The Caribbean as a travel destination
The Caribbean is a very popular holiday destination. The many but different islands with white sandy beaches, palm trees and blue to turquoise sea make our heart beat faster. The Caribbean Islands include, for example, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, the ABC Islands, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Each has a special flair, but everywhere life pulsates on the streets and big American cars are as much a part of it as old stately colonial buildings. A cruise lets you experience different islands in one trip.
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Caribbean Ferries Offers
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Best time to travel to the Caribbean
The Caribbean is located in the tropics and therefore has year-round temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius. From June to November, however, you have to reckon with heavy tropical storms, which from experience are at their worst in the months of August and September. Hurricanes and cyclones then often sweep over the islands with 300 km/h and in the following months there will be at least one very heavy rain. The best time to travel is therefore in the first half of the year, but varies within the large area. In Barbados, December to April is recommended, in the Dominican Republic November to April and for a trip to Cuba even November to May. These travel times are also ideal for a trip that goes through the Panama Canal. While ships offer year-round travel and the ship is not affected by a hurricane, you may have to deal with itinerary changes or shore excursion restrictions.
Ports in the Caribbean
Castries – Saint Lucia
Castries is the capital of the island nation of St. Lucia, a neighboring island of Martinique and St. Vincent. The port is located at the end of a well-protected bay and can accommodate up to five ships a day. Particularly large ships anchor outside the bay and bring passengers ashore with tenders. The island has two prominent volcanic cones in its southeastern part, the Pitons.
Miami – USA
The Dante B. Fascell Port of Miami is the largest cruise ship port in the world. Miami is a city in the US state of Florida. More than 10,000 passengers board flights here every day via 7 terminals. The port is directly connected to the city centre via a tunnel. The subtropical climate offers an average of at least 18 degrees Celsius, the summers are warm and humid and the winters warm and dry. Worth seeing are the Art Deco quarter in Miami Beach, the Cuban quarter around Calle Ocho or the Miami Seaquarium on Key Biscayne. The port is considered a hub for travel to the Caribbean and all of Central America.
Scarborough – Tobago
Scarborough is the capital of Tobago and is located southwest of Rocky Bay. The port was expanded to accommodate ferries. Especially worth seeing are the botanical garden with huge trees and the Fort King George. The neighbouring island of Trinidad is easily reached by Fähre or plane.
La Romana – Dominican Republic
The port in La Romana, a city in the Dominican Republic, is the port of departure and destination for trips by various shipping companies. Chartered machines of the shipping companies often land here, so that no further passport control is necessary after the flight. Passengers are taken directly to the ship by bus and do not even have to worry about their luggage. From the airports Punta Cana or Santo Domingo the transfer time to the ship is about one hour.
Montego Bay – Jamaica
Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica. It has an idyllic harbour where two ships can dock at the same time. In the harbour terminal there is a tourist information and some shops. Trips are worthwhile to the 11 km long beach of Negril or to Rick’s Café with Willidoo in the west of Jamaica. The cult café is located on a cliff right on the beach and here you can watch a cliff diver once $20 has been collected for his jump.
Cozumel – Mexico
15 km from the mainland of Mexico is the island of Cozumel. The port has three terminals, so that up to 10 ships can dock at the same time. These are the Punta Langosta Pier, the International Pier and the Puerta Maya Pier. If the berths are not sufficient, passengers are also brought ashore by tender boats. The airport is very close. From the Punta Langosta Pier, you can walk along a shopping street directly into the village of San Miguel. Cozumel has no public transport, only taxis and large taxis.
George Town – Cayman Islands
George Town is the name of the place at the port of the Cayman Islands, which belong to the British Commonwealth. The port is located in the southwest of the Grand Cayman Islands. The ships anchor in front of the harbour and take the passengers with tender boats the 400m to the shore. Sometimes up to five ships anchor in front of the harbour. The island has a well-organized network of public minibuses, with which holidaymakers can explore the island on their own. The Omni Bus Depot is about 200 meters from the port. If you want to rent a car here, please note that there is left-hand traffic. In the east there is a nice kitesurfing beach, a coral reef protects the beaches.
