The Best Western Caribbean Cruise Guide

Why A Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary?

The Best Western Caribbean Cruise Guide – If you’re looking for adventure, the Western Caribbean should be your choice. Visit ancient ruins near Cozumel and Progreso in Mexico, snorkel around the reefs in Belize or Roatan, Honduras; or simply soak up the sun in the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.  Some new cruisers say a Western Caribbean feels exotic. The exotic part of the Western Caribbean includes the eastern coast of Central American countries Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica.  Other standard Western Caribbean destinations are Jamaica, Grand Cayman and eastern Mexico.  You can learn The Best Cruise Vacation Tips here, or visit us on Pinterest.

If you love to snorkel, Belize tops the list of ports. Divers will also want to include Belize as a port of call, but Roatan and the other Bay Islands of Honduras are world-class dive sites as well. Belize, Honduras and Guatemala are the best locations for the ruins of the Classic Mayan civilization.  Most notable is Guatemala’s Tikal and Honduras’s Copan. Tikal is offered by some ships as a shore excursion from Belize City.  Nicaragua and Costa Rica are meccas for ecotourists who love rain forests, volcanoes, white water rivers and wildlife (monkeys and parrots and crocodiles).   A Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary offers so much diversity for the cruiser.

When is the Best Time to Take a Western Caribbean Cruise?

There are ships sailing the Western Caribbean year round, but summer is the least favorable time to sail. Summer and early fall are within hurricane season, and when hurricanes do hit the eastern edge of Central America they tend to be major storms. Summer is also the rainy season — not only in the Caribbean, but anywhere in the tropics.

And then there’s the heat.  Though Panama is uniformly, brutally hot and steamy throughout the year, the farther north you go in Central America, the more seasonal differences are noticed. Since most visit Central America for ecotourism, soft adventure and exploration of Mayan architectural sites, choosing winter to travel will make your hiking, paddling or climbing more enjoyable.

Western Caribbean Cruise Itineraries

Cruise ships sailing to the western Caribbean usually embark from Florida, New Orleans or Texas. Ports of call on a Western Caribbean itinerary often include Cozumel or Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Key West; the Dominican Republic; Jamaica; Belize; Costa Rica; or Roatan. The ports of call on a Western Caribbean cruise are further apart, which means more time at sea is usually involved on a western Caribbean cruise. So, you may have more time on the cruise ship and less time in port or on the beach.

The ports of call in the western Caribbean are sometimes on Mexico, Belize,  or Costa Rica; and sometimes at larger islands including Jamaica, or the Dominican Republic.  The shore excursion options are more varied since the islands and mainland are more diverse. You can explore ancient Mayan ruins, hike the rain forests, or go snorkeling or scuba diving in some unforgettable locations.

Most of the Western Caribbean’s exotic ports that include the Banana Coast (Trujillo, Honduras), can be reached on cruises departing from any home port in North America. They also make up a large portion of Panama Canal itineraries. The only determining factor is the length of the cruise, which dictates the number of port calls possible, and the home port you will leave out of.

10 Best Western Caribbean Cruise Ports

Cozumel, Mexico

The island of Cozumel is perfect for enjoying beach, catamaran or sail-and-snorkel tours. Self-drive jungle jeeps, ATVs and dune buggy tours are a fun way to explore the island with a stop for tequila tasting and time relaxing at the beach.  Shore excursions also visit Chankanaab National Park with the chance to enjoy a dolphin encounter. Longer guided tours take in the archaeological Mayan Ruins at Tulum by ferry and minibus.   

Grand Cayman, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuideGrand Cayman

The gorgeous island of Grand Cayman offers some unique cruise shore excursions including snorkeling and diving over a sunken WW2 wreck or swimming with stingrays. Turtle Farm Tours present butterflies, sharks and other native wildlife and visitors get to handle newly hatched turtles.  There are many boat trips available in Grand Cayman including catamarans, glass bottom boats and sailboat tours or book a place on the Trolley Roger Train for a scenic tour of Georgetown.

Puerto Costa Maya Mexico, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuidePuerto Costa Maya, Mexico

Shore excursions in Costa Maya are mainly focused on sandy beaches and water sports in the clear blue Caribbean Sea. Go snorkeling, swim with dolphins or enjoy sailing on a private catamaran tour. Get to know more about the area with a City Walking Tour or opt for a Culinary Tour which explores Mexican history and cuisine with tastings! The Chaccoben Mayan Ruins and the amazing Lake of Seven Colors are well worth visiting as part of a cruise shore excursion.

