I’ve fallen in love with the Caribbean.
It all started with a bachelor party in 2010. Spending days in the U.S. Virgin Islands and riding out a hurricane. I fell in love with the hot sun, beautiful warm water, and lush green landscapes. Ever since leaving, I had wanted to get back to experience the islands again.
In 2012, I took my first cruise on Carnival Liberty. Cruising granted me the ability to sample bits and pieces of islands within a short amount of time while taking the hotel with me. One cruise in, I had the desire to do more, and more. This continues to this day after several Carnival and Royal Caribbean International cruises, with more on the way (until I start all-inclusive resorts in the next couple years). Cruising has been excellent and because of it, I’ve gratefully been able to have a taste of many different island nations. Here are the places I’ve been with a short summary.
Barbados – Made port in Bridgetown. There was a good amount to see and city seemed more lively. Stayed at the Hilton nearby for the day. The expansive resort was very well-kept by friendly staff and offered many places to relax, indulge, and have photo ops. I want to go back.
Belize – Dropped anchor miles offshore to prevent damage to reefs and used tenders to transfer to port. Outside docking area, Belize City was underdeveloped and looked mostly impoverished. It still has charm though, and you will see many interesting things. Took tour into rainforest for excellent cave-tubing and zip-line experience. Many folks put-off by tendering and look of this port, but I’d easily go back.
Cozumel (Mexico) – Made port in Puerta Maya which was built for Carnival Corp. Went snorkeling, but wasn’t too impressed. Spent some time in port area afterwards. Area had many knock-off products and touristy shops. Food was great. Want to go back for a retry, but will likely visit a resort or take ferry to Cancun. Also want to try Mexican vacation outside of cruising.
Dominica – Made port in Roseau. Landscape very much like St. Lucia. Locals were very friendly except for those charging for use of public bathroom near port. Known for its amount of rivers, I went river tubing and had an excellent time. Rest of day spend in downtown Roseau. Not many touristy places here, genuine Caribbean-city feel. If you seek souvenirs, every single booth has the exact same stuff at the “market.” Suggest a day-tour of the island.
Grand Cayman – Anchored close to shore off George Town. The city and island are nicely developed, helped by the well-known banking industry of the islands. Resorts and established businesses are plentiful. Parts of Seven-Mile Beach leave much to be desired and can be busy. Had best snorkeling experience of-all here at the reef within the massive bay. City of George Town has many touristy shops, but some nice bars are a short distance away.
Grand Turk (Turks & Caicos) – Made port in an area developed by Carnival Corp. One of the nicer cruise-line developed ports. The beach here is great and the smaller selection of neighboring bars are the same. Especially Jack’s Shack. They serve excellent jerk chicken and cocktails. Rest of island is either vacation homes or lesser developed areas. There is a nice lighthouse to see on the northern coast. Helicopter tours are popular here.
Grenada – Made port in Georgetown. The “isle of spice” lives up to its name as many shops look to sell you combos of nutmeg and other spices. The island had a feeling like it was a mash-up of St. Lucia and Barbados. Mountainous areas with nice spans of beach. High areas reveal many great photo ops and wonderful scenery. There is a lot of history to observe in the beautiful yet cramped city of Georgetown. Beach time was spent at the very well maintained Radisson Grand Anse Resort. A short walk up the beach were popular bars.
Haiti – Made port at Royal Caribbean International’s Labadee property. Expansive, yet you were never too far from something you’d like. Terrain is mountainous with smaller man-made beach areas. Water was not terrible, but not favorable with occasional trash. The Dragon’s Breath Zip-line is a must do for the view alone and will take you outside the property briefly where you experience one of Haiti’s “roads.” Local venders selling on property were pushiest of all I’ve encountered. Island is really beautiful at sunset.
Half Moon Cay (Bahamas) – Carnival Corp’s private Bahamian island. There is little in the way of touristy attractions here. This is a very small, mostly flat, island known for its beach. The water is as clear as few other places you’ll ever see and there is a serenity since there is little to do otherwise. Jet-skiing here was excellent within the island, but scary out at sea. Cabanas are the most popular thing here. Some come with hot tubs and are booked well in advance.
Jamaica – Made port in Falmouth which was partly developed by Royal Caribbean. Outside the port gates, the town of Falmouth is mostly underdeveloped, but interesting. Some apprehension going alone, but would be okay in group. Chukka Beach resort was nice, but just that. Beach was somewhat shallow with much seaweed in the waves. Bar and wait staff were very friendly, but two “vendors” walking along beach were pushy/clingy. Fruit stand nearby sold fascinating and delicious fruits. Want to go back and experience other parts of Jamaica.