Key West – USA
Key West is the southernmost point of the USA. If you want to explore the western or southern Caribbean, this is a good starting or ending point. Therefore, the local port is a pivotal point. The streets of the city have the peculiarity of being laid out strictly geometrically. A round trip on the Conch Tour Train gives a good overview of Key West. The harbour itself has three docks, closest to the city are the Mallory Square Docks, after that are the Pier B Docks and the berth furthest from the city is that of the Old Mole Docks.
Nassau – Bahamas
Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas, which after all consist of more than 700 islands. It is located on the east side of New Providence. The old town with the two forts Fincastle and Charlotte still has colonial charm. The harbour entrance is located in the north of Nassau, barely 200 metres from Nassau’s Paradise Island. The island, formerly called Hog Island, can be reached via a bridge. At the pier are sometimes 5 and more ships at the same time. The modern terminal also has shops, a post office, tourist information and fast food.
St. John – Antigua
The St. John’s – harbour in Antigua has two jetties and therefore space for four ships. From the port you can walk directly into town or hire a taxi. Travel is also offered here. Worth seeing is the two-towered cathedral in the village and the two shopping centres Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay offer various small shops. Directly at the harbour entrance is Fort James, which was built at the beginning of the 18th century to ward off pirates. You can enjoy the beautiful view here or admire the big cannons. The fort itself is largely derelict. A small restaurant is located in the immediate vicinity. In Antigua, a 30 minute sightseeing flight with a helicopter is also offered.
Road Town – Tortola – British Virgin Islands
The capital of the British Virgin Islands Road Town is located on Tortola. There is a terminal, shops and restaurants at Tortola Pier Park on the harbour. Besides colonial-style houses from the 19th century, a botanical garden with man-made waterfalls and tropical birds is interesting. The island is mountainous in the interior and has many pretty bays all around, where smugglers and pirates are said to have lived in former times. However, the most beautiful beaches are almost exclusively in the north.
Roseau – Dominica – Lesser Antilles
Roseau is the capital of Dominica, an island nation in the Lesser Antilles. For ferries, there is a dock at the Roseau Cruise Ship Berth from which you can get right into the center of town. You can get free wifi at Ruins Rock Café, a former supermarket that burned down, 50 metres from the jetty. There is a small tourist information office in the harbour area and a bus stop just after the harbour exit. Another jetty is Woodbridge Bay Port, which is about 2 km north of the first. Small vessels also use the Cabrits Cruise Ship Berth in the northwest of the island.
Bridgetown – Barbados
The port city of Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados. Located in the southwest, four large and two small ships can dock at the port’s piers at the same time. The large hall, which also houses the terminal, has various restaurants, a tourist information office and duty-free shops. In the interior of the island you will still see feudal land holdings of the sugar barons.
St. George – Grenada
Grenada, the southernmost of the Leeward Islands, has as its capital St. George’s in the southwest. It was built around a natural harbour bay, which has the shape of a horseshoe. Three ships can dock in the port at the same time. Additional ships bring their passengers ashore with tender boats. The city, which has preserved its colonial image to this day, adjoins the port with its market and shopping streets. The terminal building does not have a tourist information office.
Kralendijk – Bonaire
Kralendijk as the capital of the Dutch island Bonaire, which belongs to the Lesser Antilles and lies north of Venezuela, has two piers. A ship can dock at any pier. Directly in the harbour there is a tourist information. The city adjoins the port. Round trips and taxi rides to beaches are offered with prices set by the government. By the way, there are no public buses in Kralendijk, although there are well signposted bus stops everywhere.
Willemstad – Curaçao
Willemstad is the capital of the island of Curaçao. The colourful little houses of the old town are all built in colonial style and belong to the UNESCO world heritage. Also worth seeing are the Fort Amsterdam, an aloe vera plantation or the Hato Grottos. The harbour is called Schottegat and was created naturally. It is shielded from the sea by the Sint Annabaai bay.
Oranjestad – Aruba
Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba. The port has four piers. Particularly worth seeing is the 18th century fortress Zontman just near the marina. Here also still stands the former lighthouse Wilhelm III.
