Seven Tips for Finding the Perfect Caribbean Cruise Vacation
By Katie Thompson
Going on a Caribbean cruise vacation can be a great way to satisfy your travel bug this year. The best part of a cruise is that your travel accommodations, hotel, and entertainment are all wrapped up in one! Cruises take you to new and exciting places and you get to meet lots of interesting people along the way.
Odds are you could blindly pick out a Caribbean cruise and probably end up having a good time. Just being out on the high seas and breathing the fresh salty air is enough to revive even the most worn out workaholic.
However, different people expect different things out of their vacations and a little bit of planning will go a long way. Here are a few easy tips so that you can find the Caribbean cruise vacation that is right for you.
1. Shop around
As mentioned above, you could probably choose any random cruise and have fun, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't shop around. The Caribbean is one of the most popular and affordable places to go on a cruise which means that there are lots of cruise lines out there competing for your dollar. This keeps the prices low and means that there are a lot of different options being offered
Celebrity Cruises offers a great deal on a 5-night cruise that leaves from Miami, docks in Roatan, and then heads to Cozumel, Mexico. This is a great area for scuba diving and snorkeling. If you time it right you might even be able to hit the Festival of El Cedral in Cozumel. It runs for about five days at the end of April or the beginning of May and it features fairs, traditional foods, rodeos, music and more.
Take your time and look around. Do some research on the port cities where you will be docking. Some of these places are more tourists focused, but many of them have unbelievable cultural experiences.
2. Ask an expert
You should still do as much research on your own as you have time for, but it can't hurt to ask an expert. Call a travel agent, e-mail different cruise lines, and check out multiple travel sites. If you talk to a travel agent and express to them what you are looking for, they will go on and on about options that might be right for you. This does not necessarily mean that you have to book through them, but it will certainly give you a lot of good ideas.
The best thing about talking to someone in the industry is that they know all the little details. Odds are you have never heard of the small eastern Caribbean island of Tortola, but that is one of the stops on a seven-night cruise by Norwegian Cruise Lines. Sure, you could just show up there and enjoy one of their white sand beaches. But an expert might give you a tip that Cane Garden Bay is one of the hottest surfing spots, or that the break at Apple Bay can hold a swell a lot longer than Cane Garden. Do not be afraid to ask an expert. That's what they are there for!
3. Time it right
The best deals can be found by booking six months in advance or under three weeks before you leave. Cruise lines like to fill up their rooms as far ahead as possible, but it is also possible to get great last minute deals. Traveling in May and June after the snowbirds have left and before hurricane season hits is another way to save some cash.
4. Bring the family or go it alone
Many cruise lines offer packages that are specifically tailored for families, couples, or singles. An easy way to get the most out of your trip is to search for a cruise based on who you are traveling with. A lot of lines will have activities specifically tailored for kids or mixers to get singles out there meeting one another.
Celebrity Cruises has a seven-night western Caribbean cruise that is specifically for families. It leaves from Fort Lauderdale and has stops in George Town, Cozumel, Costa Maya and Roatan.
5. Port-heavy or not?
Another thing to consider when planning your trip is whether you prefer to pack in a lot of different stops or if you would rather hang in the same place for a few days.
Royal Caribbean has a tour of the Southern Caribbean that hits a lot of spots in just seven nights. It leaves from San Juan and has stops in Bridgetown, Castries, St. John's, Philipsburg, and St. Croix.
6. What amenities are you after?
Another thing to think about is what you want your boat to offer. If you are primarily interested in seeing the sights on land then you might not need to book a room on a luxury liner. However, if you plan on spending long days at sea then it could be worth spending the extra cash and going on a boat that has a lot of amenities.
7. What do you want to do at the ports?
Some people like to spend their time at ports shopping for souvenirs. Others want to avoid the tourists and hit an obscure cultural destination.
The town of Gustavia on the island of St. Barthelemy is a stop on a 12-night cruise by Azamara Club Cruises. It offers great hiking opportunities, museums, and restaurants. Decide what you want to see ahead of time to make the most out of your time at a destination.
Caribbean cruise vacations can be a lot of fun, and with the right amount of planning they can turn into the trip of a lifetime. Just take the extra time to do your homework and decide what you really want from your trip and you will be in for a cruise you will never forget.
Katie Thompson is a freelance writer who writes about a variety of travel topics including cruise vacations.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.