The 10 Best Caribbean Cruises

by Dana McMahan

The 10 Best Caribbean Cruises

by Dana McMahan

The Caribbean lures travelers to its sun-kissed, palm-lined beaches year-round, and a cruise is a simple way to cover a lot of sandy ground with ease. Book your cruise fare and plane ticket, throw some swimsuits, sunscreen, and flip-flops in a suitcase, and off you go, ready to drink rum-laced frozen concoctions topped with paper umbrellas and feel the cool sand squish beneath your toes. Sun worshippers who want to explore the Caribbean's assortment of sandy shorelines, enjoying the variety as well as the opportunity to taste test beaches for future vacations, will find that a cruise serves their needs perfectly.

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Dominican Republic / iStock / czekma13
Prime7 on Regent Seven Seas Explorer
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Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Regent Seven Seas Cruises aimed high, calling Seven Seas Explorer “the most luxurious ship in the world.” Whether or not you agree, there’s no denying it’s a beautiful vessel. Three architecture firms lent their eyes to the impeccable design of this 750-passenger resort at sea. Don’t let the pictures fool you: Instead of Vegas bling, you’ll find an impressive attention to detail, sumptuous materials, and glittering chandeliers.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Look up, down, and all around: The museum-worthy art collection includes Picassos, Chagalls, and Miros.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises aimed high, calling Seven Seas Explorer “the most luxurious ship in the world.” Whether or not you agree, there’s no denying it’s a beautiful vessel. Three architecture firms lent their eyes to the impeccable design of this 750-passenger resort at sea. Don’t let the pictures fool you: Instead of Vegas bling, you’ll find an impressive attention to detail, sumptuous materials, and glittering chandeliers.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Look up, down, and all around: The museum-worthy art collection includes Picassos, Chagalls, and Miros.

Crystal Serenity's Prego
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Crystal Serenity

Crystal Cruises' 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity offers service at unprecedented levels for every passenger on board. The food isn’t bad either: With famed Japanese Chef Nobu Matsuhisa behind the Silk Road specialty restaurant and Piero Selvaggio of Beverly Hills behind the Italian spot, Prego, you know the ship takes its culinary offerings seriously.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Look for exciting yet intimate shows created in partnership with L.A.’s Magic Castle.

Crystal Cruises' 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity offers service at unprecedented levels for every passenger on board. The food isn’t bad either: With famed Japanese Chef Nobu Matsuhisa behind the Silk Road specialty restaurant and Piero Selvaggio of Beverly Hills behind the Italian spot, Prego, you know the ship takes its culinary offerings seriously.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Look for exciting yet intimate shows created in partnership with L.A.’s Magic Castle.

Blend on Koningsdam
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Koningsdam

Adults with well-traveled taste will appreciate the modern feel aboard Holland America's Koningsdam. The 2,650-passenger ship is a real departure for the venerable line best known for wood paneling and historic relics in glass cases. On this vessel, not only is the design bright, light, and modern, but the activities are exciting too. Look for hands-on cooking classes in a purpose-built space, a wine-blending course, and a Michelin-starred pop-up at sea. In addition, new cabins for singles give solo travelers the opportunity to sail without the dreaded double-occupancy fee, and new music partnerships have resulted in exciting new performance spaces for everything from blues to classical music.

Don’t-Miss Feature: The Sel de Mer restaurant serves up local seafood in every port, as well as hearty French fare like foie gras, duck confit, and cassoulet.

Adults with well-traveled taste will appreciate the modern feel aboard Holland America's Koningsdam. The 2,650-passenger ship is a real departure for the venerable line best known for wood paneling and historic relics in glass cases. On this vessel, not only is the design bright, light, and modern, but the activities are exciting too. Look for hands-on cooking classes in a purpose-built space, a wine-blending course, and a Michelin-starred pop-up at sea. In addition, new cabins for singles give solo travelers the opportunity to sail without the dreaded double-occupancy fee, and new music partnerships have resulted in exciting new performance spaces for everything from blues to classical music.

Don’t-Miss Feature: The Sel de Mer restaurant serves up local seafood in every port, as well as hearty French fare like foie gras, duck confit, and cassoulet.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Oceania Riviera
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Riviera

Oceania Cruises' 1,250-passenger Riviera offers top brands at every turn: Think Canyon Ranch for the spa, Ralph Lauren for the sexy suites, and a Lalique crystal staircase in the main foyer. When you’re not in port, sign up to learn painting or photography from one of the artists in residence on board, or register for a cooking class in the 12-station studio or a wine tasting in the gorgeous La Reserve restaurant (designed in partnership with Wine Spectator magazine).