Belize – Honduras
Belize is located on the Caribbean coast of Central America and was called British Honduras until 1981. Because of the coral reefs and the very shallow water, the big ships anchor about 5 nautical miles off the coast. Fast tender boats take holidaymakers to the terminal, known here as Fort Street Tourism Village, in just 20 minutes. In addition to shops and restaurants, there are also tour operators offering shore excursions. Because of a dense jungle on Belize you should only take organized tours.
Pointe-à-Pitre – Guadeloupe – Lesser Antilles
Guadeloupe belongs to the Lesser Antilles and with its two parts of the country, which are connected in the middle by a bridge, reminds one of a butterfly from the air. One wing is green and mountainous, the second is a beach paradise.
The capital Pointe-à-Pitre is home to the port, which has been redesigned and expanded in recent years. Two modern terminals offer WiFi, shops and gastronomy as well as a tourist information. The two berths are each 320 m long. French is spoken on the island and payment is made in euros. The city centre starts right at the harbour.
New Orleans – USA
The port city of New Orleans is located in the south of the USA on the Mississippi River. The seaport is a deep-water port from which voyages also depart for the Caribbean. Every year about 700,000 people embark here. Because of the particularly strong current here, the ships have to leave the harbour at full throttle. The French Quarter district is just a few minutes from the port by taxi and well worth a visit. You’ll quickly hear sounds of Dixieland or cool jazz on Bourbon Street there.
The modern port of Port Zante is located in the southwest in the capital Basseterre. Close to the centre it is situated on a small artificial peninsula. At a very long pier, one large ship can dock on the left and one on the right. St. Kitts is located in the eastern Caribbean and has a lot of rainforest as well as beaches with white and black sand. Houses from the colonial era are worth seeing in Basseterre, especially interesting is the Victorian clock tower on the central square “Circus”, which was built on the model of Piccadilly Circus in London.
TOP 10 destinations in the Caribbean
Dunn’s River Falls, Nine Miles and Shining Lagoon in Jamaica
From Montago Bay, you can visit three Jamaican attractions in one day trip with a guide. The Dunn’s River Falls are 180m high and can be climbed. Since the waterfall has several steps that pour into pools of water before continuing to fall, you can always cool off as you climb. On the way to Nine Miles there is the possibility to do some shopping or eat something in Ochos Rios. Nine Miles is the final resting place of Bob Marley, who was also born here. On the way back to the coast you can have dinner at the Joa James restaurant and visit its art gallery. The Shining Lagoon is best visited by boat at sunset. As soon as the water is stirred up, it begins to glow. This is caused by phosphorescent microorganisms. This phenomenon is known only in three places on earth.
Stingray City on Grand Cayman
In the far northwest of the island of Grand Cayman, there are a lot of sandbars on the North Sound, which used to be popular with fishermen to process their catches. This left behind a lot of marine debris, which attracted stingrays in large numbers. Stingray is the English name for stingray. The stingrays have remained and are now an attraction; for they are trusting. You can swim with them and also touch them, in the crowd you should only watch out for the spines on their backs. If that is too much crowding for you, you also have the possibility to observe the animals via a glass bottom boat. Feeding with pieces of squid is allowed, the rays suck and suck them out of your hand. Wiping your hands on your swimsuit or skin after you’ve had squid in your hand can result in bruises. The stingrays smell it and suck on your clothes or skin. Overall, this is an experience you won’t forget.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park on Dominica
The national park starts only a few kilometers behind the city of Roseau and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A dense rainforest on volcanic terrain holds some freshwater lakes and deep waterfalls. The best place to start a hiking tour is the village of Laudat, which is located in the immediate vicinity of two waterfalls. There is also the visitor centre, where you can get information in advance. Trafalgar Falls consists of two waterfalls and is a particularly popular destination. From a wooden visitor platform you can watch both falls, called father and mother, at the same time. You can also swim in the pool below the falls. You can also use a developed jungle trail to access another pool for swimming, the Emerald Pool. It too was created by a waterfall. Middleham Falls is about an hour’s hike from the visitor center, and sturdy shoes are strongly recommended. The waterfall is 60 meters high and is the largest on the island. The 1400 m high volcano Morne Trois Pitons is the centre of all the natural beauty. Boiling Lake is a 60 meter wide thermal spring in the south of the volcano. From Laudat you need about 3 hours on foot, which is worth it because the water in the middle of the lake is boiling, even at the edge it is still 90 degrees Celsius. However, the water in the narrow Ti Tou Gorge is quite cold, which you can only cross by swimming to reach a small waterfall. But this gorge was the filming location of the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” with Johnny Depp. If your time for hiking is not enough, you can also reach everything by taxi in 3-4 hours.
