Which Cruise Itinerary Should I Pick?

When deciding on a cruise, the majority of new cruisers will decide on a cruise based on the itinerary over the cruise line or ship. The destination, especially when you may not have traveled to a location before, is more important than the ship. That might change over time, but for new cruisers it’s all about the itinerary.

How do you choose the itinerary, especially when you may not be familiar with the various ports? You can ask your friends, read online, or research the various ports. Since almost half of all cruises go to the Caribbean, let’s look at those here:

Bermuda Cruises: These cruises typically leave from Northeast ports such as New York City, Bayonne (New Jersey), Baltimore, or Charleston. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about 1,030 kilometres (640 mi) to the west-northwest. It is about 1,373 kilometres (853 mi) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and 1,770 kilometres (1,100 mi) northeast of Miami, Florida. Some highlights of Bermuda can include the Royal Dockyard, Somerset, Harrington Sound as well as golf, sailing, and snorkeling.

Bahamas Cruises: These are generally shorter three or four day cruises that people take as introductions to cruising or quick, weekend getaway cruises with departures from Florida. The Bahamas is a country consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 islets (rocks). It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States (nearest to the state of Florida). Its total land area is 13,939 km2 (5,382 sq mi); slightly larger than the US states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined), with an estimated population of 330,000. Its capital is Nassau. Geographically, the Bahamas lie in the same island chain as Cuba, Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the designation of the Bahamas refers normally to the commonwealth and not the geographic chain. A few highlights from the Bahamas include Atlantis, Freeport, Nassau, swims with dolphins, stingrays, and sea lions, and great beaches.

Western Caribbean Cruises: These cruises usually depart from Florida and make stops in Cozumel, Belize, Falmouth, George Town, and/or the individual cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas. There are definitely more Western Caribbean cruises available than any of the others. In Cozumel, Mexico you might want to visit San Gervasio ruins or Chankanaab Lagoon & park or maybe spend a relaxing day on the beach. In Belize you might want to try cave tubing as they have the largest cave system in all of Central America. In Falmouth, Jamaica you might want to visit the Good Hope Great House, go shopping, and enjoy a meal with one of over 300 Jerk recipe possibilities. In George Town, Grand Cayman you might visit Turtle Farm, Hell, the Stingray City Observatory or go snorkeling or play a round of golf. The cruise lines purchased islands from the Bahamas after Norwegian Cruise Line purchased theirs in the 1970’s. This is an opportunity for you to get off the ship and have fun, but with all of the amenities of the ship. Simply take your cabin card and show it to pay for drinks, food, or spa treatments.

Eastern Caribbean Cruises: These cruises also generally depart from Florida, but like the Western Caribbean cruises, you do see other departure ports as well. Some of the Eastern Caribbean ports you might visit include St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and sometimes Falmouth and Grand Cayman. In St. Thomas, USVI why not enjoy Mafolie Hill, Louisenhoj Catle, Drake’s Seat, Coral World or swimming, snorkeling, or a helicopter tour. In St. Maarten, one of my most favorite destinations, you get the opportunity to visit two countries on one stop. Half of the island is French (St. Martin) and the other is Dutch (Sint Maarten). Here you can enjoy the great dining options in Grand Case, Marigot, Philipsburg, snorkeling, scuba diving, and some really great shopping!

Southern Caribbean Cruises: Most Southern Caribbean Cruises depart from San Juan, Puerto Rico and are a great option especially if you have done any of the other cruises and are looking for new ports to visit. Some ports included Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, Tortola, Aruba, and Curacao. Starting in San Juan where you can arrive a day or two before your cruise, you can visit El Morro, El Yunque Rainforest and enjoy hiking, golf, deep sea fishing, or a helicopter ride. In Antigua you might enjoy Nelson’s Dockyard, Clarence House or sailing, swimming, snorkeling, or golf. In Barbados a visit to Harrison Caves, a crystallized, limestone cavern is a must as well as Andromeda Gardens or St. John’s Church or sailing, snorkeling, and swimming. In St. Lucia, a visit to the Pitons are a must as well as Soufriere. In Tortola there is Cane Garden Bay, Virgin Gorda as well as hiking, swimming, or a day out in a glass-bottom boat. In Aruba there is Schooner Harbor, St. Anna’s Church, Wilhelmina Park and sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Lastly, in Curcao there is Curacao Seaquarium, Brievengat, Chobolobo or Underwater National Park for snorkeling.

