You can see places that are as different as night from day, and all on the same cruise
Typical stops on a Southern Caribbean itinerary will include the islands of Aruba, Curacao, Margarita Island in Venezuela, Barbados, Antigua and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Each of these island retreats offers its own style of pleasure, and that’s what makes a Southern Caribbean cruise so special. You can see places that are as different as night from day, and all on the same cruise. Some islands will be booming tourist centres with lots of diversions such as happening bars and eateries, while others will be more undeveloped, offering lots in the way of eco tourism with their lush, verdant rain forests and jungle terrain.
One of the most popular island stops on a Southern Caribbean cruise is Aruba. The island offers much to see and do, including visiting the Natural Bridge (which has somewhat disintegrated but still offers wonderful views), the Butterfly Farm, the Aloe Balm Factory, and the old gold mill ruins. You can go shopping for lots of great bargains in the island’s capital of Oranjestad or visit one of the nearby beach areas such as Palm or Druif Beach.
Another great island retreat to visit in the Southern Caribbean is St. Lucia. It is unique from all others with its two landmark Pitons that rise some 2,600 feet from the sea. St. Lucia is steeped in history and tradition, and it is one place that puts the preservation of its unique ecology and way of life above its desire for increased tourism. Cruise ships dock in the town centre, but the more interesting parts of the island must be visited by taxi or bus since they are located more inland and are comprised of small villages, rain forests, white sand beaches and even a few elegant resorts. If your cruise stops here, don’t miss the chance to visit Soufriere which is located on the south side of the island. You can view the Pitons from there, and along the way stop at the top of Mount Fortune for some awesome views of the whole island. You can also visit Sulphur Springs and its unique “drive thru” volcano. You can also sample the nearby Diamond Mineral Baths and its waterfall that actually changes colours during the daylight hours, going from green to yellow to black, and then back again.
Finally, make sure your cruise includes a stop at Barbados, a favourite with British cruisers. It has a lot more than its British roots and flavour to offer, it also has miles and miles of pink sand beaches, which are a favourite, especially with family cruisers. The port city of Bridgetown, along the island’s Gold Coast, is a bustling town centre offering just about every modern amenity cruisers love, including bars and lounges and lots of unique and funky eateries. But get outside of Bridgetown, and you will have the opportunity to experience the islands older, quieter charms such as plantation houses, rum factories, all set among windswept rocky cliffs and gorgeous mountainous terrain.
Cruise ships will offer a variety of shore experiences that passengers can indulge themselves in, but the very nature of these South Caribbean islands encourages independent touring. There is also no shortage of vendors waiting on the pier when cruise ships dock, and often passengers can negotiate their own deals for some highly personalised, customised tours which focus on just those things they like to do at prices that often beat those of the cruise lines.
A cruise to the Southern Caribbean is sure to go down as one of the best holidays you have ever experienced.
Belonging to the Netherlands, Aruba’s modern multicultural population is made up of over 60 nationalities, though English is widely spoken.
This is a friendly island, with tourism being its bread and butter. It receives regular visits from just about every cruise line plying southern Caribbean waters.
If culture is your passion, make your first stop the capital city of Oranjestad. All the cruise ships dock right here and it’s an easy five-minute walk from the dock to the centre of town. Taxis are plentiful and the government sets meter rates. There is also regular bus service throughout the island, operating from 6:00am. to midnight every day.
Bridgetown has beautiful beaches, dotted with seaside villages, and peppered with dramatic scenery.
A popular cruise location for many lines, including Cunard, Fred Olsen and Regent, Bridgetown has several berths at the terminal where there is a shopping arcade for gifts or jewellery, but it would be a pity to miss the chance to properly explore this tiny easternmost isle of the West Indies.
Barbados is one of the strings of the volcanic Lesser Antilles Islands that start from the northern coast of Venezuela and include Martinique, Saint Lucia and the US Virgin Islands.
Curacao is a member of the Dutch Antilles, located about 56km north of the coast of Venezuela and is the "C" in the Dutch Caribbean "ABC" islands. It’s a very popular spot with tourists who love warm weather, duty-free shopping, lively casinos and water sports galore. It also has some of the grandest high-rise resort hotels in all of the Caribbean.