On the traces of the Maya in Belize
In Belize’s dense rainforest you can still discover Mayan remains. However, you should not undertake such a tour on your own. The Mayan site of Lamanai is located on the New River Lagoon. It takes about an hour by bus from the port to Ayinha Eco Park. From there we continue through the rainforest by boat across the New River to the lagoon. The visit to the Mayan site of Altun Ha is also combined with a boat trip. The bus takes about 1.5 hours to Altun Ha and after the tour, the bus takes another hour to the Belize River. The following 1.5 hour boat trip concludes the excursion.
Crayfish waterfall in Guadeloupe
The excursion starts in Pointe-à-Pitre and leads you to the national park on Basse Terre. The landscape here is dominated by the 1467 m high volcano La Soufrière. To reach the crayfish waterfall Cascade aux Ecrevisses, take one of the taxis waiting outside the terminal or a rental car. Since the way to the waterfall is very well signposted, you can’t miss it. The car is parked at the parking lot and you walk 10 minutes on a well paved path through the rainforest to the waterfall. You can bathe in the waterfall, but it is very cold. A large sign explains each species of crayfish found in the water, 5 crayfish and one crab species.
Old San Juan on Puerto Rico
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and its old town is well worth seeing. The smallest main island of the Greater Antilles was in the time of the 16. to 18th century very much fought over. Spain and other European powers fought over the land, and it was also involved in the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century controversy. You might start your tour at the fortress Fuerte San Cristobal. The Boulevard del Valle then leads you along the sea and right below you see the Barrio La Perla, once built for the troops, today about 10,000 people live in it in a very small space. The Castillo de San Felipe del Morro was built as a fortress on a headland and is located right next to the harbour. The Puerta de San Juan is a historic city gate in the old town.
Cathedral of Fort-de-France in Martinique
The cathedral was built in 1895 in the architectural style of historicism on the site of several predecessor churches and has been a listed building since 1990. Since the previous churches had each been destroyed by fire, earthquake tsunami and finally by a cyclone, this church was built as a light fire and earthquake resistant metal skeleton structure by assembling prefabricated parts. Inside, the church has three naves, semi-circular arches and a dome on an octagonal floor plan. Leaded stained glass windows and the western tower facade show the neo-Byzantine style. This cathedral is already due to its special construction more than 120 years ago a worthwhile and worth seeing destination for you.
St. Maarten/St. Martin
St. Martin and St. Maarten are the names of two parts of the island that belong to different states. There is even a border crossing in the middle of the island. The history of the division, which is said to have taken place in 1648 between Dutch and French prisoners of war after the Spanish wardens were chased away, is the reason for two very different ways of life.
St Lucia Rainforest
In the interior of St. Lucia, the rainforests are particularly worth seeing; you can view them from above in an organized one-hour cable car gondola ride. From the harbour you take the bus for about 30 minutes to the aerial tram base, where you board the gondola, which is designed for 8 people at a time, and then glide slowly over the rainforest.
Mount Isabel de Torres near Amber Cove
The best way to climb the mountain Isabell de Torres is with the cable car Teleferico Puerto Plata. From the Cruise Terminal Amber Cove you drive about 30 min. to Puerto Plata to the cable car station. From the top you have a good view of Puerto Plata and you can visit a botanical garden, for which you need sturdy shoes.
Questions and answers about the Caribbean vacation
Which shipping companies offer Caribbean ferries?
The following shipping companies offer Fähre in the Caribbean:
Ocean Ferry Belize, CTM Deher, Great Bay Express, Voyager, Ultramar, Baja Ferries, FRS Caribbean, Balearia Caribbean and Safe Way Maritime.