Don’t-Miss Feature: TV personality and Celebrity Chef Jacques Pepin is behind the Parisian bistro-style restaurant, which he designed himself and filled with his own artwork and dishes from his childhood.

Oceania Cruises' 1,250-passenger Riviera offers top brands at every turn: Think Canyon Ranch for the spa, Ralph Lauren for the sexy suites, and a Lalique crystal staircase in the main foyer. When you’re not in port, sign up to learn painting or photography from one of the artists in residence on board, or register for a cooking class in the 12-station studio or a wine tasting in the gorgeous La Reserve restaurant (designed in partnership with Wine Spectator magazine).

Don’t-Miss Feature: TV personality and Celebrity Chef Jacques Pepin is behind the Parisian bistro-style restaurant, which he designed himself and filled with his own artwork and dishes from his childhood.

Celebrity Silhouette's Lawn Club Grill
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Celebrity Silhouette

This gorgeous 2,886-passenger vessel is part of Celebrity Cruises' exciting Solstice class, with elegant lounge spaces that feel more boutique hotel than mainstream cruise ship, plus a decadent Canyon Ranch SpaClub. On Celebrity Silhouette's top deck, you’ll also find an acre of real grass bordered by cabanas and a backyard barbecue-style restaurant called the Lawn Club Grill.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Outside the spa, the AquaSpa Café serves healthy and refreshing breakfasts and lunches that feel just right in the bright Caribbean sun. Look for Greek yogurt parfaits with honey and fresh berries, toasted walnut bread with sliced bananas, and watermelon-feta salad.

This gorgeous 2,886-passenger vessel is part of Celebrity Cruises' exciting Solstice class, with elegant lounge spaces that feel more boutique hotel than mainstream cruise ship, plus a decadent Canyon Ranch SpaClub. On Celebrity Silhouette's top deck, you’ll also find an acre of real grass bordered by cabanas and a backyard barbecue-style restaurant called the Lawn Club Grill.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Outside the spa, the AquaSpa Café serves healthy and refreshing breakfasts and lunches that feel just right in the bright Caribbean sun. Look for Greek yogurt parfaits with honey and fresh berries, toasted walnut bread with sliced bananas, and watermelon-feta salad.

Anthem of the Seas' North Star
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Anthem of the Seas

This 4,180-passenger ship from Royal Caribbean International has enough to keep you busy for weeks, let alone a one-week Caribbean cruise. Grab a selfie from 300 feet above Anthem of the Seas on the North Star pod. Then throw yourself into busy days filled with bumper cars, skydiving, and surfing lessons before dinner, followed by a roller-skating party with a DJ that’s sure to remind you of your childhood. Even the food and drinks are exciting, including high balls made by cocktail-slinging robots and the molecular gastronomy fare in an “Alice in Wonderland”-inspired restaurant.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Go ahead and post as many shots on Instagram as you like: With internet that's faster — and less expensive — than anywhere else at sea, you can share photos, watch Netflix, and Skype with friends back home.

This 4,180-passenger ship from Royal Caribbean International has enough to keep you busy for weeks, let alone a one-week Caribbean cruise. Grab a selfie from 300 feet above Anthem of the Seas on the North Star pod. Then throw yourself into busy days filled with bumper cars, skydiving, and surfing lessons before dinner, followed by a roller-skating party with a DJ that’s sure to remind you of your childhood. Even the food and drinks are exciting, including high balls made by cocktail-slinging robots and the molecular gastronomy fare in an “Alice in Wonderland”-inspired restaurant.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Go ahead and post as many shots on Instagram as you like: With internet that's faster — and less expensive — than anywhere else at sea, you can share photos, watch Netflix, and Skype with friends back home.

Disney Fantasy's AquaDuck water coaster
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Disney Fantasy

The littlest cruisers will have a heyday aboard this 4,000-passenger ship from Disney Cruise Line: They can splash around a kid-size water playground, play in the Oceaneer Club (which features "Monsters, Inc."-themed spaces), and line up over and over again for the AquaDuck water coaster, the crowd-pleasing flume-style ride that sails around the ship.

Don’t-Miss Feature: On Disney Fantasy, grown-ups can find refuge in Europa, an adults-only zone that’s home to lounges, bars, and nightclubs, including a proper sports bar with a buffet of potato skins and chicken wings.

