Caribbean ports: Your guide to the region's leading cruise destinations

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie

Why choose one idyllic Caribbean island when you could set foot on two, three or more? Book your berth with Marella Cruises - surely one of the most deliciously indulgent ways to navigate around the region - and you could be experiencing multiple sun-kissed beaches, rugged national parks, and historic colonial centres before you know it.

  1. Basseterre, St Kitts
  2. Castries, St Lucia
  3. Kingstown, St Vincent
  4. Montego Bay, Jamaica
  5. Road Town, British Virgin Islands
  6. St George's, Grenada
  7. St John's, Antigua
  8. Willemstad, Curaçao
  9. Cozumel, Mexico
  10. Roatan, Honduras

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1. Basseterre, St Kitts

St Kitts wears its colonial past on its sleeve in its capital of Basseterre* with a rich collage of architecture. Independence Square celebrates the pride of this tropical island, while the National Museum delves into the story of a Caribbean island that is about so much more than just beautiful beaches.

Cannon at Brimstone Hill Fortress, St Kitts © Prayitno - Flickr Creative Commons
Cannon at Brimstone Hill Fortress, St Kitts © Prayitno - Flickr Creative Commons

St Kitts, of course, has those in abundance with Turtle Beach a white sand star and Pump Bay one of the most popular volcanic black sand gems. Numerous excursions tempt, which you can book onboard.

Not least the old-timer train that ekes out of Needsmust Station for an adventure amongst plunging ravines and thick forests en route to circling the hulking Mount Liamuiga volcano.

History buffs will adore the 17th-century Brimstone Hill Fortress, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed 'Gibraltar of the West Indies'. The other half of this island federation, Nevis, lies just a couple of miles away across the Narrows strait.

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2. Bridgetown, Barbados

The British colonial legacy stands proud in the port city of Bridgetown*, capital of Barbados, which is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Savour the history on offer at National Heroes Square plus the 17th-century garrison and at what is said to be the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere.

Duty free shopping tempts both at the cruise terminal and in the Broad Street boutiques. Barbados is famous as a scuba dive destination. You can book an excursion onboard to snorkel to a shipwreck, an adventure that also includes a 4X4 trip.

More sedentary souls can board the Atlantic Submarine to enjoy a fish eye view of the bountiful local sea life without getting wet. There is a good chance of seeing hawksbill and green turtles.

Then there are the beaches, epic stretches of sand that just invite Lotus Eating. On first sighting the paradise sands you will see why the trips to Carlisle Bay are so popular.

Bridgetown weather

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3. Castries, St Lucia

The capital and largest settlement in St Lucia enjoys a spectacular location betwixt 2,000 ft high mountains and the Caribbean Sea, which you will appreciate as you cruise in. Castries* tempts cruise ship passengers with its range of shopping experiences, from the duty free shopping at Pointe Seraphine by the berth, through to colourful markets where exotic fruit and colourful handicrafts are on sale.

One excursion option allows you to delve up into those towering Pitons mountains, while another offers the chance to appreciate an island sprinkled with a thick cloak of emerald forests and sheer white beaches on a Segway.

End of a day at the beach in St Lucia © Uwe - Fotolia.com
End of a day at the beach in St Lucia © Uwe - Fotolia.com

If you want to get close to our marine mammal cousins, boat trips take you out to encounter frolicking dolphins and breaching whales. You could, of course, just book a transfer to enjoy a day at the beach appreciating the island's most famous drawcard.

Castries weather

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4. Kingstown, St Vincent

The neighbouring Grenadines may grab more attention, which leaves savvy travellers to cruise in and enjoy St Vincent's unspoilt delights. Kingstown* offers elegant architecture with its arched stone doors and covered walkways harking back to a gentler age you can still very much get in touch with.

Ramble around rugged Fort Charlotte in the footsteps of British troops, shopping for handicrafts rather than hulking rifles around. More shopping opportunities await when you book a catamaran cruise across to the sleepy wee isle of Bequia 15 km away.

Shop or sunbathe before easing back to Kingstown. If you want to mix it with the Hollywood jet set, snare a trip to Wallilabou Bay, which fans will instantly recognise as a key stomping ground for Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean.

You'll feel like a movie star on your handcrafted schooner as you dream of the stars and watch dolphins leaping by.

Kingstown weather

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5. Montego Bay, Jamaica

If it's a glitzy, tropical Caribbean knees-up you are after then you've come to the right party place in Montego Bay*. This vibrant, but also seriously relaxed, oasis booms to a laid back reggae beat so kick back and enjoy the delights of rum-based cocktails and delicious jerk chicken.

Montego Bay is about more than just partying though, with myriad excursions luring you away from the beach. Discover Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica's premier attraction, by swimming in the terraced waterfalls that put you in touch with another Jamaica all together.

Younger travellers will enjoy the Crocodile Nursery, with super cute hatchlings and feeding times the star attractions. Adrenaline excursions await with a ziplining adventure or a whitewater rafting trip on Martha Brae River.

A more stately experience awaits with a sumptuous high tea at Good Hope Estate, which offers an intriguing insight into the country's sugar plantations.

Montego Bay weather

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6. Road Town, British Virgin Islands

Road Town*, the capital of the British Virgin Islands, is far more appealing than its prosaic name may suggest. Main Street is the heart of the action with the chance to shop, sift through the museums and enjoy the historical legacies you will find in the architecture, not least the strikingly painted bungalows.