Roatan Honduras, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuideRoatan, Honduras

White sandy beaches, cultural attractions and a warm welcome from locals make the island of Roatan a top choice for visitors on a Western Caribbean Cruise. Dive and snorkel in pristine waters on the world’s second longest barrier reef, swim with dolphins or take a tour of the local Iguana Farm, one of the top attractions in Roatan.  Gumbalina Park packs in local wildlife, monkeys, birds, tropical gardens and a beach. Cultural tours include a scenic drive, boat trip through the mangroves and an ancestral dance performance by Native Black Carib Indians wearing colorful native costumes.

Ocho Rios Jamaica, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuideOcho Rios, Jamaica

Jungle-clad mountains, rushing rivers and sugar plantations can all be experienced on shore excursions from Ocho Rios. One of the most popular organized tours is to Dunn’s River Falls, just a short drive from the port. Wear swimwear and scramble 600 feet up the rocks in the rushing waterfall. Or, stay dry and watch from the open viewing platforms! Jeep tours, river rafting, zip-lining, snorkeling, ATV riding and distillery tours can all be part of your fun Western Caribbean cruise to Jamaica. You’ll definitely hear the reggae beat and Bob Marley tunes everywhere.

Montego Bay Jamaica, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuideMontego Bay, Jamaica

Jamaica is a sizeable island and the only way to get a real taste of it is on an Island Tour with a local guide. Shore excursions from your cruise include river rafting, climbing Dunn’s River Falls or a private Jeep Tour. Go snorkeling, zip-lining and horseback riding in this beautiful island. A fascinating Plantation Tour allows you to sample honey, fresh pineapple and raw sugarcane!

Progreso Mexico, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuideProgeso, Mexico

Beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins, wildlife safaris and swimming in clear cenotes (sinkholes) can all be enjoyed on shore excursions in Progreso, Mexico. Take a City Tour and learn the history of Progreso or visit the historic city of Merida with its 500-year-old cathedral and plenty of shops.  History and culture combine on a tour to one of the Mayan archaeological sites including UNESCO-listed Chichen Itza with its Kukulkan Pyramid and Ball Court.

Playa del Carmen Mexico, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuidePlaya del Carmen, Mexico

In the heart of Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is a superb port of call on Western Caribbean Cruises. Endless shore excursions include swimming, snorkeling, boat trips, catamaran tours etc. For something more unusual, take a trip to the caves at Rio Secreto with their amazing stalactites or take a guided tour to the Tulum Mayan Ruins overlooking the beach and blue Caribbean Sea. 

Belize City Belize, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuideBelize City, Belize

Belize combines epic jungle experiences with the second longest barrier reef in the world.  Snorkeling, scuba diving and helicopter tours to the Blue Hole are a must for those who love water sports, and they are surprisingly affordable in Belize.  Exciting inland tours include cave tubing, rafting down a jungle river or zip-lining high above the rain forest. Hidden in the jungle are many fantastic Mayan ruins and pyramids, the most popular sites being Altun Ha and Xunantunich.

Key West Florida, The Best Western Caribbean Cruise GuideKey West, Floorida

There’s so much to see and do in colorful Key West, so taking a shore excursion is the best way to see it all. Fishing charters, parasailing, snorkeling and diving trips are popular along with jet ski tours, bicycling, kayaking, glass bottom boats and tall ship cruises at sunset.  Cruise shore excursions include Audubon House and Gardens, Hemingway Home, the Butterfly Conservatory, Truman’s Little White House and the amazing Mel Fisher Maritime Museum with its collection of shipwreck treasures.

5 Best Western Caribbean Cruise Ships

Celebrity Infinity

Set sail on Celebrity Infinity, the ship that will be turning heads. We’ll be adding new staterooms and The Retreat Sun Deck and The Retreat Lounge for our guests of The Retreat. Surrender your senses in the newly redesigned spa or shop in new retail boutiques. Whatever you choose, it’ll be the ultimate experience.

Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas

The amped up Mariner of the Seas® is packed with more ways to play on the most maxed-out short getaway ever. Launch yourself into a virtual world on a new bungee trampoline experience — Sky Pad®. Hang ten on the added FlowRider® surf simulator or race down The Perfect Storm℠ water slides. Bond over family-style Tuscan eats at Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver, or kick off date night at The Bamboo Room. Ditch the road trip for an action-packed cruise ship, with quick cruises sailing from Orlando.

Norwegian Breakaway

Get ready to be transported to a world of tropical beauty as you cruise south on the Norwegian Breakaway. Set sail from the birthplace of jazz to Harvest Caye in Southern Belize, The Caribbean’s premier island destination. Here you can enjoy an exclusive 7-acre beach and exciting shore excursions ranging from zip lining across the island to snorkeling the world’s second largest barrier reef. In Honduras, Roatán is a peaceful, eco-tourists dream. Experience the unique sights and turquoise waters of Tabyana Beach & interact with monkeys and macaws at Gumbalimba Park.

Disney Dream

Let your imagination set sail. Be front-and-center at original Broadway-caliber live shows, dine on artfully prepared meals in wondrously themed restaurants and make a splash on the AquaDuck. Combining classic beauty and modern luxury with legendary Disney storytelling, the award-winning Disney Dream invites you to embark on an unforgettable voyage where dreams really do come true.

Carnival Conquest

Cruises to the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Conquest are the very picture of paradise — the kind you see when you close your eyes and imagine a tropical nirvana. Everybody loves a good island, but that’s only half the vacation story… especially in the Western Caribbean. Sure, with a Western Caribbean cruise, you can start your daydream with offshore faves like Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel and Mahogany Bay, but you can also mix in mainland mainstays like Belize, Costa Maya and Progreso.


  1. Garen

    I’ve been thinking about going to the Caribbean for a cruise lately. So, summer would be the cheapest to go on a cruise? I don’t want it to rain all the time, though. However, how much could I expect to pay during the summer verses the winter? I’m going to be traveling from the midwest in the United States? Maybe a rough ball park figure on how much the trip is going to cost me?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Okay, I have been looking at a cruise just like this and summer is not the cheapest. When kids are out of school, thing price hikes. Best time to go is when they are in school, September and later. I have been looking for October or November for my cruise, and the prices run from $479 per person (no window), $589 (window), or about $789 (balcony). Summer will be much more than this. If you go back to the post and click on the Avoya link (they really do provide the best competitive prices), and do a search for the cruise you want. They will contact you (not bombard you) and give the quote for the cruise/time frame/cabin you are looking for. Thanks for reading Garen, and if you have any other questions, or would like help planning, please let me know.

  2. Kelly

    This is a great post Leahrae, i love it! I do a lot of travelling myself so this is definitely useful, and your photos are lovely.
    This is definitely something I will be considering when booking my next trip!

    All the best and happy travelling 🙂

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Kelly, you will love a cruise! If you need any help planning or booking, just let me know. I know I can get you a great price. Thanks for reading about a Western Cruise Itinerary

  3. Michael

    Those pyramids at Costa Maya look very tempting. My partner has a thing for Crete at the moment so that’s probably going to be our next destination.

    However she did mention a cruise a while ago so thanks for this, I will bookmark this just in case.


    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You can visit Crete on a cruise as well Michael. Kill two birds with one stone 🙂 and have a wonderful time! Please let me know if you need any further information.

  4. Bill

    This is one for the bucket list, I have been on a Med cruise, but from what I have seen a read on your site I have not lived.

    Some of the sights are amazing, I had to take a second look at the cave tubing, I thought they were in kayaks.

    The size of some of those ships, I should imagine that the ship we went on would fit inside them.

    There is certainly a lot of information in this post to help people choose a cruise.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Bill, yes you have lived! A Mediterranean cruise is awesome! I do agree though, that a Caribbean cruise is equally as nice. It has all I have done is cruise the Caribbean, well and Mexico. My goal is a Mediterranean cruise. That is what I want to do next ! Thanks for reading about a Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary.

  5. Brandon

    Wow such beautiful places! My parents plan to go on a cruise for their 30 year anny and I am sure they would love taking a look at this to get some great ideas on where to go.

    Hopefully one day I will be able to. That would be after I go to Rome though 🙂

    Bookmarked for sure!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh yes, Rome would be wonderful Brandon! Your parents are going to have a blast. Please have them check out all of my cruise information. I do think it will be helpful in deciding on a cruse. Thanks for visiting my Western Cruise Itinerary post.

