Cruisers' Guide to the Eastern Caribbean
With the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands all eastern Caribbean cruise destinations, you can expect great shopping, world-famous diving, and unforgettable sailing. Here are your options.
Cruise liners visiting Antigua dock at the capital of St. John's on the island's west coast, while Barbuda is an easy day trip by catamaran for shore visitors. In St. John's, stop at the market, head out on an off-road beach safari, or hit the water at Cade Reef for snorkeling. Barbuda has its own pristine beaches and a frigate bird sanctuary.
With hundreds of islands and cays waiting to be explored, the Bahamas are an adventure from the moment you step off the ship. From beach resorts and waterfront restaurants to an underwater submarine, the Bahamas don’t lack much of anything when it comes to Caribbean vacations.
Nassau is your most likely port of entry for the Bahamas, on the island of New Providence. Cruise liners anchor at Prince George Wharf, from where the capital’s shops and restaurants are just a 10-minute walk away.
Closer to Miami than Nassau, Freeport is on Grand Bahama Island, northwest of New Providence. Cruise liners dock at Lucaya Harbor, only 10 minutes from Freeport, where you’ll find a national park, beaches, and shopping.
Cruise liners tender visitors to shore at George Town on Grand Cayman Island, where colonial buildings and gardens reign supreme. Most visitors head to the long stretch of sand at Seven Mile Beach or visit Stingray City. English is spoken here, and US dollars are accepted.
British and French influences are evident on Dominica, where you'll dock in the former French port of Roseau on the southwest coast. Water activities such as kayaking, rainforest river tubing, and beach snorkel tours are popular shore excursions here.
Just 15 miles north of Miami, the frenetic city pace gives way to the wide, tree-lined boulevards, multimillion-dollar homes, and luxury yachts sailing the waterways of Fort Lauderdale. This city has world-class art, café-lined riverside walkways, and one of the world's busiest cruise ports.
Most ships dock near the capital city of San Juan’s old town, where you can soak up the mix of Caribbean, American, and Spanish cultures while following cobblestone streets, visiting the rum factory, and enjoying authentic Caribbean food. To head farther afield, follow nature trails at El Yunque Rainforest or join a snorkel and picnic cruise.
The Puerto Rican capital is where Caribbean cool meets slick Americana, dancing to the beat of syncopated Latin rhythms and the glow of tropical sunsets. It's a colorful, diverse and culturally unique place, where hip restaurants nestle next to 15th-century Spanish forts.
The laid-back vibe and magnificent coast provide a taste of paradise and a bit of light relief to millions each year. Perhaps the most pleasant climatic aspect of the US Virgin Islands is the combination of the trade winds that keep humidity low and the currents that keep waters warm.
Most cruise ships visiting the US Virgin Islands dock at Havensight or Crown Bay, near the capital Charlotte Amalie. Discover the island’s Dutch and Danish heritage by taking a stroll along historic laneways.
Quieter and smaller than St. Thomas, St. John is renowned for its snorkeling. If St. John is your port, you’ll be tendered ashore to the main town of Cruz Bay for shopping and dining. You can also go sailing aboard a catamaran, kayaking on Caneel Bay, or hiking to Turtle Point.
Most ships visiting this shared Dutch (St. Maarten) and French (St. Martin) island tie up near Phillipsburg on the Dutch side. The duty-free shopping is hugely popular, along with the white-sand beaches and cosmopolitan multicultural dining. English is spoken and US dollars are accepted on both sides of the island.