West End, Tortola, British Virgin Islands © RosaIreneBetancourt 12 - Alamy Stock Photo
West End, Tortola, British Virgin Islands © RosaIreneBetancourt 12 - Alamy Stock Photo

Beyond the capital the island of Tortola is more Jurassic Park than theme park, a real natural wonderland. For some beachtime, there are the white beach oases of Apple Bay and Smuggler's Cove to recline on.

Then there's the wilder beauty of Sage Mountain National Park, where you can hike up towards the highest point in the British Virgin Islands or even approach on horseback.

Another excursion is to a fellow British Virgin Islands gem: Virgin Gorda. Highlights include the Baths, a collection of natural sea pools, with tunnels and caves that you can swim or snorkel through.

Road Town weather

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7. St George's, Grenada

The evocatively dubbed 'Spice Island' does not disappoint with a heady cocktail of ginger, almond and nutmeg filling the air. Ever wanted to know how cinnamon and cocoa beans are cultivated? Now is your chance! Yes this is also 'Chocolate Island'.

Then there is St. George's, the capital, which is a real tropical charmer with its pastel-hued buildings. Numerous excursions tantalise as tasty as any spice. Adventurous souls can tackle the tough trails of the wild Grand Etang National Park - you won't forget epic Grand Etang Lake in a hurry, which lies in a volcanic crater.

Grenada is rightly famous for its jaw-dropping beaches, the kind you may have feared only existed in glossy brochures. They really are that magical with almost 50 to choose from. No one could be disappointed with Grand Anse Beach, a two-mile sweep of glorious sands fronted by pristine sea with bountiful watersports and restaurants on hand.

You can secure other trips to snorkel, kayak or even river tube on an island that injects spice into everything.

St George's weather

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8. St John's, Antigua

The colonial legacy is strong on an island whose capital of St John's* still retains a sense of historical charm, not to mention great duty free shopping. More heritage awaits at the Blockhouse Fort ruins, which preside proudly 500 ft above the Caribbean Sea.

Deserted beach on Barbuda Island, Antigua © Jean-Marie Maillet - Fotolia.com
Deserted beach on Barbuda Island, Antigua © Jean-Marie Maillet - Fotolia.com

It's easy to see why this sultry, Caribbean island has always lured in settlers and you can see a more recent arrival here too in the form of rock star Eric Clapton's home. The historical highlight is a trip to Nelson's Dockyard, the world's only Georgian dockyard still in use.

Antigua is more famous to many for the local claim that there's a beach for every day of the year and it certainly feels like it. A thrilling excursion is Stingray City Antigua, where you can get up close and personal to over 30 stingrays. Trip options include kayak, snorkel, horseback and Segway. Or really go for it with a helicopter flight.

St John's weather

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9. Willemstad, Curaçao

The visual charm of the Dutch colonial era is writ large in the intriguing historic capital of Willemstad* on the isle of Curaçao, which has been recognised by UNESCO on its World Heritage list.

Colourful Willemstad, Curaçao in the Dutch Caribbean - photo courtesy of Curaçao Tourist Board
Colourful Willemstad, Curaçao in the Dutch Caribbean - photo courtesy of Curaçao Tourist Board

It looks like a village to house the workers in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with its outlandish colour palate and Amsterdam-on-sea feel. A trolley train tour is a great way to discover the town, taking in the Pietermaai Cathedral and the Queen Wilhelmina Park.

Younger visitors will be all smiles at the Ostrich Park, one of the largest ostrich farms outside Africa. Exploring the island is extra special whether you chose onboard to book a kayak, snorkel or jet ski trip.

Boat trips are also available on the semi-submersible Seaworld Explorer, which also opens up the colourful creatures who call the local coral reefs home.

Willemstad weather

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10. Cozumel, Mexico

The dreamy island of Cozumel* just off the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is the Caribbean island idyll writ large. There are those starched white stretches of puffy, unblemished sands, the perfect palms and aquarium clear waters where you can see the local sea life even when you paddle.

It's no surprise that it is a serious draw for scuba divers and you can follow in the flipper footsteps of Jacques Cousteau diving Palancar Reef and witnessing its stingrays and angelfish.

You can also see a lot on an organised snorkel trip you can book aboard. Or savour a trip across to Xel-Ha, which is renowned as the world's largest natural aquarium, with everything from turtles to dolphins.

Away from the coast the shopping tempts and beyond that layers of intriguing Mayan history. A serious highlight is Chichen Itza, with is breathtaking pyramid of El Castillo, which evocatively takes you back thousands of years.

Cozumel weather

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11. Roatan, Honduras

This slice of Honduras shimmers both above and below water as part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. The island of Roatan*'s verdant rainforest eases all the way down to the dazzling white sands, a perfect backdrop for the crystal clear seas.

White sand beach on the island of Roatan, Honduras © Karen - Flickr Creative Commons
White sand beach on the island of Roatan, Honduras © Karen - Flickr Creative Commons

If you enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling or just checking out marine life from a kayak or boat this is the place for you - it's got everything from rays and turtles, through to dolphins and even hulking whale sharks. You can book all these experiences onboard.

Its coral gardens and wrecks are alive with all manner of colourful life and each underwater experience is totally unique. On land other attractions include the Roatan Butterfly Farm, with hundreds of fluttering butterflies along with myriad tropical birds and snakes. In Gumbalimba Park you can stroll by the waterfalls and witness the resident monkeys, while adventurous souls can try out ziplining.

Roatan weather

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If the Caribbean sounds like your kind of cruise destination, check out the very latest online offers from Marella Cruises for 2019/2020 today.

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
Posted on Tuesday 15th January 2019 in: Caribbean City Cruises Excursions

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