How to Plan a Caribbean Cruise Apr 27, 2017 by Ashleigh (Awesome Escape Blogger)

Caribbean cruises are a fun and relaxing vacation that combines all of the comfort of an all-inclusive resort with the ability to see multiple destinations. Of course, planning a tropical vacation can be tricker than it might seem. Once you're on the boat you can relax, but before you board be sure to consider the right cruise line and the most appealing itinerary. Booking a cruise can quickly turn into a confusing morass of all-too-similar options if you're not careful. Here's what you need to do to plan the perfect Caribbean getaway.

Pick The Right Cruise Line

There are several popular cruise lines that explore the Caribbean. Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Carnival are the largest and most distinguished companies, but there are other small options including Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.These are just some of the ones that depart out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the main port of call for Caribbean cruises. Think about what activities you want to do aboard the ship, how large the vessel is, what performers you might be interested in, and how much shipboard amenities might cost in relation to the price of the ticket. If you want to pick the right one, you might have to do some digging on review sites and travel agencies. 

Plan Your Itinerary

Most cruises don't travel across the entire Caribbean Sea. There three common cruise itineraries, excluding shorter trips that have just one port of call. Of course, you can stretch your journey by departing from a port farther away from your destination - for example, taking a longer voyage from Texas or New York that ends in the Caribbean, rather than a Caribbean cruise that launches from Florida. It will also depend on your cruise line, but most voyages will fall into one of three regions:

1. Eastern Caribbean: Cruise lines typically sail to ports in the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, and the US Virgin Islands.

2. Western Caribbean: Most cruise lines visit ports in Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, the Bahamas, and Jamaica.

3. Southern Caribbean: Southern Caribbean cruises take people to ports like Grenada, Caribbean Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao, Antigua, and St. Kitts.

You can also book longer cruises that mix together certain ports from each region. Bear in mind that while these cruises are typically longer than seven days they quite often run at double the cost. It's difficult because you will want to see multiple destinations, but most medium-length cruises only visit three ports on their route. Try not to be tempted to cram an enormous list of ports into one cruise. You could find yourself spending a maximum of a few hours at each, and that's just not enough time to enjoy your surroundings. Instead, relax and enjoy the journey and then spend more time exploring each destination.

Health and Safety

Don't forget that while you're staying on the ship for most of your voyage, you will want to visit the tropical islands that your ship will visit along the way. Consult your doctor and let them know you're going on a cruise. Make sure that you're up to date with all of your vaccinations and inoculations. If you have any medical conditions, make sure you consult with you doctor and your travel agent or a representative from the cruise line. Cruise ships can be relaxing and fun with a host of amenities and excellent service, but keep in mind that other passengers might carry a cold or flu! Always wash your hands, drink lots of water, and enjoy the fresh air.

Ports and Travel

There are only so many ports that host cruises lines headed for the Caribbean in the eastern, southern, and southeastern United States (excluding Puerto Rico). Most people will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to embark on their ship. Ships leaving from Fort Lauderdale sail to most destinations in the Caribbean. You can also board a ship in Texas or New York, but be prepared for a longer trip that costs more. Researching your preferred cruise line will reveal their home port and where you will start your journey. Of course, now that you have all of the big stuff figured out, it's time to look at airfare and accommodation to and at your  port of call. It's vital to make reservations with the airline and get all of your travel documents in order way before your departure date. If not, you may find yourself on standby or missing your cruise because you were bumped from a flight that was overbooked. You will also need to consider travel insurance for your flight so you can be reimbursed if you do somehow miss your cruise, which can cost a lot of money.  Accommodation is your final step, and you can go as big or small as you like with this decision since you should only be staying in a hotel for a day or two before you embark on your sea-swept journey. Try to pick a hotel that's closer to the port so you can get there quickly on your departure date. We recommend a two-day cushion so you have a little leeway for delays. The last thing you want to do is stand on the dock watching your ship sail into the distance! Instead, you want to board in a calm and relaxed fashion. Enjoy your tropical cruise!

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