The Best Eastern Caribbean Cruise Guide – An Eastern Caribbean Cruise Itinerary offers the most choices for cruising. Almost every cruise line offers some type of itinerary that either concentrates on the Eastern Caribbean or at least visit one or two ports. Not only can you depart from the area’s main ports (Miami or Fort Lauderdale), but include other ports on the east coast from New York City to Charleston. You can even start your cruise in Europe, during repositioning in spring and fall.
Eastern Caribbean trips range from a three- or four-night cruise to 10 nights and beyond. Travelers can choose cruises that range all budgets. From an inexpensive cruise to an ultra luxury one. For the most part, the Eastern Caribbean includes the British and American Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten and St. Martin. Sometimes included is the Bahamas and Grand Turk. Many itineraries also include a private island stop at Labadee (Royal Caribbean), Half Moon Cay (Holland America), Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian Cruise Line), or Princess Cays (Princess Cruises).
Long-time cruisers might yawn at the idea of an Eastern Caribbean cruise that usually includes St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Nassau, as well as San Juan. But this area is great for first-time cruisers, because these ports of call, are some of the most developed for tourists. You will find plenty of organized activities, water sports, duty-free shopping, and historic site tours. You can learn The Best Cruise Vacation Tips here, or visit us on Pinterest.
Best Time for an Eastern Caribbean Cruise
High season for an Eastern Caribbean Cruise runs from December thru April. This time is popular for tourists from the U.S., Canada, and Europe when winter is cold. Some cruise lines do offer summer cruises in the Caribbean, which is becoming a family oriented destination. Weather temperatures are only going to vary slightly from winter to summer in the Caribbean. Keep in mind that cruise companies lower the rates once kids are back in school. This is when you will find your bargains. Please note that Hurricane seasons runs from June thru November. August – October is traditionally the storm months. and extreme weather could make your cruise vacation problematic.
Eastern Caribbean Cruise Itineraries
If you are planning a short cruise, and you can go anytime, several cruise lines such as Carnival, Disney, Norwegian and Royal offer a year-round selection out of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral. Traditional Eastern Caribbean Itineraries offer a wide range of ships that serve the region on traditional seven-night sailings departing from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Port Canaveral. There are plenty of options to choose from. Heading to Florida is no longer a requirement for people who want an Eastern Caribbean cruise. Baltimore, New York, Charleston and Jacksonville have become home bases for several Caribbean sailings, both short and long. Because of the extra time it takes to get down to the islands, expect a few more sea days and weather that might not be the warmest until you reach a lower latitude.
Top 10 Eastern Caribbean Cruise Ports to Visit
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is a popular port of call for Eastern Caribbean cruises. A pleasant blend of old and new, the compact colonial city is just a short stroll from the pier. Within the historic walled city, the 16th century El Morro military fort presides over the town and can be visited as part of a City Walking Tour with a local guide. Most cruises have a host of shore excursions including culinary tours, zip lining, horseback riding and caving. Fun Segway tours are available along with kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving trips.
Phlipsburg, St. Maarten
If you want to see both the French and Dutch parts of St Maarten, you will need to book an Island Tour to get around. Cruises offer the usual beach, snorkeling, Scuba diving and waters ports tours as well as mountain biking and visiting a butterfly farm. It’s a short water taxi ride or a 20-minute walk along the road to the designer shops, waterfront market and beach in Phlipsburg, capital of the Dutch side of St. Maarten.
Charlotte Amelie, St Thomas, U.S.Virgin Islands
St Thomas is a cosmopolitan cruise port that can accommodate up to six ships. You might want to consider a shore excursion to escape the crowded pier area! City and Island Tours introduce visitors to the island’s history and architecture while foodies will love the St Thomas Rum and Food Tour. Coral ledges and walls provide excellent snorkeling and diving or book a Snorkel and Sail experience around nearby St John for a relaxing half-day on the water. Boat charters, catamaran trips and lagoon kayaking trips can all be booked from your cruise excursion desk as part of your Eastern Caribbean cruise.
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Tortola is a premier sailing destination and many private yachts offer full and half-day sailing tours around the neighboring islands. The mountainous island is one of the safest, friendliest and driest in the Caribbean. With few rivers and run-off, the surrounding waters have exceptional visibility making Tortola a top choice for snorkeling and diving tours. There are several wreck diving sites including the RMS Rhone, sunk in 1867. Catamaran cruises usually include snorkeling, a light lunch and a rum punch.
Haiti is on the mountainous western side of the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic to the east. Amber Cove offers a day of sand, sea and water sports in a private beach resort atmosphere as part of Eastern Caribbean cruises. Book your own beach bungalow on Nellie’s Beach and sip the local tipple – a Labadoozie – or enjoy stunning sea views from the Dragon’s Tail Coaster Ride. Fun water sports such as kayaking, snorkeling. speed boat rides and parasailing can be booked ahead of time to make the most of this beautiful port of call.
St. Maartin, St. Martin
St. Maarten is the Dutch side of an eastern Caribbean island with two distinct cultures–Dutch and French. Philipsburg on the Dutch side is the hub, with streets crammed with duty-free jewelry shops, electronics and liquor. Marigot is the capital of the French St. Martin, and is filled with designer boutiques and fabulous restaurants, bistros and cafes. Don’t miss Sunset Bar & Grill, which sits at the end of the runway at Princess Juliana International Airport.
Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
The small island of Grand Turk is a perfect port of call for those wanting some amazing water sports as part of their Eastern Caribbean cruise. Pre-book a cruise excursion snorkeling and diving, kayaking or swimming with stingrays in the clear warm waters on the coral reef. Catamaran cruises are a peaceful way to appreciate the tranquility and natural beauty of Grand Turk. Other shore excursions include guided walking city tours, island tours, ATV and Segway Tours and self-drive Dune Buggy excursions.
Basseterre, St Kitts
Eco-adventurers on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise will love what St Kitts has to offer. Shore excursions include dolphin encounters, kayak safaris, hiking and zip lining in the rain forest, visiting historic plantations and riding the double decker St Kitts Scenic Railway. Island Tours are a good way to learn about plantation history and the charming villages, lush scenery and volcanic peaks are breathtaking. Tours are also the easiest way for those interested in military history to visit Brimstone Hill Fortress. This 18th-century British stronghold is one of the best-preserved military structures and the views are definitely worth a photo.
The upscale island of Barbados has first-rate attractions including the UNESCO-listed capital, Bridgetown with its Parliament Buildings and Museum. Island tours combine amazing scenery with a taste of history and culture including a stop at the Mount Gay Rum Bottling Plant. Atlantic Submarine Tours offer undersea adventures which youngsters will love.
Castries, St Lucia
If you get the chance to visit, St Lucia is a stunning port of call on longer Eastern Caribbean cruises. This lush volcanic island has many unique attractions including the drive-in volcano, sulfur springs and lush botanical gardens. Catamaran tours offer the chance to see the island’s twin volcanic peaks, the Pitons, from the sea while the rain forest Aerial Tram Tour sails through the treetops. Popular cruise tours include snorkeling and diving expeditions and whale watching in the migratory season.
St John’s, Antigua
Known for its sandy beaches and UNESCO-listed Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua has plenty to offer visiting cruisers. Official tours are an excellent way to explore the island’s highlights including Devil’s Bridge and Betty’s Hope, a sugar estate with windmill. The Antigua Experience includes visiting a private home, a pineapple farm and ends at the beautiful beach. Go zip lining and horseback riding or enjoy sailing and snorkeling experiences on organized tours. RCI also offers a Taste of Antigua Rum Tour.
Most Popular Eastern Caribbean Cruises
The Celebrity Summit reached the peak of modern luxury with a grand makeover in March 2016. Their first Rooftop Terrace provides a chic new way to experience the great outdoors with creative cocktails, favorite snacks, and movies alfresco. Craving Italian? Tuscan Grille serves up fresh pasta and succulent dry-aged steaks. Enjoy a unique dinner at the innovative Qsine®, then top off the night with a chilled Peartini at the ice-topped Martini Bar. The Penthouse and Royal suites have glimmering new marble touches, elegant fixtures, plush seating, and more. Celebrity Summit has the privilege of being captained by first American woman to command a cruise ship, Captain Kate McCue.
Enjoy sweeping views from one of more than 1,400 balconies on Regal Princess or stroll on the SeaWalk®, a glass-floor walkway extending 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship! From the tranquil Sanctuary, a retreat reserved for adults, to the dazzling Princess WaterColor Fantasy light and water show and more, you’ll find diversions for every mood. On every Princess ship, you’ll find so many ways to play, day or night. Explore The Shops of Princess, celebrate cultures at their Festivals of the World or learn a new talent — their on board activities will keep you engaged every moment of your cruise vacation. Original musicals, dazzling magic shows, feature films, top comedians and nightclubs that get your feet movin’ and groovin’. There’s something happening around every corner; luckily, you have a whole cruise of days and nights to experience it all.
Even before its January 2017 makeover — which welcomed Carnival favorites like Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, the Alchemy Bar and Bonsai Sushi — Carnival Dream had a lot to love. The ship is one of the biggest in Carnival’s fleet with dining options abound, and you’ll never be bored with activities ranging from themed trivia and charades to comedy shows and top-deck dance parties. Carnival Dream offers something that can be hard to find on other ships of its size: a place to escape all the action. The Lanai Promenade, a wraparound exterior walkway on Deck 5, has ample seating and four cantilevered hot tubs, yet never seems to get crowded, even on sea days.
Long, narrow, sleek as a knife and very fast, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride, launched in 2002, is the second ship in the cruise line’s Spirit Class. Carnival’s long-time interior designer, Joe Farcus, chose Icons of Beauty as the ship’s theme: beauty in life, beauty in art, beauty in the world’s architecture, beauty in the human body and in the human spirit. At 963 feet, with 1,062 passenger cabins, 14 bars and lounges, four pools and five hot tubs, this ship was made for active participation. Carnival’s passengers come onboard knowing that they will have access to 24-hour partying, food and entertainment. A large and well-equipped kids’ center, Camp Carnival’s Fun Club, is one of the line’s signature features, luring families with kids of all ages: Everyone gets to play.
Borrowing its name from the city of New Amsterdam (now known as New York City), this 2,106-passenger member of the Holland America fleet is famous for its extensive art collection valued at more than $3 million. Guests can admire works from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein through a complimentary self-guided iPod tour. Passengers can also pass the time by the pool or in the Greenhouse Spa, while more enriching programs include the new America’s Test Kitchen, the BBC Earth Experiences and photography classes in the Digital Workshop, powered by Windows. While the ship offers youth clubs for kids ages 3 to 17, most activities are geared towards adults. When it comes to dining, guests can choose from nine restaurants, including the popular Sel de Mer French seafood restaurant and the new Master Chef’s Table Pop Up that’s available on sailings of eight nights or more.