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  • 06
  • Sep
  • 2013

Defining a Caribbean Cruise

ATTENTION: This blog was recently updated with new information in August 2019.

It sounds simple enough because a “cruise to the Caribbean” sounds like one location, right? Not exactly.

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The Caribbean is a region surrounded generally by Cuba to the north, Central America and South America to the west and south, respectively, and the islands of Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Bahamas and thousands of tiny islands along the eastern and southern Caribbean Sea border. Check it out on the map below.

caribbean map

Defining a Caribbean Cruise

Islands and coastlines bordering the Caribbean Sea are popular vacation destinations because of their beautiful beaches, crystal blue waters, great shopping, and a laid-back lifestyle that we all long for. If you’re considering a Caribbean cruise for your next vacation, it’s helpful to know what the difference is between an Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean cruise.

First of all, every cruise line defines Western, Eastern and Southern Caribbean just a little differently. But there are general terms they all agree on.

What Can I Expect From a “Western” Caribbean Cruise?

In general, a Western Caribbean cruise would sail between Cuba and Mexico and head south along the Central American coast. You can expect to stop in ports like Cozumel, Costa Maya, Belize, and Roatan. Other port stops may include  Jamaica and the Grand Cayman Islands. Sometimes the Bahamas, although technically not in the Caribbean, are included in the itinerary. A cruise to the Western Caribbean would typically depart from Texas, Louisiana, or the western or southern ports of Florida. For example, if your cruise leaves from Tampa, Galveston, or New Orleans you will most certainly be on a Western Caribbean Cruise.

Grand Caymens is a popular snorkleing and scuba diving desitination in the Caribbean.

Grand Caymens is a popular snorkeling and scuba diving destination on a Norwegian cruise in the Caribbean.

What Can I Expect From an “Eastern” Caribbean Cruise?

An Eastern Caribbean cruise typically passes through the Bahamas and often stops at the cruise line’s private island if they have one. Eastern Caribbean ports of call may include Turks & Caicos Islands, St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Kitts, St. John (USVI), St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Popular departure ports for Eastern Caribbean cruises are along the east coast as far north as New York. These ports are convenient for East Coasters who want to vacation in the Caribbean and save on airfare to Florida.

What Can I Expect From a “Southern” Caribbean Cruise?

A Southern Caribbean cruise is generally going to be longer, but there are exceptions. You should plan on a minimum of 10 days if you want to cruise the southern islands, and you can expect more time at sea. The extra time at sea makes it possible to travel to some of the smaller, less populated and remote islands in the region. For example, Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba are some popular Southern Caribbean ports.

Cococay is Royal Caribbean's own eco-friendly private island paradise.

Cococay is Royal Caribbean’s own eco-friendly private island paradise.

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