Work and a busy schedule can leave you craving some fun and relaxation. A rejuvenating quick Caribbean cruise break not only gets you away from it all but returns you to your life inspired, refreshed and feeling ready to be more productive than ever.
East of Central America is the Caribbean Sea and the vast array of islands that make up the Caribbean region. Some of these are island nations such as Jamaica or a nation comprised of several islands such as the Bahamas.
The Caribbean is a great choice for a quick getaway as it not only offers an exotic holiday close to mainland USA but the number of islands in a relatively small area means a fun and varied Caribbean vacation is possible within a short time frame and without a lot of travel time between destinations. Ports of call are not far from each other so traveling between them will take a few hours at most. This means that you spend most of your Caribbean vacation at the destinations rather than at sea.
Another advantage to choosing a Caribbean cruise is the variety among the islands. From night life, authentic Caribbean cuisine, sports, places of historical interest and friendly, vibrant local communities the full range of relaxing and exciting holiday activities can be found in the shortest Caribbean tour. Cruises can range from six to fifteen days and the peak season for weather is June, July and the first half of August. This period has little strong wind. Winds are at their strongest from mid August until October.
Most inhabitants of the Caribbean islands speak English (with differing dialects) which is an additional advantage to US travelers. Different currencies are used throughout the Caribbean but many of these are linked to the US Dollar and often have a fixed exchange rate. This offers the advantage of avoiding exchange rates which leave you paying out more than you bargained for.
A Caribbean cruise presents the opportunity for many unique activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling for both beginners and experts. Impressive coral reefs and ghostly ship wrecks give the Caribbean its reputation as one of the best places to dive in the world. Various locations offer the chance to swim with stingray, dolphins and even sharks. If the idea of an underwater adventure appeals to you then you might consider a ride in a Scenic Underwater Bubble submarine which works a bit like an underwater moped and does not require familiarity with diving equipment and procedures.
Hiking in the Caribbean takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable. Wildlife fanatics can head to nature reserves to try and glimpse creatures such as the green tail monkey or Caribbean fruit bat. It is possible to go on Jeep tours of plantations and tropical areas.
Golfers will be spoiled for choice with a range of challenging and unusual courses. Sailing enthusiasts can hire boats and either enjoy the waters or visit nearby islands. With the white sandy beaches and crystal clear water there may never have been a better place to indulge in some surf.
The Caribbean is a paradise for the active traveler as well as those who like to sit and appreciate the sunset as they enjoy a beach barbecue buffet and a rum cocktail. With so many options within easy reach on a Caribbean cruise there’s no reason not to have and do it all.
A hop, skip and jump away from the United States, the Caribbean is just the place you want to go for a getaway in the midst of calm seas and some fantastic adventure in a cultural hotspot.
A Caribbean cruise is much more than sun, sand and surf. And the proximity of islands allow you to sample the regional flavor and local adventures, that have earned many an island a sobriquet.
Carnivals, pageants, Calypso music, casinos, shopping and cricket, the Caribbean vacation experience has plenty for all. Walk around its many historic sites, and explore pirate and plantation legacies. Visit volcano sites and take treks through densely forested mountain areas amidst mangrove swamps. Sail by privately owned islands, and see firsthand the hideaways of the rich and famous. Sample tropical concoctions at plantations and a myriad of flavors in Caribbean cuisine.
For sporty adventures, sailing, paragliding and kayaking are activities for you. The steep walls of coral reefs, underground caves and calm waters, offer you some of the most exciting sites for diving and snorkeling.
Re-trace the course of Christopher Columbus, as he discovered them in late 15th century.
Leeward Lesser Antilles
The Lesser Antilles, a chain of 15 volcanic islands, sports active volcanoes and geo-thermal activity. Bordered by the Puerto Rican Trench to the north-west with depths of 9200 ft, these islands offers some of the most excellent diving sites, like those at Montserrat and Barbuda.
At Barbuda, go rock climbing and take trails, sail or go paragliding. Explore its 17 miles of pink-shell beaches and the Codrington Lagoon, nesting site of the endangered Frigate birds. And you cannot miss Nelson's Dockyard National Park at Antigua, a restored naval dockyard set amidst a mangrove park and home to the African cattle egrets.
U.S. Virgin Islands
The highlights of St Thomas are shore excursions to the Magens Bay, Fort Christian and the famous Blackbeard's Castle. The Buck Island Reef National Monument is a less known but a sheer haven for even amateur snorkeling and scuba diving. The spectacular coral reefs and endangered turtles are unforgettable marine encounters that you can experience as a family.
