Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cruise the Caribbean--it's the most popular region

More ships cruise the Caribbean islands than any other region in the world, and for good reasons. When winter brings snow and cold weather in other parts of the world (notably North America, Europe, and Asia), it’s sunny and balmy in the Caribbean.
Cruise the Caribbean on a variety of ships and itineraries.
On winter cruises we’ve come across people from northern states or Canada who book back-to-back cruises, either sailing different itineraries or repeating the same one (That’s fine, as there are many different ways to enjoy each island). It’s an economical way to escape treacherous weather for a couple of weeks without worrying about meals, accommodations, and transportation.

Most islands have lovely beaches and clear, turquoise water year round.  Abundant water sports such as snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, SCUBA, sailing, and just splashing around, together with duty-free shopping, make this region an ideal getaway. (What's your weather like today?)
We’ve been to many Caribbean islands from different cruise ships and have discovered that there’s something wonderful and special about every one, especially if you take the time to travel inland. Check out available shore excursions online, and book your favorites before leaving home, so you’ll have a good variety of experiences. At least research places to go and things to see on the islands beyond the dock area.

Inviting Mahogany Beach at  Roatan, Honduras
When deciding where to go in the Caribbean, consider ports that are close to where you live (if applicable) and the destinations that are available from those ports. Travel costs are greatly reduced if you can drive to the embarkation point, although if you fly to a port, your choices may really open up.
Cruise ships sail to one of three regions: Western, Southern, or Eastern Caribbean. Destinations depend on the port, length of cruise, and the cruise line. Short getaways of 4-6 days are increasing in popularity, so cruise lines are scheduling more of these quick trips.

Western Caribbean cruises generally leave from Gulf of Mexico ports like Galveston, New Orleans, or Fort Lauderdale. Typical ports of call include Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Belize, or Honduras. Shore excursions might take you to see Mayan ruins on Mexico's Yucatan coast, snorkeling in the barrier reef off the coast of Belize, or to Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach and Sting Ray City.
Snorkeling among coral reefs near Belize
is a favorite activity of cruisers.
SouthernCaribbean cruises generally leave from East coast ports, especially from Florida, and take you to the beautiful beaches of Aruba, the rain forest of Martinique, or the rugged coastline of Barbados. These islands are some of the most photogenic, but because it takes longer to get there, you may dock at fewer ports unless the cruise is ten or more days.

 Eastern Caribbean cruises may call on ports in the Bahamas, San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos. Beaches and water activities are the calling cards here, although history buffs will find the islands of interest, too.
Lava deposits on the beach of Barbados
Because so many people cruise the Caribbean islands, you'll likely find competitive pricing and low per-diem rates. Keep in mind that hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 1, especially if booking your cruise many months in advance. Dodging potentially stormy weather may be easier if you book a last-minute cruise during the summer, although radar can guide ships away from threatening storms.

Consider cruising the Caribbean in the fall when ships return from summer cruises in Alaska and Europe. Peak Caribbean cruise season starts in late fall and is especially robust during the winter holiday season. Spring is also a great time to sail the Caribbean, but try to avoid Spring Break time—unless you’re taking school-aged children along.
Water slides, ropes course, climbing walls, skating rinks,
and more make cruise vacations fun for families.
In summer water activities make the islands an excellent vacation option for families. The water is considerably warmer than in the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. Most ships sailing this region have kids’ clubs designed to keep children happy and active and parents happy and relaxed.

Pleasant temperatures allow guests greater use of the ship’s outdoor amenities like water slides, rock climbing walls, surf simulators, and miniature golf. There are so many different kinds of  ships and itineraries in the Caribbean that you can return again and again and have a different vacation experience each time.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


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