Choosing a cruise itinerary may seem overwhelming at times — after all, there are just so many gorgeous islands and ports you could visit. To simplify your family vacation planning, it can help to first zero in on a region you’d like to check out and go from there. When it comes to finding a region that has it all—a range of cultural experiences, activities for all ages, and beaches of all shapes and sizes—it’s hard to beat the Southern Caribbean. This part of the world is dotted with the islands of your dreams and when you cruise to the Southern Caribbean, you get to visit as many of them as you can handle in one trip.
We’ve found some of the best ports of call in the Southern Caribbean for a variety of interests and experiences.
Where to Go For…
The Best Starting Point: San Juan
Puerto Rico’s location, about 1,000 miles southeast of Miami, puts you in an ideal position for exploring the Southern Caribbean’s most naturally beautiful islands, like Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Kitts. The island’s capital, San Juan is a historic beauty with plenty of charm to uncover, and it’s also a great starting point for a cruise to the region’s other standout destinations. Carnival Fascination, which sails year-round from San Juan to the Southern Caribbean, has itineraries ranging from three to seven days. Embarking from San Juan gives you the chance to experience Puerto Rico for a little longer, whether you’re looking to discover its natural attractions like the beaches, learn more about its history at sites like the fortress of San Felipe Del Morro or indulge in the authentic local dishes.
Excellent Diving: Barbados
The bad luck of past ships is the modern diver’s good fortune in Barbados, which has hundreds of ship wrecks that make for unique dives. The most famous and popular wrecks can be found in specially created underwater areas, such as the Folkestone Underwater Park and Carlisle Bay Marine Park. Barbados also has some easily accessible coral reefs, such as Asta Reef and Dottins Reef—and for those who prefer leisure time above water, some of the Caribbean’s best beaches, like Crane Beach and Silver Sands, are located nearby.
Dramatic Natural Landscapes: St. Lucia
When you sail into port at St. Lucia, you may think you’ve entered a scene from one of the famous dinosaur park movies. Lush green vistas greet you in every direction, and the best way to experience St. Lucia is to venture deep into its natural beauty. The most captivating of the island’s scenic hills and mountains are the Grand Pitons, which rise 2,600 feet above sea level. The pair of volcanic peaks, Gros Piton and Petit Piton, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and when you set eyes on them, you’ll see why there’s nothing quite like these beauties! Other natural highlights in St. Lucia include Sulphur Springs, where you can take a warm mud bath, the Jacquot Trail, Piegon Island National Park, and the picturesque Marigot Bay. And don’t forget downtown Castries near the pier, where you can shop and delight in local cuisine.
Action with a View: St. Kitts
On the island of St. Kitts, you don’t need to choose between breathtaking vistas and adrenaline-filled activities. That’s because when you sign up for an action-packed shore excursion here, your adventure is bound to include some of the best views in the Southern Caribbean. You can check out views of Brimstone Hill National Park and Mount Liamuiga on your way to your zip-line, look out over the rainforest or sister island Nevis when you take a 4×4 off-road tour, and get up close and personal with Friars Bay and Frigate Bay Beach when you learn to stand-up paddleboard. Looking to explore the island at a more leisurely pace? Hop aboard the St. Kitts Scenic Railway—affectionately known as the Sugar Cane Train—for a comfortable way to get your bearings and learn about the island’s history along the way.
Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice: Grenada
It’s known as the “Isle of Spice,” so you’ll want to arrive in Grenada with a healthy appetite. The island’s rich volcanic soil makes conditions perfect for producing excellent nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and allspice—and you can learn all about it on tours to Dougaldston Spice Estate and Gouyave Nutmeg Station. If you have more of a sweet tooth, consider an excursion that stops at Carlton Cocoa Station, where you can learn how cocoa is cured and sample the local variety. Grenada is also known for delicious Caribbean specialties like “oil down”—a dish of fresh fish served with breadfruit, “Cou cou pois” (a corn flour and vegetable side) and “lambie souse”—conch in broth.
And then there’s…
Even more Southern Caribbean destinations you can cruise to:
Martinique: A French influence, towering peaks, tropical rainforest and lush gardens make this island an exotic wonderland ripe for discovery.
St. Thomas: The gateway to the U.S. Virgin Islands has a fascinating history, excellent shopping and plenty of fun-in-the-sun activities for cruisers.
St. Maarten: A European experience with a tropical twist, the Dutch half of this dual-nation island has beautiful beaches and some of the Caribbean’s best shopping.
Dominica: A nature-lover’s paradise, where you can hike past waterfalls, fly through the rainforest and soak in hot springs—or simply hit the beach.
Aruba: Dutch heritage and a bustling downtown will please city explorers while a unique mix of beaches and sand dunes will keep action-lovers occupied.
Curacao: A colorful, cosmopolitan island ideal for foodies, shoppers and beach lovers.
Whether you’re looking for a wide range of cultural experiences, activities for the whole family or the best beaches in all of the Caribbean, you will be hard pressed to find a region better than the Southern Caribbean.