A lot of the cruises to the Caribbean start in Florida, though there are a few that depart from other Gulf ports like Mobile, New Orleans and Galveston and some Southern Caribbean cruises depart from Puerto Rico or Barbados. You can also cruise to the Caribbean from New York.
There is fierce competition for the Caribbean market and with a lot of seasoned cruise fans now looking for different destinations, you can often find a real bargain with cruises at considerably less than $100 per night.
When choosing a cruise, apart from the obvious decision about how much you want to spend, you also need to think about where you want to go, how long for and how big a ship do you want to be on.
Caribbean Cruise Itineraries
When it comes to Caribbean cruises, the itineraries are really split into four overlapping regions with typical durations from 4 days up to 8 or 9 days though you can find cruises up to 14 days:
- The Bahamas - as the closest of the islands to Florida, most cruises to the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands are usually only 3 to 5 days in duration
- Western Caribbean - cruises often take in Key West, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Some of the longer cruises may go as far as Central America including Costa Rica, Honduras, Belize, Panama and Columbia
- Eastern Caribbean - cruises from 5 to 8 days including the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos Islands, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Netherlands Antilles, British Virgin Islands and Antigua & Barbuda
- Southern Caribbean - cruises often start from Puerto Rico or Barbados and visit Aruba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands, Netherlands Antilles, British Virgin Islands, French West Indies, St. Kitts & Nevis, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, Bequia, Grenada, Isla Margarita, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Venezuela and French Guiana
Not satified with the existing destinations, some cruise companies like Disney and Princess now have their own private islands for that perfect retreat.
Caribbean Cruise Ships
The majority of cruise lines are going for bigger and bigger ships with more staterooms (cabins) and hence more passengers, typically around the 110,000 gross tons mark and carrying about 2,500 passengers.
Royal Caribbean are already sailing 160,000 gross ton Freedom class ships that can carry 3,840 passengers and have two 220,000 gross ton Project Genesis ships on order that will carry a staggering 5,400 passengers.
They are becoming floating cities with an ice rink, rock climbing wall and even a boxing ring as well as all the usual restaurants, bars, lounges and nightclubs.
At the other end of the scale, some cruise companies are using much smaller luxury ships that hold between 300 and 700 passengers. Royal Caribbean themselves have launched a luxury brand, Azamara Cruises, to compete in this market.