Out to Sea published in December 2011
(c) By Jim and Barb Fox
Cruise enthusiasts say “it’s better in the Bahamas” and the Caribbean for that matter.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many times they’ve been there, done that, many people can’t resist returning to the stunningly blue clear waters and wasting away on those white sand beaches.
|Passengers from the Caribbean Princess head to shore at Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos. (Jim Fox photo) |
The allures are many: Swimming with the dolphins and parasailing; endless duty-free shopping in St. Thomas and Nassau; and the “nude” beaches of French St. Martin and the less-brash Dutch half of the island, St. Maarten .
Sip, savour and explore the Bacardi distillery in Puerto Rico; enjoy the gaming and fun of Paradise Island’s entertainment playground; and spend a leisurely day at the beach on cruise lines’ private islands.
Just unpack once and let the ship take you to a different island often each day and all with their own distinctive character and appeal.
With easily accessible departure ports from New York City all the way down to south Florida and sailings from two days to two weeks, the Caribbean/Bahamas is the world’s biggest, most popular cruise destination.
And, with so many cruise ships plying the turquoise waters, there are many very enticing prices.
“There's much more to this region stretching from south Florida to South America than sun, sand and surf,” says Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
The industry association representing the major cruise lines said there is “no other destination” that presents so many choices of cruise itineraries and lengths.
There are many back-to-back adventures offered by Holland America and other lines with a seven-day sailing, round-trip Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Florida to the Eastern Caribbean and out again for another week in the Western Caribbean.
A typical week-long cruise allows vacationers to sample these varied cultures, history and peoples at four or five different ports.
|Life’s a beach at Magen’s Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Photo by Jim Fox)|
East, west and south
The most-popular cruising waters lie from the Bahamas just off the south Florida coast and the islands defining the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The eastern Caribbean/Bahamas are the legendary playgrounds of royalty and celebrities with places rich in historic importance and cultural traditions.
There are world-class shops, entertainment and recreational opportunities along with exotic natural wonderlands.
Ships range from yacht-like luxury vessels that can navigate the less-visited smaller islands to the largest floating resorts or cities at sea.
This year-round destination has ships sailing from the popular Florida ports of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, and seasonally from eastern U.S. ports as far north as New York.
Ports of call include Nassau, San Juan, Charlotte Amalie and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
|Wasting away at Margaritaville in Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands. (Jim Fox photo)|
The western Caribbean combines some of the most vibrant cultures, natural wonders, rich historical treasures of the Mayan Empire and legendary resort areas.
Ports to visit include Key West, the southernmost point of land in the U.S., Ocho Rios, Jamaica and George Town, Grand Cayman.
Cruise ships depart year-round from all the major Florida ports, including Tampa, as well as New Orleans, Mobile, Houston and Galveston on America's Gulf Coast and Cancun, Mexico.
Down south is a less-hectic cruising experience, defined by a string of small islands from Antigua south to Trinidad and the northeastern coast of South America.
With the Caribbean's sunniest climate, ports to explore include Castries, St. Lucia; Willemstad, Curacao; Georgetown, Barbados; and the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Trinidad-Tobago and Guadeloupe.
|Whatever the weather in Grand Turk. (Jim Fox photo)|
And, the survey says
The CLIA’s most-recent survey shows the top destinations where consumers plan to take their next cruise vacation are the Caribbean, Alaska and the Bahamas.
They are followed in the top 10 by Hawaii, Bermuda, the Mediterranean/Greek Isles, Europe, Panama Canal, Canada/New England and Mexico.
|A vivid sunset on the Caribbean Sea. (Barbara Fox photo)|
The Caribbean/Bahamas is an ideal family destination, making school breaks and holiday periods among the busiest times of year.
The best deals can be found on sailings in January, late spring or September through early December.
To learn more about cruise lines sailing these itineraries, fares, deals and other information about the islands, go to CLIA’s website: www.cruising.org
Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org