What you need to know before booking a Caribbean cruise

Few regions can match the Caribbean for the sheer variety of destinations and experiences on offer!
cruise ship docked near tropical land

Swaying palm trees, sugary white-sand beaches and turquoise seas frame every Caribbean experience. Add to this the unique personality of each island and tropical weather year-round and you have the perfect destination for natural beauty, relaxation and cultural discovery.

One of the best ways to experience the Caribbean is on a cruise. There are more than 7000 islands in the Caribbean, which is bordered by the United States, Mexico, Central America and South America in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Some islands are lush, with rainforests and mountain trails, while others have desert climates. Cruise ships stop at about 40 islands including The Bahamas. Some islands have several ports.

Homeports where ships depart for the Caribbean include New York City; New Orleans, Louisiana; Galveston, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

man sitting on hill looking out at the ocean

What countries do Caribbean cruises go to?

The beauty of cruising is the ability to visit several islands, each with its own unique character. You can rumble along Aruba’s desert roadways in a four-wheel drive truck, rescue baby turtles on a sun-kissed beach in Cozumel, Mexico, snorkel in Belize, explore caves in The Bahamas and learn about pirates in St Thomas.

The longer the cruise, the more islands you experience. A seven-day Western Caribbean itinerary from Galveston, for example, takes passengers to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. An eight-day Eastern Caribbean tour includes Key West and three stops in The Bahamas.

Personally, we enjoy learning about island history including the indigenous population, European domination and current political ties. For example, the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao – located just north of Venezuela are governed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba is known for its beaches and Bonaire is popular with divers. Curaçao is the largest and wealthiest island of the three.

In many cases tourism is the largest industry on an island. Locals are always friendly and appreciative, and merchants, restaurateurs and guides speak excellent English. American dollars and credit cards are accepted for services and purchases.

Often a day or two goes by in between ports of call. Cruise ships offer everything from swimming pools, water parks and basketball courts to casinos and shopping. There is also a wide variety of organised activities including dance lessons, karaoke, trivia contests, evening entertainment and comedy clubs.


What is the best month to cruise the Caribbean?

Many people avoid the Caribbean during hurricane season – June 1 through November 30, with a peak activity period from late August through September. But if a tropical storm or hurricane forms in the Atlantic, ship captains change their course to stay out of danger’s way.

In 2012 when Hurricane Sandy was still a tropical storm, the captain of the ship we were sailing on changed the ports of call, avoiding Jamaica and Grand Cayman by substituting Key West and Costa Maya. The itinerary changed and passengers were kept safe.

Caribbean cruises are offered year-round. The most popular cruise lines include Viking Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn Cruise Line, Silversea Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Princess Cruises. They all regularly offer discounts and sales.

cruise ship docked near tropical land

Are Caribbean cruises safe for kids?

In recent years, cruise lines have pulled out all the stops to accommodate young travellers.

Disney, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines are all known for their excellent on board activities for younger passengers.

Carnival Cruise Line offers Camp Ocean geared toward children two to 11, Circle “C” is designed for ages 12 to 14, and Club 02 for ages 15 to 17. Each group has their own space from play areas to high-tech teen lounges. Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 are also on board for fun with younger children.

Related stories