By John Metcalfe
Comprising of around 50 islands (750 if you count the archipelago of the Bahamas), the Caribbean is a real treasure trove when it comes to cruising. A rich variety of vistas, people and places await, along with swaying palms and idyllic beaches of golden sand. The network of islands in the Caribbean is in fact so extensive that it is possible to book several Caribbean cruises and avoid going to the same islands twice!
There are four basic Caribbean cruise routes used by cruise operators:
Western Caribbean Cruise Route - Departing from seaports in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, the Western Route takes in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, the island of Cozumel, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and any number of islands off the coasts of Honduras and Belize.
Eastern Caribbean Cruise Route - One of the most popular Caribbean cruise routes, the Eastern Route typically departs from Florida and other seaports along the eastern seaboard of the United States. The route calls on destinations such as Key West, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands the Virgin Islands (including St. Thomas and St. Croix), and Puerto Rico.
Southern Caribbean Cruise Route - This route normally commences at San Juan in Puerto Rico, and takes in many possible destinations along the Lesser Antilles and the Netherlands Antilles as far west as Aruba.
Exotic/Long-duration Caribbean Cruise Route - This route takes in any/all of the above destinations, and can sometimes end in a different place to where the cruise started.
Given this broad assortment of destinations available in the Caribbean, it can be a bit overwhelming when trying to make that crucial decision on which islands to fit into your itinerary. After all, you don't want to miss out on some true Caribbean gems, do you? So,
whether you're planning a short vacation or a longer cruise break away from home, here is a selection of 'must-sees' & 'must-dos' on your Caribbean adventure.
St Croix (Virgin Islands) - Take a night kayak trip in Salt River National Park and visit the first landing site of Christopher Columbus on his voyage to the New World.
Grenada - Although ravaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Grenada is still well worth a visit for its scuba diving. You can explore the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean here and see an underwater volcano.
St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) - The Cinnamon Bay National Park offers excellent snorkeling opportunities. You can see a wealth of underwater life in the shallow waters around St. Thomas.
Jamaica - Why not try your hand at bamboo rafting in Montego Bay?
Puerto Rico - No Caribbean cruise would be complete without a visit to the world famous Condado Beach on the island of Puerto Rico.
Aruba - Want to find Caribbean paradise? How about relaxing on one of the 365 beaches that surround the Dutch island of Aruba.
St Kitts - Swim with the turtles in the waters around St Kitts and then relax on the pink sand beaches on this beautiful island.
Good luck with planning your trip and happy cruising.
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