This is my guide to cruising in the Caribbean, which contains some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
Why should you book a Caribbean cruise vacation?
Good food – one of the best things about cruising is the food. There is a ton of variety and options for everyone. You can choose to eat at the various buffets and food counters throughout the ship or enjoy a more formal meal in the lunch or dining rooms. The menus for the formal dinner usually include chicken, steak, ribs, pork, fish and shrimp as staples with lobster, duck, or veal served on occasion.
Good service – the crew of the ship will take good care of you. Whether it be your waiter in the dining room, your room steward, the bartenders, the entertainers or the cleaning crew, all of them will go out of their way to make your cruise pleasant and enjoyable. I have always found the crew on a cruise ship friendly and very professional. Interacting with them is part of the whole experience.
On board activities – there are so many things to do on a cruise ship. From fine dining, taking in a show, participating in a game or trivia, dancing, gambling, working out, socializing, swimming, sun bathing and more. You’ll never run out of things to do aboard a cruise ship.
Visit exotic destinations – places like Cayman Islands, Jamaica, USVI, BVI, St Marten, St Kitts, Antigua, Barbados, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Honduras and more. Any of these destinations will cost you $1,500 – $5,000 (or more) per person to visit on a week long destination trip. Cruising makes these places accessible for a much cheaper price. In most cases you are able to enjoy what each place has to offer over the 1 or 2 days that you are in port.
Who should not book a cruise vacation
If you don’t do well on boats – if you get sea sick very easily then a cruise vacation may not be for you. Even larger cruise ships rock back and forth with the eb and flow of the ocean which you can feel. Stick to land if sea sickness is an issue for you.
If you don’t like people – especially in close proximity. Cruises tend to be a very social environment with a range of different ages and cultures. Many people will likely make an effort to talk to you and engage you in conversation. If you prefer a quiet, laid back atmosphere away from other people then a cruise vacation may not be for you.
If you really value unlimited booze – booze on most cruise ships is not free and can add up to a large expense depending on how much you drink. If you are the type of personTOP SALE who centers theirTOP SALE vacation aroundTOP SALE alcohol and need to stick to aTOP SALE budget than an all inclusive vacation is likely a better fit.
Cruise line options
There are several cruise lines that cater to different groups of people to choose from. The most popular are…
- Carnival Cruises
- Royal Caribbean
- Norwegian Cruise Lines
- Princess Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Disney Cruises
Which one you book all comes down to personal preferences and your budget.
Where to book your cruise
Once you have decided to take a cruise the next step is booking one. There are many vacation websites out there that sell cruise packages, however I often find that the best deals and lowest prices are offered directly through the cruise line websites. From time to time you may find a better deal or a special offer (on board credit or a free upgrade) on a generic vacation website, but it is rare.
Where to book your flights
I recommend booking your flights separately instead of booking through the cruise line. You’ll often get a much better price or more options to choose from that suit your situation.
You’ll want to book a flight that gives you enough buffer time to make it to the port before the cruise and back to the airport after the cruise. Don!t cut the timing too close as an unexpected delay can leave you in a bad situation where you miss the cruise or your flight back home. Where possible I recommend booking a direct flight, or better yet fly down the day before the cruise to minimize the risk of unexpected travel delays.
Transportation to the port
Most cruise lines will offer ground transportation from the airport to the port and back. It is up to you if you want to pay for this service or find your own transportation to the port. The trade off is usually cost vs. convenience. You may be able to save a few dollars by taking a cab or public transportation, but it increases the risk of unexpected delays. If you leave yourself enough buffer time then it shouldn’t be an issue. Car pool with other cruise passengers to further lower your cost.
Selecting your stateroom
There are a variety of different staterooms to choose from on a cruise ship. The most basic is an interior stateroom with no windows or balcony, which is the cheapest option available. From there the rooms usually go up in price as you move to outside rooms with a window or balcony all the way up to deluxe suits. What stateroom you select is really dependent on your preferences and your budget. We usually go with the interior room because it is the cheapest and we don’t spend much time in our stateroom anyway.
What to do on the ship
There are endless things to do on the cruise ship so you will have to prioritize what is important to you.
If you want to keep busy…
Watch a show in the theater
Listen to theInternet Job ship comedyInternet Job show
SingInternet Job karaoke
DanceInternet Job in the club
Participate in trivia challenges
Gamble at the casino
Drink at the bar
Swim in the pool
Shoot down the water slide
Workout in the Gym
Relax in the spa
Play sports – ping pong, basketball, volleyball, miniature golf
If you just want to relax…
Sit in a deck chair
Watch a movie on the deck
Relax in the hot tub
Hang out on your stateroom balcony
Read a book in the library
What to do off the ship
Each port that you visit during your cruise will offer unique activities. Some ports are known for great shopping, others for great beaches or historical sites. It is important to do your research on each port ahead of time so that you understand what each port has to offer and plan accordingly to take advantage of the best experiences.
If you plan on taking an excursion at one of the ports you will have to decide whether you want to book the excursion through the cruise or with an independent tour company. In most cases the trade off is cost vs. risk and convenience. Independent tour companies are often significantly cheaper than the cruise ship for the same excursion, but you’ll have to do some extra work to coordinate the booking. Independent tour companies also come with slightly more risk relative to booking through the ship. Make sure you book a reputable independent tour company by reading reviews online. This will ensure that you get back to the ship on time, don’t get ripped off or end up in a dangerous situation. As a rule of thumb try to ensure that you take excursions with independent tour companies with other passengers from your ship as there is more safety in numbers. In general just use common sense and you should be fine.
- Cash or credit cards – make sure you notify your credit card company in advance before you travel
- Travel insurance
- Passport – make sure it’s not expired!
- Clothes – appropriate for the weather
- Formal wear & shoes – most cruise ships have formal nights
- Work out gear
- Garbage bag for dirty clothes
- Bathing suit
- Snorkel gear
- Tooth brush & toiletries
- Watch – set it to match ship time
- Alarm clock – especially necessary if you have an interior stateroom
- Power bar – Some cabins only have one power outlet which can be a really pain if you have curling irons, blower dryers, razors, phones, tablets and other devices that need to charge.
- Booze – sneak it on board in your carry on. Use a wine bottle as a container
Cruising in the Caribbean can be extremely fun and offer exciting experiences that you will never forget. Hopefully you’ve learned something from this guide that you can use on your next cruise vacation.
If I’ve missed any important tips that you think others should know about please post it in the comments below.