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How to Cruise the Caribbean

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The Caribbean is the perfect destination for a cruise holiday – cruising is an ideal way to hop between the islands and see all the famously beautiful sights while based on a floating hotel. The famous Caribbean islands have unique colours and flavours, and fantastic natural, cultural and historic attractions. With a bit of background and some planning you can get the most out of a Caribbean cruise holiday.
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Choosing a Caribbean cruise line is important as different lines have different characters and offer different types of cruises. Big ship cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer huge boats with all the amenities you could hope for, but are restricted by their size to visiting only the largest ports. Smaller operators with smaller boats have the choice of the less-travelled harbours. If you’re looking for good value, you may find that the larger operators are best placed to offer bargain deals. An independent cruise travel agent like Gill’s Cruise Centre is a good place to seek guidance.
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Caribbean cruise itineraries are usually three, four, seven, or ten nights, departing from Florida and are generally split into either western or eastern regional routes. Longer cruises might visit Mexico, Central and South America – it depends where you want to see and how long you wish to spend at sea, when deciding on the best cruise itinerary for your holiday.
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On a western Caribbean itinerary you may visit Belize, home to ancient Mayan civilisations, Grand Cayman with its gorgeous seven-mile beach, and the famous Caribbean hotspot of Jamaica. At Grand Cayman there is a unique opportunity to swim with stingrays at ‘Stingray City’ which is an extremely popular cruise excursion. The main ports for cruise ships in Jamaica are Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Ocho Rios is famous for its colourful flora and fauna, shopping and local cuisine – including Jamaica’s famous jerk chicken.
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To the east, the islands in the southern Caribbean include many of the areas most famous. From the British and American Virgin Islands to the north, the chain of islands stretches south towards South America via Antigua, Barbados and Aruba, with many more islands in between. Antigua is a very popular place to visit, with white sandy beaches and interesting colonial history. Barbados is also a popular cruise stop with it’s rugged coastline, wooded hills and beautiful bays.
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A good time to visit is winter as the weather is warm but not too hot – this is the most popular season and so there will be the largest number of boats to choose from. Autumn is the hurricane season and is therefore quieter, though summer is when you’ll find the cheapest deals. Often cruise lines reposition ships during spring and autumn and therefore offer longer transatlantic trips.
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When packing for a cruise ensure you have smart attire for dining onboard – some cruises are more formal than others, check beforehand – and everything you may need for shore excursions: sun cream, insect repellent and a small rucksack. Shore excursions can be arranged through the cruise line which is often convenient but can be expensive. If the port offers easy access to the sights you may be tempted to go it alone.
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If you’re embarking on your first cruise, enjoy the beautiful Caribbean!

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