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Must-Know Tips for a Perfect Southern Caribbean Cruise

The Southern Caribbean is a delightful and diverse destination for a cruise. The region includes hundreds of islands, more than 20 of which are featured among Carnival’s itineraries. If you’re planning a cruise to the Southern Caribbean, you definitely want to know about all the things to do there.

The great news is there are almost endless options for unforgettable adventures. Whether your ideal activity is sunbathing on a beautiful beach, discovering exotic things to eat while strolling cobblestone streets, or admiring pristine coral reefs on a diving excursion, the Southern Caribbean has it all.

carnival conquest docking in the southern caribbean port of curacao as the sun sets

The Best Time for a Southern Caribbean Cruise

If you’re seeking sunshine and fun outdoor activities, any time is a good time to visit the Caribbean. Temperatures are warm all year round, although fall and winter months are a little cooler than spring and summer (think low-70s to mid-80s, rather than high-80s and 90s). Winter months are drier.

The best time to go on a cruise to the Southern Caribbean really depends on your personal schedule and preferences. December through April is the most popular season for snowbirds trying to avoid the winter weather of the north.

On the other hand, school breaks present great opportunities for family vacations, and there are lots of things for kids and teens to do on board and in port. And over Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year, Carnival’s cruise ships are all decked out for festive fun.

parents playing on a beach in the southern caribbean with their daughter

Departure Ports for Southern Caribbean Cruises

Carnival offers seven departure ports for Southern Caribbean cruises. Two are in the Caribbean–Barbados and San Juan, Puerto Rico–which for most, means arranging flights. We make that easy with airport transportation options. There are also five stateside departure ports to consider:

man on a cruise port, getting ready to board a cruise ship with his luggage

Do U.S. Citizens Need a Passport for a Southern Caribbean Cruise?

Here’s a great Caribbean cruise tip: U.S. citizens don’t necessarily need a passport to cruise there. For closed-loop cruises to the Caribbean (starting and ending at the same port), U.S. citizens only need a birth certificate and (if over 16) a government-issued I.D. to re-enter the United States.

Know, however, that some Southern Caribbean countries, among them Barbados, Guadalupe and Martinique, require a passport for entry and exit.

Southern Caribbean Port Highlights

Ports in the Southern Caribbean are diverse in terms of history, culture and landscape, making the region especially intriguing. The small islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe retain a French feel, while the Dutch culture is strong in St. Maarten and the ABC islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. In Dominica, Antigua and Grenada, the British influence is still very much evident.

Top attractions include UNESCO World Heritage sites like Brimstone Hill Fortress in St. Kitts, the Naval Dockyard in Antigua, historic Willemstad in Curacao and Bridgetown in Barbados. If you love getting out into nature, incredible landscapes include the lush rainforests of Martinique, St. Lucia and Guadeloupe. Grenada is known for its many waterfalls.

aerial view of saint maarten as the sun sets

St. Thomas and neighboring St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands are famous for world-class sailing, and visitors to St. Thomas might sip Champagne and sail on a catamaran at sunset. In Grand Turk, you can swim with stingrays and snorkel over a pristine reef.

The ABC islands are top snorkeling and diving spots as well. If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure on land, try a zip-lining excursion, such as the extreme zip line adventure in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

Southern Caribbean Cruise Itineraries

Southern Caribbean itineraries range from seven to 14 days and dock at three to eight different islands. Those departing from Barbados and Puerto Rico feature fewer full days at sea with every other day at a new destination. However, some passengers prefer extra time on board (featured on cruises from Florida and the East Coast) to enjoy all the fun parties, clubs, dining and activities.

view of a castle wall near the shore of san juan, puerto rico

What to Pack for the Southern Caribbean

The Southern Caribbean is sunny year-round, but there’s always a possibility of rain, so you should consider packing a lightweight rain jacket along with your summer clothes. Carnival has a casual dress code, but most cruises feature at least one cruise elegant night when guests are asked to dress up a little.

You might also like to bring fancier clothes for special dinners, dancing and deck parties.

If you think you’ll spend a lot of time swimming in the pool or sea, bring several swimsuits so you never need to put a damp one on. Also, pack a cover-up or two that can take you from pool or beach to shopping or restaurants without needing to change. Sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are essential, as are sandals.

But remember comfy walking shoes for exploring in port. If you might go zip-lining, horseback riding, hiking or on an ATV excursion, closed-toe shoes are required. A small backpack to bring sightseeing is useful. Don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs.

mother and her 2 girls in their stateroom getting ready to go to the onboard pool

Ready to Cruise to the Southern Caribbean?

Any good Southern Caribbean guide will tell you all you need to know about the region, but you really can’t imagine its incredible beauty until you sail there yourself.

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.