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.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI), offer an intriguing array of a rich and global history laced with modern day advancements, in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty.
The natural setting, with something for everyone, attracts visitors from around the world. Set out on a Caribbean cruse or a resort package stay and you will not want to leave your new-found paradise. Everything from luxury resorts, to primitive camping, to surfing, to the local arts have gained attention from world travelers.
The peaceful and friendly Arawak tribes are believed to be the first inhabitants, settling the British Virgin Islands in about 100 B.C., with the more aggressive Carib tribes eventually taking over. The Arawak were largely an agricultural society, and did not hold a belief system that encompassed killing their enemies. During times of war, stealing something of value, while leaving the enemy unharmed, was held as a most heroic act.
Daily tasks of hunting and farming occupied most of the Awarak’s time, until the time that the Caribs moved into the territory. These were a feared people, believed to be cannibals, and quite warlike. Yet they also held an intelligence that still garners them credit for the invention of things like the canoe, which they used for travel between the islands.
A lack of immunity to the diseases of the time only added to the stresses of the Awarak community, and with the arrival of the Europeans in the mid 15th century, the tribal societies of the Arawak were soon virtually eliminated from the area. Thus, slave trading became commonplace, and even the natives were willing to trade family members for goods. Still, this way of life could not stand the test of time.
The culture of the BVI is still influenced by the European and Arab inhabitants who have resided in the islands historically, as well as by the indigenous and surrounding Caribbean peoples. However, it is the Africans who arrived on these islands during the slave trading years that are accredited with the strongest cultural influence.
Dance, music, literature, and visual arts are prominent forms of expression in the British Virgin Islands, with a number of local artists rising to fame for their talent. Fungi is the folk music of the area. Its industrious musicians use guitars and various homemade instruments such as gourds, washboards, and more, to portray the rich culture and history on the islands - through its music. The name comes from a local food, made with corn meal as its primary ingredient.
Community is central to the residents of the British Virgin Islands, yet visitors and newcomers are warmly welcomed. Enjoy a Caribbean cruise and encounter an island community that encompasses the ability to accommodate lifestyles ranging from the simple to the luxurious, saturated with distinctly earthy character.
English is the official language here, sometimes spoken with a Creole dialect. The U.S. dollar is the official currency.
Food in the British Virgin Islands offers a number of varied influences. Though some of the local flavor was first brought to the table by early immigrants, or even by indentured servants, from places such as the Indies and from China, contemporary influences from around the world do continue.
As one might expect, fish is one of the mainstays for the islanders, with fish soup and dumplings being a local favorite. Another mainstay, the previously mentioned fungi, takes on a few variations with added ingredients such as okra, or even the day’s catch of crab or lobster. Overall, the local fare is highly seasoned.
Along with local fare, one can find a wide and varied menu of imported foods. In recent years, tourists have also had a large influence on the food of the BVI, bringing more American and other favorites to the plate. Locally made rum is a preferred drink when on the islands.
The British Virgin Islands are located about 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, and are adjacent to the U.S. Virgin Islands. About 60 islands comprise this archipelago, only 16 of which are inhabited. The largest island, Tortola (Spanish for turtle dove), houses about 75 percent of the population. The capital of the BVI, Road Town, is located on Tortola.
After Tortola, the next largest island is Anegada, followed by Virgin Gorda, and then Jost Van Dyke. The total population of the BVI is under 25, 000 people.
The island terrain is born from volcanic origins, and thus is generally rugged and hilly. Most areas are still natural and uncultivated, much with a tropical, woodsy cover and an abundance of tropical flora. The sapphire blue of the ocean against the emerald green backdrop of the islands offers a true beach lovers paradise with its white, sandy beaches.
The 1800s brought about great changes in these islands, with the abolition of slavery in 1834 being a pivotal event. Although the local economy suffered a temporary blow, it recovered in a relatively short amount of time. To this day, the abolition is still a widely celebrated event, with festivals held in its honor each August.
1872 brought about the islands’ inclusion in the Leeward Island Federation. This lasted until 1956, with colonization occurring in the 1960s. Colonization was then followed by the development of the tourism industry, which today brings approximately 400,000 visitors a year.
The political system of the BVI is a multi-party system, with dependency status as an overseas territory of the UK. This status ranks the highest office holders in order of the Queen, the Governor, and the Premier, therefore, there are no elections for these offices.
Members of the legislative branch are elected, however, with constituents each allowed a total of five votes. These include four at-large votes, in a system designed to ensure fairness to voters.
The legal and judicial system is governed by English law, with the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court presiding.
Numerous changes throughout its political history have brought the present-day BVI into more of a unified state than ever before. This has enhanced and unified its educational systems, as well as its communication systems, throughout the inhabited islands.
The semi-tropic climate of the area creates a variety of weather conditions. Daytime temperatures are generally balmy, ranging only between about 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Trade winds work to keep the humidity low, so it is a pleasant heat. Nights can get cold, though, and may at times dip as low as 10 degrees.
Rainfall varies from island to island, and even within the confines of a single island. The hilly inland areas often receive rainfall while the coastal areas still stay dry. On the average, though, September through November are the rainiest months, with February through April being the driest.
April through September are the primary months that the BVI are susceptible to hurricanes. Still, in actuality, these are rarely a threat and do not often affect the islands.
Wildlife in this locale consists primarily of reptiles, birds, and other small animals. The population includes various lizards, such as iguanas and geckos, as well as tortoise and a variety of tree frogs. Birds of the BVI include hummingbirds, doves, and falcons, along with numerous sea birds such as brown pelicans, flamingos, sea gulls, and more.
The only mammalian wildlife one is likely to see on land here is the mongoose, which was introduced to the islands in the 1800s by the Spaniards. Dolphins are a popular attraction on the Oceanside, with a number of interactive tours offering a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these friendly creatures.