Cruising the Caribbean gives you sun-kissed adventures on the ship—plus the chance to experience new places on land. This handful of both w ell-loved and off-the-beaten-path ports showcases the kaleidoscope of Caribbean cultures.
The vibrant slice of paradise serves up historic and geologic wonders, making it easy to choose your own adventure. Ships dock in Castries, the capital city of the island nation.
Make a beeline to Soufrière Volcano (a.k.a. Sulphur Springs), the world’s only drive-in volcano. Though it’s dormant and last erupted in the 1700s, the volcano remains an awe-inspiring sight. Soak in a warm mud bath—which is said to detoxify the body and help soothe sun burns, eczema, arthritis and sore joints. If the mountains are calling your name, trek up Gros Piton, the taller of the two peaks comprising Saint Lucia’s iconic Pitons. The UNESCO-designated hill features marked trails to the summit—a trek that typically takes between three and six hours. For a shorter excursion, try the 45-minute Tet Paul Nature Trail and snag great views of both Gros and Petit Piton.
Food & Drink
Foodie dreams come true at Castries Market, where vendors serve up some of the best versions of traditional Saint Lucian cuisine. Try the national dish of green fig and saltfish, creole-style lambi (a.k.a. conch), souse or bouyon—a soup filled with lamb, beef, pork, saltfish and root veggies. If spirits are your thing, Saint Lucia Distillers Rhythm of Rum Tour showcases each step of the distilling process, from huge fermentation vats to the impressive copper stills.
Alongside stalls hawking tropical fruit, chocolate, hot sauce and spices, the 131-year-old Castries Market showcases the work of Saint Lucia’s finest artisans. Wander through colourful displays of hand-painted masks, wooden toys, bespoke dolls and Caribbean-inspired jewellery. You can also watch makers at work, as weavers, woodworkers and painters often ply their trades at the bustling marketplace.
As the capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bridgetown offers a mix of history, bold Bajan culture and unique flavours.
You don’t have to be a diver to view spectacular reefs and shipwrecks. Stay dry aboard an Atlantis submarine as it navigates around marine life off the Bajan shore. For a dryland excursion, watch for turtles scampering to the sea at Carlisle Bay. The beloved Bridgetown beach also boasts the circa-1885 Needham’s Point Lighthouse. For more sporty pursuits, check out a cricket match at the Kensington Oval. Built in 1882, the oldest pitch on the island continues to attract hordes of cheering fans.
Food & Drink
Mount Gay Distillery, the world’s oldest commercial rum distillery, has been making rum since 1703. Rum production on the island started when the British imported sugar cane from Brazil. Slaves from Africa harvested the crops, while Jewish workers, fleeing persecution in South America, constructed windmills to turn sugar cane into juice. Take a distillery tour and sip on the long history of Bajan rum, once called Kill-Devil for its potency. For a lively evening with locals, head to the Friday night fish fry at Oistins Bay Gardens, a 35-minute taxi ride from Bridgetown. Nibble on a conkie—a pumpkin and coconut dumpling that’s steamed in banana leaves.
By the 18th century, much of the slave trade from Africa to the New World passed through Bridgetown. It was Britain’s most lucrative port, and the waterfront Careenage once hosted weekly slave markets. A commemorative plaque explains this dark chapter of Bajan history. Explore Jewish history on the island at an old cemetery and museum at the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Nidhe Israel Synagogue was built in 1654 by Sephardic Jews fleeing persecution in Dutch Brazil.
Along the central coast, Belize City is the country’s main port of call and exudes eclectic charm, colonial architecture and creole culture.
Food & Drink
Try the country’s signature dishes in Belize City. Grab a seat at the Wet Lizard and start with Belizean ceviche, which is traditionally made using fresh conch, followed by a plate of conch fritters. Be warned: These deep-fried treats, served with spicy mayo, are dangerously addictive! Don’t leave without sampling some traditional rice and beans—cooked together in coconut milk—with your meat of choice (we highly recommend red snapper). For an after-lunch refreshment, make your way to Lucca’s oceanfront bar and order a local Belikin beer.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the secluded Mayan site of Altun Ha (a.k.a. Rockstone Pond), where the region’s largest jade head was discovered. Weighing over four kilograms, the impressive gem is now considered Belize’s crown jewel. Altun Ha was once a trading hub where some 10,000 Mayans lived, worked and played for nearly two millennia. Nowadays you can visit two of the site’s plazas, which are surrounded by temples dating to at least 200 BCE.
Known for the Belize Barrier Reef, part of the largest in the Western Hemisphere, Belize is the ultimate spot to explore under the sea. Head to Ambergris Caye for spectacular snorkelling with stingrays, nurse sharks and sea turtles. For something a little more leisurely, explore Belize’s Nohoch Che’en caves while floating on a tube. And animal lovers won’t want to miss the Belize Zoo, which rescues and rehabilitates regional fauna like baby jaguars, toucans and even tapirs, the long-snouted, pig-like national animals of Belize.
San Juan’s colonial pedigree is immediately evident as your ship sails past the waterfront city, which dates to 1521.
Puerto Rico’s long colonial history is on display during a stroll through Old San Juan. Take note of blue cobblestones, made of scrap iron used as ballast in Spanish galleons. Other must-sees iare the 16th-century San Juan Cathedral, the second oldest in the Western Hemisphere, and Castillo San Felipe del Morro, built to defend against invaders. When Spain finally concluded its fight for Puerto Rico in 1898, the island came under U.S. control. Just below the fort, a beautiful cemetery, with headstones dating to 1863, tells the stories of prominent families and politicians who fought for independence from Spain.
Condado Lagoon, just east of Old San Juan, is sheltered from the Atlantic by a peninsula. The lagoon’s calm water is perfect for beginners or experts alike. Glide by mangroves, spot a manatee or two, and pass by local fishermen hauling in dinner for neighbouring eateries. If you’d rather not get wet, go for a walk at the Jaime Benítez National Park, adjacent to the lagoon.
Food & Drink
Tuck into a plate of mofongo: mashed plantains with your choice of meat, shrimp or fish, and served with creole or spicy garlic sauce. The simple, centuries-old dish originates from West African slaves making “fufu” from boiled plantains. The origin of Puerto Rico’s national drink, the piña colada, is less clear cut: No less than three midcentury bartenders claim credit for inventing the cocktail of white rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice. Sip the sweet concoction at Barrachina in Old San Juan and hear the story of former bartender, Ramón Portas Mignot—whom they insist was the real mastermind some 60 years ago.