Your Caribbean cruising guide
The Caribbean is world-famous for cruising and for good reason. Not only does it have a balmy climate, countless tropical islands, blue lagoon waters and palm tree-lined beaches, it is also home to a diverse array of cultures; from Cubano, Jamaican, Dominican and African, to English, French, Dutch and Spanish influenced colonies, the Caribbean is a melting pot of culture.
Ultimate Caribbean cruise
There are several cruise lines that specialize in the region visiting the most popular international sites, including (but not limited to):
- Princess Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Storylines (residential cruise ship)
- Celebrity Constellation
While they have slightly different itineraries, they share similar port stops. Let’s take a look at the best Caribbean cruise destinations and shore excursions.
Nassau & Paradise Island, The Bahamas
Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, is a tropical island city brimming with culture, nightlife and a thriving arts scene. Nassau also features world-class resorts, casino’s and excellent dining including authentic Bahamian cuisine. Be sure to visit the Gothic Christ Church Cathedral, the National Art Gallery and one of the many top-shelf restaurants in town.
Part of Nassau’s appeal is just off the south coast lies Paradise Island, and it lives up to its name! Paradise Island is for pure indulgence and famous for the sprawling resort, Atlantis, and its many pools, water park slides, aquariums, casinos, 5-star restaurants and palm tree-lined beaches with azure waters. A playground for both young and old!
Cozumel is a small Mexican Island in the Caribbean just off Playa Del Carmen. Like Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel has Mayan Heritage where you can see the ancient ruins of San Gervasio. For keen divers and snorkelers, be sure to swim at Palancar Reef. One of the most beautiful natural attractions is Laguna Chankanaab in the National Marine Park which is a must-see. You can also just bask on one of Cozumel’s many pristine beaches. We recommend Playa San Juan and Playa Santa Pilar on the north west of the island, and Playa Palancar, Playa San Francisco and Playa Santa Rosa on the south west.
One of the most popular activities on Cozumel is swimming with the dolphins. Suitable for children also, you can get up close and personal with these incredibly intelligent and beautiful creatures of the ocean. Be sure to book in advance as these dolphin tours sell out quickly when cruises are in town. Two reputable companies are Dolphinaris Cozumel and Dolphin Discovery Cozumel.
Havana, Cuba, is a must-do experience in the Caribbean. Old Havana is second-to-none in America for the legacy of historic buildings. Dating back to Spanish colonial times, the architecture of the buildings is all-character. So much so that many of the historic castles, mansions and cathedrals have become major tourist attractions, with some converted into funky hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and museums. They all maintain that cool 1950’s atmosphere, just like the many classic cars that still remain on the street.
Then there’s the rich Cuban culture. Don’t be surprised to be out in a restaurant and watch as two strangers get up and dance passionately together to a Danzón tune playing after which they return to their respective tables like nothing ever happened!
Havana is a great town to just walk around. It’s flat, safe and worth getting lost in. Or, if you prefer to be guided, you can take one of the city’s many walking tours. Be sure to visit Museo de Hemingway if you can. Earnest Hemingway loved to write (and drink) in Havana.
Falmouth is a relatively cruise port and rather fancy at that. It’s a popular cruise destination as Falmouth offers easy access to the beautiful Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Make it to Montego Bay to search for some of the best beaches in Jamaica. On the way, stop by the Haunted Rose Hall Great House, a 1770 Georgian Mansion with a dark history. You can learn all about the fascinating (and slightly disturbing) history of the former plantation home on one of their tours, including learning about the White Witch of Rose Hall.
Besides the beautiful beaches and resorts of Montego Bay, boutique shopping in Ocho Rios, and getting spooked out in a haunted mansion, you must also do a shore excursion to the jewel of Jamaica, Dunn’s River WaterFalls. Here, you get to climb the falls, swim in one of the many rock pools, and get a massage from the water cascading over the rocks. Afterwards, you can shop for local souvenirs and enjoy authentic Jamaican cuisine at Dunn’s River Craft Park.
Arguably one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Eastern Caribbean, St. Maarten has both French and Dutch colonial influence, and thus offers a unique Caribbean experience. The cruise terminal is located in Phillipsburg, the Dutch capital. On the other side of the island is the French capital, Marigot, which is easy to explore on this relatively small island. Both sides are brimming with beautiful beaches, luxury resorts and boutique shopping experiences.
Great Bay in Phillipsburg is a must-do for shopping, swimming, dining and drinking in one of the many restaurants and bars that line the beach. Just as good is Marigot which has its own distinctly French twist. If you like your high-end designer brands, then you will love shopping in Marigot. If you’re more into supporting the local trade, then head the open-air market. At nearby Grand Case you can try a mix of French, Creole and Caribbean cuisine.
For a complete island experience you can book one of the many guided island tours.
Bridgetown is the Capital city of Barbados and another popular port stop for cruising the Caribbean. The city center is only a 5 taxi ride from the cruise terminal, however, we recommend the 15 minute stroll along the boardwalk into town. Although Barbados only just officially became a republic in November 2021, the island is still very much British culture with cricket, high tea and beer. Things may change now as the island republic seeks to shake off its colonial past and dark history.
Barbados is famous for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with their aquamarine waters and soft, white sands. Beyond the spectacular beaches you will find caves, immaculate tropical gardens and historical sites. Must-see attractions include the beaches of Carlisle Bay, Downtown Bridgetown, Farley Hill National Park, Harrison’s Cave, Richard Haynes Boardwalk and Andromeda Botanic Gardens. For those interested in history and dark tourism then be sure to visit the upcoming Barbados Slave Museum.
Kings Wharf, Bermuda
Kings Wharf in the massive Royal Navy Dockyard is where you will most likely arrive in Bermuda by cruise. The Dockyard is a destination in itself with its National Museum of Bermuda, so check it out. From there, catch a 20 minute ferry ride into Hamilton. This quintessentially Caribbean island charms you with its pastel colored homes, stately mansions and fragrant bougainvillea. The island is brimming with cultural diversity with African, British, Portuguese, West Indian and North American influences. Hamilton’s many museums, art galleries and historical forts make for a different kind of paradise for history buffs.
For the nature lovers, Bermuda is a string of islands that is ringed by reefs which make it one of the world’s top snorkeling and diving destinations. For the best spots head to Tobacco Bay, Church Bay, Snorkel Park Beach, and Achilles Bay. For one of the best beaches in the world head to Horseshoe Bay Beach. Other must-see attractions include the Crystal and Fantasy Caves, The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, and the world renowned shipwreck diving tours for the underwater lovers. The ring of reefs mentioned earlier has claimed over 300 ships dating back to the 1600’s, earning Bermuda the title, The shipwreck capital of the world.
Best time to cruise the Caribbean?
To answer the initial question, the best time to cruise the Caribbean is really anytime. As the Caribbean is in the tropics, the weather is mostly good all year round. However, if you wish to avoid the crowds, then we suggest cruising the Caribbean from November to December.
Storylines is creating a floating community of global citizens on a residential ship, MV Narrative, which will be exploring the Caribbean Seas. As the remote work life dynamic is changing right before our eyes, more people are choosing travel as a lifestyle, not a vacation. For more info on the remaining residences available, please view their luxury homes for sale.