Narrow down the possible ports you might want to visit first and then deciding on the actual cruise line and ship will come naturally after that. You want to have fun so do the work now and you will have fun – I promise!

3 thoughts on “Which Cruise Itinerary Should I Pick?

  1. You can’t compare a cruise leaving from NYC to a cruise leaving from Central Florida to a cruise leaving from San Juan, PR. The main difference between these three is COST. A cruise out of NYC will cost more than one out of Florida. Why? 1) supply and demand and 2) most people don’t fly. There are fewer cruises leaving out of NYC than Florida and they know that most that take those cruises drive instead of fly. They can bump up the price a bit knowing that people will still save money by not flying.

    So, do you live in Florida or on the East Coast? That will effect your decision. Sometimes you can get cheap flights to Florida, making the Florida cruise the most economical. Very few will fly from Florida to take a cruise out of NYC (or vicinity). Some will because they want to experience the ship, or they want to be with family or friends.

    So budget is a BIG issue, unless you don’t care about money. LUCKY YOU! 🙂

    From my experience, the further south you start, the more tropical the cruise will be.

  2. I do agree that budget will have a huge impact on which cruise to take. Yes, the cruises that sail out of NY or Boston or even Baltimore or Charleston will be slightly more expensive than one out of Florida, but if you were to price out air and add it to your cruise cost, it might be a wash. Cruisers who have traveled before often want to try out new itineraries and leaving from a port near them will let them try out a new itinerary such as a Canadian/New England cruise or Bermuda cruise.

    One shouldn’t assume that a cruise from Florida will be less expensive than one that leaves from somewhere else. I took a Southern Caribbean cruise not so long ago out of San Juan because it was less expensive to fly to San Juan than it was to Florida. That combined with the itinerary, which were all new ports for me, sealed the deal. Much depends on from where you are traveling and how you will arrive to the cruise port, either by air or by car. As far as people not flying to NYC from FL, on my cruise to Bermuda from Boston last summer, there were many people on the ship who weren’t from Boston and out of those, many flew to Boston to take their cruise. You might not think of someone wanting to do this, but both Boston and NYC are great pre- or post-cruise cities to visit and so it does make sense to try these ports for a cruise.

    When comparing apples to apples, as is often the case when deciding on a cruise with a contemporary or mass market cruise line, the ultimate deciding factor will be the itinerary. Maybe one of the ports of call is different or unusual and that alone may be what someone will use to decide which cruise to take. The price range for this type of cruise is usually similar and so it is the itinerary that people look at in the end to decide on their cruise.

    Although budget is important, I honestly don’t believe that this alone is what people base an entire vacation on. Having the choices available, researching all possible options and airfare, and making an educated decision on which cruise is right for them is hopefully how someone plans a vacation. Everyone will want to work within their budget naturally, but within that range will be several cruises to choose from and the itinerary ultimately is how they choose. If all of the cruises you are looking at are $800 per person, then how do you decide if you are looking at the same cruise line? For new cruisers, they might want a newer ship, but I have to think that maybe there is a port of call that speaks to that person and that is how they choose between similar cruises.

    I do agree that yes, the further south you begin your cruise, the warmer and more tropical the cruise is. So on that point — we agree! Thank you for being so honest and willing to share your viewpoint.

  3. I agree, it’s not everything. But it is important. When we started looking at the flights for our upcoming Allure of the Seas cruise, flights were a SHOCKING $800 pp round trip. I finally got a flight around $400. But for a family of four, $3200 for the four of us to fly is outrageous!

    Itinerary is not first for me. It’s certainly a factor, but it’s not first on my list. Ship is actually more important to me.

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