Explore the Caribbean by Cruise

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Explore the Caribbean by Cruise

Seabourn

If you're looking for sun, sand, and surf (not to mention those frozen drinks with the tiny umbrellas) this winter, a Caribbean vacation is a wonderful way to escape the cold and relax. Not sure which isle you'd like best? With their palm trees and white sand, they may look somewhat similar in brochures, but each island has its own distinct personality. Some are lush and green with waterfalls and jungle-like foliage, and others are arid and flat, with wide beaches, pale blue water, and a totally different look. The perfect solution: A cruise that visits a variety of different islands.
http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=uiConfig,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=963534&pid=963533&uts=1292266714
http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/media_gallery/v1/ke_media_gallery_wrapper.swf

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

If you're looking for sun, sand, and surf (not to mention those frozen drinks with the tiny umbrellas) this winter, a Caribbean vacation is a wonderful way to escape the cold and relax. Not sure which isle you'd like best? With their palm trees and white sand, they may look somewhat similar in brochures, but each island has its own distinct personality. Some are lush and green with waterfalls and jungle-like foliage, and others are arid and flat, with wide beaches, pale blue water, and a totally different look. The perfect solution: A cruise that visits a variety of different islands. Think of your sailing as the travel version of a "sampler platter," and a way to explore your preferences, knowledge that will come in handy when you're planning future holidays. "January to April is the nicest time of the year to visit the Caribbean -- it's not blazing hot but the sun's still warm and hurricane season is a faint memory. But, if you haven't done a Caribbean cruise before, pay attention to the itinerary. It's easier today than it has ever been to find a unique one," says Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief of CruiseCritic.com.

In addition, a cruise is one of the easiest vacations to plan, and a whole lot of fun once you get there -- as long as you pick the right ship for your personality. Cruise ships are as different from one another as Caribbean islands, with varied itineraries, price points, and onboard styles, too. So read on to find the right cruise for your cold-weather escape -- they're listed from lowest to highest price. Then pack your swimsuits and plenty of sunscreen. Bon voyage!

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

This venerable lines' latest launched in July in Europe, but plans to spend the winter doing seven-night and 14-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings. The mid-price, mid-size ship carries as many as 2,106 passengers and is the fourth vessel to have the Nieuw Amsterdam name, an appropriate decision from a line that honors tradition and history. The ship makes several nods to its namesake Manhattan, with an eponymous dining room, an art collection that includes pieces by Andy Warhol, and Roy Liechtenstein (they offer iPod tours of the works, too), an internet café that's branded by The New York Times, and a cooking school run in partnership with Gotham-based Food & Wine magazine. Still the New York City references are sparse enough that the ship feels at home in the Caribbean. The best spot to enjoy the sunshine is from a private cabana on the ship's top decks.

Doubles from $399 per person for a seven-night sailing; hollandamerica.com.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

The bustling, family-friendly Norwegian Epic, which launched last July, is doing seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises out of Miami. Epic has an impressive roster of entertainment upgrades -- from full-scale productions of the Off Broadway show "Blue Man Group" to a circus-inspired dinner theater and an ice bar that's kept at a truly frigid temperature. (After a sizzling day under those Caribbean rays, you'll probably find it refreshing.) When it comes to staterooms, there's also (a first for any cruise line) a wing of sleek singles-only cabins that are studio-style and come with a shared lounge. And there's plenty for the littlest passengers on this ship, too, including an onboard water park with a massive water slide, and a partnership with Nickelodeon that means character breakfasts with the like of Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob Squarepants.

Doubles from $679 per person for a seven-night sailing; ncl.com.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

This cruise line, known for it's enormous, boisterous cruise ships with amusement park-style amenities, made waves last winter when it launched the massive 6,318-passenger Oasis of the Seas. December 2010 saw the new Allure -- Oasis' sister -- set sail alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale. Like Oasis, the ship is divided into neighborhoods, and has a miniature Central Park, complete with a merry-go-round, an herb garden, and real grass. And while Oasis has a full-length production of the Broadway show "Hairspray," Allure, has "Chicago." Among the 24 dining choices is a new one: a Brazilian-style steakhouse, called a churrascaria, with all-you-can-eat meats served off of skewers. Since these big, family-friendly ships play host to many children, the line has forged a partnership with DreamWorks. The result: Onboard 3D movies and character visits from the animated stars of "Shrek," "Madagascar," and "Kung Fu Panda."