The littlest cruisers will have a heyday aboard this 4,000-passenger ship from Disney Cruise Line: They can splash around a kid-size water playground, play in the Oceaneer Club (which features "Monsters, Inc."-themed spaces), and line up over and over again for the AquaDuck water coaster, the crowd-pleasing flume-style ride that sails around the ship.

Don’t-Miss Feature: On Disney Fantasy, grown-ups can find refuge in Europa, an adults-only zone that’s home to lounges, bars, and nightclubs, including a proper sports bar with a buffet of potato skins and chicken wings.

The Sanctuary on Regal Princess
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Regal Princess

Passengers of all ages will find something tailored just for them on this midsize, 3,560-passenger ship from Princess Cruises. On sea days, kids and teens flock to the arcade as well as the main pool, where plenty of Taylor Swift videos play on the giant screen and the soft-serve machines are close at hand. Adults tend to gravitate to Regal Princess' much quieter Sanctuary pool, which is lined with hot tubs and cabanas, or the spa and gym.

Don’t-Miss Feature: A proper Neapolitan pizza restaurant is sure to please the whole gang, with made-to-order pies topped with fresh mozzarella and Parma ham served at lunch or dinner. 

Passengers of all ages will find something tailored just for them on this midsize, 3,560-passenger ship from Princess Cruises. On sea days, kids and teens flock to the arcade as well as the main pool, where plenty of Taylor Swift videos play on the giant screen and the soft-serve machines are close at hand. Adults tend to gravitate to Regal Princess' much quieter Sanctuary pool, which is lined with hot tubs and cabanas, or the spa and gym.

Don’t-Miss Feature: A proper Neapolitan pizza restaurant is sure to please the whole gang, with made-to-order pies topped with fresh mozzarella and Parma ham served at lunch or dinner. 

Norwegian Escape's Aqua Racer waterslide
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Norwegian Escape

This 4,248-passenger ship is easily Norwegian Cruise Line’s best. Look for a daring ropes course, a craft beer bar with a stunning variety of choices (and fun features like a photo booth and beer pong), and some of the best shows on the high seas, including a crowd-pleasing celebration of the '80s music in John Hughes’ movies.

Don’t-Miss Feature: The memorable dishes in Norwegian Escape's Food Republic are good enough to change the mind of any skeptic of fusion fare, with pastrami and sauerkraut dumplings and Maki rolls topped with buffalo chicken and blue cheese.

This 4,248-passenger ship is easily Norwegian Cruise Line’s best. Look for a daring ropes course, a craft beer bar with a stunning variety of choices (and fun features like a photo booth and beer pong), and some of the best shows on the high seas, including a crowd-pleasing celebration of the '80s music in John Hughes’ movies.

Don’t-Miss Feature: The memorable dishes in Norwegian Escape's Food Republic are good enough to change the mind of any skeptic of fusion fare, with pastrami and sauerkraut dumplings and Maki rolls topped with buffalo chicken and blue cheese.

Havana Pool on Carnival Vista
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Carnival Vista

Stretch your vacation dollars with amply sized family cabins on the new, 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, named for its attention to outdoor space. You’ll find a variety of outdoor dining options, including the aft-deck Seafood Shack, Guy’s Burger Joint, and the BlueIguana Cantina, where meals comes complete with a salsa bar and freshly made tortilla chips. On this ship, even the steakhouse and brew pub have outdoor tables. If you want quiet, escape from it all on the adults-only Serenity deck or in the palapa-filled Havana pool area, which is open to everyone on board — and not just guests in Havana suites — after 5 pm.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Sure, Carnival has plenty of ships with RedFrog pubs, but this is the only one that brews its own beer.

Stretch your vacation dollars with amply sized family cabins on the new, 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, named for its attention to outdoor space. You’ll find a variety of outdoor dining options, including the aft-deck Seafood Shack, Guy’s Burger Joint, and the BlueIguana Cantina, where meals comes complete with a salsa bar and freshly made tortilla chips. On this ship, even the steakhouse and brew pub have outdoor tables. If you want quiet, escape from it all on the adults-only Serenity deck or in the palapa-filled Havana pool area, which is open to everyone on board — and not just guests in Havana suites — after 5 pm.

Don’t-Miss Feature: Sure, Carnival has plenty of ships with RedFrog pubs, but this is the only one that brews its own beer.

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