A clear blue sea, beautiful islands, sun-drenched white beaches, palm trees and a wonderful tropical climate. These are the ingredients of the most popular cruise destination in the world, the Caribbean Sea. A dream trip that you will never forget.
Welcome to the Caribbean Sea
This is by far the most popular cruise destination. Every cruise line company knows its way there and almost all of them are active here all year round. Most cruise ships depart from Florida, with ports in Miami or Fort Launderdale. You can possibly expand the area and the trip with a visit to the Mexican Riviera, the Dutch Antilles and even Aruba. For the rest, the area has well-known names, such as Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and of course the Bahamas. Each cruise line has its own itineraries, each with their favorite stops to visit.
Choose between wind directions
Usually when booking a cruise you will have to choose between a few areas. There are Western, Southern and Eastern cruises. The eastern cruises sail from Florida via the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands and possibly to the Netherlands Antilles. On the way there or back you can possibly stop in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic or Hawaii. The southern cruises are usually the longest and follow more or less the same route as the eastern cruises but continue below the Maagen Islands to the more southerly islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica and Barbados. Exceptionally, people sometimes sail all the way south to Curaçao. The western route continues along the American coast from Florida to the southernmost point (Key West), and then goes to Mexico and the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. Along the way you can also see a bit of the Bahamas. Short more northern cruises are usually limited to the Bahamas and Bermuda, much further north.
The Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is located in the southernmost point of the Caribbean Sea, in Panama, Central America. It is the only connection between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. In other words, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The canal is 81 kilometers long and the locks are 33.5 meters wide. The cruise ships that want to use the canal may have a maximum width of 32.3 meters. The 32 meter wide ships are therefore often called Panamax ships. A ship needs about 12 hours to get through the canal and is assisted by tugboats. For example, a Panama Canal cruise departs from Florida and then combines a western Caribbean cruise with a transit through the Panama Canal to end in California, where it docks in either San Diego or Los Angeles. The next cruise then follows the same route in reverse. Such a cruise lasts about 10 to 15 days and above all gives you the opportunity to visit some important cities in the United States in addition to the cruise, both on the East Coast and the West Coast.
The duration of the Caribbean cruise
A cruise usually lasts 4, 7 or 10 days. Some longer southern cruises can last up to 14 days. Depending on the length, you make 2 to 6 stops. There is often a stop on an island in the Bahamas for a short beach break. For the rest, the other stops are more cultural in nature. You can explore the region, take part in an excursion or just hang out and shop in the harbour. An ideal cruise lasts 7 to 10 days. The shorter cruises are more tailored to the American who wants to get away for a few days. I would recommend an eastern cruise if you are visiting the region for the first time. It is best to only choose the southern cruises if you have sufficient time and budget available. The western cruises usually contain a little more culture and less of the well-known snow-white beaches. If you want a short cruise that you combine with a holiday or tour in Florida, for example, choose the Bahamas and possibly Bermuda. Bermuda is especially interesting for cruises that sail further north, such as those from New York.
Every cruise line company has its own pet peeves. This ranges from private beaches and harbors to entire islands owned by the shipping company. For example, Disney Cruise Line has the island of Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. Almost all cruises of this cruise line company stop on this island of several kilometers in diameter. Royal Caribbean also owns a private island, namely Coco Cay. The cruises of Royal Caribbean and all its sister companies use this island, as do Celibrity Cruises and some smaller cruise line companies. Carnival Cruises also manages its own island, namely Half Moon Cay. All cruise line companies owned by Carnival Cruises use this island, such as Holland America Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Cunard Cruises and several smaller cruise line companies. Great Stirrup Cay is also a private island, owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. There is not much to see on these islands other than white beaches, palm trees, restaurants and bars. It is ideal for strolling on the beach, for practicing all kinds of water sports and of course for snorkeling in the clear blue water. Cruise line companies that do not operate a private island usually dock in Nassau or Freeport in the Bahamas.
The main destinations of Caribbean cruises
the Caribbean is more than just the Bahamas. These are the most visited islands and archipelagos in the Caribbean Sea: Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands (such as St. Thomas), the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Barbados, Guadaloupe, Aruba, the Dutch Antilles (such as St. Maarten and Curaçao), the French Antilles (such as Martinique), the Bahamas and Bermuda.