Warm weather. Sunny skies. Spectacular sunsets. A cruise to the Western Caribbean offers all these perks and more. Fascinating culture, interesting architecture, exciting jungle adventures and pristine beaches perfect for lounging all await you on a Carnival cruise vacation. For the Western Caribbean, here’s a look at the best of the West to help you choose the best cruise destination for your next vacation.
The first thing you may notice upon arriving in Belize is that almost everyone speaks English. In fact, it’s the only country in Central America with English as its official language. In addition to having no language barrier, this tiny country has a big personality. It’s a melting pot of cultures, a place where Kriols, Mayans, Garifunas and Spaniards merged to create a new identity.
If you like outdoor adventures, then Belize is definitely a must-see. From the rainforest to the reef, it offers a variety of activities in the tropical sun. Go snorkeling to catch glimpses of sharks, rays and other marine life, or explore the remains of ancient Mayan towns. Sign up for deep sea fishing, tour the jungle on an ATV or ride in style on a Calypso bus tour.
The Best of Belize
Belize is home to the largest collection of Mayan ruins in central America, which means plenty of spectacular natural attractions to explore.
- Xunantunich near the Guatemalan border was one of the largest cities built by the Mayans.
- Go cave tubing along an underground river, and then zipline over the jungle.
- Relax on Starfish Private Island and enjoy a complimentary lunch.
Straddling North and South America, Panama literally serves as a bridge between two worlds. It’s the gateway city to one of the greatest marvels of human ingenuity: the Panama Canal. Spanning the 50-mile width of the narrow country, the canal is a commercial hub that is always bustling with activity.
If you love a good story about overcoming the odds, spend some time in Colón to learn all about the challenges faced to build the canal. Take a tour of the famous Miraflores Locks to see how the system works, cross the continental divide, and explore the country’s capital, Panama City. Visit an Emberá Indian village to see what life was like when the first Europeans arrived.
Top Three Activities in Colón
The Panama Canal is the area’s main attraction, and touring the canal is one of the most popular activities.
- Board a ferry for a leisurely cruise along the water.
- Take a kayak tour of the canal.
- Ride on the world’s first transcontinental railroad, and take a peek at the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on the same trip.
Once a sleepy fishing village on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Cozumel is a top stop on Western Caribbean cruises, and it’s easy to see why. White sand beaches give way to clear, turquoise water, Mayan ruins rise out of the jungle, and you never run out of things to do in and out of the water. If that’s not enough, the island has an easy-going, Bohemian vibe that invites everyone to have a great time.
If you like dreamy vacation destinations, Cozumel shore excursions are ready to take you to other worlds. Explore the island’s jungle on foot or an ATV. Get an up-close look at the vibrant marine life on a snorkeling or scuba adventure, lounge on the beach or set sail on a catamaran.
Hot Spots in Captivating Cozumel
Cozumel gives you the best of all worlds. The hottest spots highlight the natural beauty of the area, making it easy to see what attracted the Mayans thousands of years ago.
- Visit the ruins at San Gervasio, one of the most sacred sites to the Mayans and the best-preserved Mayan ruins on the island.
- Take a ferry to the mainland, where you can explore underground caverns and rivers lined with winding vines and impressive formations of stalagmites and stalactites.
- Escape to the area’s underground river for an unforgettable underground tour.
4. Grand Cayman
There’s a reason Grand Cayman is one of the most popular cruise ports in the Western Caribbean. It gives you the chance to unwind in the tropics with a taste of home. Stretches of soft, white sand casually slope into the clear waters of the Caribbean, and an assortment of American-style shops, pubs and eateries line the wharf.
This vacation wonderland is for everyone who loves being in and around the water. Sip a cocktail under the shade of a palm tree. Search for souvenirs and treasures at the duty-free shops. Spend an afternoon with the local stingrays, or cool off on a snorkeling adventure. Life’s a beach in Grand Cayman.
Top Treasures in Grand Cayman
Load up on sunscreen before stepping off the ship in Grand Cayman. All of the top attractions are outdoors.
- Relax on a boat ride to Stingray City, where you get to kiss a stingray for good luck.
- Dive the USS Kittiwake, an artificial reef that’s teeming with marine life.
- Discover a new favorite spot in the sand on Seven Mile Beach.
5. Mahogany Bay
If you’re looking for a family-friendly destination that caters to tourists, Mahogany Bay is the place for you. Designed specifically for cruise ship passengers, this port offers an assortment of resort-style entertainment and dining options. There’s plenty to do and see at the water’s edge, but you can always venture into the jungle or onto the mainland to discover even more.
The options make Mahogany Bay a great place for first-time cruisers. Sign up for a shore excursion that takes you on a jungle adventure, or stroll along the manicured streets of the port. Swim or snorkel in the clear water, or work on your tan stretched out on the sand.
Find Family Fun in Mahogany Bay
When the cruise ships dock, it’s time to play in Mahogany Bay. You just have to choose between the sea or the sand.
- Get a bird’s eye view of the island as you ride the Magical Flying Beach Chair.
- Swim with the dolphins at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences.
- Feel the rush crossing suspension bridges and riding the zipline at Extreme Adventure Park.
6. Montego Bay
Don’t be surprised if your welcome to Montego Bay includes throngs of people jamming to the sounds of a reggae band. Jamaica’s second-largest city is a vibrant place with a distinct “Don’t Worry” vibe.
If you’re traveling with family or a group of friends, Montego Bay offers something to make everyone in the crew smile. Stay in town where you can shop ’til you drop or revel at a street party. Play a few rounds of golf on one of the world-famous greens, nap in a hammock on one of the pristine beaches, or visit a historic plantation house.
Make Your Own Adventure in Montego Bay
Montego Bay is a short drive away from some of the most popular attractions in Jamaica, and those attractions are popular for good reason.
- Climb the world-famous Dunn’s River Falls, and ride a chairlift through the rainforest to the top of Mystic Mountain.
- Experience the thrill of bobsledding.
- Discover the wonders of the Rastafari culture by taking part in traditional Rastafari crafts.
Known as the gateway to the Yucatán, Progreso is a charming town along the Gulf of Mexico’s southern shore. It’s also home to the world’s longest pier, stretching out four miles into the Gulf. This small town is big on culture, and you can find plenty of it on the easy-to-walk streets.
If you travel to explore other countries, don’t miss Progreso. Unlike the meticulously developed ports for cruises in other parts of the region, Progreso maintains an air of authenticity. It’s easy to find your way around the small town, and you’d get a chance to see the way the locals live.
The Best Ways to Find Simplicity in Progreso
Yucatán is a place where worlds collide. This former home of a thriving Mayan civilization blends the ancient world with European influences.
- Spend a day touring the ancient city Chichén Itzá and its famous ruins.
- Head over to neighboring Merida to see the city’s Spanish colonial architecture and the Homeland Monument, a massive stone that tells the country’s story.
- Enjoy a tasting of an ancient Mayan liqueur, still made from an original recipe.
The best part of cruise vacations is the ability to turn them into anything you want, from romantic getaways to memorable family cruises. All you have to do is pick the destination, and Carnival will make sure you have fun on the way there.