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Choosing a Caribbean Cruise Itinerary

Eastern Caribbean or Western Caribbean - Which Is Best for You?


Walkway on deck
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Caribbean cruises are the most popular cruise destination for cruise travelers. Choosing where to sail - the eastern or western Caribbean - is one of the first decisions made when planning a cruise vacation. Most cruise travelers select a 7-day Caribbean cruise for their first experience at sea. When you search the Internet or read cruise brochures, the most common itineraries offered are Eastern Caribbean and Western Caribbean. Which is better? The answer is either! It all depends on what your interests are, so in addition to selecting the right ship, you need to research the ports of call before you book. Both itineraries will provide cruisers with opportunities to sail, swim, snorkel, and shop. But there are differences. Let's take a quick look at the two most popular Caribbean cruise itineraries.

Eastern Caribbean Cruises
Most cruise ships sailing to the eastern Caribbean on 7-day itineraries embark from Florida. Ports of call on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary often include Nassau or an island in the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. John (USVI), Puerto Rico, and perhaps St. Maarten/St. Martin. If you want less sailing (i.e. time at sea) and more shopping and opportunities to go to fantastic beaches, then an Eastern Caribbean itinerary might appeal more to you. The islands are relatively close together, smaller, and shore excursions tend to be more geared to beach or water activities.

Western Caribbean Cruises
Cruise ships sailing to the western Caribbean embark from Florida, New Orleans or Texas. Ports of call on a Western Caribbean itinerary often include Cozumel or Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Key West, FL; the Dominican Republic; Jamaica; Belize; Costa Rica; or Roatan. If you look at a Caribbean map, you will see that since the ports of call are further apart, more sailing is usually involved on a western Caribbean cruise. So you may have more time at sea and less time in port or on the beach. The ports of call in the western Caribbean are sometimes on the mainland (Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica) or at larger islands (Jamaica, Dominican Republic). Therefore, the shore excursion options are more varied. You can explore ancient Mayan ruins, hike the rain forests, or go snorkeling or SCUBA diving in some unforgettable locations.

If you are now thoroughly confused, that's okay! The Caribbean Sea is a cruise lover's heaven--blue seas, sunny beaches, and interesting ports of call. You will get all of these whichever direction you cruise. East and West are both great--and then there's the Southern Caribbean and Northern Caribbean, but that's for another day!

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