Cruises to Caribbean Essential Guide (Everything you need to know)

Cruises to Caribbean

A Caribbean cruise is one of the most popular cruise holiday options for those seeking to escape the cold UK winter and instead enjoy some tropical islands. There’s a plethora of things to see, do explore, taste, and admire – one could never be bored – and you have the option to fly out to join your ship or sail directly from the UK.

Cruises to Caribbean islands are perfect for everyone simply because of what’s on offer both onboard and ashore. You can mix it up with adrenalin filled days ashore and relaxing days onboard, flip it around or even combine the two. From azure beaches to zip lining through the jungle – it’s all possible. There are also some great culinary delights to indulge in and amazing local arts and crafts to admire.

Our Caribbean Cruises guide is the only tool you need when planning your next cruise adventure, we’ve filled it to the brim with useful information, hints, tips, and ideas.

Caribbean Cruise Itineraries

Caribbean cruises can vary massively in duration, as it all depends on the cruise line and where you’re coming from. As an example, Carnival frequently offer Caribbean cruises ranging anywhere from 4-to-7 nights. The likes of P&O Cruises offer 7-night and 14-night Caribbean fly-cruises and then there’s Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, they regularly offer no-fly Caribbean options which can be up to 6-weeks long.

You’ll tend to find that the shorter options for cruising the Caribbean are quite port intensive and some itineraries won’t offer any sea days. Sailings of 12-nights and up will combine a mixture of exciting port days and relaxing sea days – so there’s plenty of choice depending on what kind of cruise you’re looking for. Of course, if you want to pack in more islands, then we recommend going with a port focussed itinerary.

So, when is the best time of year to visit the Caribbean? We recommend anytime between December and mid-April as a consensus. These months are mainly part of the dry season for many of the Caribbean islands, so you’ll have less chance of rainfall and more chance of beautiful golden sunshine. The summer months will bring hot days and humid evenings, but where you are located will depend on your main weather batch. For example, July brings heavy rainfall in the Eastern Caribbean, but leaves destinations such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic relatively dry. September through November is the cheapest time of year to visit the Caribbean. Although daily temperatures are still in the comfortable 20s you are entering Hurricane season, so Mother Nature can change at the drop of a hat.

Western Caribbean Cruises

Cruises to the Western Caribbean are steeped in history, brimming with golden beaches and alive with the natural beauty of so many interesting people. Western Caribbean cruises often include ports such as Grand Cayman, Cuba, Belize, Mexico, Jamaica and Roatan. You can literally enjoy exploring the beauty of the rainforest and ancient Mayan ruins one day, to relaxing on a tropical white sandy beach the next – there’s just so much to enjoy and soak up.

Western Caribbean itineraries are all about big ports and big days, perfect for those wishing to see and do as much as possible. There will be a wide variety of shore excursions available, but we do recommend you do your homework before booking any excursions. There are many islands where you can do so many things at your own pace and at a fraction of the cost.

Cruise lines that own private islands in the Western Caribbean include:

Norwegian Cruise Line – Harvest Cay
Norwegian Cruise Line – Harvest Cay
Royal Caribbean Private Island in Labadee, Haiti
Royal Caribbean Private Island in Labadee, Haiti

Eastern Caribbean Cruises

Eastern Caribbean cruises don’t have a great deal of difference to Western Caribbean cruises if we’re completely honest. The main differences are the islands featured and the overall duration of the cruise. You’ll often find destinations such as Grand Turk, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados, Tortola, and St Maarten all feature heavily.

If flying out to join an American cruise line, you’ll often find the sailing durations are around the one-week mark for Eastern itineraries, whereas Western can range massively. However, if you’re sailing with a predominantly UK based line or sailing on a no-fly cruise, you’ll likely spend time between islands both in the east and the west.

Cruise lines that own private islands in the Eastern Caribbean include:

Royal Caribbean Private Island (Perfect Day at Cococay)
Royal Caribbean Private Island – Perfect Day at Cococay
Half Moon Cay Private Islands in the Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines/Princess Cruises/Holland America Line – Half Moon Cay Private Islands in the Caribbean
MSC Private Island - Ocean Cay Marine Reserve
MSC Private Island – Ocean Cay Marine Reserve. Photo by Conrad Schutt.
Virgin Voyages Bimini Beach Club Private Island
Virgin Voyages Bimini Beach Club Private Island
Disney Cruise Line – Castaway Cay
Disney Cruise Line Private Caribbean Island – Castaway Cay
Norwegian Cruise Line Private Island Great Stirrup Cay
Norwegian Cruise Line Private Island, Great Stirrup Cay

Must Have Caribbean Experiences

What you can do will hugely vary per island and of course, the choice of how you spend your time is entirely up to you, but these are some of the things we think you should consider if you stop at any of these islands.

Snorkelling in the Caribbean
Snorkelling in the Caribbean is a must-do experience

Tortola: spend the day at Cane Garden Bay beach. It’s stunning and there are always loungers available and delicious local foods, arts, and crafts to enjoy

St Lucia: take an hour out of your day to visit the world-famous Castries Central Market. It’s just a short walk from both cruise berths.

