Getting the most out of a Caribbean cruise really depends on what you want from it. Whether you’re cruising in order to spend a lot of time at your favorite island or in order to see all the exotic isles you’ve never been to, the trick to getting the most out of your cruise is to plan ahead and prioritize what is important to you.
Choose a cruise length and time that works for you
Your first step is figuring out how long of a cruise you can take. Then you can decide where it is you want to go. If you have a favorite cruise line, you can check their website for your desired specifics. But you can usually get a lot more out of a site like Expedia which aggregates information from different cruise lines to give you a comprehensive list of your options.
Decide where you want to go
Caribbean cruises frequently dock in several destinations in the Caribbean, so you have a lot of choice. If for instance, your favorite Caribbean island is Jamaica and you want to spend a lot of time there, look for cruises that dock there for more than one day. On the other hand, if you’re interested in visiting many different places, you can take a cruise that has many stops. The best thing to do is strike a balance between the length of the cruise, the number of stops you want, and how far the destinations are from each other. If you really want to go to Turks and Caicos, you’re probably going to have to take a cruise that is at least 5 days. If you take a shorter cruise that only goes to Gran Turk, for example, you’ll spend the majority of the cruise at sea.
Avoid stops that are a waste for you
In order to get the most out of your trip, you’ll want to go on a cruise that stops at places you haven’t been to and that doesn’t stop at places that you have or that you can easily access. For example, if you live in Miami and you’re taking a Caribbean cruise, you might not want to book a cruise that has a stop in Key West, since you can easily take a day trip there on any given day from your home.
Go to islands that would be expensive to visit on their own
To get the most bang for your buck, you should plan your cruise to allow you to see places that would otherwise be more costly to visit. Fortunately, you can usually find great cruise itineraries on several cruise lines that go primarily to the eastern or western Caribbean. Instead of trying to do a little bit of both and repeating a destination on another cruise, do a little research to see what places you prefer to see first.
Choose the best excursions
Once you’ve decided where your cruise is going, the next step is to plan out your activities in those places. Usually, these activities can be booked while on the cruise any time. However, some activities are more popular on certain islands than others and will sell out early. If you were really looking forward to that dolphin encounter in Nassau, it would be heartbreaking to find out that the excursion is sold out and you can’t do it at all.
Book everything through the cruise line
A lot of people will tell you to avoid booking your excursions with the cruise altogether because they will be more expensive. This is true. But for the smoothest possible vacation, I still recommend booking your excursions through the cruise line. For one, there are a lot of scam tourist excursions in the Caribbean islands. When you get off the ship, you will probably see a lot of people holding up signs for different tours. You won’t know which are legitimate and which are going to charge you $40 to drop you off at an ugly beach for a few hours.
More importantly, cruise ships are usually docked for only a few hours at each port. The cruise-approved tour companies operate within the cruise schedule; an independent company may take you out to sea for a beautiful afternoon swimming with stingrays and not get you back in time to re-board the ship. Aside from that, given the amount of time you have at each port, you certainly don’t wanna spend that time wandering around aimlessly looking for legitimate and reliable tours.
Take full advantage of the stops
Finally, you should make sure you rest and that you’re up early the days the cruise docks somewhere. Vacation is no fun if you’re exhausted or if you sleep in and miss half of your trip to the Bahamas. There are tons of things to do on a cruise at night from comedy shows to dancing or going to the bar. If you’re going to make it a late night, you shouldn’t do it if the cruise is stopping somewhere you want to see the next morning. There is more than enough time to stay up late and gamble and booze when you’re just going to be waking up on the ship the next day.
If partying is a priority for you on a cruise and you want to experience the nightlife at one of the islands, find a cruise that has an overnight stop at one of the islands. In the Caribbean, that island will probably be Nassau.
If you follow these simple tips, you will have a great relaxing vacation that will be fun and full of adventure. All you have to do is put a little extra effort into planning it, but it will definitely be worth it later.