A cruise to the Caribbean or the Bahamas is THE quintessential cruise. It could be said that, if you haven’t cruised in the Caribbean, you haven’t really cruised at all. If there’s a cruise line that doesn’t go to the Caribbean, we’re pretty sure they aspire to. The Caribbean being the gold standard in cruise vacations, it’s no surprise that Miami is the largest and busiest cruise port in the world, even if Caribbean cruises also depart from Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral (aka Orlando), Tampa, Jacksonville, Mobile Alabama, New Orleans, Galveston/Houston, and as far away as Charleston South Carolina, Baltimore, and New York City.
The Caribbean is Probably Larger Than You Think
The first thing we like to explain to people interested in cruising to the Caribbean is that the Caribbean is actually pretty darn expansive and diverse. There are 26 sovereign island nations in the Caribbean accounting for more than 7,000 islands. Cruise lines often distinguish between Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean, and Southern Caribbean cruises. And for good reason: each area offers a distinctly different experience.
Eastern Caribbean: from the US and British Virgin Islands, through the Windward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis, and Guadeloupe) and down the Leeward Islands (Dominica, Martinique, and St Lucia). In these islands you’ll find Spanish and French flavors, with a bit of British and Dutch seasoning.
Western Caribbean: the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, from Cancun in the North, south to Playa del Carmen and the island scuba destination of Cozumel, further south to Belize and Honduras, including Roatan and the Bay Islands. In these islands and beaches you’ll find a distinct Latin flavor, with beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins, and pristine waters ideal for scuba and snorkel excursions.
Southern Caribbean: the A-B-C islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, with purely Dutch influences. These islands are known for their scuba and snorkel and European style beaches (get in touch if you don’t know what we mean by that).
“Classic Caribbean”: or perhaps the “Northern Caribbean”, these are the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), and Puerto Rico. When you think of Caribbean food, this is where it comes from, but don’t underestimate the scuba and snorkeling and pristine tropical landscapes.
And with the gradual opening of Cuba to Americans, an altogether different experience is possible.
The Bahamas and the Caribbean Are Distinctly Different
Many people believe the Bahamas and the Caribbean are one in the same, or maybe that the Bahamas are an island nation in the Caribbean, but this isn’t the case. The Bahamas are a vast chain of islands to the northeast of the Caribbean, stretching east and south of South Florida, that consist of the two nations of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. Like elsewhere in the Caribbean, in the Bahamas you’ll hear reggae music and steel drums, and you’ll enjoy a similar cuisine, but a quick check of the map and you’ll see the Bahamas are separated from the Caribbean by the Windward Islands.
The Bahamas has one principle difference from the rest of the Caribbean: its beaches are the best in the world. Not even the phenomenal beaches of the Caribbean can hold a candle to some of the white sand, turquoise waters you’ll find here (in our opinion, of course). So if some beach cabana time is what you’re after, a Bahamas cruise is the cruise for you.
Best Time to Go
So this is easy: any time of year is a great time to go to the Caribbean or the Bahamas. Seriously, there’s no bad time. Well, except possibly for hurricane season (typically July to September), but only because of the possibility of trip disruptions, but that’s why you buy trip insurance this time of year.
We’d love to help you plan your Caribbean or Bahamas cruise: give us a call at (877) 585-SHIP today!