Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary

Why A Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary?

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.

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.

Western Caribbean Cruise Ports

Amapala, Honduras

Amapala is located on the volcanic island of Isla del Tigre in the Gulf of Fonseca and is a newcomer to itineraries that include Central America.   A cruise facility is expected to open in Amapala in 2018, and as part of a multi-million dollar project to refurbish the area, the port's existing dock has been upgraded, along with three local parks.

Amapala Hondurus, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals, Ampala Cruise Port

Belize City, Belize

Diving is Belize's main claim to fame due to an almost unbroken line of reefs and cayes extending for 150 miles along its coast that make up the longest reef system in the Western Hemisphere (and the second longest in the world). While many cayes are tiny and uninhabited, some like Ambergris Caye are sufficiently large to have built resorts that attract divers from around the world.

Several important Mayan sites on the mainland, such as Altun Ha and Xunantunich, make for excellent day trips and are included on shore excursions by most cruise ships. As a matter of fact, Belize has the highest concentration of Mayan sites of all the countries in Central America.

Belize City, with its wooden and brick buildings, exudes some colonial charm but the downtown area also has many seedy neighborhoods, and tourists should beware of walking around the city after dark. For cruise passengers, Belize City is primarily a jumping-off point for tours and excursions to its many natural and historical attractions.

Belize City, Belize, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals, Belize Cruise Port

Costa Maya, Mexico

Costa Maya is located on a peninsula along Mexico's Caribbean coast, about 100 miles south of Playa del Carmen.  It feels like a private island created exclusively for cruisers. And that's because it was developed solely to woo cruise lines, and everything, including the man-made malecon, a beachfront pedestrian path in nearby Mahahual, a beach club used for shore excursions, was created with passengers in mind.

Costa Maya Mexico cruise port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is Mexico's largest and most populated Caribbean island. Cozumel is a major cruise port that welcomes more than one million cruise passengers each year, and as many as eight ships per day. But Cozumel has held onto its non-touristy side; with only one-third of the island that has been developed, leaving large stretches of pristine jungle and sandy beaches basically untouched.

Cozumel Mexico Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Falmouth, Jamaica

The Falmouth Cruise Port is located in Jamaica's north coast town of Falmouth, the capital of Trelawny parish. Falmouth's two-berth port is a triangular peninsula that can accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world with a very short walk of the city's historic Georgian sights.  Many cruisers never go beyond the gates of the port, where a crowded outpost of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville has a pool, swim-up bar, and mini version of Dunn's River Falls, not to mention a hot tub shaped like the bowl of a margarita glass. A good number leave for the day in a bus or cab to go on one of the numerous excursions offered by cruise lines; there are also local guides and drivers that you can engage on the spot.

Lovers of local flavor will enjoy interacting with restaurant staffers and merchants, watching chattering schoolchildren in uniforms hurrying home, or sampling barbecue-like jerk chicken or a Jamaican patty — a pastry filled with meat, chicken or vegetables.

Falmouth Jamaica Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Think of a stereotypical cruise port — one with white-sand beaches, duty-free shops selling jewels and liquor, and water activities like snorkeling and scuba, and Grand Cayman will likely come to mind. This might just be based on the destination, with its lovely Seven Mile Beach, George Town's retail center and plenty of sites for diving, snorkeling and other water sports. Grand Cayman also celebrates marine life at Stingray City and the Cayman Turtle Farm.

There is a negative side to this port…..the crowds. It's not unusual to find five mega-ships (and can be up to 9!) docked in the harbor at the same time.  This makes the tendering process slower than usual and the downtown streets jam-packed. The constant influx of cruise passengers keeps the waterfront restaurants bustling, so lunch in port is never a cheap affair. A stroll along the beach quickly turns into an obstacle course of sunbathing tourists, sandy children and water sports vendors.

You have two choices:  embrace the crowds and touristy places with a laid-back island mindset, or escape them. Secluded beaches, like Cayman Kai or Rum Point, are a cab ride away, and even Seven Mile Beach has its less crowded spots.  The seemingly endless stretches of sea never feel too congested when you're swimming peacefully above coral formations.

