Four Ways to Cruise the Caribbean Right Now

by  Donna Heiderstadt | Jan 19, 2012
Windstar's Wind Surf
Windstar's Wind Surf / Photo courtesy of the cruise line

If you adore the turquoise surf, tangerine sunsets, and dreamy steel drum tempo of the Caribbean, but you get bored after a single day in a beach chaise, sampling four or five different islands on a cruise might be the right romantic getaway for you. Just remember that cruise ships are pretty much floating resorts, each with their own ambience (from intimate to expansive) and clientele (from couple-centric to multi-generational). Here are four great ship options (all of which I have cruised on over the past two years) offering very different cruise experiences for couples. Each is sailing a Caribbean itinerary through early spring and last-minute fares are still available. Or, if you prefer to stay on dry land, check out last week's blog on "Five Easy Caribbean Island Combos."

Wind Surf: As someone who loves to feel the wind in her hair and hear the sound of slapping waves and snapping sails, I totally adore the 312-passenger, five-masted Wind Surf. With a vibe that’s luxurious, but laid-back (no formal attire is required), this sailing yacht (shown above at left) is ideal for well-traveled couples with an independent streak who like to set off on their own in port and return to mingle at sail-away with like-minded fellow passengers over cocktails as canvas unfurls. There’s no pretense onboard this casual and friendly vessel, but that doesn’t mean you’ll sacrifice service or quality. Yes, cabins are a tad cozy (yet well-designed and fresh from a renovation) and none has a balcony, but the food (in four restaurants) is exceptional and sunset sail-aways enjoyed from one of the two aft Jacuzzis, rum cocktail in hand, will linger as treasured travel memories.

Wind Surf, the largest of Windstar Cruises’ trio of sailing yachts, is currently sailing from St. Maarten on alternating 7-night itineraries to Martinique, St. Lucia, Antigua, Dominica, and St. Barth; and Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, St. Kitts, Les Saintes (Guadeloupe), and St. Barth. Fares start at $1,399 per person.

Silver Spirit Pool Deck / Silversea Cruises

Silver Spirit: If your idea of romantic luxury includes a suite featuring a marble bathroom with a full-size tub and a multi-course Relais & Chateaux wine-pairing restaurant called Le Champagne, look no further than the 2-year-old, 540-passenger Silver Spirit. The newest and largest ship in Silversea Cruises' intimate fleet, Silver Spirit attracts a sophisticated, affluent, and mostly 50-plus crowd (although honeymooners are increasing) who appreciate the ship’s culinary genius (there’s a total of six restaurants, including La Terrazza for Italian and Seishin for Asian). Couples also are pampered in the 8,300-square-foot spa and can unwind in four hot tubs (two on the pool deck are shown at the right). Verandah Suites are a generous 376 square feet and feature comfy beds and stylish, neutral decor.

Throughout March and early April, Silver Spirit is sailing four 9- and 10-night itineraries from Fort Lauderdale and Barbados, with ports that include St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Barth, and St. Thomas; and Turks & Caicos, St. Barth, Antigua, St. Kitts, and Tortola. Fares start at $4,499 per person (including beverages and gratuities, as well as airfare and onboard credits on some sailings).

Celebrity Silhouette Persian Garden / Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Silhouette: If you live in New York’s Tri-State region and don’t feel like flying to Florida or the Caribbean to board a ship, you can set sail from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ, on the sleek and sophisticated 6-month-old Celebrity Silhouette. Despite its size (2,886 passengers), this 122,400-ton ship feels like a trendy boutique hotel – complete with a chic martini bar, relaxing Persian Garden thermal suite in the spa (shown at left), Lawn Club with real grass and romantic Alcove cabanas, and an array of cool restaurants. Favorites are Qsine, offering an eclectic tapas-style menu (at a small extra charge per person) and Blu, serving healthy, but delicious fare. In fact, Silhouette (and all of Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class ships) makes it easy this winter to work on getting fit for spring. Just book an AquaClass stateroom and you’ll enjoy unlimited access to the spa’s Persian Garden and panoramic relaxation room, as well as priority seating at Blu – just try to avoid spending too much time tasting wine in Cellar Masters or microbrew beers in Michael’s Club!

From February to early April, Silhouette is sailing on 12-night Southern and Eastern Caribbean itineraries with port calls on St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten; and Labadee (Haiti), Puerto Rico, Antigua, St. Croix, and St. Thomas. Cruise fares start at $1,299 per person.

Allure of the Seas Central Park / Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Allure of the Seas: Let’s say you’re dreaming of rum-laced cocktails and tropical sunsets and your partner is thinking of innovative dining, lively casinos, and action-packed shows on more of a Las Vegas scale. Well, you can have it all onboard Allure of the Seas, the newest ship from Royal Caribbean that also just happens to be the biggest ship in the world. At 225,282 tons, she accommodates 5,400 passengers (note that includes many families), has seven distinct neighborhoods (including the sophisticated, atrium-like Central Park, shown at right), and a staggering 25 restaurants – not to mention so many activities and features (a zip line, ice-skating rink, surf-like FlowRider, 3D theater, and full-scale production of the Broadway smash Chicago) that she’s practically the Sin City of the high seas. Allure of the Seas’ sheer size (16 decks, 24 elevators, and 10 hot tubs) mean you can explore tropical ports of call by day and then return to dine on everything from flavorful Brazilian barbecue to romantic Italian before playing all night in the casino, night clubs, and lounges. Sounds like an exhausting, but fun compromise!

From Fort Lauderdale, Allure of the Seas sails rotating 7-night Western Caribbean (Labadee, Haiti; Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico) and Eastern Caribbean (Nassau/Bahamas, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten) itineraries. Cruise fares start at $979 per person.

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