Doubles from $1,064 per person for a seven-night sailing; royalcaribbean.com.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

This ship may not be new, but the line itself is less than two years old, and offers a different take on cruising. The 694-passenger Journey, which used to be Renaissance Cruises' R6, offers five-, seven-, and 12-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises out of Miami and San Juan next winter. The ship is known for overnighting in ports, allowing guests to explore the nightlife in, say, the Med or major Asian cities. While the Journey doesn't overnight in the Caribbean, the ship does leave two different islands -- St. Bart's and St. Martin -- at midnight (rather than the more standard pre-dinner departure), offering an opportunity to dine and have a drink on land before continuing on your cruise. The ship also calls on smaller islands, including Mayreau in the stunning Grenadines and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, offering a taste of the less-touristy side of the Caribbean, where the shores aren't so crowded but the water is just as blue and the sand is just as white.

Doubles from $1,449 per person for a seven-night sailing; azamaraclubcruise.com.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

Launching in January, the new 4,000-passenger Dream will be the latest of Disney's kid-friendly cruise ships. The Dream will sail three-, four-, and five-night cruises out of Port Canaveral to the Bahamas, taking with it (on most sailings) more children than grown-ups. As a result, the amenities are geared toward facilitating family travel -- most guestrooms, for example, have an extra half-bath to make getting out the door in the morning (not to mention bedtime) easier. There are character breakfasts, of course, and first-run Disney films, as well as the first onboard aquatic roller coaster. Best of all -- for adults, that is -- there are places to escape the many little people, including an adults-only area on Disney's private beach, an adults-only pool onboard, an adults-only Italian restaurant, as well as Remy, an adults-only French restaurant that's an homage to Ratatouille.

Doubles from $1,658 per person for a four-night sailing; disneycruise.disney.go.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

The 2,850-passenger Eclipse, the third in Celebrity's sleek Solstice-class series, debuted in April 2010, and is scheduled to do seven-night Eastern and Western-Caribbean sailings this winter. Like her sisters, the stylish ship has a cool design aesthetic and plenty of interesting amenities. Look for the top-deck Lawn Club (with a half-acre of fresh grass), as well as Qsine restaurant, which has an oh-so-trendy iPad-based menu and wine list, as well as funky d.i.y dishes like decorate-your-own-cupcake desserts. The ship also has an Apple computer lounge -- as well as an Apple store -- and a glass-blowing studio with demos and even classes that you can take. But the most stylish and modern-looking space might just be the white-and-blue AquaSpa, an area that's chic and cool and not at all what you expect from a cruise ship.

Doubles from $1,759 per person for a seven-night sailing; celebritycruises.com.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

Billed as the first cruise ship for foodies, this new 1,258-passenger ship will come with several impressive onboard restaurants when it launches in February 2011. Most exciting: Jacques, the new bistro by famed TV chef Jacques Pepin, which comes complete with hand-picked antique dinnerware from his hometown and a specially made-for-the-sea rotisserie. Also, be sure to check out the pan-Asian restaurant, which doesn't pull any punches when it comes to spice and even heat, and the cooking school, which has not just demo areas but actual do-it-yourself cooking stations. The ship also has a Canyon Ranch spa that serves spa cuisine in the main dining rooms. But food isn't the only draw here -- the decor is impressive, too. The top-of-the-line suites look more like posh Manhattan penthouses than staterooms, with Ralph Lauren Home designs and even tony Baker furniture.

Doubles from $2,499 per person for a twelve-night sailing; oceaniacruises.com.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

For anglophiles who love the history of Cunard line, a sailing on the newly christened Queen Elizabeth may be just thing. From high tea to lawn croquet to a pub pouring proper pints and even London-based shops like Fortnum and Mason, the ship is an homage to all things made in Jolly Old England. The ship does a few sailings from Southhampton (just outside London) through the Caribbean and back -- but these lengthy sailings are not for cruising newbies sticking their toes in the water of shipboard vacations. (They're all 22 or 23 nights each.) Still, it's a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of the UK on either end, and enjoy the thrill of two transatlantics in one sailing -- not to mention the beachy vacation in the middle. For those who love the peace and quiet that a crossing affords, these cruises could be the perfect combination of sun and sea.

Doubles from $3,783 per person for a 23-night sailing; cunard.com.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean

Silversea's flagship, the year-old 540-passenger Silver Spirit, was a step up in size for this fleet of intimate, luxury ships. This winter, the ship -- which remains small by cruise-ship standards -- is sailing seven- to 16-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises out of Barbados and Fort Lauderdale. Onboard, you'll still find the line's tasteful opulence, with dining choices that include a Relais & Chateaux restaurant called Le Champagne and an Asian-fusion outlet with a sushi bar and Kobe beef on the menu. The ship is made up entirely of suites, and they all feature butler service, Frette linens, Bulgari products, and down duvets, as well as nice touches like binoculars (the better to admire far off beaches as you sail through the Caribbean) and personalized stationary on which to brag to your shivering friends back home about your fabulous, decadent vacation.

Doubles from $4,124 per person for a seven-night sailing; silversea.com.

Why Cruise? Its a Fantastic Way to Experience the Caribbean



Read Full Story

From Our Partners