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babs135

Which Caribbean?

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Is there much difference between the south, east and west itineraries?  Putting it simply a beach is a beach wherever you go surely?  

Which would you say suited us;  we are senior citizens who don't swim (I'm actually frightened of water!) but would be prepared to go into the sea a little way, after all I have to say that I got my feet wet.  We don't mind the beach but wouldn't want an itinerary based solely on beach hopping from island to island.  We enjoy simply wandering around and exploring an area, either on our own or with an organised tour.  We've been to Aruba which we loved and Ocho Rios (Jamaica) which left us unimpressed, although this could have been due to the tour we picked which was uninspiring. It sounded so much better than it actually was.  We don't mind browsing the shops and we like the odd drink or two.... so somewhere with nice bars would be good.

I'm looking at dates in November/December. And I haven't even thought about which cruise line.  Our adult DD will be joining us so our maximum time would be no more than 15/16 days.

 

BTW Why isn't there a north Caribbean 😀

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i would absolutely go the ABC island itinerary - Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao. Just enough history if you are into it, but gorgeous waist deep water in Lac Bacy (Bonaire), and beautiful water in Aruba.

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There are differences between all three, with the most notable being that of the Western compared to either the Eastern or the Southern, in that the Western is primarily ports of call near or along the Mexican / Central American coast, with the notable exceptions of Jamaica and Grand Cayman.  IMO those ports are less picturesque or as exotic as the Eastern or Southern.  

 

And no, a beach is not necessarily a beach - there are differences there as well.  IMO the Eastern and Southern are in general nicer. (Grand Cayman excepted).

 

The Eastern itineraries tend to include the islands from Puerto Rico to St. Martin, where the Southern typically includes Antigua to Barbados and the ABC's.  IMO, while all of them are nice and have their own uniqueness, the Southern is the nicest of the three.  Most 7-night Southern itineraries depart out of San Juan.  Longer ones will depart out of Florida.  Eastern and Western itineraries typically depart out of Florida, regardless of length, with some longer Eastern itineraries departing out of the Northeast.

Edited by leaveitallbehind

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I can't tell from your question if you're looking for the best beach, or for a Caribbean itinerary that offers more things to do other than beaches at some ports?

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3 hours ago, gymbomb said:

I can't tell from your question if you're looking for the best beach, or for a Caribbean itinerary that offers more things to do other than beaches at some ports?

Sorry, looking for something other than just beaches.  We like a bit of history, the culture, the architecture.  And of course the beach, but there has to be more to the holiday.  If we wanted a purely beach holiday Spain is a lot cheaper and nearer (although not as warm in November 😁)

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1 hour ago, babs135 said:

Sorry, looking for something other than just beaches.  We like a bit of history, the culture, the architecture.  And of course the beach, but there has to be more to the holiday.  If we wanted a purely beach holiday Spain is a lot cheaper and nearer (although not as warm in November 😁)

 

Most - if not all - of the Caribbean islands offer much more than just a beach.  There are cultural points of interest as well as a history behind each island that can be explored.  As an example, the Western Caribbean with the Mexican stops will offer tours to the Mayan ruins. The Southern with stops in Barbados or Aruba or Bonaire will offer tours to some beautiful natural areas that are rather unique to them.  The Eastern with visit to Puerto Rico will offer historic landmarks in Old San Juan. They all offer local cuisine and drinks.

 

I think what may be best for you would be to talk with a cruise specialist travel agent to discuss your preferences and expectations and allow them to assist in identifying a good itinerary for you.  Or at the very least Google the different islands to learn what is special about each.  Also you can visit the Ports of Call board here on Cruise Critic and see what discussions there are about the different islands at the following link:

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/456-caribbean/

 

Enjoy your research - and your cruising!

Edited by leaveitallbehind

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We really loved the Cayman Islands. We spent some time at the beach, of course, but there were other things to do as well. 

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19 hours ago, babs135 said:

Sorry, looking for something other than just beaches.  We like a bit of history, the culture, the architecture.  And of course the beach, but there has to be more to the holiday.  If we wanted a purely beach holiday Spain is a lot cheaper and nearer (although not as warm in November 😁)

 

I agree with leaveitallbehind that Western Caribbean might be a good fit, but talking to a travel agent who has a lot of experience with cruises and the Caribbean would probably be the best bet. Good luck, I hope you find something perfect!!

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16 minutes ago, gymbomb said:

 

I agree with leaveitallbehind that Western Caribbean might be a good fit, but talking to a travel agent who has a lot of experience with cruises and the Caribbean would probably be the best bet. Good luck, I hope you find something perfect!!

