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A Cruise in the Western Caribbean

The Western Caribbean is the perfect cruise destination for those new to cruise ships. Usually departing from Gulf Coat ports such as Tampa, Mobile or New Orleans, the Western Caribbean encompasses the coasts of North and Central America and those islands nearest to them. Virtually every cruise line goes there, and itineraries offer a mixture of sandy beaches, ancient civilizations and exotic wildlife, meaning that there’s something to suit every taste.

The Homeport Concept in Western Caribbean Cruises

The terrible events of September 11th, 2001 hit the cruise industry as badly as every other sector of the economy. Part of the problem was that the annoyances caused by increased airport security were casting a shadow over the whole cruise experience, as passengers were forced to endure being herded like cattle on the flights to and from their port of departure. In response, the cruise industry developed the concept of homeport cruising, increasing the number of domestic ports of departure so that far more people had the option of leaving from a port within driving distance of their homes.

Ports on the Gulf of Mexico were thus ideally placed for Western Caribbean cruises. Cities like Galveston enjoyed a boost to their economies as they became cruise ship ports of departure for the first time, while passengers enjoyed not having to fly in order to take a cruise to the Western Caribbean.

Western Caribbean Cruise Destinations

So, where do you go and what do you see on a Western Caribbean cruise? Typical cruise itineraries include visits to Mexico and Central America as well as Caribbean destinations, so you get a good variety of activities and sightseeing excursions.

The two most popular Western Caribbean cruise ports of call are Grand Cayman and Jamaica. Grand Cayman is a bustling cruise port with the sandy beaches and duty free shops that you expect if you’ve ever seen the cover of a cruise brochure. There are some more secluded beaches, though, if you want to get away from the crowds that such a popular destination attracts.

Jamaica’s most popular cruise ports are Freeport in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, a little further East. Both offer beaches, scuba diving and haggling at the craft markets in the traditional Jamaican fashion. Try a Jamaican cocktail in one of the many bars that surround the ports.

Finally, the latest hot destination for cruise ships in the Western Caribbean is the Honduran port of Roatan. Online reviews of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Jewel of the Sea cruise ship, which sails to Roatan, say that it has the best snorkeling in the Western Caribbean. It is also relatively unspoiled for the time being, though this is likely to change, since more cruise ships are sailing there and celebrities like Leonardo di Caprio are rumored to be buying property there. Enjoy it now, before it becomes just another tourist trap.

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