Martinique – Made port in Fort-de-France. Spent smaller amount of time walking around city due to personal illness. City is most authentic feeling of all the cities visited with some obvious French influence (language, currency, and automobiles). The city feels old, yet is vibrant with colors and variety of shops. Historic but inaccessible fort nearby. Taxis want an arm and a leg for tours. Want to go back to explore further (in better health).
Nassau (Bahamas) – Made port at downtown piers. This is probably the most popular of all cruise ports outside of Cozumel. A short walk uphill is the beautiful Queen’s Staircase and the small Fort Fincastle. Downtown Nassau has a lot of touristy shops and occasional vendor trying to push scooter rental. Junkanoo Beach is another short walk. It’s popular as well, but less crowded the further down you go. The Tiki Bar there offers free wi-fi, cold beer, and drinks mixed with fresh fruit. A restroom is conveniently placed nearby. There has been more crime in Nassau lately.
Puerto Rico – Made port in Old San Juan at a cruise terminal. Old San Juan feels just like how you think a Mediterranean town would feel. There are many places to dine, drink, and shop. Because it’s a US territory, you can often use cell phones, and would recommend reviewing places before going. Two well-known forts are there, costing a couple of dollars to go in. Somewhat dilapidated area of La Perla is there as well, but would recommend going in a group or once more experienced. Condado and Isla Verde are nearby as well and offer more modern dining/drinking/shopping experiences as well as better beach access. Tours can be taken to El Yunque Rainforest during the day, and bioluminescent bays at night.
Roatan (Honduras) – Made port in Carnival Corp’s Mahogany Bay property. The nicely built area offers a sky lift or walkway from the shops over to a beach. Our party took a taxi over to Little French Key where we had an excellent time. The well maintained Little French Key had excellent food and drink service at your choice of 3 main beaches. Also available were live animals, snorkeling, and kayaking. Didn’t experience much else of Roatan. Honduras is noted for it’s high crime rate, but usually Roatan is much less a part of it.
St. Croix (USVI) – Made port in Frederiksted. This is the largest of the US Virgin Islands. Frederiksted offered some scuba shops, restaurants, and bars, Many were closed as it was Sunday when we were there. Due to the larger landmass, roads were less twisty than the other USVIs. Christensted isn’t too long of a drive away, but was found to be mostly closed as well. Island is overall less congested and active compared to St. Thomas. Locals and tour guides were nice. Most of the tour staff were transplants from mainland USA.
St. John (USVI) Visited while on land-based trip and while in port at St. Thomas. This island has a friendly local atmosphere where most seem to know one another. Most were very friendly. Nightlife seems centered in Cruz Bay with bars and restaurants. Due to majority of the island being federally protected, beaches and mountainous areas are often pristine. Trunk Bay is the biggest attraction here with its beautiful views and snorkel trail.
St. Kitts – Made port in Basseterre. The port area is developed and slightly congested. Outside the area is the real, less developed part of Basseterre that few seem to venture. Higher up in the hills and mountains are grassy areas combined with areas of dense forest giving a feeling of a tropical Montana. The views down the mountainside were awesome, yet occasionally spoiled by chain link fence. An ATV tour here was fun, but will visit the sister island, Nevis, next time here.
St. Lucia – Made port in downtown Castries. The city is dense and busy. Leaving the city, all roads are very twisty on this mountainous island. Some may need motion sickness meds for longer land-tours. There are many beautiful vantage points. Most popular scenery are the Pitons. Twin peaks along the western coastline. Scenery is very lush and contains a dormant volcano where one can take a mud bath.
St. Maarten – Made port in Phillipsburg (Dutch side). The port area was developed here as well. The areas of Phillipsburg were more developed than most other islands though with occasional strip malls and shopping centers. Terrain is mountainous, but beaches are plentiful. The most popular spot is the end of the runway at Princess Julianna Airport (SXM). Planes as large as 747s fly at a very low distance overhead and take off right in front of you (blowing around sand, items, and occasionally people). There is a popular bar there as well. Nightlife seems pretty happening here. Though there is much Dutch influence, language is not an issue here.
St. Thomas (USVI) – Made port in the Havensight area of Charlotte Amalie. The port area is very developed with many shops, but feels higher-end. Charlotte Amalie is a fairly busy area with mixtures of new and old areas mixed together. This is the most active of the USVIs and there is some night life. There are also many different beaches to choose from. Ferries to the other USVIs can be taken from Havensight, or more frequently from Red Hook Bay. Terrain is usually mountainous and sail-away at dark is quite a sight.
Places remaining on my list are:
St. Barths (Gustavia)
Trinidad & Tobago
I will probably not make it to some of these places, but it has been a great experience seeing what I have. Some I’ve seen with friends, some with family, and some just by myself. I hope that if it is your goal as well, you can achieve it. There is nothing like island hopping.
Stay tuned for more!