What is the climate in the Caribbean?
As the sun is almost vertical here north of the equator, it stays warm all year round and the water temperature is hardly any different from the air temperature, which averages between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius. There is hardly any cooling during the night. Nevertheless, there are differences, as the Caribbean covers a large area. In the eastern Caribbean, which includes the northern Lesser Antilles with Antigua, Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin and Anguilla, the northeast trade wind blows humid sea air to the coasts. Especially beautiful tropical plants grow here. It rains almost all year round, but least in the month of March and most in the months of July to December. The western Caribbean, on the other hand, is less dominated by the trade winds, so it tends to have a dry, desert-like climate, especially in the southern western Caribbean. The northern Caribbean with Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti as well as Puerto Rico, which together form the Greater Antilles, also has the greatest influence of humid sea air in its eastern area. In Puerto Rico it rains at least 14 days a month and the humidity is generally above 80%. In Cuba, on the other hand, the months from November to April seem rather dry and also the humidity is usually below 80% during these months.
What clothes should I take with me?
Even if your trip is not in the rainy season, rain gear is absolutely necessary. For the shore excursions you should have sturdy shoes with you and for windy nights at the railing a cardigan. Otherwise, the clothing is hardly different from other tropical holidays. Thin and loose clothing, through which the wind can blow, is good. In addition to swimwear and shorts and long pants, women should have a few dresses and men a suit with shirts, for special evenings. However, not all shipping companies handle this so strictly, best you ask before the trip, usually there is a dress code. Please also note that you can have your laundry washed on board without any problems. In case the suitcase does not arrive, it is advisable to divide the laundry between two suitcases and to put all the important utensils such as passport, mobile phone, camera, but also the chargers and sunglasses in the hand luggage.
Is a Caribbean trip with baby or toddler possible and recommended?
All modern ferries have medical assistance during the journey. Therefore, taking a baby or toddler with you is perfectly possible.
What shore excursions are recommended in the Caribbean islands?
The shipping companies offer several excursions for each port of call, from which you can choose what suits you best. Especially popular are city or island tours or visits to small handicraft businesses, which at the same time provide unique holiday souvenirs. Often sightseeing flights over the island or diving excursions are offered, which reveal a fascinating Caribbean underwater world. In any case, there is enough choice to choose exactly the right tour for you.
Can I organize excursions in the Caribbean myself?
Yes, in principle you can organize the excursions yourself, ideally with local tour operators. However, this should be prepared in good time before the trip so as not to run into time constraints on the spot. Of course you should pay attention to the exact schedules of the excursions. So if you are given 4 hours for excursions, you have to be back at the ship after the time is up. For privately organized excursions, it is therefore advisable to plan enough reserve time for unforeseen events from the outset.
Is the swell in the Caribbean very strong?
No matter how strong the swell is, you won’t notice it in the ship most of the time. A cruise with a ferry ship is usually very quiet. The bigger the ship, the smoother you will experience the ride. However, there are sometimes stormy seas during hurricane times. Then, as a precaution, the catering facilities on the ship are temporarily closed or a course correction is made.
Do I need a passport or is an identity card sufficient for the Caribbean trip?
A valid passport is always required for travel to the Caribbean. It should be valid for at least 6 months after the planned return journey. It may also happen that you will not be travelling on the Fähre due to illness or other circumstances and then the passport is urgently required anyway, although there may be exemptions for ferries. Under certain circumstances you would have to get a visa and you can’t get one without a passport. Children need their own passport at any age. Some countries insist that at least two opposite sides of the passport remain free. If possible, you should therefore try to convince the border official to put his stamp on a page that has already been stamped. Copies of your travel documents are always very important, even if it is only to prove your identity if you have been the victim of a pickpocket. If you board or change planes in the USA to get to your cruise, you must complete all immigration formalities required there, even if you do not leave the airport. These include electronic passports, including those for children, with photos and fingerprints (the burgundy machine-readable passports), and ESTA authorization, which must be applied for online at least 72 hours before entry.
Our conclusion to the Caribbean trip
The Caribbean is not only a very idyllic destination, most of the big islands and island states are now very well adapted to tourists and live more and more from tourism.