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I Cover the Waterfront: The Ports of Call Today
The Caribbean is a time-tested favorite, your classic picture-perfect island-vacation destination. It's warm and sunny all year round and the major ports of embarkation are easily accessible (and relatively cheap by air, when you compare it to flying to Europe or Asia). Better yet, it's hassle-free because American, Canadian, and British citizens don't need visas to go there.
Even as cruise destinations continue to expand into the far corners of the world, the Caribbean has never been more popular. With all the new ships coming on the scene, lines like Princess, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Holland America, and Star Clippers are increasing their presence in the Caribbean, deploying more and bigger ships there. It's an exciting time. And just like the new ships, new and improved facilities are being introduced at the ports of call, as island nations recognize how lucrative cruise ship arrivals can be. Shore excursions, too, are getting more interesting and more active, with biking, horseback riding, golfing, and river-tubing trips exposing cruisers to the more natural parts of the islands.
While the Caribbean remains hot, hot, hot (and increasingly packed, packed, packed), you may notice that some of the huge ships in the Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian fleets are visiting only three ports during a typical weeklong western or eastern Caribbean cruise instead of four or five ports. Ships too big? Ports too crowded? Cruise lines wanting to keep passengers on board to spend more money in the shops, bars, and casinos? A bit of all three if you ask me. First-time cruisers who want to see as many islands as possible may be disappointed, but if you've been there, done that, the big ships have so much happening on board, you'll barely have time to think about going ashore.
That said, small-ship lines like Windstar, Star Clippers, Club Med, Windjammer, Clipper, American Canadian Caribbean, and Seabourn really pack in the ports of call, visiting a different island nearly every single day, and sometimes even making two stops, one in the morning and another after lunch. Even some of the big ships, like Celebrity's Galaxy, Princess's Ocean Princess and Dawn Princess, and NCL's Norwegian Dream, visit five ports on their 7-night southern Caribbean itineraries.
To give you an even more well-rounded look at Caribbean cruises, this book includes coverage of Panama Canal itineraries and Bermuda cruises. Sure, I know Bermuda's not in the Caribbean, but the British-flavored island is a unique cruise destination; unlike other ports where visits rarely exceed 1 day, the five ships that do regularly scheduled weeklong cruises to Bermuda spend three of those days tied up at Hamilton or St. George's.