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 Windward Islands are the southern islands of the West Indian Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. These islands are called Windward because they are more windward to arriving Caribbean cruise ships than the Leeward Islands in the North of the Lesser Antilles. Windward means upwind from a given reference point and leeward means down wind from a given reference point.
The Windward Islands are Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Grenadines and Grenada. Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are sometimes put in this group as they are more windward than other Caribbean islands and are located in close proximity to the established Windward Islands. Barbados and Tobago were originally part of the grouping officially but Barbados returned to being an island country in 1885 and Tobago joined with Trinidad in 1889. Dominica joined the grouping in 1940 having previously been considered one of the Leeward Islands.
The history of the Windward Islands ties in with the history of the Caribbean as a whole. Evidence of human settlement in the Caribbean dates back to 4500 BC, The Taino who originally occupied some of the Windward Islands were relatives of the Arawak people indigenous to the West Indies. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the 15th Century he made contact with the Arawak and Taino peoples.
The Carib people, after whom the Caribbean island group was ultimately named, gradually became the dominant native people in the region. This was due to a combination of their aptitude for warfare and also the fact that they occupied the Windward Island of Dominica (among others). This island and has a dense natural landscape which allowed some of the Caribs to hide from the incoming European settlers. After initial discovery by Columbus other European countries moved in to claim territories, extract resources and create settlements. This resulted in the deaths of many Caribbean inhabitants as the result of encountering European diseases to which they had no immunity and also to the harsh conditions which were imposed upon them.
Due in part to the colonial efforts of Europe the demographics of the Caribbean islands is very diverse with British, French, Chinese, Indian and a small number of descendants from the original native people of the Caribbean. A large proportion of the population are descended from the slave population brought there by the French and British in colonial times.
Dominica has a particularly mixed culture and the last tribe of Caribs live on the island and elect their own chief independent of the political system of the islands as a whole. The annual independence celebrations are marked with traditional songs and dances. Dominica is also known for being the place where modern Creole music originated.
Island culture is influenced to a great degree by the African heritage and to differing degrees from island to island by the French influences that have existed over the years.
On Martinique culture is a blend of French and Caribbean. French is the official language and many businesses on the island follow the French custom of closing at midday. Many French people holiday is Martinique and the former capital of Saint-Pierre was formally called the Paris of the Lesser Antilles. Each year in November Martinique celebrates the release of the Beaujolais nouveau and it is also home to the Jazz l la Martinique festival.
Caribbean food is similar across most of the islands. Chicken in spicy (Jerk spice for example) or fruit sauces served with vegetable sand rice. Goat, lamb and beef are also common in meals. Fish is a staple especially where the coastline occupies a large portion of the island land mass.
Specialties include Sorrel flowers which are brewed into a bright red drink at Christmas time and Boudin, Creole sausage. A popular dish on the island of Grenada is “oil-down”, a mix of meat, dumplings and green banana, yam and potatoes with coconut added and then cooked until only a little bit of coconut milk remains at the bottom of the pot.
Cocktails are very popular on the Caribbean islands. Many of the drinks served to visitors on Caribbean cruises are very exotic in flavor, for example the mauby is made from tree bark. Caribbean cocktails are usually brightly colored and very strong so they should not be indulged in without due care and attention especially in hot weather. Many islands produce their own beers such as the Hairoun Lager of Saint Vincent.
The Caribbean island chain is over two thousand miles long. To the Right of the islands is the Atlantic Ocean, to the south is the Caribbean Sea and the north of South America, to the right in the Gulf of Mexico and to the north is mainland America. The Caribbean Islands became known as the West Indies when Columbus arrive there and thought he was seeing the west of the Indian subcontinent.
The Windward Islands are located in the foot of the Caribbean Sea. The islands form part of the easternmost boundary of the Caribbean Sea.
Since there are over seven thousands Caribbean islands islets reefs and cays the diversity among them is pronounced. The Windward Islands are generally mountainous and volcanic in origin. Some islands have active volcanoes such as Mount Pelee on Martinique where gray and black sand beaches are the result of volcanic ash. Saint Lucia actually has a drive in volcano. Saint Vincent is one of the few places which has both white and black sand beaches.
Grenada, sometimes called “Island of Spice” due to being a major exporter of nutmeg and mace is an island country to the southwest of Saint Vincent is the largest island of the Grenadines which are six hundred plus in number.
The Caribbean islands were part of the colonial efforts of the European countries, namely Britain and France. In the 17th Century the British and the French made efforts to colonize the islands and the tug of war over territories was part of the Anglo-French conflict. It was common for islands to pass back and forth between powers and to undergo frequent changes in social structure. Several battles were fought in the area until Britain gained the upper hand after the Napoleonic Wars. As more labor was required in the Caribbean and native people dwindled in numbers salves were imported via trade from Africa.
France and Britain originally agreed that Dominica and St. Vincent would remain unsettled but harvesting of timber from the resource rich islands were underway by the 18th Century. Dominica was made a colony of France in 1727 and then passed to British control under the 1763 Treaty of Paris.
The majority of the Caribbean islands became independent from Europe after the cessation of the slave trade. Martinique has become a French overseas Department.
Inhabitants of Martinique are French citizens and represent themselves in the French national Assembly and the French Senate. Dominica is a parliamentary democracy presides over by a head of state and with a prime minister to lead a government cabinet.
Saint Lucia is a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth the 2nd as head of State. It is a two party democracy with a government cabinet holds executive power and is led by a Prime Minster.
Saint Lucia also has an eleven member senate.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a sovereign parliamentary democracy and Commonwealth Realm. A Governor General represents the head of state, Elizabeth the second. A prime minster heads up the government cabinet. The government is comprised of two political parties; the New Democratic Party and the Unity Labor Party.
Grenada has a multi-party democracy and government headed by a Prime Minister. Grenada is also a commonwealth realm with Elizabeth the second as head of state and a jurisprudence based on English law. The two main political parties are the National Democratic Congress (liberal) and the New National Party (conservative).
Part of the popularity of this region with holiday makers is the high year round temperatures and tropical climate. Summers and hot and humid and winters cool with minimal rainfall.
The south Windward Islands such as Grenada lay outside the storm zone. Atlantic hurricane season is from August to October, peaking in September. December to May is dry season and the wet season runs from June to November.
The 750 sq KM Dominica has been called the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” home to rainforest as well as xeric areas on the coast, the world’s second largest boiling lake which results from the geothermal-volcanic activity on the island. Rare plants and animals and bird species. It makes sense that the economy here is dominated by agriculture and tourism. Over 160 avian species exist on the island including nesting of endangered parrot species.
The mountains and forests of the Windward island group facilitate diversity and abundance of flora and fauna. Animals such as crocodiles, iguanas (including the endangered blue iguana), monkeys and ocelot can be seen in parks and on wildlife tours. The warm waters of the Caribbean provide an ideal environment for coral, sea turtles and dolphins. Saint Lucia is known for its rainforest walks which expose visitors to a combination of tropical plants, rare birds and exotic animals.