Dream of sailing away to exotic locals in the Caribbean and leaving everything behind? That’s exactly what I did – even if it was just for a week at a time. What I love about cruises is that there are so many options and you get to see a multitude of places in one vacation. If you’re thinking about going on one but aren’t sure which are the best Caribbean cruises, here’s everything you need to know about picking the right one!
The Best Caribbean Cruises
I’ve gone on a slew of Caribbean cruises over the years and my favorites are Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, or Norwegian Cruise Line. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve picked up some good tips along the way. Once you’ve decided that you want to take a Caribbean cruise, here are the main things that you need to know.
All cruise lines are not alike, in fact every ship is different. Some people find that sea days are more fun than the land excursion days, while others go for the food, the on-board activities, or the shows. Ships, cruise lines, and itineraries can be very customized so it helps to do your research.
Which one you choose depends on what you want to do when you’re on board and where you want to go. When I choose which cruise to take, I do look at both of those aspects, but I am more interested in the ports of call.
But it just depends on what you want out of your vacation. Here’s what to look for when choosing which Caribbean cruise line is best for you.
When Would You Like To Go
There are many fantastic islands and central American destinations to visit when doing a Caribbean cruise. It’s important to consider the season of the destination that you want to see. Some places are better in the summer, but may have little to offer when the weather gets colder.
Prices will be at its highest during school breaks and lowest from June to November. Getting a good price for a cruise can be the difference of saving hundreds of dollars per person.
Also, is it hurricane season? In the eastern Caribbean, along the U.S. coast for example, hurricane season typically lasts between mid-August to mid-September. The prices might be cheap but is it worth getting seasick from a vacillating ship and be rained out of land activities? Not so much.
Who Are You Going With
Who will be on your trip plays a big part on where you go. Will the potential destinations and cruise line be better for families, couples, singles, etc.? Will your company prefer beach time or prefer cultural excursions? Do they want a lot of nightlife on the ship, is there enough activities for kids, is it a popular ship for senior citizens?
There’s been a couple of times when I’ve heard funny stories about friends accidentally booking a gay cruise or a senior citizen cruise. It’s essential that you read reviews and make sure the ship is what you’re looking for so that a similar situation doesn’t happen to you.
Cruise Critic is a helpful site for figuring out which cruise line is better for who you’re with and what you want, i.e. romance, fitness, nightlife, etc.
Where Do You Want To Go
What’s great about the Caribbean – outside of how beautiful it is – is that you can visit a lot of islands in one trip. All the tedious parts of vacation planning are sorted out for you with packaged itineraries that you can customize or follow.
Ask yourself if you want to go to Mexico, Belize, the Bahamas, only places in the Caribbean, etc.? Many cruises that go to the Caribbean also visit places on the cost of Central America, so that’s something fun to consider as well.
How many destinations you want to see will determine how long the cruise will be. The most common is a 7-night cruise. They do have shorter ones or much longer ones as well.
What Do You Want to Do Aboard
Cruise ships keep getting fancier and more fun-packed. From zip-lines, to wave pools, to ice-skating rinks, there are so many neat features to do throughout your vacation. Since you are spending a good deal of time on board, look online at what each ship offers and make sure it has what you want.
What Do You Want To Do In The Ports of Call
Some people like the beach while others, like me, enjoy cultural excursions. I just figure that if I’m going to go to these beautiful, exotic places I want to do more than only lie on the beach. But for some people that’s enough – which is great.
But I highly suggest booking at least one or two excursions to do when you arrive on your first day. It doesn’t have to be booked the first day, but if you don’t want to do them at a decent time of the day, I suggest you get ahead of the curve.
Some of my favorite excursions that I’ve been to, both when I was with friends and family depending on the trip, were the following:
- Climbing the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá in Mexico
- Belize Cave tubing
- Horseback riding on the beach in the Bahamas
- Booze Cruise in the Bahamas
- Senor Frogs in Cozumel, Mexico
- Parasailing in the Bahamas
- Water park at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas
Choosing The Departure Port City
Some cruise lines only leave from certain departure port cities. This is probably one of the biggest factors in choosing which cruise line to take. Since I’m on the east coast, I try to find the ones that leave from New York City (like Norwegian Cruise Line or Carnival), but have taken the flight down to Florida when I wanted to go on Royal Caribbean.
Here’s a complete list of the cruise departure cities in the U.S. I’ve been able to find cheap flights to Florida so it wasn’t that much more of an expensive to add a round trip flight to my total vacation cost.
However, you do lose about two days if you fly and chances are you’ll want to fly in the night before your cruise is set to leave. You don’t want to risk missing your cruise due to airline issues. That’s happened to me and it was tediously stressful.
We made it all the way to Florida but a day late due to bad weather delaying our flight in Baltimore. Luckily we were able to get a credit to take a cruise at a later date, but not all cruise lines let you do that.
Also, make sure if you do fly south from a place like New York, you bring the right clothes to change into on your carry-on. I wasn’t prepared and had to rock my Ugg boots and sweatshirt until I was able to retrieve my suitcase on the ship.
Have fun and share what your favorite places in the Caribbean were!
For more fun in the sun check out our awesome Ibiza trip!