St. Croix Salt River Bay National Historic Park has endangered animal species you will not see elsewhere. Part of the park, the underwater canyon, is a huge draw for divers.
British Virgin Islands
You will know the moment you enter British territory of the 600 British Virgin Islands. The reason? It is as though nature has hit overdrive. Most islands, even those that are mere specks on the map, are magnificent. All this is much at odds with their quaint names, like Dead Chest, Necker and Moskito! These islands are also associated with colorful pirate stories of the British Pirate Blackbeard and other famous legends, just asking to be explored.
Sage Mountain National Park at Tortola offers two trails that take you up the 1700 feet high mountain. While trekking the Devil's Bay at Virgin Gorda is a popular activity, Anegada has some fantastic trails to the saltwater ponds in mangrove forests, where you come across some exotic bird species. Norman Island, the inspiration for the R.L. Stevenson's "Treasure Island" will excite you with its many coves, reef and caves along The Bright. Tobago islands are protected areas with a 'no anchor policy'. But the cliffs plunging a 160 feet deep into the sea offer some great diving opportunities.
The Windward Islands, are so named as they are on the windier and wetter side of the Lesser Antilles.
St. Lucia has two famous sites. The two Pitons, natural volcanic formations, and the Pigeon Island National Park, home to the red-necked pigeon. St Vincent’s drive-in volcano to the Soufriere sulphur springs site, 4000 ft above sea level, is a one-of-its-kind stinky experience!
"The Island of Spices", Grenada, takes you on a memorable trail through a lake, mangrove swamps, and a bird sanctuary to sight tropical parrots at its Levera National Park. Grand Etang Park with the Grand Etang Lake, is however more popular amongst naturalists, for the rare orchids, giant gommiers and mahoganies with some exciting fauna.
Tobago Cays, Trinidad and Barbados, are popular stopovers offering plenty of activities. The long colonial history has earned Barbados the name "Little England”. Dominica’s dense forested mountains, rare flora and fauna, and a World Heritage Site, is a boiling lake of grayish-blue water, make it truly the "Nature Isle of the Caribbean”.
French West Indies
Explore the amazing gray-black beaches of Martinique, delight in its old-world charm and splendid Creole and French cuisine. Surf at Tartane and trek through forested mountains to view Mont Pelee. And do not miss sampling Guadeloupe's rich musical heritage.
Although often grouped together in the minds of outsiders, the Caribbean islands of Trinidad, Tobago and Barbados form two nations: Barbados is politically separate from the other two. The islands are located in the Lesser Antilles group in the north western Atlantic Ocean. Trinidad & Tobago lie just off the coast of Venezuela and to the south of the island of Grenada, while Barbados is situated some 200 miles (320 km) further north. The three islands share a similar climate, history and culture and are often visited together on a Caribbean cruise.
All three islands, and the lesser islands of the nation of Trinidad & Tobago, were created by forceful contact between the South American and Caribbean geological plates, assisted by a volcanic eruption. Coral deposits 300 feet (90 meters) thick have been laid on what is now Barbados. The islands were first inhabited by successive waves of Amerindian tribes – the Saladoid-Barrancoids, the Arawaks and the Caribs - beginning at least 7,000 years ago according to archaeological evidence. The warlike Caribs ousted their farming and fishing oriented predecessors in Barbados, but they in their turn were removed by enslavement and European diseases after the arrival of Spaniards in the Caribbean at the end of the 15th century. Some indigenous people remain in Trinidad & Tobago.
Tourism, and offshore finance attracted by the low tax regime, have replaced sugar cane as the main players in the economy of Barbados, but the importance of sugar cane is still emphasized in the annual Crop Over carnival held in July and early August. The ethnic origin of the population is predominantly African. The Grammy-winning musician Rihanna one of the island nation’s most famous current citizens.
Trinidad & Tobago is the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas, and its economy is mainly industrial, including petrochemicals, steel, aluminum and plastics, as well as manufactured goods. It is also a regional financial center. The tourism sector is growing, but is less important than in many other Caribbean islands. South Asian and African origin ethnic groups of approximately equal size account for about 80% of the population. The music forms steelpan, calypso and soca, as well as limbo dancing, originated in Trinidad & Tobago, and it also claims to be the birthplace of the Caribbean and South American carnival tradition.
Cricket is the primary national sport of both nations, and they provide players for the regional West Indies international team. Barbados produced renowned payers Sir Garfield Sobers and Frank Worrell, while Trinidad & Tobago was the birthplace of Brian Lara.
