East or West: when you cruise in the Caribbean, which is best?
The Eastern and Western portions of the Caribbean Sea have lots of similarities, but also distinctive characteristics that might influence your choice of Caribbean cruise itinerary. Don’t stress over choosing either East or West, because both will deliver a lovely cruise experience. Still, it’s good to make an informed choice. So, here’s a quick comparison:
Islands. First, let’s define the East and the West. Eastern Caribbean itineraries may include Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, The Dominican Republic and the French West Indies, Turks and Caicos, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua and St. Lucia. Western itineraries may include Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Cozumel and Roatan, plus coastal ports in Mexico and Belize.
Itineraries. Seven-day itineraries are common for both Eastern and Western sailings. However, Eastern itineraries tend to include more ports, because the islands are closer together. There are usually five ports on a seven-day cruise that departs from Florida, and six on a cruise from Puerto Rico or St. Thomas. Islands and ports are farther apart in the West, so even if you leave from New Orleans or Houston, you’ll visit three or four ports and enjoy a couple of days at sea.
Beaches. Beaches are the biggest attraction in the Eastern Caribbean. There are thousands of beaches; the island of Antigua alone claims to have 365, one for each day of the year. Eastern beaches range from pristine strips of sand where you won’t see another person to large beaches that pulse with activity, music and water sports; and, they’re all lapped by that beautiful turquoise water. The Western Caribbean has beautiful beaches, too, but if you really love beach hopping, the East may be for you.
Activities. If you need diversity in your onshore activities, look to the West. While Eastern cruises have lots of opportunities for beach time and great shopping, Western cruises tend to have a greater variety of activities in each port. There are Mayan ruins to explore, snorkeling and diving excursions around one of the world’s largest coral reefs, underwater caves and deep cenotes for swimming, eco parks, and much more. This variety may give the West the edge, especially if you’re cruising with a group and need lots of activities for different interests and ages.
Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, will be happy to provide more details on Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises (remember, you can always do one of each!).
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