Jamaica: it all depends on where you dock, but whether Montego Bay, Kingston or Ocho Rios you must make a visit to Scotchies for some authentic Jerk Chicken. Doctor’s cove beach is also a must-see in Montego Bay

Antigua: put your feet up or go snorkelling from Dickenson Bay beach. You can grab a taxi from the port for as little as $10 and your driver will come back and collect you if you pre-arrange with him/her.

Belize: see some Mayan ruins! We highly recommend a day trip to take in Lamanai. The boat ride there/back is very cool.

St Maarten: take yourself to Maho Beach. Where the sand ends, the airport’s major runway starts – it’s not for the faint hearted, but it’s totally awesome!

Cozumel: shop until you drop, spend the day at a private beach club, find some Mayan ruins or even do a bar hop on the opposite side of the island – where all humans and banned after dark to allow the turtles to lay their eggs on the beach. Cozumel has it all!

Maho Beach, St Maarten in the Caribbean

Caribbean Cruise Departure Ports

There are numerous departure ports available across the Caribbean, and as previously mentioned, you can even cruise directly from the UK with several cruise lines if you’d prefer not to fly.

These are just a few of the most popular departure ports:

  • Southampton: ideal for guests who wish to save on the cost of flying. Shop to your heart’s content then drive yourself home for the ultimate no-fuss cruise holiday.
  • Miami: probably one of the most popular departure ports for a Caribbean cruise and an ideal excuse to extend your holiday post-or-pre cruise with a hotel stay in Miami Beach.
  • New York City: another popular departure port for Caribbean sailings and again, another amazing way to prolong your cruise holiday. How could you go all that way and not enjoy at least a slice of the Big Apple, right?
  • Fort Lauderdale: probably the best option if you’re travelling with young children and would maybe look to extend your trip with some time at Universal Studios. There are lots of shorter itineraries available from this port, so combining land and sea is easy to do.
  • Barbados: this is a popular embark and disembark port for P&O Cruises. The majority if not all their Caribbean sailings start and end here.

Other departure ports include New Orleans, Baltimore, and Cape Canaveral, but these are less common than their big players above.

Types of Caribbean Cruises and who sails them

Where do we even start with this topic? Whatever type of Caribbean cruise you can possibly think of is out there but let us give you the basic rundown.

Cruise lines, that seems to be a good place to start. There are numerous family friend cruise lines sailing the Caribbean including Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and Carnival. Other family friendly lines, but lines that are also ideal for couples, friends and family are P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, and Holland America Line. If you’re looking for something at a slightly slower pace and child free, then look no further than Saga Cruises and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. Virgin Voyages also offer a vibrant onboard atmosphere that’s completely tailored for adults only. The above are your main key-players when it comes to sailings in the region, however, there’s more!

Caribbean Beach

If you are looking for ultimate Caribbean cruise luxury, then let us introduce you to some of the best cruise lines in the world that offer a wide variety of itineraries across the Western and Eastern Caribbean. There’s Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea, Windstar, Seabourn, Viking Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Azamara, Crystal Cruises, Scenic Ocean and more.

If we move onto ships, there are dozens upon dozens, so finding the right one for you won’t take too much time to do. There are mega, mid-sized and small, adult-only, family friendly, and even yachts.

Caribbean Cruises 2022 and 2023

Itineraries are already available for both the Caribbean 2022 and 2023 cruise seasons and there are some amazing offers to be had! Treat yourself to a voyage aboard one of the world’s newest cruise ships, such as Celebrity Beyond (Celebrity Cruises), Wonder of the Seas (Royal Caribbean), Arvia (P&O Cruises), Discovery Princess (Princess Cruises), Viking Neptune (Viking Cruises), Resilient Lady (Virgin Voyages) Norwegian Prima (Norwegian Cruise Line) and Disney Wish (Disney Cruise Line). Not all the above cruise ships may initially sail in the Caribbean region, but at some point, they shall be ready to whizz around the tropical islands of this paradise.

P&O Arvia
New P&O Arvia will be a popular choice for the Caribbean with its vast outdoor spaces

The 2023 Caribbean Cruise season is also available to book and there are some sensational offers to be had – don’t delay as some ships are filling up quickly. The world is ready to get back to normal again and that, for a lot of people, means cruising!

Finding the Best Deals on Caribbean Cruises

Using a cruise comparison site like Hello Cruise takes the hard work out of finding the perfect Caribbean cruise. We compare the best prices offered by travel agents, allowing you to book the very best deals without having to go through numerous options with several different travel agents and cruise lines.

Booking a Caribbean Cruise & Stay package is the best of all worlds, with some fantastic inclusive deals available for 2022. Most cruise lines include flights, transfers, and a couple of nights’ pre-or-post-cruise accommodation in the cost of your cruise package. Cruise & stay packages are also available on a wide variety of 2023 Caribbean sailings.