Soft sandy beaches, swaying palms and a fun-loving feeling: cruises to The Caribbean make the most of the idyllic islands and laid-back pace of life, blending like a fruity punch to make the perfect combination of relaxing beach break and exciting cruise holiday, visiting varied islands to sample different cultures. More ships cruise the Caribbean than any other region of the world; if ever there was a part of the world just made for fantastic cruise holidays it has to be the paradise islands of the Caribbean Sea. Comprising many diverse islands and cultures, this tropical paradise provides the perfect sun-soaked getaway almost all year round. For many, the draw of cruises to The Caribbean are its powder-white beaches, bright blue lagoons, gently swaying palms and relaxed, friendly atmosphere. All of these aspects make it a fabulous place to holiday, but cruising offers so much more by giving you the chance to leisurely sail to numerous islands and immerse yourself in the different foods, cultures and experiences the many islands offer. Bustling market towns, colourful fishing villages, lush greenery, and fresh, local cuisine are just some of the delights on offer if you do decide to venture forth from your laidback lounge under the fronds of that palm tree.
With powder-soft beaches lining sun-drenched shores or shopping streets emanating cosmopolitan chic, the gloriously laid-back islands of the Bahamas offer leisurely sunny holidays. There’s modern day glamour and lively nightlife in the elegant capital, Nassau, with its world class hotels and restaurants attracting travellers from across the globe. Dive with dolphins during a stop at Freeport, Grand Bahama, and swim with sharks or just gaze at the tropical beauty of the islands’ exotic marine life on a fun snorkelling session.
The US Virgin Islands’ St Thomas knows how to strike a near-perfect first impression, with forested cliffs rising into clear blue skies, red-tiled roofs peeping through a jungle-clad interior and a turquoise sea lapping at its shores. The buzzing resort of Charlotte Amalie is replete with jewellery shops and upmarket boutiques, ideal for some retail therapy.
The Dutch side of the Caribbean Island of Saint Martin is full of charm, with nightlife in abundance, shopping malls to enjoy, sprawling resorts and pretty beaches. Handily you’ll find many of the most picturesque beaches close to Philipsburg, the lively capital.
The Mexican island of Isla Cozumel is far from just a cruise ship destination. Away from the port you’ll discover an authentic slice of the Caribbean, with a leisurely atmosphere, fantastic diving and snorkelling and Mayan ruins linked by windswept coastal roads.
The island of Grand Cayman is home to fabulous shopping, exclusive resorts and the famous white sands of Seven Mile Beach. Sip chilled drinks made with delicious island-fresh fruit or head east to the quieter side of the island for a little peace and relaxation.
It’s not a surprise that Jamaica is known as one of the prize jewels of the Caribbean. Island rhythms are laid back and full of life, with the sounds of Bob Marley still seeping from shuttered windows across the island even today. The island itself is practically one enormous garden, with green landscapes stretching as far as the eye can see, before dropping into unspoilt white sands and that great expanse of blue that is the Caribbean Sea.
Best time to travel
December to April are the drier, cooler and less humid months in the Caribbean.
Even in the rainy season you’ll have long periods of warm, dry weather, and the tropical rains can be very refreshing.
With so much of the Caribbean surrounded by water it’s no surprise that seafood features prominently.
Traditional Jamaican dish ackee and saltfish is a typical dish of the region, with salt cod and ackee fruit making a delicious spicy curry. Rice and peas is another popular dish, as is jerk-spiced pork and chicken. Barbecues on the beach are a great way to try grilled meats rubbed in jerk spices. The local drinks are flavoursome rum punches that utilise locally-produced rums.
Despite the fact that there are thousands of islands and cays in the Caribbean, only 2% of the islands are inhabited.
The Caribbean islands are quite religious, but Jamaica has more churches per square mile than in any other country – 1,600 in total!
Things to do
- Relax on one of Antigua’s beaches – it’s said that there’s one for every day of the year
- Learn all about reggae and its influence on the world at the Bob Marley Museum
- Swim with pigs on the famous Pig Beach in the Bahamas
- Watch the tumbling waterfalls at Jamaica’s Dunns River Falls
- See how much of Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach you can walk in one go!
- Explore the dense rainforest that flanks the twin pitons in St Lucia
- Learn about the seafaring heritage of Antigua at Nelson’s Dockyard
- Dive among the spectacular marine life of the Bahamas – see how many fish you can spot
- •Swim with stingrays off the coast of Antigua
- Shop for duty-free jewellery and souvenirs in Philipsburg or Charlotte Amalie
- Stand on Maho Beach in Saint Maarten as the jumbo jets come in to land
- Discover the fascinating Mayan ruins on the Mexican island of Cozumel
- Relax on one of the beautiful white sand beaches with a fruity rum cocktail
- Head to Shirley Heights in Antigua for a traditional Sunday night barbecue and party
- Make the most of the amazing swimming and leisure facilities at Atlantis Paradise Island
- Hire a sailing boat and journey around the cays of the Bahamas at your own pace