Beaches, Diving and Much More
One of the best cruise destinations which is suitable for all
The islands in the Eastern Caribbean are best known for their diving and snorkelling opportunities, and they offer some of the best diving and snorkelling around. Just about every cruise ship offers shore excursions where people can pursue their water-bound passions under safe, supervised conditions. Certified SCUBA divers will find a variety of dive operators, both through the cruise lines and independently, who can take them to dive a variety of sights, including coral gardens and ancient shipwrecks. Just don’t forget to bring your “C” card along with you.
For the uncertified diver, many dive shops offer “discovery” dive tours. These provide for an hour or so of small group instruction, followed by an introductory dive under close supervision. These “resort certifications;” which allow participants to be certified to dive to their heart’s content just with the one operator at the one location, serve as a great introduction to the sport of SCUBA diving.
For the person who wants to do a complete SCUBA certification while on holiday, some cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises and Regent Seven Seas even offer onboard SCUBA programs on various itineraries. The way these work is that you do your classroom study and pool exercises on the ship, mainly on sea days, and then do your open water certification dives while in various ports. The advantage of such a program is that the you can do everything in a relaxed manner while on holdiay, ending up with full certification by the end of it. The disadvantage is having to study and attend classes while sailing on a beautiful cruise ship offering so many other amenities.
There is a lot on tap in the Eastern Caribbean for people with other interests as well. Of course, St. Thomas is a shopper’s paradise, offering stores with great deals on a variety of merchandise such as electronics, jewellery and a host of fine leathers and apparel items.
Beaches abound as well, including some out of the way places reachable only by ferry.
Finally, don’t forget about the cruise line’s private island paradises. These are small islands and cays that the cruise lines have leased and developed. They also offer a host of activities, including escorted snorkelling excursions, sting ray encounters, parasailing, eco-hikes, and other such diversions while docked there. Many include some shopping, usually a barbecued lunch, a variety of beach venues (some family, some adult, etc.), and of course, a nice outdoor bar where one can enjoy Caribbean music while sipping on their favourite libation.
San Juan is a Caribbean port located on the north-eastern coast of Puerto Rico. The original Spanish name was San Juan Bautista, or Saint John the Baptist. San Juan is the capital and the largest city of Puerto Rico. Since the year 2000, San Juan has been the 42nd largest city under American jurisdiction. It is the second oldest city of its kind in the Americas as it was colonised by the Spanish in 1521. It was the Spanish who gave the island the name of Puerto Rico.
San Juan is situated south of the Atlantic Ocean and thus has a climate that is best described as tropical marine. It boasts an average temperature of 28 degrees centigrade all year round. This temperature, however, can rise to 32 degrees in the summer, especially with a southern wind. The winter low temperature is typically 22 degrees centigrade. The tropical climate means that rain is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year and the driest months are usually February, March and April.
St John (USVI)
Saint John is one of the “collection” of Virgin Islands located in the Caribbean Sea, and an unincorporated part of America. Saint John is the smallest of the three main islands, the others being St. Thomas and St. Croix. It is also the most expensive of the three. The island lies four miles east of Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the territory located on St. Thomas Island. The area of the island is just less than twenty square miles and according to the census in 2000 has a population of just over 4,000. There is no airport on the island, which is reached by ferry from St. Thomas and Tortola every hour, and from Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.
St Maarten is located in the northeast of the Caribbean, some 300 km east of Puerto Rico. St Maarten is a small island, the total area of which is fourteen square miles. It is the smallest, inhabited, marine island to be divided between two nations, France and the Netherlands Antilles. The island area of St Martin, or St Maarten, belongs to the Netherlands Antilles and France has the northern half of the island, known as the Collectivity of St Martin or the Collectivité de Saint-Martin. The two territories together are commonly known as St Martin/St Maarten. The Island’s main airport is called the Princess Juliana International and this name is also used when referring to the island. The largest city in the Island area is St. Philipsburg with a population of around 1330, while the largest in the northern half of the island is called Marigot with a population of just under 5,400.
Saint Thomas is one of the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, situated between the islands of St. John and St. Croix. The island measures thirty-two square miles and has 50,000 inhabitants. There are a number of towns scattered across St. Thomas Island with the town of Charlotte Amalie being the largest and the main urban and administrative centre for the island. The town also has the largest population on the island—18,914 inhabitants according to the 2000 census. You will find wonderful beaches and beautiful tropical scenery on Saint Thomas Island. These beaches, along with the laid back attitude of the inhabitants, make this an island paradise for the discerning tourist.
Tortola, or “Land of the Turtle Dove” as it was called by Christopher Columbus, is the largest of the 60 British Virgin Islands. The Island is located 60 miles east of Puerto Rico and 22 miles east of the island of St. Thomas. This mountainous island has an area of twenty-one and a half square miles and is formed of volcanic rock. Minor earthquakes are quite common on Tortola as it lies near an earthquake fault. The principal city is Road Town, the largest settlement in the British Virgin Islands. The currency on the island is the American dollar even though it lies under the British flag.
Virgin Gorda is the third largest of the 60 British Virgin Islands. It covers an area of approximately eight square miles and lies to the northwest of Tortola, the largest of the islands. The name Virgin Gorda means Fat Virgin and Christopher Columbus is reputed to have given the island its name because the outline of the island is reminiscent of a large woman laid on her back.
The island first became known as a travel destination in the 1970’s. It has a tropical climate so visitors can expect warmth and sunshine no matter what time of the year they visit. In spite of the fact that it has become quite popular, the island has not fallen prey to excessive commercialisation and there are a few resorts and a handful of rental villas to accommodate visitors.
Barbados is one of the most popular Caribbean holiday destinations of all time. It is a gorgeous tropical paradise that is far from most of the other Caribbean islands. For this reason, it hasn’t been overrun with tourists especially since only a handful of cruise ship itineraries include it.
Barbados is part of the Netherlands Antilles chain of islands, with a decidedly English flavour. Cricket is the sport of choice and the island has been home to more world-class players than any other country.