Yet another winter weather advisory confirms that we are in the midst of a cold and snowy January and still have a few months to go before it warms up. The thought of going outside without a coat seems a far off possibility. It’s the time of year that makes heading to warm and sunny weather a necessity. After all, who wants seasonal affective disorder to have a chance to set in? Is there any more convenient place to get some additional hours of sunlight than in the warm, sunny, tropical Caribbean? The best way to experience this? Definitely a cruise. With the busy holiday season over, cruise lines offer some great values, especially during the first months of the year.
Divided into basically three regions, the Caribbean offers something for everybody. The Eastern Caribbean itineraries include such islands as St. John, St. Thomas, St. Maarten/Martin, the Turks and Caicos, and Puerto Rico. The advantages of this itinerary are that the distances between the islands aren’t that great and several of these islands belong to the US, which comforts those who seek the familiar infrastructure of home.
Don’t even think that just because these islands are relatively close geographically, that any of the islands are carbon copies of one another. Although there are some similarities, there are also plenty of differences to keep them interesting. Hiking along a trail to a secluded beach or experiencing nature at its finest is the draw of St. John. Shopping abounds at St. Thomas, although a plethora of alternate activities await those who leave the downtown area. Watching a bird show, kayaking the inlet or walking underwater are just a few of the non-shopping activities that attract St. Thomas visitors. Sharing an island and coexisting peacefully are St. Maarten (Dutch) and St. Martin (French). A tour around the island will highlight the differences on the two sides. The French side has many beaches, some of which are topless. The Dutch side has its beaches as well. Try the famous local liqueur called guavaberry.
The Western Caribbean includes Mexico, the Caymans, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Belize, Honduras and the Florida Keys. Looking to explore ancient Maya ruins? Go ashore and explore Cozumel, Tulum and inland Belize. Trek through the jungles and listen for the varied and prolific bird life that inhabits this spectacular area.
Spend some time on the beaches. In the Caymans, swim with the rays, an absolutely different and unusual experience that gets you up close and personal with these magnificent creatures. Touching and feeding these odd looking animals is an experience not to be missed. With convenient departure ports in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and the East Coast; cruising to the Caribbean is easier than ever.
As varied as the countries that conquered them, the islands of the Caribbean still maintain their original influence, but have also developed their own island culture. The Southern Caribbean appeals to those looking for a longer cruise and visits to more islands.
The islands themselves somehow seem to have more exotic, romantic names – Barbados, Dominica, Bonaire, and Aruba. The mere mention of their names conjures thoughts of sun, warmth and sand. The islands vary from lush, natural Dominica, to desert-like Aruba, with its cactus and aloe vera plants dotting the landscape. Of course, you’ll find everything in between. Music is a common denominator throughout the Caribbean and not lacking in the Southern Caribbean. Trinidad is the home of steel pan music and reggae is synonymous with Jamaica.
Now, the ports of call are just one part of the cruise experience. You may choose to simply enjoy the amenities on the ship – good food, a cozy deck chair, a swim in the pool or a massage at the spa, and never leave the ship. Whatever you decide, you will surely forget the winter chill, at least for the duration of the cruise of the Caribbean.
To help you decide which part of the Caribbean to discover, check out the websites of the cruise lines and look over the shore excursions. The descriptions will give you a good idea of what to expect, whether you decide to sign up with a cruise sponsored tour or venture out on your own. If you are looking for the perfect combination of sun, sand and camaraderie, you can’t go wrong with a Caribbean cruise. It’s no wonder that the Caribbean, with its many diverse islands is the most popular cruise destination.
These cruiselines offer a variety of itineraries.