the creatures’ best interests at heart.
The laid-back and affluent Grand Cayman is a wonderful port of call to visit aboard a Caribbean cruise. This sensational Caribbean island provides a rich taste of history and combines it with a truly spectacular backdrop for the ultimate picturesque destination. Cruise ships operate a tender service here to transport passengers directly into the capital of George Town. From this point passengers have the option of heading off an a pre booked shore excursion or exploring the island individually, with ease on foot due to the close proximity of the main attractions.
Nutmeg scented, and with a horse shoe-shaped waterfront, Grenada might just take the top spot as the Caribbean’s prettiest harbour scenes. French colonial architecture edges up to silky stretches of white sand, while blue seas hide sunken treasures that have been long since lost to colourful coral reefs. Untouched beauty in its more remote regions, coupled with friendly locals makes it hard not to fall in love with Grenada.
Darling, meet me in St Barths. Or is it St Barts? Regardless, this Caribbean port of call has a distinctively French flair that attracts a well-heeled clientele. It feels a little unique, ever so slightly boujie in the most appealing and endearing sense, its scenery flowing from the hills right down the waterfront to meet idyllic beaches and gin-clear waters. Bliss. Make like the A-list and head for Gustavia, where the elite while away they winter months without a care. You might not have quite the same endless stretch of sun ahead of you, but even a few hours here is enough to experience a lifestyle that’ll see you reaching for the lottery tickets back home. Yacht spot and indulge in boozy seafood and champagne lunches on the waterfront; it’s the only way to do it in St Barths.
Should the opportunity arise, we’d all love our own slice of private island paradise. Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, NCL, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises have found theirs in the likes of Half Moon Cay, Princess Cay, Labadee and Great Stirrup Cay, private islands reserved exclusively for guests cruising to the Caribbean aboard their ships. These remote, uninhabited hideaways put the focus firmly on having fun, so expect zip lines, waterparks, swim up bars, beachside cabanas and a whole host of other ways to thrill, chill and unwind.
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