Grand Cayman Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Montego Bay, Jamaica

The north coast town of Montego Bay makes for a very lively and colorful welcome to Jamaica for the many visitors who arrive here by air or sea. MoBay, as it's called, offers a steady schedule of food and cultural festivals, and some of the Caribbean's most entertaining beaches (offering water sports, waterfront bars and more) cover its shores. Add in golfing, duty-free shopping and easy access to the island's active adventures, and visitors can have as lazy or as action-packed of a day as they choose.

Montego Bay Jamaica Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Ocho Rios is situated on the northern coast of the island of Jamaica. Ocho Rios is best known for its abundance of waterfalls. Here you will find the Caribbean's trademark warm sands and turquoise waters. Past the shoreline is a rain forest that covers the mountainous landscape. The lush tropical foliage makes it easy to see why Saint Anne Parish is known as the “garden parish.”

Slightly past the cruise port, the town of Ocho Rios offers plenty of craft vendors, duty-free shopping bargains, open-air eateries and happening bars on its two main drags: Main Street and DaCosta Drive. Primary points of interest and attractions are Dunn's River Falls, Mystic Mountain and James Bond Beach and are all a short five- to 20-minute taxi ride away.

Ocho Rios Jamaica Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Playa del Carmen (Calica), Mexico

Calica, the newest gateway to the Yucatan Peninsula, is located just three miles south of Playa del Carmen and right next door to the incredible Xcaret nature park, one of the most popular attractions on the entire peninsula. If you're a diver or a snorkeling enthusiast, you'll be fascinated by the brilliant colors of Calica's underwater world. Or you can just enjoy basking in the sun on one of the many beautiful beaches.

Playa del Carmen Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Progreso, Mexico

Progreso began its life as a port town in 1871 and has continued to grow over the decades — particularly after a 4-mile-long pier was installed in 1989 — but it's not the bustling port that passengers will see throughout other parts of the Caribbean and Mexico. In fact, aside from the throngs of out-of-town vendors that converge when a cruise ship is in port once or twice a week, it can be pretty sleepy.  The city center of Progreso is about 5 miles long by 10 blocks and encompasses the Malecon ocean promenade; a small marketplace, or mercado; and the still-active 1893 lighthouse, Faro de Puerto Progreso (the inside is not accessible). A tour of Progreso won't take more than 45 minutes, and after that: la playa (the beach!).

Progreso Mexico Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Roatan, Honduras

Roatan is one of Honduras' Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahia). The Bay Islands are an above-water adjunct to the barrier reef that is their key tourism draw; most people come here for the snorkeling and diving. You can also find shore excursions exploring the forest canopy (including what has become the ubiquitous zipline experience), kayaking, visiting Gumbalimba Park, or just kicking back on Tabyana Beach (bring your strongest bug repellent!).

Roatan Hondurus Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala

There are three areas of interest for cruisers going ashore in Guatemala: eco/adventure tourism, ancient Mayan ruins of the Classic Era, and tropical agriculture and modern Guatemalan history.  Some cruise lines offer an excursion by air to the Mayan site of Copan in Honduras, known as “the Paris of the Mayan World.” For those wishing to see ruins at a more affordable price, a shore excursion to Quirigua National Park, lasts about 4.5 hours and costs significantly less. For those looking to spot birds and exotic plants, there is kayaking or boating on various rivers, like the Rio Dulce.

Santo Tomas de Castilla Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

Puerto Limon, Costa Rico

Costa Rica is most well known for it's ecotourism.  Cruisers can participate in self-guided kayaking tours or canoe trips through lakes and estuaries paddled by experts. Costa Rica has three ranges of volcanic mountains with several active volcanoes, and  you can take a shore excursion to visit Arenal Volcano. Rain forest tours include hiking at ground level or across suspension bridges in the canopy; you can also take an aerial tram tour near the capital, San Jose.

Puerto Limon, Costa Rico Cruise Port, Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary, Western Caribbean Cruise Ports, Western Caribbean Cruise shore excursions, best cruise deals, cruise deals

26 Comments

  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?

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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 🙂

    Reply
    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

      Reply
  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.

    Cheers,
    Michael.

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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 🙂

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You’re welcome Justin!

      Reply
  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 🙂

    Reply
    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.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On PinterestCheck Our Feed