Caribbean shore experiences.
Explore steamy jungles, sapphire waters and white sand beaches on these varied colourful islands, with recommendations to suit all types of travellers.
White sand and turquoise sea may be the Caribbean’s calling card, but with bustling markets, candy-hued houses and ancient garrisons (along with volcanoes, rainforests and reefs for the adventurous) a Caribbean cruise offers an equal dose of exploration and escapism.
In this guide to cruising the Caribbean with Cunard, we round up the travel highlights to see on shore, the islands to add to your itinerary and the best time of year to travel, along with expert tips about where to eat, how to dress, and what to pack for your cruise to this sun-infused archipelago.
Caribbean cruise highlights: sights, food, shore experiences and festivals
The first thing you can expect on a Caribbean cruise is great weather. Caribbean cruise season is timed to coincide with the driest months (November through to February) when precipitation is at its lowest and days are filled with blue sky and sunshine. The conditions at this time of year are ideal for sunbathing and the Caribbean offers no shortage of magnificent beaches.
The other thing you should expect on a Caribbean cruise is greenery. The islands enjoy a tropical climate and you’ll notice emerald-hued trees and colourful flowers dotted throughout the region. Guided nature hikes, helicopter tours and strolls through botanical gardens are great ways to appreciate the lush natural landscapes the Caribbean has in abundance.
When it comes to selecting your Caribbean cruise you’ll find a wide choice of itineraries, with routes calling at eastern, western and the southern Caribbean. Each region has something unique to offer, and the longer you stay, the more islands you’ll be able to experience.
Eastern Caribbean cruises typically take in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. Opting for a southern Caribbean itinerary opens up the likes of Aruba, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Curacao and Martinique, while western Caribbean routes could see you step ashore in Jamaica, Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Belize or Honduras.
Combining a Caribbean cruise with a stay in New York, or even a Transatlantic Crossing from Southampton or Hamburg, is a popular choice for those wanting to get away for longer. Relish the opportunity to explore an iconic city in addition to experiencing the Caribbean’s sunny shores.
From the oldest rum distilleries in the world to beaches skimmed by turquoise sea, the Caribbean is a kaleidoscope of colour and beauty – a paradise for nature lovers, adrenaline seekers and cultural enthusiasts. Here are just some of the highlights to look out for in this tropical region.
If there’s one thing the Caribbean excels at it’s putting on a party, and you’ll find several popular festivals, events and cultural celebrations taking place in the Caribbean during the peak cruising period.
If it’s colourful costumes you’re hoping to see, be sure to visit between New Year and Ash Wednesday (which usually falls in the first half of February), when the infamous Barbados Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and Holetown Festival - a series of free open-air concerts celebrating Bajan music - take place.
Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day (January 1) introduce traditional Junkanoo street parades featuring music, dance and costumes of African origin. May sees Sint Maarten’s carnival explode into colour, and June, July and August bring Crop Over, one of the Caribbean’s most significant cultural festivals, honouring the end of harvest season.
No matter what time of year you visit the Caribbean, you’ll rarely experience temperatures under 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). Being a tropical climate, however, means the Caribbean is not without its share of rainfall, with drier winters generally offering the best time to cruise.
This season-by-season Caribbean cruise guide summarises the main weather patterns across the Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean.
March, April and May in the Caribbean can be hot with cool breezes and the occasional rain shower. Southern Caribbean islands, including Barbados and St Lucia, are among those offering the hottest temperatures in springtime, and around 10 hours of daylight is common at this time of year.
Summer can be rainier in the Caribbean, particularly in the north and on mountainous islands such as Dominica and St Lucia. Temperatures are still typically around the mid-80s (circa 30 degrees C) with the peak humidity arriving in August, and sea temperatures comfortably warm for swimming.
Autumn is considered the low season in the Caribbean as this is when the worst of the rainfall lands and hurricane season kicks in. Weather can be interchangeable and stormy with high winds. Afternoon and overnight rain showers are to be expected and the humidity is still very high.
Winter is one of the most popular times of year to visit the Caribbean with December marking the start of peak season, and January the best month for sunshine. Though temperatures drop a few degrees, daytimes are still hot, while nights provide a refreshing cool breeze.
With the sun on your skin, a cool drink to hand, and the sound of the waves gently lapping the shore, a Caribbean cruise is the perfect opportunity to switch off with a good book. If you’re looking to get lost in a story set among the islands, Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk, The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey, and Another Sun by Timothy Williams, are all Caribbean-based titles that come highly recommended.