The island is predominantly Dutch and is known for its ocean front pastel coloured buildings, classic Dutch-style windmills, and unique colourful architecture.
Cruise ships make regular port stops here and there are two main docks, one of which is located just a few minutes walk from downtown Willemstad, the island’s capital city. Taxis are readily available, though they are not metered, so be sure to ask your driver for a rate card or a quote to get to your destination. He’ll gladly provide one. A bus service covers almost anywhere on the island. Rental cars are available, with rates ranging from $35 to $45 per day.
Martinique, which is part of the Windward Islands, is a unique place in terms of both its geography and culture. Two major bodies of water, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, border it and because of this it has two distinctly different types of beach. Martinique is a tiny island of only 420sq miles and its land is varied, with large sections being flat and others mountainous.
The best time to visit the island is between November and May, when the temperatures are in the 70° to 80°F and nights are only slightly cooler, between 60° and 70°F. July to November is the rainy season and hurricanes are always possible during this period.
St. Kitts is located in the northern portion of the Leeward Islands, in the eastern Caribbean and shares a channel, some two miles wide, with its smaller island neighbour, Nevis.
Both St. Kitts and Nevis are unique in that they enjoy a more tropical climate, similar to that of the South Pacific islands. As a result, the two islands have a stunning natural beauty that makes them unique from many of the other Caribbean islands.
Visitors to St. Kitts will find a stunning array of things to do, such as hiking through the rain forests, playing golf on several challenging courses, fishing, boating, diving and snorkelling. There are also many historical points of interest to see, including restored fortresses, plantations that are rumoured to be haunted and even some ancient petroglyphs.
St Lucia is a 238 square mile island in the Caribbean that is filled with tropical rainforests, waterfalls, mountain peaks, and sandy beaches all of which beckon tourists to the area. The island has resorts dotted all over it and visitors can find some of the best rates on island hops in order to see some of the other gems the Caribbean offers. The weather is always warm here, and travellers to this part of the world will love St. Lucia.
Like the other islands in the Caribbean, St Lucia has its own Carnival. It takes place in July and this is the ultimate party of the year. Of course, the residents will find any reason acceptable to celebrate and if you cannot make it to the island for their annual Carnival, then make sure you visit the weekly ‘jump ins’ in Rodney Bay and Gros Islet. These two places are constantly hopping with the sound of soca, reggae, and hip hop. This is the party area of the island and you are welcome to stay and dance the night away.
St Vincent and the Grenadines are part of the Caribbean islands known as the Windward Islands. They are 24 miles south of St Lucia with Barbados 100 miles to their east. It is the largest island making up the area known as the Windward Islands, and the Grenadines actually fan 45 miles southwest from St Vincent as if they were the tail of a kite.
St Vincent actually has an active volcano on the northern end of the island, with the entire island measuring only 18 miles long by 11 miles wide. It stays at a wonderful average of 81ºF all year round with November to February being the coldest months of the year. May to October is the island’s rainy season and St Vincent sees an average rainfall of 80 inches on the coast and up to 150 inches inland.
There is nothing like the sound of steel bands, carnival, and calypso music; everything you will find when you visit the islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Located off the coast of Venezuela, these sister islands are separated by twenty miles of warm, blue waters. Trinidad is a bustling island, oil-rich and modern, while Tobago is the opposite; laid back, lush, fertile, and with many different types of beach to explore. Both islands, however, have been embroiled in invasions and conquests since their discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1498 and it wasn’t until 1962 that Trinidad gained its independence, with Tobago following in 1987.
If one were to fly over the islands, they would notice the great geographical differences between the two. Trinidad, as compared to her lush and fertile sister Tobago, is dominated by the Northern Range of mountains at the head of the island. These mountains overlook the capital city of Port of Spain. The centre of the island is low and flat, with agricultural areas that are still used today. The north and east coasts have luxurious beaches and the west coast of the island is the home of the Caroni swamps and their bird sanctuary which is inhabited by the scarlet ibis.
Antigua is an island known primarily for its water-related activities. It is also a haven for pleasure craft and there are several docks where you can see the expensive yachts of the rich and famous who visit the island.
