The Caribbean

Lots of islands to explore, each with its own personality to discover.
Elaine Glusac

The archipelago of small island nations clustered together in the sparkling Caribbean Sea make sailing both a recreational and a cultural voyage. Caribbean cruises depart from a number of U.S. ports. Those departure options coupled with the vast array of island destinations, from Jamaica, renowned for music and fiery food, to St. Bart’s, French playground of the rich and famous, produces a matrix of enticing cruise possibilities, promising a different language every day.

Bargains abound in this competitive region. Consider Norwegian Cruise Line which plans a five-day Caribbean cruise at rates you can’t beat. Because the Norwegian Dawn departs and returns to Miami you’ll save on long-haul airfares to one the islands. Instead, you’ll have more time to relax on board the ship where most of your expenses are already covered as you make your way south to the islands of Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

Eat Smart: NCL’s signature “freestyle dining” program means, unlike other cruise lines, you won’t be tied to the same dinner guests and the same dining room each evening. The Norwegian Dawn offers 12 restaurants. Selections include Bamboo, where you can enjoy pan-Asian food ranging from Japanese sushi to pad Thai noodles; Cagney’s, which grills steaks in a vintage men’s club setting; and Impressions Italian Restaurant, which specializes in classics like osso buco gremolata.

While your food is covered on board, you’ll get a taste of place by dining during your port stop in Cozumel. Mexico’s warm climate allows you to dine outdoors at Casa Denis, in downtown San Miguel, sampling guacamole and Yucatecan pork tacos across from the lively main square.

Be Fit: As in Greece, you’ll have plenty of time on the beach aboard this Caribbean cruise. Grand Cayman’s famed Seven Mile Beach beckons seemingly endless walks down the shore. Excursions arranged by the cruise line will pad your bill, but the trip to Cayman’s Stingray City, where hundreds of stingrays gather on the sandy bottom of the bay, is worth the expense. On Cozumel, you can save by hiring a cab to get to Chankanaab Park, where you can rent snorkel gear.

Live Well: On Grand Cayman, take in colonial history at the 18th-century Great House, the island’s oldest stone structure, at Pedro St. James National Historic Site then hit the outdoor Cayman Craft Market (345-949-8368) near the ship dock for locally made basketry and Caymanite stone jewelry. The Museum of Popular Arts at Discover Mexico on Cozumel provides an overview of colorful Mexican folk art.