Caribbean cruises are a popular winter choice. The newspaper tends to begin filling up with ads promoting the sun and amenities offered on cruise ships as the colder weather has all of us thinking of getting away somewhere warmer. There are so many to choose from and they tend to be reasonably priced. But how do you narrow down which one to choose?
When going on a cruise, you are going to spend some time at sea and you want to ensure that the cruise you choose offers the types of diversions you enjoy. Most have pools and lounging areas and many have casinos and enough food to leave you in need of a new wardrobe by the time you leave the ship if you overindulge.
Some offer themed entertainment that may focus on wine, food and cooking, sports, or other hobbies. For people who find lying around the pool each day to be a bit too sedate for them, finding a cruise that offers interesting activities is really important.
Likewise, if you are traveling with children, you will want to see what kind of options there are for child care and activities to keep the younger ones occupied too.
When choosing a cruise, read the details carefully including where they stop, what is included in your cruise fee (and what isn’t), amenities on board, costs of excursions (often not included in cruise price), and, as with any type of organized travel, cancellation details, insurance, etc.
Despite the bad rap some cruises have received in the media lately, there are lots of great ones to choose from. Here are few cruises that are likely to meet the needs of those who crave some sunshine and time down south.
#1: Disney Cruise Lines – 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise
If you are traveling with kids, you are unlikely to find anything better suited to keeping them and you entertained than a Disney cruise. They depart from three different US ports – Miami (Florida), Port Canaveral (Florida), and Galveston (Texas). And offer cruises that cover several different parts of the Caribbean.
The seven night western Caribbean cruise stops in Cozumel (Mexico), Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), and, depending on which cruise ship you are on, Falmouth (Jamaica), Costa Maya (Mexico), or Key West (Florida). All cruise ships also stop on Disney’s own private island, Castaway Cay.
On board, there are plenty of activities geared towards children of all ages as well as some adults only places that will keep you occupied when your kids are indulging in some fun at one of the many Youth Clubs that offer child care as well. Of course, there are lots of character encounters, movies, live theatre shows, and other family oriented events.
#2: Silver Sea Cruises – Fort Lauderdale (Florida) to Bridgetown (Barbados)
Silver Seas specializes in cruises that are geared towards adults and offer some luxurious touches as well as themed cruises. You can choose cruises that focus on wine, gourmet food, or ones that offer cooking classes with well-known chefs.
The typical onboard amenities include a variety of restaurants ranging from pool side bars to high end dining. There are the expected pools, casinos, nightlife include places for dancing as well as extra touches such as wine tastings, dance classes, singles events, and, for those ladies traveling alone that would like some company at dinner or while dancing, gentleman hosts.
I am admittedly unsure of what to make of the idea of gentleman hosts as it brings up connotations that I don’t think actually apply here. Having traveled alone before I can easily admit that company when on an excursion into town or enjoying an evening out can be really nice.
Because this is a smaller ship than the bigger cruise lines like Princess and Holland America, it can get access to ports that just cannot accommodate a large ship. The Fort Lauderdale to Bridgetown cruise is a 9 day cruise with stops in San Juan (Puerto Rico), Gustavia (St. Barts), Phillipsburg (St. Maarten, Netherland Antilles), St Johns (Antigua), Roseau (Dominica), and Castries (St Lucia).
#3: Seadream Yacht Club Cruises – St Thomas (US Virgin Islands) to San Juan (Puerto Rico)
This is for those who want something smaller and more exclusive. There are only 56 state rooms, all with ocean views, and 95 crew members. Seadream sails large yachts capable of slipping into places the big ships can’t go.
Like Silver Sea, they specialize in the unique and off the beaten path excursions and stops. It’s meant to mimic what the life of a yachtsman with a yearning for travel might be like.
There are caviar and champagne served shore side and followed with beach barbecues. The yacht carries a full set of water sport equipment including glass bottom kayaks, water skis, paddle boats, banana boats, tubes and boards, and much more to keep you entertained and having fun regardless of where the ship is.
Like larger ships, there is a spa, fitness centre, shopping, and entertainment including outdoor movies under the stars, a casino, piano bar, and special parties and events. With such a small number of guests, you can count on being pampered, well fed, and kept entertained.
They offer a number of different types of trips including several Caribbean options. The one that caught my eye is the seven day cruise from St Thomas to San Juan. It stops in Cruz Bay (St John, US Virgin Islands), Sandy Ground (Anguilla, British Antilles), Gustavia (St Barts), Charlestown (Nevis), Soper’s Hole (Tortola, British Virgin Islands), Norman Island (British Virgin Islands), and Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands).
#4: Regent Seven Seas Cruises – Miami to Miami
Regent Seven Seas cruises are for those who want an all-inclusive cruise. By this, they mean airfare, transfers from airport to ship, cruise, excursions, meals, alcohol, and all activities. They offer the same amenities most other cruise ships offer including pools, spa, shopping, casino, nightclubs and bars, fine dining as well as poolside bars.
They also have a connoisseur’s club which offers special vintages for those with a refined tasting palate and those interested in learning more about fine wines, cognacs, cigars, etc.
The big differentiator with Regent Seven Seas is that everything is paid for in advance so you don’t need to worry about budgeting for excursions and entertainment. For some people, this can provide serious peace of mind. Who wants to worry about money when on vacation?
The Miami to Miami cruise stops in Key West (Florida), Cozumel (Mexico), Costa Maya (Mexico), Belize City (Belize), and Santo Tomas de Castilla (Guatemala). It gives you the opportunity to explore a bit of mainland Central America which is a nice change from the islands typically visited on a Caribbean cruise.
When choosing a cruise, there is so much choice is can be overwhelming. Start by thinking of who is going with you and the tone you want for your vacation. Then start looking at the places that most interest you.
Chances are good you will have no trouble finding exactly what you are looking for. Bon voyage!
Cover photo: adiariolc.com