Cruising the Caribbean: Your Ticket to Paradise
The soothing waves of the Caribbean's turquoise waters and fine white, pink and black sand beaches call thousands of winter-weary travelers near and far.
There's a certain mystique about the Caribbean, where the sky is twice as sunny and clear and time stands still for your grand pleasure. The journey is all about indulging moment by moment and leaving the world and your cares behind.
Photo by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
A Caribbean cruise presents a unique vacation by land and sea, packing the excitement of two trips into one. Choose from a buffet of accommodations and amenities while you're on board - seaside or portside cabin views, black-tie or casual dinners, spa treatments or upper-deck sunbathing and glitzy casinos or Broadway shows. In addition, you'll visit multiple ports of call offering a variety of excursions and brand-new adventures such as going off-road through secluded channels, swimming with dolphins or discovering exotic marine life on a glass-bottom boat.
With a selection of cruises designed around the needs of singles, couples, honeymooners and families, you can pick the setting that's suited for you.
For a more intimate experience, charter a Caribbean yacht to sail from island to island at your leisure. In contrast with major cruise lines, sailing cruises are smaller and give you the freedom to set your own course. As you decide on the right itinerary, you have three main cruising destinations to weigh: Western, Eastern and Southern Caribbean cruises.
Western Caribbean Cruise
Be rewarded with the treasures of the Bahamas, the 100,000-square-mile chain of islands situated just off Florida's southern shores. In Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas, you'll encounter a desirable blend of tropical allure and ease. Instantly, the balmy breezes, swaying palm trees and unhurried way of life will whisk you away. Get up close and personal with marching flamingoes, swim side by side with dolphins or snorkel with sting rays.
Cozumel is famous all over the world for its spectacular diving and all-embracing, lively nightlife. Enjoy a slice of this unforgettable city through a dive trip, tour of the ancient Mayan city of Tulúm or refreshments and live music at Playa del Sol. Save part of the afternoon for Playa del Carmen in the heart of the Mayan Riviera - think sun, sand, surf and salsa! Cancun thrives as a cosmopolitan city with savory regional foods, first-class hotel accommodations and boutique shopping for all tastes.
Remote, but not removed, the British-owned Cayman Islands make the perfect tropical oasis for all ages. Explore Grand Cayman's long crescent of magnificent coastline at Seven-Mile Beach. Travel by foot or bicycle to visit George Town's Conch Shell House, interactive sea-turtle nursery and quaint villages. Get a bird's eye perspective on a flightseeing tour or sail the beautiful waters of the North Sounds and pay a visit to Stingray City. Escape to Ochos Rios, Jamaica, where fantasy becomes reality. The town is edged with beautiful white sands and unbelievable sceneries, including the spectacular Dunn's River Falls. Here, cool mountain waters plunge 600 feet to smooth limestone beds and then stream under the roadway before mingling with the Caribbean Sea. The Jamaican foliage and warm sun rays will happily greet you on a river rafting or tubing safari down the two-mile winding river.
Eastern Caribbean Cruise
For eager cruisers who can't seem to choose, many cruise lines alternate between the Eastern and Western Caribbean ports of call each week. This creates the opportunity for many tourists to enjoy back-to-back two week sailings that go to and from the exquisite islands of the East and West.
San Juan, Puerto Rico doubles as a popular port of call and embarkation port for cruise ships. Restored Spanish-colonial architecture, graceful plazas and promenades and narrow cobblestone streets capture the charms of its historic district. Witness the pinnacle of natural beauty at El Yunque Rain Forest, home to more than 240 species of trees, miniature orchids and what was once believed to be the Fountain of Youth. At the end of the day, satisfy your appetite with Spanish-style sangria and delicious tapas.
Just a skip away are the U.S. Virgin Islands, an idyllic travel spot that is widely known as the "duty-free shopping capital of the world." With more than 450 bargain shops to see, you'll feast your eyes on a superb selection of trinkets, fine jewelry, imported linens, china and crystal, electronics and liquor. Hike towards the highest point of the island and take in the breathtaking views of Magens Bay. Sit back and relax on a half-day sail to Buck Island and snorkel in the picturesque Turtle Cove.
Just a short ferry ride from St. Thomas, the neighboring island of St. John offers visitors a different world. Inside of the Virgin Islands National Park, you'll be surrounded with acres of green rolling hills and a tranquil underwater reserve. A hike along the Reef Bay Trail will produce a vision of forestlands, remnants of sugar mills, historic rock carvings and a spring-fed waterfall and reflection pool. For a chance to unwind, you'll reach the perfect retreat on the beaches of Hawksnest Bay and Trunk Bay.
Southern Caribbean Cruise
Or perhaps you're the type of traveler who craves the more exotic. The Southern Caribbean touts an unspoiled environment where the gentle sounds of the ocean won't be interrupted by crowds.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines stretches over 40 miles and includes more than 30 islands and cays. Bequia, the "Island of Turtles," draws you in with exquisite valleys, quiet lagoons and an irregular coastline richly indented with bays, coves and white sand beaches. Ride a water taxi or ferry to Canouan, often favored as the center of sailing in the Grenadines. Find great delight in the local cuisine, romantic beach walks, live music and dancing.
East of the Grenadines is Barbados, which boasts beachfront gardens and promising landscapes at Payne's Bay, Brighton Beach and Church Point. If history tickles your senses, you'll come across the most interesting aspects of Barbados' vast British heritage. Avid outdoor travelers will relish an off-road excursion through Joe's River Tropical Rain Forest, where, at 1,000 feet above sea level, the most spectacular views of the island can be found.
On Grenada, the "Isle of Spice," you'll share in the passion of their vibrant culture and cuisine and revel in a mix of beauty that includes magnificent beaches and lush rainforests. Everywhere you go, the alluring fragrance of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger is sure to fill the air. The island's great depths contain radiant coral gardens and the 600-foot-long sunken ship known as the "Titanic of the Caribbean."
Fall in love with the picture-perfect cruising vacation that takes you from island to island, allowing you to meet new faces and build lasting memories. Find an ASTA travel agent who can become your matchmaker and create the ideal itinerary embracing the Caribbean's most enchanting ports of call.
By using an experienced agent, you can expect premium cruising accommodations and activities to match your travel style - both on and off board. Most cruises are all inclusive, so that from the moment your vacation begins, you can just concentrate on having the time of your lif