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A Caribbean Cruise: Diving into the Depths
Sponsored by Silversea Cruises The start of my magical New York to Barbados cruise on Silversea’s Silver Spirit wasn’t so magical: crazy winds, torrential rain and air turbo for most of the short flight from Baltimore to JFK in New York. When our driver deposited us -- in the still driving rain -- at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on the Hudson River, Silver Spirit was shelter from the storm. I soon came to appreciate just how fantastic a shelter. Our real estate on this 11-night cruise, with stops in Bermuda and six ports in the Eastern Caribbean -- is a Silver Suite. Cheerful and, at 746 square feet, spacious, it has a bedroom, living/dining area, walk-in closet, a bathroom, itself two rooms, and a large veranda. I’ve lived in apartments smaller than that. My father, who is my go-to traveling companion, and I were among the last to board and we made our way quickly to Tor’s Observation Library for the 6 p.m. sail-away. Situated on the bow, just three doors down from our cabin on Deck 11, the library doubles as a bar at night, combining two of my favorite things: books and beverages.
Exotic Western Caribbean Cruise Tips
New cruisers might argue that the entire Western Caribbean feels exotic -- and longtime travelers might suggest that no cruise port in such a touristed area of the world could possibly be dubbed mysterious or intriguing. Regardless of where you stand on that debate, the truth is when the cruise industry talks about the exotic part of the Western Caribbean, it means the eastern coast of Central American countries Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica -- set in contrast to the standard Western Caribbean destinations of Jamaica, Grand Cayman and eastern Mexico. Though the countries of Central America share many attributes, there are differences, and those differences can be handy to know when it comes to planning your cruise. For snorkelers, Belize tops the list; divers will also want to include port calls there, but Roatan and the other Bay Islands of Honduras are world-class dive sites as well. Belize, Honduras and Guatemala are ground zero for the ruins of Classic Mayan civilization, most notably Guatemala's Tikal and Honduras's Copan, though Tikal is also offered by some ships as a shore excursion from Belize City. Farther south, Nicaragua and Costa Rica are meccas for ecotourists seeking close encounters with rainforests, volcanoes, white water rivers and wildlife (monkeys and parrots and crocodiles -- oh my!) Read on to find out when to book a cruise to the ports of the Exotic Western, which lines you can take to get there, and where to go and what to know when you dock.
Day Passes at Caribbean Resorts
When you're cruising the Caribbean, sometimes a hassle-free day at the beach is more appealing than booking a cruise line-sponsored shore excursion or wandering around souvenir shops, sorting through shell art and T-shirts. If you're in the mood for some sun and fun, purchasing a day pass at one of the many resorts lining those gorgeous island shores might just be your best bet. Resort passes offer all-day access to amenities like pools, lounge chairs, water sports equipment and activities. Some include meals at onsite restaurants, drinks from the bar and transfers to and from the cruise port or, more rarely, daytime use of resort rooms when available. You might even find that certain resort day passes end up being quite affordable compared to booking a private tour or a beach day through the cruise line, depending on inclusions. Just don't forget to factor in transportation costs, if any, when pricing out options. Below, we've compiled a list of a few popular resorts that offer day passes in some of the Caribbean's most well-known ports. Editor's note: Prices and amenities listed are subject to change at any time; additional taxes and service charges may apply. Passes do not include use of a room unless otherwise stated.
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.