Thousands of islands make up the Caribbean, a tropical region stretching across the Atlantic Ocean. Home to some of the most popular cruise ports in the world, the Caribbean offers variations on a theme: sun, white-sand beaches and fun with a local twist, depending on the port. From Dutch and French isles to U.S. territories, the destinations of the Caribbean have cultural experiences to spare that extend well beyond the tip of the umbrella in your fruity cocktail.
A cruise offers the chance to visit multiple islands within the span of a few days, providing visitors with a sampler of new places plus balmy sea breezes along the way. Caribbean cruises offer endless variety giving vacationers the chance to get away for a long weekend or two weeks. With so many departure ports, your ship to the Caribbean might be a short flight or even a drive away.
The Caribbean offers as much -- or as little – as you want to do during your time ashore, making it an ideal cruise vacation for families or for couples.
Water sports are abundant in the Caribbean and anyone who likes spending time in the sea will enjoy snorkeling, diving, paddleboarding and swimming through clear, turquoise waters like the remote beaches of Bonaire. Or fly high through the sky on a number of active zipline courses, including the steepest zipline in the world in St. Maarten. Lazily lounging on the beach is almost always a fantastic option. Pair a beach day with a hike on a day trip from St. Thomas to Virgin Island National Park in St. John.
If you need a break from the sun, air-conditioned island tours, duty-free shopping trips and even scenic rail trips -- such as the one around St. Kitts -- provide wonderful ways to spend a day off the ship.
All-inclusive lovers will be able to pamper themselves with excursions to resorts, while those looking for a more local flavor will be able to learn from chefs, artisans and other experts for an authentic taste of each island's culture
Winter and spring are great seasons to travel to the Caribbean due to a slight reduction in crowds and moderate temperatures, though the warm weather holds year-round here.
Atlantic hurricane season, from June through October, means a higher chance of rain and possible storms, though summer is still one of the most popular times to visit the Caribbean. If you book a summer sailing in a Caribbean region within the hurricane zone, there's a chance nothing will happen -- but buying insurance and keeping a flexible schedule helps manage expectations.
Cozumel, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman and St. Martin/Maarten are some of the most common ports of call in the Caribbean. You could also experience Jamaica, Cuba, Aruba, Grand Turk or the Dominican Republic. Many Caribbean cruises also include stops at private islands, such as Royal Caribbean's CocoCay or Disney's Castaway Cay, located in The Bahamas.
Caribbean cruises depart from ports around the U.S., including San Juan, Puerto Rico. Many of the top Caribbean cruise departure ports are located in Florida: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando.
Elsewhere on the East Coast and Gulf Coast, Caribbean sailings depart from Baltimore, Manhattan, Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile and more. Caribbean islands and itinerary lengths will vary, depending on where you sail from and where you're sailing to.
Choose from Eastern, Western or Southern Caribbean itineraries. You’ll primarily find the U.S. Virgin Islands -- St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John -- on Eastern Caribbean sailings, as well as St. Maarten/Martin and the Dominican Republic. The ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) are featured on Southern Caribbean cruises. Western Caribbean cruises often include ports in Mexico and Jamaica, along with Belize and Grand Turk.
Lengths also vary -- Western Caribbean itineraries can be limited to just a few days for those who want a quick getaway or don't have time for longer sailings. Southern Caribbean sailings tend to last at least 10 nights, and these often depart from San Juan. Eastern Caribbean sailings are typically a week long.
Here are our best tips for finding a cheap cruise or cruise deal to the Caribbean. If you book a “guaranteed cabin” (they select for you), a cabin on a lower deck or sail on an older ship from a brand you like, then you can get the best price for a specific cruise to the Caribbean. Last minute cruises deals to the Caribbean appear as you get closer to the sail date, usually 1-2 weeks in advance. Taking a cruise to the Caribbean in the shoulder season (before or after the peak season) can also be a great way to find a cruise deal.