The world’s largest cruising ground, the Caribbean is an ocean of delightful isles in Central America. It is famous for its tropical beauty, palm trees, colourful towns and cities, delicious cuisine, warmth, sunshine and general perfection as a holiday destination. A Caribbean cruise experience is certainly a holiday to remember, and there are many lines offering adventures there - from the aptly-named Royal Caribbean to Princess, Carnival, Holland America, Celebrity and many more.
Some of the places where cruise ships dock in the Caribbean are well-known: Nassau, Punta Cana, Cancun or the private islands like CocoCay, for example, where North Americans flock by air or sea to enjoy the wonders of sea, sand and more. The following ports are not as famous but just as wonderful, and we believe they should feature on your next Caribbean cruise itinerary.
Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands
Located on St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie offers some amazing white sand beaches, a gorgeous deep water harbour and a friendly atmosphere with great nightlife and restaurants. It is also packed with stores selling affordable gems and jewellery, and all sales on the island are duty-free, making it a little-known mecca for retail therapy under the tropical sun. Shore tours on offer in Charlotte Amalie often include highlight tours of the historical and significant spots on St Thomas, and water-based adventures like snorkelling, sailing and scuba diving.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
While Kingston and Montego Bay are the Jamaican cruise ports which spring immediately to mind, Ocho Rios offers a different perspective on this wonderful country. This relaxed former fishing village is a lovely and charming place to while away some time, and it’s also a gateway to adventure for cruisers. Shore tours by the various cruise lines and local operators offer exploration on, under and out of the water, through activities like bobsledding, river tubing and dolphin encounters. Ocho Rios is well-placed near some of the island’s most stunning waterfalls, so it is worth taking a day to marvel at these beautiful natural spectacles - hidden gems in themselves.
St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda
Sail into St John’s, and you’ll be greeted with the beautiful white baroque towers of the city’s cathedral, towering above an entrancing town that is enticingly colourful and tropical, with a cheerful rustic quality that makes it all the more welcoming to explore and enjoy. The city itself is full of life and offers plenty of shopping and dining - if you want a laid back day browsing shops and soaking up some tropical urbanity, this is a good port to pick. From St John’s, you can enjoy the island of Antigua which is ringed with gorgeous coves and has 365 beaches, one for each day of the year - as the locals will proudly tell you.
Dutch influences are evident in beautiful Willemstad, but it is undoubtedly its own place. Waterways and row houses give hints of Amsterdam, while the warm sun, bright colours, beaches and rainforests beyond are all one hundred percent Caribbean goodness. Located right down at the bottom of the region near the coastline of mainland Venezuela, Curacao is a little out of the way for many cruise lines but well worth the voyage. It’s a multicultural melting pot, with cultural attractions to match its natural ones. From the Maritime Museum and the UNESCO-listed inner city and harbour area to snorkelling in turquoise waters and walking through the jungle, there is so much to do in this Southern Caribbean hotspot.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch-colonised half of the island of Saint Martin/St. Maarten. The island is duty-free, making it favoured amongst those who like to shop, and the town offers some great bars and a buzzing social scene - particularly along the beach boardwalk. The real undercover gems in and around Philipsburg, however, are the adventure activities available: ziplining (“Flying Dutchman”), sailing, jet boating, scuba, helmet diving, historical bike tours and much more. Famously, the planes landing at St. Maarten’s airport swoop in low right over Maho Beach, so this part of the island is a must-visit for planespotters. Anyone who wants to take in some incredible tropical views as well as inducing a little adrenaline should certainly find a cruise that stops at Philipsburg.
With a refreshed list of places to visit in and around the world’s biggest and busiest cruising ground, why not head over to our page of Caribbean cruise deals and find one that hits all the gems you’d like to experience?