I agree completely with you regarding discussing this with a TA, as I mentioned as well.  And to clarify, I was not necessarily suggesting a Western itinerary over the others, but was using the Mayan Ruins on that itinerary as an example.  I also referred to examples with the Southern and Eastern as well. :classic_smile:

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1 hour ago, gymbomb said:

 

I agree with leaveitallbehind that Western Caribbean might be a good fit, but talking to a travel agent who has a lot of experience with cruises and the Caribbean would probably be the best bet. Good luck, I hope you find something perfect!!

 

52 minutes ago, leaveitallbehind said:

I agree completely with you regarding discussing this with a TA, as I mentioned as well.  And to clarify, I was not necessarily suggesting a Western itinerary over the others, but was using the Mayan Ruins on that itinerary as an example.  I also referred to examples with the Southern and Eastern as well. :classic_smile:

Thanks for your advice.  Health issues dictate that we are not in a position to book anything at the moment and I don't know when we will get the 'all clear' (DH is waiting for a small op) so I am merely exploring what is 'out there'.  What it does mean is that I have plenty of time for research!!  Hopefully there will still be a cruise available once he is cleared to travel.

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1 hour ago, babs135 said:

 

Thanks for your advice.  Health issues dictate that we are not in a position to book anything at the moment and I don't know when we will get the 'all clear' (DH is waiting for a small op) so I am merely exploring what is 'out there'.  What it does mean is that I have plenty of time for research!!  Hopefully there will still be a cruise available once he is cleared to travel.

 

Wishing you the best with everything.  Don't worry, there will always be a cruise available as there are Caribbean itineraries offered 12 months a year by several cruise lines.

Edited by leaveitallbehind

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Babs- have a look at the fortnightly cruises offered by Marella and P&O, because they start at Barbados, or St Lucia, and do the full curve up to Tortilla, or across to the Caymens.

I'm just thinking that, for you, you'll not have sea days reaching the Caribbean... both lines use chartered aeroplanes, so look after you from checking in at your airport until you land back there again.

It also helps that both allow you to stay on board on the final day, until your plane has arrived with the new cruisers- no hanging about. 

 

Edited by jocap

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2 hours ago, jocap said:

Babs- have a look at the fortnightly cruises offered by Marella and P&O, because they start at Barbados, or St Lucia, and do the full curve up to Tortilla, or across to the Caymens.

I'm just thinking that, for you, you'll not have sea days reaching the Caribbean... both lines use chartered aeroplanes, so look after you from checking in at your airport until you land back there again.

It also helps that both allow you to stay on board on the final day, until your plane has arrived with the new cruisers- no hanging about. 

 

 

Just to be clear, departures from San Juan to the Southern Caribbean have only one sea day to and perhaps one day back from the ports of call on those itineraries, with typically 4 -5 islands visited on a 7 night itinerary.  We just did a 7 night itinerary from San Juan this past November that stopped in 5 islands -  St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados - returning to San Juan with only one day at sea.

 

Likewise most Eastern and Western 7 night itineraries departing from Florida.  Longer itineraries from any departure port may have an extra day or two at sea between ports of call but also will have proportionately more ports of call.

 

Certainly itineraries such as you describe will have days at sea as well, in particular if crossing from Tortola in the Eastern to Grand Cayman in the Western.

Edited by leaveitallbehind

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Jocap, certainly another angle to think about.  However, 4 or 5 islands in just 7 days may be too intensive for DH who will be looking at the holiday as recuperative therapy after several months of ill health.  A lot depends on when he has  his op ; he needs to be fit before they will do it (sounds odd I know, but I'm sure you understand what I mean).  

Everything really is up in the air and I also realise that if things continue to drag along it could be 2020 before we can get away.

The reason for the original question was quite simple; if it's September/October before he is fit to travel I want a Plan A ready in place so that I don't waste time looking at what's available.

I envisage Plan A to have our first choice cruise ready to book but if sold out to have a second or even third cruise ready.

It all has to work out now...….

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E, S, W all offer unique things, as has been pointed out. Having done all, multiple times (just 2 weeks ago, in fact) I can't say one is better than the other.

 

Find the one that offers the best value and fits your schedule.  If you think there may be too many ports, stay on-board. You don't have to get off for the day.  It's nice having the ship to yourself (relatively). 

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The Caribbean is all about the beaches...but there are other things to do, including using the ship on port days, when the crowds aren't there!

 

I would do a bit of research on your potential ports, see which ones have the "history/culture/shopping" , etc that you would enjoy, and book accordingly.  You are right that a beach is a beach....but each country will have it's own "flavor".

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Hubby and I did the ultimate Caribbean with Celebrity cruises in November last year. it was different everyday, not beach, beach, beach. mainly central America and grand Cayman, Key west. So we had a mixture of wildlife, sloth sanctuary, swam with Manatees, fed stingrays (Honduras & Costa Rica) towns (Cartagena & Key West) Panama canal visit, and only 1 beach day in Costa Maya, Mexico. Suited us brilliantly with only 2 sea days in 14. Celebrity are excellent to cruise with, definitely a cut above!  Managed all our own tours easily, loved it!

