Common Itineraries for Caribbean Cruise Vacations

Oma H. Barnett

A Caribbean vacation is the quintessential cruise. Although each island has distinct characteristics, the area is typically associated with beautiful white sandy beaches, a warm yet not overbearing tropical climate, and clear, blue waters. Essentially, the Caribbean is the perfect trip for a week or two of relaxation, exploration, and soaking in some sun, be it on the beach in an island paradise or onboard a cruise ship.

Caribbean cruise vacations often start from several U.S. coastal cities. Depending upon where you plan to go, a trip may start as far north as New York City or from a Gulf Coast port, such as New Orleans, Galveston, T.X., or a Florida city. Yet, because the Caribbean Sea has so many islands and ports, itineraries vary, starting with where the ship begins.

Generally, Caribbean cruise vacations fall within three types: southern, western, and eastern. Although port stops vary, cruise itineraries often include the following:

For a western Caribbean cruise, the ship stops near the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. Such trips, as well, include not only the area’s island countries, such as Jamaica and the Caymans, but stop in Central America, including Belize and multiple ports in Mexico.

For a southern Caribbean cruise, ships go close to South America, and may even include the continent’s northernmost ports in the itinerary. Because these islands are farthest away from the United States, the trip often starts in San Juan, Puerto Rico. From there, the cruise covers the sea’s southern islands, such as Aruba, Curacao, Barbados, and other areas of the Lesser Antilles.

For an eastern Caribbean cruise, the islands are often closest to the United States. Common ports are located in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Aside from these itineraries, shorter cruise vacations to the Caribbean area include trips to Bermuda or the Bahamas. Bermuda, a 21-mile long island, is less than 700 miles away from the coast of South Carolina and somewhat removed from the rest of the Caribbean countries. If you want temperate, reliable weather, Bermuda is perfect, as the storms that have a greater chance of hitting Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and other Caribbean islands seldom reach Bermuda.

The Bahamas, similarly, are close to the mainland United States. Cruises to this outer rim of the Caribbean stop in the island group’s major cities and locations, including Nassau, Paradise Island, Freeport, and Grand Bahamas Island. Trips to this country start from as far north as Baltimore or as close by as Port Canaveral, Fla.

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