Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Thu December 03 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | December 3, 2015 1:00 AM ET

    2016 Caribbean Cruises to Check Out

    2016 Caribbean Cruises to Check Out

    Photo courtesy of Pearl Sea Cruises

    The Caribbean is one of the most popular regions to take a cruise, particularly for North American travelers. While many Caribbean cruises follow similar routes, others venture off to lesser-visited ports. These nine cruises offer a different Caribbean cruise experience, with exciting new ships, convenient departures or other highlights that set them apart from the crowd.

    Royal Caribbean

    The sprawling Oasis of the Seas will begin offering voyages from Port Canaveral beginning in November 2016. There will be five, seven and eight-night cruises alternating between Eastern and Western itineraries. The seven-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary visits Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. With Port Canaveral’s convenient positioning just an hour from Disney World, families can easily combine a trip to Orlando with a cruise on an incredible vessel.

    Sea Cloud Cruises

    Those who prefer a smaller, traditional ship should consider Sea Cloud Cruises, a company that maintains an intimate cruising experience aboard timeless sailing ships. Starting March 24, 2016, the Sea Cloud II embarks on a lesser-traveled Caribbean route from Bridgetown, Barbados to Man-O-War Bay, Tobago; St. George’s, Grenada; Soufriere, St. Lucia; and three ports of call in St. Vincent and the Grenadines including Union Island, often referred to as "the Tahiti of the West Indies."

    Celebrity Summit

    In late winter 2016, Celebrity Summit will be sailing a Southern Caribbean itinerary round-trip from San Juan. Fresh off a makeover, the ship will feature the new rooftop terrace for dining and movies on an outdoor screen, as well as the Tuscan Grille, a signature restaurant on other vessels. The cruise includes St. Croix, Martinique, Dominica, St. Kitts and St. Thomas.


    What better way to explore the French West Indies than on a luxurious French vessel? In Guadeloupe, while mainstream ships call on the city of Pointe-a-Pitre, the Le Ponant visits quiet Deshaies and Les Saintes. On the January 9 departure from Fort de France, (Martinique), the ship also calls in Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua, a historical area away from the major port, as well as Sandy Island, Anguilla, a tiny slice of paradise surrounded by sugary white sand. During the seven-night voyage, Le Ponant overnights in St. Barts and also visits Pigeon Island Beach, St. Lucia for postcard-perfect scenery.

    Holland America

    Holland America’s 10-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the brand new, MS Koningsdam in November 2016 heads to the ABC Islands, as well as the new port of Amber Cove, Dominican Republic. This cruise also calls in Grand Turk and a private island in the Bahamas, and spends three full days at sea — allowing time to experience the musically-inspired ship. The “Music Walk” features three stages, and a partnership with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts introduces classically trained artists.

    Pearl Sea

    During the cooler months, Pearl Sea, a small-ship company, will go to its newest destination: Cuba. The 10-night voyage embarks from (and returns to) Miami, before spending an overnight in the sizzling city of Havana. The Cuban cultural cruise visits several UNESCO World Heritage sites and gives American and international passengers a chance to meet local tradespeople, artists, musicians and historians. Other stops include Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and Holguin as well as two ecological areas: Alejandro de Humboldt National Park and Maria la Gorda. Cruises are available beginning in March 2016.

    Star Clippers

    Another tall ship company, Star Clippers, is offering a rare, two-week, Southern Caribbean itinerary that hugs the coast of South America. The Royal Clipper embarks from Bridgetown, Barbados on December 3, 2016, and visits four islands off coastal Venezuela with a sublime setting: Isla Margarita, Testigo Grande, Isla de Coche and La Blanquilla. The ship spends a day in each of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao), before calling on the Grenadines, Grenada, and St. Lucia. 


    The new impact travel cruise, Fathom (part of Carnival Corporation) has a weeklong program that includes three full days in the port of Amber Cove, Dominican Republic, to help with sustainable tourism efforts. During this time, passengers will participate in activities to benefit economic development, local education and environmental issues. Travelers may work with women’s cooperatives to improve their standard of living, work with community members to help improve their English skills or organizations to deliver potable water to families. The first Fathom cruise aboard the Adonia begins April 10.

    Sail Windjammer

    The interest in barefoot cruises on smaller windjammers has been reignited in the Caribbean and Sail Windjammers has a 13-night cruise from Grenada to St. Lucia with a wealth of islands packed into the itinerary. This free-spirited sailing cruise includes places like Mayreau, the smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines, or Tobago Cays, home to a stunning marine park. Cabins are traditional, no frills (but comfortable) and the galley serves up fresh, local cuisines. Sailing dates are available in April 2016.


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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