It's true — you have many options when considering destinations for a cruise. But consider this: Some of the best-known and most beautiful beach hangouts are regular ports of call along Western Caribbean cruise routes.
Besides Jamaica and Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, these ships make their way to destinations such as Cozumel and Belize that skirt the Caribbean Sea in Mexico and Central America. You'll find an abundance of white-sand stretches and palm trees, plus many opportunities to hit the water or to explore nearby historical sites.
So with no further ado, here are 5 Western Caribbean cruise options that will sate your appetite for sun and sand.
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1. Carnival's 7-Night Cozumel, Costa Maya, Roatan (Mahogany Bay) and Belize Cruise from Port Canaveral
With Carnival's weeklong beach hopper, you'll have plenty of time to explore four unique tropical destinations, plus enjoy laid-back days at sea on either end of your trip. This is a cruise match made in heaven for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts — Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya in Mexico and Roatan in Honduras are all renowned for their reefs and many dive sites, and snorkeling and/or diving shore excursions are available in each destination.
Aboard the Carnival Magic, your home away from home, you'll have access to fun amenities like the poolside Redfrog Rum Bar, specializing in (you guessed it) rum drinks, plus an onboard water park, an adults-only lounge with a bar and hammocks, and an on-deck theater featuring movies, concerts and events.
2. Princess Cruises' 7-Night Sailing to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Princess Cays from Ft. Lauderdale
Even if you consider yourself new to Caribbean destinations, you probably know that Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are excellent choices, not just for their beaches, but for their distinctive cuisine, culture and music. This weeklong Princess cruise makes calls in both ports, and also swings by Cozumel to get a taste of Mexican beach life.
And how's this for a bonus: This sailing reserves a day of fun and exploration in Princess Cays, a private port on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Snorkel right offshore, or rent kayaks or paddle-wheelers and spend your afternoon in the shallow, crystalline water. Back onboard, a cocktail lounge, a martini bar, a casino and a poolside theater screen ensure relaxed evenings.
3. Carnival's 4-Night Key West and Cozumel Cruise from Miami
Don't have much time for your island getaway? Consider this 4-night cruise, which not only stops in Mexico's tiny white-sand island, Cozumel, but also sails to one of the most beloved islands in the United States, Key West.
Yes, it's a little strange to find Key West listed as a destination in a collection of Western Caribbean cruises, but this quirky town bears a closer resemblance to the palm-tree studded, rum-soaked escapes of the West Indies than most cities on the mainland. You'll have a ball exploring the island's Old Town, full of rowdy bars, cigar shops and candy-colored structures. And when it's time to sail back to Miami, you'll have a full day to recover aboard the Carnival Victory, complete with a waterslide, a comedy club, a vintage-style cocktail bar and a "dive-in" movie theater on deck.
4. Celebrity Cruises' 7-Night Key West, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Grand Cayman Cruise from Miami
This 7-night cruise gives you a taste of four destinations — one in the Western Caribbean, two in Mexico and one in Florida. Plus, since the cruise departs from Miami, you could easily tack on a few extra days in the Magic City before or after your trip.
When you're not snorkeling, sunbathing or shopping on shore, you can spend your days at sea in the Celebrity Equinox's Canyon Ranch SpaClub, at the Michael Kors boutique, or in the Sky Observation Lounge, with live music, dancing and cocktails.
5. Holland America's 7-Night Sailing to Cozumel, Roatan, Costa Maya and Santo Tomás de Castilla from Tampa
Unlike the four other Western Caribbean cruises mentioned above, this cruise from Holland America departs from Florida's Gulf side, rather than from the Atlantic side. You'll arrive in Cozumel before you know it, and then glide down to Costa Maya before hitting up Santo Tomás de Castilla, a historic port city in Guatemala with nearby ancient Mayan sites.
Finally, you'll cruise to Roatan's Mahogany Bay, home to a white-sand beach and a welcome center with more than 30 retailers. Your host while you island-hop will be the MS Rotterdam, which offers a spa with a thermal pool, an outdoor pool with poolside amenities, and hands-on cooking workshops, not to mention a multi-million dollar collection of art and antiques.