For many travellers, a cruise represents the ultimate luxury holiday experience. A floating five star hotel that every morning reveals a different and enticing panorama, a cruise allows passengers to explore and uncover new perspectives while all the time surrounded by comfort, variety and grandeur.
As spectacular and comprehensive as modern cruise liners can be, a holiday is not truly a holiday without a destination to escape to; so what could be better than one idyllic getaway than a whole catalogue of them? Cruises provide discerning individuals the opportunity to appreciate the natural diversity and cultural scope that is so often restricted by a single centre vacation.
One of the most renowned and popular regions for luxury cruises is of course the Caribbean; a constellation of islands ranging in size from the extensive shores of Jamaica and Hispaniola to the smallest of atolls and islets. The Caribbean is abundant with life, vibrancy, colour and energy and an area rich with history and natural beauty. Shore excursions and ports of call allow each nation and indeed each individual island to imprint its own distinctive footprint upon the hearts and minds of every passenger. Although some may assume that most on shore cruise excursions conceive of little more than shopping for knick-knacks and wandering around a crowded port; the reality could not be further from this misconception.
Cruise excursions and particularly those around the Caribbean promise the most eclectic and adventurous of holidays. From the jungles of Jamaica to the stunning beaches of the British Virgin Islands; swimming with dolphins in the Bahamas or touring the spice factories of Grenada there is always something to entertain and enthral any audience.
My first ‘top stop’ in the Caribbean would have to be Stingray City; just off the coast of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. Located in the North Sound the area is comprised of a succession of natural sand bars which despite its distance from shore allows visitors to stand above the waves and interact with an abundance of aquatic life. The stars of the show are of course the Southern Stingrays, placid and curious creatures they enjoy interacting with humans and swim right up next to you. Non-swimmers of all ages and snorkelers can equally enjoy this beautiful attraction which is also encompassed by stunning corals.
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The Baths at Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands is another spectacular sight. This beautiful area attracts swimmers, beach lovers, families and couples in equal share. The pristine white sands offer perfect conditions for sunbathing, relaxing and strolling along the coastline. A collection of large boulders that litter the shore create an intricate pathway of caves, grottos, nooks and hideaways; inside these caves light gently illuminates the clear water pools reflecting off the rock and creating a beautiful and peaceful chamber of calm within. Coral ledges provide a treasure trove of sights beneath the waves for snorkelers who are free to explore the area.
For more adventurous travellers a trip to the Dutch island of St Maarten offers sailing enthusiasts the chance to experience the speed and thrill of operating a real Americas cup sailing yacht. Numerous vessels that actually competed in the race; including the 12 metre ‘Stars and Stripes’ famously steered to victory in the competition by American Dennis Conner, are available for half a day’s sailing around the island. Visitors can enjoy the stunning scenery as well as learning a thing or two about the craft or yacht sailing.
If you are docking in Jamaica and are in the mood for a little exercise a hike up to the famous Dunn’s Falls is a fantastic introduction to the beautiful nature of the island. Trekking 600ft up the falls is enjoyed by young and old alike although it is an exercise more suited to the sure of foot. Whether you decide to take the plunge and submerse yourself in the rapidly flowing waters or simply appreciate the stunning views Dunn’s Falls certainly promises a memorable encounter.
Craig is an avid traveller, travel writer and luxury holiday enthusiast.