From Cuba to the Cayman Islands, there are few destinations that are better suited to a cruise than the Caribbean, writes Sam Ballard
Island paradises, each with their own distinct personality, lie scattered across the deep blue ocean. And, while all unique, you’re sure to find perfect beaches, cold beers and warm hospitality wherever you go – major factors in the unfaltering popularity of the Caribbean.
What could be better than sailing between islands, ticking them off your list as you enjoy the perks of only having to unpack once? On any single cruise you can visit multiple islands in one holiday and experience a little of what each has to offer.
P&O bases its Caribbean cruises around Barbados and St Lucia, two islands with a British colonial history. In Barbados, guests are whisked straight from the plane to the cruise terminal, bypassing the airport completely.
Both islands have a huge array of options available for day trippers, from the Mount Gay Rum Distillery in Barbados to climbing the Piton mountains in St Lucia. It all depends on what floats your boat.
The great thing about the Caribbean is that there are cruises to suit all tastes. Want to sail directly from the UK? Try P&O or Cruise & Maritime Voyages. Want Luxury? Try Seabourn’s Barbados itinerary. Want mega-ships? Try Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line or MSC. In fact, whether it’s small ship, sail ship or even an electric ship (with Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen), there is something for everyone.
In fact, many of the larger, resort-style ships have opted to create their own destinations. From Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CoCoCay (pictured below) to MSC’s Ocean Cay, they’re another string to the Caribbean’s bow.
Cruise itineraries are generally divided by eastern, southern and western sailings, with Cuba tending to be its own category. To the west, ships visit Cozumel in Mexico (where passengers can visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza) and make stops in Honduras, Grand Cayman and Jamaica.
Take an Eastern Caribbean sailing and you’ll call at the Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Grand Turk, and St Barts, Antigua, Anguilla and Dominica. In the south, you’ll find Aruba, St Lucia, Barbados, Grenada and the Grenadines.
Travel to Cuba from the US has been banned – again – putting an end to virtually all cruises calling at the Caribbean’s biggest island. There are a few that remain with the likes of Fred Olsen and Marella Cruises, but many of the bigger players have been forced to pull out.
“The pristine white beaches, sparkling crystal-clear waters and the almost always glorious weather are obvious pulls when it comes to taking a cruise around the Caribbean,” says Andy Harmer, director of the Cruise Lines International Association (Clia). “With so much to do at each port of call, such as snorkelling with beautiful marine life in the warm oceans, learning a new water sport or finding hidden waterfalls, a cruise around the Caribbean islands makes for a perfect holiday for all ages. Whether you are travelling as a family, a couple, multigenerational or with friends, one thing is for certain about these islands: you’ll never be stuck for things to do.
“Many cruise lines also have their own private Caribbean islands, used exclusively by the line’s guests. These islands have an array of activities, from simply basking on a cabana soaking up the sun, to water parks, live DJs and BBQ buffets.”
Regardless of which part of the Caribbean you choose, good times are guaranteed. These are islands that are packed full of interesting history, all have their own individual quirks and, if you just want to lie on a pristine beach, well, that’s arguably what the Caribbean does better than anywhere else in the world.