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On 1/23/2019 at 5:36 AM, babs135 said:

 

The reason for the original question was quite simple; if it's September/October before he is fit to travel I want a Plan A ready in place so that I don't waste time looking at what's available.

I envisage Plan A to have our first choice cruise ready to book but if sold out to have a second or even third cruise ready.

It all has to work out now...….

 

Please remember that autumn months are hurricane season in the Caribbean. You may want to consider a southern itinerary to reduce the risk of sailing during one of these (of course there's no way of predicting when or where one will hit, but the ABC usually escape them).

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Heed Jocap's post.

Except for "Tortilla", which should read Tortola (Jo will probably blame the silly auto-correct for that :classic_biggrin:).

 

P&O and Marello and Fred Olsen (my preference would be P&O) offer fly-cruises which can't be beaten on price, which fly direct from regional airports (everyone on the plane is on your cruise),  with oh-so-easy transfers (you hand over your checked luggage at your UK airport and you don't see it again til it appears outside your cabin, you don't even go into the airport terminal at Barbados / St Lucia - you walk 20 yards from plane to transfer bus, so much better than fighting your way through US immigration, the baggage carousel etc), you stay aboard until your home bound flight is called rather than being unceremoniously thrown off the ship at 9am. All very civilised.

Ship's currency is sterling (no currency exchange fees), no automatic "gratuities" added, and lower on- board prices generally.

 

Then there are the ports.

The southern Caribbean is good, IMHO the western Caribbean not so good.

But for a Brit the eastern Caribbean is ideal.

Lots of colonial history. British, and probably French and Dutch, perhaps Spanish, depending on your itinerary.

Very easy to DIY, the usual routine is to disembark around 9.30, negotiate a tour with the minibus drivers at the port - agree price in US Dollars, broad itinerary, broad timescale, before you board and pay when you get back, it's the norm. You'll be sharing with like-minded folk from your ship. Cost will be about a quarter of what the ship charges for the same itinerary but is for transport only - no food or drink included.

Drivers at the port are friendly, reliable & trustworthy, they know their island and they know the importance of your "back on board time".

Take your beach stuff with you and ask the driver to drop you off at the end of the tour at a beach near the ship. If it's not walkable he can arrange a time to come back for you, or suggest alternatives such as a water-bus.

 

Caribbean with PandO was my first cruising experience, and I highly recommend it.

 

JB :classic_smile:

Edited by John Bull

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4 hours ago, John Bull said:

Caribbean with PandO was my first cruising experience, and I highly recommend it.

Thanks John, sound advice as usual.  

One very slightly off topic question.  Would we need an ESTA?  I realise it is not actually America itself, but......

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4 hours ago, babs135 said:

Thanks John, sound advice as usual.  

One very slightly off topic question.  Would we need an ESTA?  I realise it is not actually America itself, but......

Depends on your departure point we went from fort Lauderdale so we did need one

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6 hours ago, babs135 said:

Thanks John, sound advice as usual.  

One very slightly off topic question.  Would we need an ESTA?  I realise it is not actually America itself, but......

 

Only if your ship departs an American port such as mainland USA or San Juan in Puerto  Rico, or calls at an American port such as St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

Normally PandO and the other Brit ships don't.

But an ESTA is no big deal (unless you have a dark history :classic_wink:), takes a few minutes on-line and only costs about $15 (do it on the OFFICIAL US gov website).

 

:classic_smile:JB 

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SOUTHERN:

I recommend southern, but then I am a fan of port-intensive itineraries. I used to think flying to San Juan would be too expensive/time-consuming. However, for us it's not that much further than Miami. It IS more costly, but comparing similar itineraries, going out of San Juan is often cheaper. Ships also depart at 8:30PM, which - depending on your location and time of year - makes a same day flight feasible. The ports in the southern Caribbean are varied - some really natural with very little development and some very touristy. Some are flat and some mountainous. I like that. 

 

EASTERN:

Eastern is really just the most northern ports of the southern Caribbean (such as St. Thomas or St. Maarten) with a couple of "throw-away" ports tossed in, like Nassau, Key West or the cruise line's private island. Eastern itineraries typically include an abundance of sea days.

 

WESTERN:

You'll typically hit more ports on a western itinerary than an eastern. Difficult to do western more than once because there are so few ports, you'd just hit them again and again. A common joke about cruising is that you know you're a cruise addict when you can no longer remember how many times you've been to Cozumel! Western itineraries typically include Cozumel (or Costa Maya) Mexico and Grand Cayman, with islands like Belize, Roatan and Jamaica sometimes thrown in. Western would be my second choice, particularly one of the itineraries that include Roatan and/or Belize, because that gives you a lot of port variety. 

 

 

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