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Cruise destination spotlight: Southern Caribbean

Southern Caribbean cruises cater to the experienced cruiser and the Caribbean connoisseur. The first-time cruiser is usually deterred by the flight to the San Juan departure port or the lengthy itineraries from the mainland. Western and eastern Caribbean destinations are more easily accessed from U.S. homeports. Plus, the southern Caribbean islands are more exclusive than their northern counterparts such as Jamaica and the Bahamas. It’s often the dedicated island collectors who are willing to make the journey.

All over the Caribbean, winter is the high season and fall is the low season. But the southern Caribbean islands have a secret weapon—they’re less likely to encounter hurricanes. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao don’t even lie in the hurricane belt. The other islands do, but most haven’t seen storms in years. In general, while fall fares may dip to the southern Caribbean, you take less of a risk than with western and eastern Caribbean itineraries.

Where you’ll go and what you’ll do

The great thing about southern Caribbean cruises is that no two itineraries seem to be the same. A majority of the seven-night cruises depart from San Juan, Puerto Rico, but longer sailings leave from U.S. homeports such as Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and New York. If you do leave from [% 117823 | | Puerto Rico %], you might consider adding on a few days pre- or post-cruise to enjoy the island’s beaches, rainforests, and cultural heritage.

Many southern Caribbean itineraries actually combine a mix of eastern and southern islands. The real southern destinations are Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Martinique, St. Kitts, and St. Lucia. Other islands you might visit include St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Tortola. If you want to visit as many islands as possible, choose a cruise that departs from San Juan or another island such as Barbados, Aruba, or the Dominican Republic. If you like to mix up your port days with days at sea, a longer itinerary from the U.S. mainland will be right for you.

Most of the southern islands have beach appeal, and you can happily sunbathe away your day in port. Antigua and Aruba are two islands known for their beaches. St. Lucia and Dominica offer hiking adventures through rainforests and by volcanoes, and you can swim under waterfalls in natural pools in Grenada. Martinique is a tiny outpost of France, and can be a shopper’s and gastronome’s paradise. Bonaire and Curacao provide exceptional snorkeling and diving opportunities. Sailboat rides, historical tours, and afternoons filled with rum punch are also great ways to spend days in southern Caribbean ports.

Which cruise lines sail to the southern Caribbean?

Here’s what the cruise lines are offering:

Carnival: Carnival sails seven- to nine-night itineraries from Barbados, Ft. Lauderdale, and San Juan.

Celebrity: Celebrity offers seven- to 13-night cruises departing from Ft. Lauderdale and San Juan.

Holland America: Holland America runs seven- to 20-night cruises from Ft. Lauderdale, New York, and Tampa.

Norwegian: Norwegian runs nine- to 14-night cruises from Miami, New York, and Philadelphia.

Princess: Princess offers seven- to 16-night cruises from Ft. Lauderdale and San Juan.

Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean sails three- to 12-night cruises departing from Bayonne; Colon, Panama; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Crystal, Cunard, MSC Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, and Windstar offer southern Caribbean itineraries as well. Several lines also have general Caribbean sailings that combine southern Caribbean islands with other destinations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. For more information about any southern Caribbean cruises, contact the cruise line or a travel agent.

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