Guide to Caribbean Cruises
Map of the Caribbean
St. Thomas Virgin Islands
General Information Caribbean Regions
Three Geographical Regions
The Caribbean is divided into three geographical areas. This guide to a Caribbean Cruise is a general guide of the three regions that reflect a typical seven night cruise on a large contemporary or premium class cruise line. Shorter or longer cruises to the Caribbean are also available through many of the contemporary cruise lines though not as popular as the seven night. There are smaller cruise lines that sail off the main course to islands that the larger cruise ships can't maneuver due to their large size. The list of Islands below are linked to a great wealth of information that will help get you acquainted with each. The three regions are:
Eastern Caribbean Islands:
- Dominican Republic
- Grand Turk
- San Juan
- St. Kitts
- St. Lucia
- St. MaartenSt. Thomas/ St. John
Western Caribbean Islands:
Southern Caribbean Islands: (Note) There are several cruise lines that added what they call a Southern Caribbean route. The southern routes are considered more exotic locations. You will find that the southern cruise itineraries are usually a bit more pricey then the northern or western Caribbean cruise routes. Some of the western islands ports of call have been added to the more exotic southern cruise itineraries.
Southern Caribbean Islands:
- Aruba (Netherland Antilles)
- Barbados (Bridgetown)
- Bonaire (Netherland Antilles)
- Curacao (Netherland Antilles)
- Grenada (Windward Islands)
- St. Lucia (Castries)
- St. Vincent & Grenadines (Kingstown)
- Trinidad & Tobago
The Five Category Ratings of Cruise Lines
- Contemporary: the most appealing to the largest number of overall cruisers. They are generally the most affordable and offer activities and entertainment for all ages whether single, couples, families or groups. These ships are mega sized and offer cabins that are center and interior of the ship to suites with private exterior features such as a separate pool and lounge area. The cruise lines that fall into the contemporary category are as follows: Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruise Line, MSC Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International.
- Premium: similar to the contemporary category but offer a more sophisticated dining experience in addition to more up-scale amenities and available services. Here you will find more personal refined service as well as on-board enrichment programs for adults and children plus gourmet style cuisine. These cruise lines are also known for more itineraries with destinations known for exploration for those seeking places more out of the ordinary. The ship sizes range from 500 to 1,500 guests, a bit smaller than those of the contemporary lines. The cruise lines that fall into the premium category are as follows and details of each line may be seen by clicking on the name of the cruise line: Celebrity Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International.
- Deluxe: only includes two cruise lines. These two lines offer destination-immersed cruises for up-market travelers who want to not only see the places and cultures they visit, but to live them. The two cruise lines are: Azamara and Oceania Cruises.
- Luxury: offers exceptional and extremely high quality ships and itineraries for every lifestyle. Luxury cruising is the ultimate in the pampered experience in an atmosphere of the greatest refinement and delightful indulgence. Drinks are generally inclusive of price and the on-board dining experience is nothing less than that prepared by world renowned chefs. Personalized attention is 24/7. The cruise lines that fall into the luxury category are as follows and details of each line may be seen by clicking on the name of the cruise line: Crystal Cruise Line, Cunard Cruise Line, Paul Guaguin Cruise Line, Regent SevenSeas Cruise Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea Cruises.
- Speciality: offers River cruising; an ideal way to visit several countries in a short time to really explore the heart of a particular place as well as places that large cruise ships can’t navigate. There are several well known River Cruise lines that cater to this specific market of traveler. River cruising is a smaller more intimate experience and allows exploration of places large cruise ships cannot access.
This article deals with Caribbean cruises on the Contemporary and Premium Cruise Lines. Please use the links provided throughout the article where you will find a plethora of Caribbean cruise information. The links that I provide here are general sources of information that are reliable, detailed and should help you choose the right ship and best itinerary.
First Step in Planning a Caribbean Cruise
If this will be your first visit to the Caribbean, you might want to do a little research on which ports of call you would be the most interested in and start your cruise planning from there. The Caribbean Islands are the most popular cruise destinations worldwide. If you have some idea of what ports of call you want to visit, you may then move-on to find which cruise lines offer the itineraries that interest you.
How to Choose a Caribbean Cruise Itinerary
There are as many varied Caribbean cruise itineraries for each of the three regions as there are cruise ships and would contain far too much information to be contained and digested in any one guide. There are also small islands that are owned and operated by a few cruise lines and that island would be included on only that ship line's itinerary. An example of this is 'Half Moon Cay', in the Bahamas and owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. Princess Cruise Line owns and operates their own "Princess Cays" island which is very private with less crowds. The private island excursions make a really great 'beach' day. Disney has it's own island that is packed full of Disney fun.
Links to Great Cruise Tips
Caribbean Cruise Lines
- Carnival: sails from Jacksonville, Florida; Miami, Florida; Port Canaveral, Florida and offers 277 cruise itineraries to the Caribbean with a 4-Day Bahamas cruise starting as low as a couple of hundred dollars. This is a great way for first time cruisers to test the waters of cruising for a very cheap price.
- Celebrity: sails from Cape Liberty, New Jersey; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Miami, Florida; New York, New York; San Juan, Puerto Rico and offers 63 itineraries to the Caribbean.
- Disney: sails from Port Canaveral, Florida; Miami, Florida. Disney leaves nothing out when providing great amenities and considered the most Magical cruise line for lots of family fun. Disney has hundreds of Caribbean itineraries to choose from all year round.
- Holland America: sails from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and offers many itineraries including the exotic southern routes and the Panama Canal. Holland is considered in the 'luxury' class category. The ships that sail the Caribbean are mid size and offer more up-scale and personalized attention. Of course, the price will be higher. Expect to pay more for a Holland Caribbean cruise than you would on that of a contemporary class line.
- Norwegian: sails from Boston, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; New York, New York; Tampa, Florida; as well as sailing from Europe. Norwegian offers 23 Caribbean cruise itineraries with her two newest and greatest ships the "Epic" and "Breakaway". These two vessels are really floating resorts with every amenity you could desire.
- Princess: sails from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York, New York; and offers over 60 great Caribbean itineraries. Princess Cruise Line is rated in the premium class along with Disney Cruise Line.
- Royal Caribbean: sails primarily from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and offers 189 different cruise itineraries to all the Caribbean regions. Royal Caribbean's new ship design innovation is made clear by the Oasis and Allure the two recent additions to the fleet. No detail is left unturned in either of these two mega floating resorts. A quick look at the video of the Oasis and Allure will confirm it is hard to believe these are ships and not land resorts.