  6. Eric

    Western cruise itinerary sounds like a great way to spend the winter months. I am not sure I would enjoy an adventure destination with heat and humidity in the excess of what it’s like in Iowa. I may have missed something but do you need to get inoculated before traveling to central American destinations? I know that there are some weird bugs that go around on cruise ships and want to be sure before I book something what should be considered.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks for stopping by Eric. Great question regarding shots. No, you do not need to get any shots before you visit any ports of a Western Caribbean Cruise. On ship, the main thing is to wash your hands. They have hand sanitizers in many places. And boy if you do not want more heat or humidity than in Iowa, you might be in trouble with a cruise 🙂 Definintely going to be warm weather and humid. You might enjoy an Alaskan Cruise better.

  7. Mick Krug

    Some great destinations on a Western Caribbean Cruise. Also, some places I would avoid because of crime. I won’t mention which ones. My wife and I have a preference for Grand Cayman. We’ve been there many times and know where to stay and eat. We usually rent a condo which gives you more bang for the buck than just a hotel. Plus you have the beach to yourself. Like having a private island to yourself. The cruise that goes to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel etc. would be the one to take. You can find plenty to do in those places but I think will be crowded as they are served by multiple cruise lines. But that shouldn’t scare folks away. Safety in numbers. One will have a great vacation.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I agree Mick. No matter what, anyone taking a Bahamas cruise will enjoy themselves. I would just research the ports before booking and make note of which ports sound the most interesting with the best shore excursions. I would advise anyone to go ahead and pay for the shore excursions. They are worth it. Unless you really just want to walk around, talk to the locals, eat the local food and shop. Which I have done, and I had a blast doing that as well.

  8. Robert M Doyle

    These are great tips for traveling and wonderful travel adventure ideas. I know about the rainy season having lived in Belize. I think I would pick Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Would love to explore the waterfalls and have a horse adventure! Thanks again for sharing a great travel post.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are welcome Robert, and I would also have to have Ocho Rios as one of my ports. I love horseback riding on the beach, and the waterfalls are wonderful! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  9. Jeremy

    I think I’d pick Belize City as one of my top choices as I’ve always been interested in seeing Mayan ruins and at the same time get some diving in to witness the reefs there. Aside from that being my top choice though, which location in your opinion is best to visit to get the most bang for your buck? Thanks for sharing!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I do prefer a southern or eastern Caribbean cruise. On a western Caribbean cruise, definitely Belize, Falmouth, and Ocho Rios. I would want an itinerary that included those three. I think they have so much to offer. The price is going to be similar no matter which western Caribbean cruise you take. It is a matter of choosing one with the ports you want. The price will be within $50 of each or less. Thanks for reading about a Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary.

  10. catherine

    Hi, i absolutely love reading your posts. You have so much information and seem to upload daily.
    I have always wanted to travel to the Caribbean and reading your posts every couple of days is getting me more and more enthusiastic about it. Can I ask you about the images you use. Are they mainly yours? Do you cruise often or do you live out there?
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am glad you are enjoying reading my blog. Cruising is great Catherine, and price wise, it is really probably a little cheaper than a land vacation. I do travel to a lot of the places I write about. The photos are a mix of my own, friends, and some I have bought. I do cruise, but I do like a good mix of land vacations and cruising. I am heading on a Southern cruise this winter. I can hardly wait! Thanks for stopping by and reading my Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary.

  11. William

    I’ve been on two cruises, and both were during the winter months. I thought it was mainly about cost because I was unaware of hurricane season

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You did good William! The summer is pricey, hot, and then you have the hurricanes and tropical storms. From October on is better for this area 🙂 Thanks for reading about a Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary.

  12. Justin

    I have always wanted to zipline through the forest…looks like a trip to Jamaica is in order! Thanks for the great info!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You’re welcome Justin!

  13. Stefan

    I want to go!!!

    Your article here really makes me want to go for a crouse right now. The pics of the Carribean look so beautiful.

    I love snorkeling but have never been to Belize. It looks wonderful there.

    A bit scary the big crouse ships in the small bays but somehow amazing too.

    Great article, I’ll save it to my favorite list so I can come back when the time is right 🙂

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Ok Stefan, sounds good! Please let me know when you are ready to start planning. I would love to help you get a great deal! Thanks for reading my Western Cruise Itinerary post.


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