Cruising the Caribbean
The first thing that should be obvious is visiting the Caribbean ports on a cruise actually end up sharing the vacation experiencing with just being on a major cruise ship. The ships are like an all-inclusive resort with the added advantage of moving to a new location every day. Each ship is a combination of theme restaurants, fine dining rooms, theatre entertainment, night clubs, spa experiences, pools with hot tubs, casino gambling, kids summer camp, shopping and much more. The ports of call are just icing on the cake.
There are many options in cruising into the Caribbean from selecting the cruise line, to deciding on an embarkation port and picking the cruise length and its itinerary. Generally the available cruises range from three days to fourteen and the available embarkation ports include Galveston, New Orleans, Tampa, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, New Jersey and San Juan. Most of the major lines are involved including Disney, Holland America, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and recently MSC. Ship sizes range from under 2,000 passengers to between 5,000 and 6,000 for the RCL Oasis class ships. Depending on the cabin choice and cruise line selected, prices per person range from just over $100 to thousands of dollars.
Our three preferred lines are Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Carnival but that is based on our experience. We have friends that equally prefer other lines. Over the years, because of loyalty programs and their benefits it becomes natural to settle on just a few. The benefits can include free internet, laundry, drink packages along with parties, loyalty lounges, priority boarding and more. Our first cruise which was with our children was with Royal Caribbean and we quickly discovered how family oriented they are with a great kids program as well as family activities. We have cruised a number of times with Carnival, initially because their pricing is more economical. Generally we find their passengers much younger singles and couples who tend to party all day and into the night. More recently we find ourselves cruising more often with Celebrity. We think they cater more to people looking for longer cruises to more different locations and that they represent, we believe, a notch up in service. Royal and Carnival are both in the Caribbean year round while Celebrity sails only in the winter season. Celebrity also offers more, longer cruises than the others.
In deciding which cruise to select there are common elements to all of them. Your are going to be served good food, provided a selection of excellent entertainment venues and visit some exotic places with great beaches. After that the choice is based on time available, budget and what your interests are. Another thing to consider is theme cruises and headline talent offerings. Over the past year or so Carnival has started offering cruises with a series of headliner acts on board. They have included Jay Leno, Jim Gaffigan , Tim Mcgraw, Jeff Foxworthy and more. One would think that the other lines will respond with similar offerings in the future.
Before booking our recommendation is to find a local travel agent that you can work with. The costs are the same and working with an agent can actually save you money (more on how we do it in another post).