From island to island, each with its own beauty and distinctive character, the only thing that does not change in the Caribbean is beautiful weather for year-round vacationing. The same can be said for Caribbean cruises. No two are alike, and with new ships, itineraries, ports and shipboard activities continually adding an element of surprise, travelers this year will be amazed at the variety offered by Caribbean cruise vacations.
Top: Crystal Cruises combines the Caribbean with a Panama Canal voyage.
Below: See “Toy Story the Musical,” a new entertainment option on the Wonder, a Disney Cruise Line ship that offers Caribbean sailings. AAA file photos
The Caribbean region remains the world’s most popular cruising grounds, hosting nearly half of the worldwide cruise capacity. There are as many reasons the Caribbean is the world’s most popular cruise destination as there are cruises, ports and itineraries to enjoy. The following are some examples of the latest developments and newest additions to an already extensive selection of cruises short and long, on ships big and small, which journey to every corner of the Caribbean, including some of the most exclusive destinations and undiscovered hideaways in the region.
One of the world’s newest cruise lines, Azamara is making its Caribbean debut this winter with 14-night round-trip cruises on the Azamara Quest from Miami. The itineraries feature a combination of lesser-known ports on well-known islands, out-of-the-way islands and elegant destinations like St. Barts. At the beginning of 2009, Azamara Journey will offer two 12-night Caribbean itineraries from Miami featuring U.S.-, French- and British-influenced islands.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Totally transformed by the line’s multimillion dollar "Evolutions of Fun" enhancement program, Carnival Imagination will shift to three-day Bahamas and four-day western Caribbean cruises from Miami beginning in September. Also in September, Carnival Destiny redeploys to Miami to become the only 100,000-ton cruise ship to offer year-round four- and five-day Caribbean cruises. Carnival will also increase Caribbean capacity from Jacksonville by 38 percent when Carnival Fascination begins sailing from there this fall.
When Celebrity Solstice is launched in December and begins seven-night Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, the ship will feature an industry first: a top deck called the Lawn Club, which will have real grass. In addition to a bar, the Lawn Club Shop and a patio, the area will feature a glass-blowing studio called the Hot Glass Show, in collaboration with the Corning Museum of Glass. Celebrity Solstice joins four other Celebrity ships offering a variety of Caribbean itineraries.
Crystal has created a 12-day itinerary that combines the Caribbean with Bermuda. The voyage begins in New York with stops in Hamilton, Bermuda; St. Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles; St. John in Antigua; Aruba; Dutch West Indies; and Grand Cayman, before arriving in Miami. The cruise joins several other Crystal itineraries that combine the Caribbean with the Panama Canal, and for the winter holidays, it features a roundtrip Holiday Treasures cruise from Miami. The new itinerary will be offered in October 2008.
After the conclusion of its trans-Atlantic season in November, Queen Mary 2 will return to the Caribbean departing New York on Nov. 21 on an eight-day Caribbean adventure. It will call on St. Kitts, Grenada and Bonaire en route to Fort Lauderdale. The ship will sail several roundtrip Caribbean voyages from Fort Lauderdale through Jan. 13, 2009. Port calls include Tortola, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Thomas, Dominica and Panama.
Disney Cruise Line
Look for “Toy Story the Musical” now on Disney Wonder’s Caribbean sailings. The show has larger-than-life props that transform the 977-seat Walt Disney Theater into a world of fun and adventure. The musical has a seven-song score, articulated puppets and inflatable costumes, including a nine-foot version of Rex the Dinosaur.
Holland America Line
Holland America Line continues to focus on longer, port-intensive Caribbean cruises, offering 121 departures ranging from seven to 20 days. The company offers the most Caribbean cruises of 10 days or more of any cruise line, but it also has select three-day Bahamas getaways. Highlighting this year's fall/winter Caribbean season will be the arrival of the new Eurodam, which will sail one three-day itinerary and then begin seven-day eastern Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale.
Seven Princess ships will sail on 11 itineraries to all corners of the Caribbean this year, including two new 14-day itineraries. “Caribbean Collection” on Grand Princess features nine ports, including Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and La Romana in the Dominican Republic. “Caribbean Calypso” on Royal Princess visits several less-visited ports. Crown Princess will sail an enhanced seven-day eastern Caribbean itinerary, and the new Ruby Princess will make her debut on a series of western Caribbean sailings.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Among its varied Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale, Regent Seven Seas this year is featuring a new 14-night “Deep Caribbean” cruise on Seven Seas Navigator. Offered as a round-trip cruise, it includes such ports as Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire, as well as Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Barts, San Juan and Grand Turk.
Contact your nearest AAA Travel professional and book the perfect Caribbean cruise for you. Click on www.AAA.com/travel or call (888) 3366-4222 to find a AAA Travel office close to your home.