Antigua is known as the “Gateway to the Caribbean” and it is about 14miles long and 11miles wide. St. John’s is the island’s capital and is home to over a third of the country’s population, which is primarily of West Indian descent.
The island boasts many facilities for tourists, including cultural sites, most of which are centred in the English Harbour area. These include restored buildings, hilltop forts and a small collection of museums. Nelson’s Dockyard, an 18th-century British naval base, is the harbour’s main attraction and visitors can view the yacht basin, have lunch at one of several restaurants and bars in the area, see the governor’s unique Georgian-style residence and check out the 18th-century fort ruins of Sandy Heights.
Dominica is best known as a destination for naturalists and adventure seekers. While it doesn’t have the sandy beaches many of the other nearby islands boast, it is a favoured destination, because it is much less crowded than many other Caribbean hot spots.
Dominica is literally blanketed with tropical rainforest that covers this mountainous island. It also has many rivers, creating a variety of pools and waterfalls that beg exploration.
Roseau is Dominica’s capital city. Its streets are lined with old stone and wood buildings and the shopkeepers wash down the sidewalks in front of their establishments each morning. It’s a quaint town, but certainly not the glitziest or the richest. It’s a market town and walking its narrow streets will take you back in time.
Locals call Grenada the “spice of the Caribbean”, probably because the island is known for the wide variety of spices grown there. As soon as you set foot on the island you can smell the sweet scent of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. In fact this island is very popular with shoppers who come specifically to buy them. The island is also very popular for its famous Caribbean rum punch and most tourists purchase a few bottles to take back home.
St. George’s is the island’s capital and is one of the most picturesque cities in all of the Caribbean. Many of the buildings are adorned with red-tiled roofs and the streets are lined with traditional shops and homes. It is also filled with French and British Colonial architecture and Georgian colonial buildings, with pastel coloured facades, all of which make it a great place to take a leisurely stroll.
When people think about exotic Caribbean destinations, they normally don’t even consider Caracas. In fact, odds are they may have never heard of the destination. But Caracas has a lot to offer as a holiday destination and because it is not over-run with tourists, at least not yet anyway, those offerings come at a very budget-friendly price.
The city is an up and coming tourist destination in South America. It is the capital of Venezuela and it is located very close to the coast, making beach accessibility very convenient. Because it is also mountainous, it has an elevation of about 2,400ft (800m), which gives it a very unique climate.
The actual capital city is situated under the Avila, which towers 7,800ft (2,600m) above. You can stay at the Humboldt Hotel, which is reachable by special cable cars that take visitors up the mountain to where the hotel is located. The views from the cable car are amazing and this ride is a major tourist attraction in its own right, even for people not staying at the hotel.
Isla Margarita, or Margarita Island, is a tropical Caribbean paradise located just off the coast of Venezuela. It is best known for its beaches and water activities and has 320 days of sunshine each year.
Isla Margarita, while not as well-known, offers pretty much the same holiday amenities as most other Caribbean island retreats, including beautiful white sand beaches, all-inclusive resorts, upscale hotel properties, superb golfing, loads of water-sports opportunities and a varied nightlife, but all at a fraction of what you would pay on other Caribbean islands.
The official currency is the Venezuelan Bolivar Fuerte. Be aware that due to prevailing government regulations, you cannot change the Venezuelan currency back into dollars, so only exchange your money a little at a time, as you need it.
St. Bart’s is a little slice of France dropped in the Southern Caribbean. The official language is French and the Euro is the primary currency. However, you’ll find English spoken widely and merchants will accept US dollars.
The weather is almost perfect, with temperatures generally running somewhere in the 80’s. The edge is taken off the temperature by the trade winds, which blow year-round, so it is almost always comfortable for outdoors activities. In the evenings, it can get down to between 60° and 70°F, so a light sweater or jacket is advisable. Rain normally falls for a brief time in the evenings, so it wont spoil your daytime beach and water activities.
The port city of Gustavia is a colourful place, with brightly painted houses lining the glittering yacht harbour. The ambience of the town is very French and very chic and tends to remind you of a miniature version of the Cote d Azur.