Tourists in Barbados can enjoy national delicacies like cou cou (a blend of cornmeal and okra with the local spicy bajan seasoning) and steamed or fried flying fish. Other fish, such as mahi mahi and blue marlin, feature in a typical menu, and are often accompanied by macaroni cheese pie. Black-eyed peas and rice and candied sweet potatoes are also popular.
The citizens of Trinidad & Tobago also enjoy their fish and macaroni cheese pie, but their cuisine shows a strong Asian influence too. Curries of chicken, duck and seafood are regularly served with the flat bread known as roti and spicy sauces. African-inspired dishes include the creamy and spicy callaloo, made with local dasheen leaves, okra and coconut milk.
Barbados measures 21 miles (34 km) long and up to 14 miles (23 km) wide in the south, with an area of 166 square miles (430 square km). Trinidad is much larger, and Trinidad & Tobago together total 1,980 square miles (5130 square km), with Trinidad representing more than 90% of the area.
Barbados, the most easterly island in the Lesser Antilles, is relatively flat. Its highest mountain is the 1,120 feet (340 meters) high Mount Hillaby. The capital and main population center is Bridgetown, and the island’s population is estimated to be about 287,000. Coral reefs surround much of the island, and there are many limestone caves in the north east as well as limestone stacks on the east coast.
Trinidad lies less than seven miles (11 km) off the coast of Venezuela. It boasts much higher mountains than Barbados, having its highest point of 3,084feet (940 meters) in the north, at El Cerro del Aripo. The nation’s capital is Port of Spain in Trinidad, while Tobago’s largest town is Scarborough. Trinidad & Tobago’s population stands at just over 1.2 million.
Barbados was visited by both the Spanish and Portuguese, but claimed as a colony by Britain in 1625. Trinidad, as well as Tobago and other smaller islands, became part of the Spanish empire. Large numbers of English settlers arrived in Barbados in the 17th century to farm tobacco and cotton. The introduction of sugar cultivation from the middle of the century led to the importation of thousands of slaves from Africa to work in the plantations. Large-scale agriculture developed more slowly in Trinidad, boosted by the arrival of French-speaking sugar planters from the island of Martinique during the Napoleonic Wars, during which era Trinidad also became a colony of the British crown. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834, and in the second half of the 19th century large numbers of Indians arrived in Trinidad to work on the sugar plantations, together with a smaller number of Chinese immigrants. Both Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago gained full independence from Britain in the 1960s, following the failure of the proposed West Indies Federation.
After achieving independence from Britain in 1966 Barbados became a parliamentary democracy using the British Westminster system as a model. The reigning British monarch remains as its head of state, represented by a local Governor General, and the country is a member of the British-led Commonwealth of Nations. The Democratic Labour Party and the Barbados Labour Party are the dominant players in the two-party political system.
Trinidad & Tobago also has a Westminster-based two-party system, led by the People’s National Movement and the United National Congress, but it is a republic with a president (elected by both houses of parliament) as head of state, advised by a prime minister. As in the British system, the prime minister is the leader of the party holding most parliamentary seats after a general election.
For some years Barbados was involved in dispute with Trinidad & Tobago about maritime boundaries, but this was resolved in 2006. The two countries have recently agreed to the construction of an undersea pipeline to deliver natural gas from Trinidad and Tobago to Barbados.
Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago are two small neighboring nations with a shared history and climate and many points in common in culture and cuisine. Though they differ in their political systems they are both members of Caribbean trading and economic zones, and their futures is likely to be one of mutual co-operation and collaboration.
The best time to visit on a Caribbean cruise is during the first half of the year. Both nations enjoy a tropical climate, largely free of major hurricanes, divided into two seasons. The dry season occupies the first half of the calendar year, while the wet season dominates the second half. Annual rainfall can vary from 45 to 90 inches (1.1 meters to 2.2 meters), while temperatures range from 70°F to 88°F (21°C to 31°C) in the dry season to 73°F to 88 °F (23°C to 31°C) in the wet season. Easterly winds serve to moderate the effects of heat and humidity.
Species that make these Caribbean islands their home include the mongoose, the red-footed tortoise, the leatherback and hawksbill turtles, the whistling frog and various types of bat, lizard and toad. Imported species who have flourished in Barbados include the European hare and the West African green monkey, mostly found in woodland areas where natural vegetation still exists. The monkeys’ fur is brownish-gray in color, with specks of yellow and green that can sometimes make them appear to be predominantly green, hence their name.
The islands of Trinidad & Tobago in particular abound in colorful bird life, notably the scarlet ibis, the flamingo and the hummingbird.