Bermuda coast with rocky cliffs either side meeting in the middle, small lagoon of water with gray skies in the background

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Eastern Caribbean: historic and architectural delights

Every island has its own personality and specialty, but there are some common threads. Our Eastern Caribbean itineraries, including ports such as Castries in St Lucia and San Juan in Puerto Rico, share a theme of richly historic sites, European-influenced architecture, and, of course, the famous Caribbean white-sand beaches. These cruises typically clock in at just under two weeks, sailing in and out of Florida.

 

A favourite port on eastern itineraries, San Juan is a bustling town dripping with Spanish influence. UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old San Juan, is a beautiful place to explore. Flanked by two historic forts, Fort San Cristobal and San Felipe del Morro, you can delve into local history atop the walls or take a stroll through the winding cobbled streets, lined with colourful houses.

 

Next is Barbados, specifically the port of Bridgetown. Home to Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, another Caribbean UNESCO World Heritage Site, this bustling port has a British history layered with Caribbean rhythm and laid-back character. To learn more, visit the cities museums, visit the local shops, and sample authentic Caribbean cuisine.

More naval history awaits in English Harbour, Antigua. Nelson’s Dockyard is a former British Navy base and its neighbour, Shirley Heights, is a fortress sitting at the entry to the harbor itself. Take a tour of either one or explore the town at your leisure.

 

Our last stop on our Eastern Caribbean tour is Castries, nestled on the coastline of St Lucia. This vibrant town features French and British architecture and is perfect to explore, sampling local delicacies and market wares along the way. If you’d like to break away into nature, you can try the aerial tram above the rainforest canopy, a boat tour, or a trip to Diamond Botanical Gardens.

Western Caribbean: vibrant scenery and natural wonders

Port calls on the western coasts of the Caribbean offer their own share of history and architecture, but it’s the natural sites where these islands really come into their own. These cruises sail for an average of 12 nights and may include a visit to the mainland, where Mayan ruins await.

 

First, we visit George Town, found on the largest of the Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman. This island is famous for its beaches, and the top of the list is Seven Mile Beach, a renowned stretch of – you guessed it – around seven miles of pure white sand and gently lapping aquamarine sea. Found just north of your port in George Town, it’s easily accessible by public transport. To the south of port, Smith Barcadere is smaller, but perfect for snorkelling and spotting marine wildlife. Diving is a very popular activity: one dive site, near Seven Mile Beach, includes the wreck of the USS Kittiwake. More popular outings include visits to the Crystal Caves, Stingray City, and Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park.

 

Our next port call is Montego Bay, on the north side of Jamaica. Famous for reggae rhythms and delicious jerk dishes, this island is also home to some stunning beaches. The ‘Hip Strip’, found north of port, is home to Harmony Beach and Park, plus many souvenir shops and restaurants serving local fare. Further north still lies Doctor’s Cave Beach, perhaps the best known in the area. You may have to pay a small fee for entry, but this beautiful beach – so named due to suspected curative properties in the water – is well equipped with changing areas, chair and umbrella rentals, and eateries. Water sports are very popular here, with many small businesses offering activities including snorkelling, diving, boat rides, and parasailing.

Our western Caribbean itineraries often include stops on mainland Central America. Belize City sits on a protrusion of land, and entry is ringed by a network of islets and reefs sitting below the water. This makes Belize a perfect port call for snorkelling and reef exploration; in fact, biodiversity is one of this location’s best-known features. Take a trip to any of the islands (also known as cays) to explore local waters or book yourself on a tour inland to jungle-bound Mayan temples in Altun Ha. Belize is also rich in conservation areas and wildlife sanctuaries: visit the protected wetlands of Crooked Tree to see tropical birds or try Chukka park for an airboat ride through the mangroves.

 

Another of our Central American port calls – though this one is its own island and not on the mainland - is Roatán in Honduras. Another reef paradise, the nearby reefs make up part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Thanks to the reef’s position, the waters around Roatán are a mixture of open and sheltered, so boat rides, scuba diving, and snorkelling are popular here. If you prefer to stay dry, try a glass-bottomed boat tour instead. Travelling out from port, you can visit the Roatán Butterfly Garden, the Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum, or Carambola Botanical Gardens, where you can explore colorful jungle trails.

 

Our final port call before returning to Florida is the island of Cozumel, found off the eastern coast of Mexico, west of Cuba. Once again, reefs reign supreme here, with no fewer than three major sites for diving and snorkelling, all still a part of the massive Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. After your swim, why not relax on one of Cozumel’s famous beaches with a cooling drink? If our other port calls have already ticked water exploration off your list, take a ride to Punta Molas to see the northern lighthouse, or travel east to the ruins of El Mirador, and explore the nearby tide pools for seaside treasures. You may even see a natural blow hole in action, launching water into the sky.

Complete Caribbean adventures

If you are still finding it difficult to choose between the historic delights of our western Caribbean route and the wildlife encounters of the east, why not try our combined itineraries? In a single three-week voyage you can experience the best of both itineraries, plus those Caribbean staples of fragrant cuisine, refreshing rum cocktails, and gentle island rhythms.

Caribbean Transatlantics

These special Caribbean voyages blend an island vacation with a route on many travelers’ bucket lists: the iconic Transatlantic Crossing. Sail from Southampton to your Caribbean adventure or cross the Atlantic afterwards, sailing out of New York. This combination of Caribbean exploration with our iconic Transatlantic Crossing is the perfect balance of busy, vibrant island port days, and a long stretch of sea days to relax and unwind on board, in true Cunard style.

Explore the Caribbean with Cunard