While most cruise lines go out of their way to ensure your stay on one of their vessels is as pleasant as possible, that's not really why people want to spend their holidays on a boat. It's all the destinations you can hit in one trip that's the draw here, unlike a flight to a resort for a couple of weeks that limit your excursions to day trips beyond your suite.
No knock against all-inclusive resorts; they're great if you want to laze in the sun or let the surf wash away all that tension you've stored the past year. But for those who want a bit of a cross-section of the Caribbean tour-de-force, cruise ships are the way to go. And topping the list of destinations are the beaches at every stop on a vessel's junket.
There's something about sand on a shoreline that whets the appetite of every seafaring traveler. Perhaps beaches represent a serene getaway from the concrete confines of home. Or maybe it's finally seeing the exotic locales you used to gaze at on postcards from friends. Or maybe it's a land surface you can enjoy without having to mow it once a week.
Whatever the motive, there are dozens of cruises stopping at ports within a strolling destination of some of the best beaches in the world. Here's a rundown of some of the best you can reach on a budget, according to review site Cruiseline.com.
Turtle Beach In Jamaica For As Low As $249
Also called Ocho Rios Bay Beach, this well-maintained stretch of sand on the northeastern tip of Jamaica offers all sorts of recreational activities, so be prepared to engage in a variety of distractions from paddleboarding to snorkeling. But if you're seeking relaxation, there's plenty of sandy spots to choose from, since the area is one of the less crowded beaches on the Jamaica coastline.
Plenty of facilities are available, from public restrooms to concession stands, most of them merely a few steps away from where you parked your blanket. Shade seekers might appreciate sitting under the palms and almond trees for a spell. If you still have some extra shore leave, try one of the restaurants that border Ocho Rios and the beach area.
Stops at this part of Jamaica are available on packages offered by Carnival, Crystal, MSC, Norwegian and Princess.
Governor's Beach In Turks And Caicos From $229
Part of the tiny country's Columbus Landfall National Park, Governor's Beach is a huge and unspoiled attraction with very fine sand that came from coral that's eroded over time and washed ashore. The reefs are further out into the Pacific, so they're not easily accessible by snorkeling, although group tours can be arranged to visit the colorful reefs under the surface.
But if it's relaxation you seek, take advantage of the quiet, since it's seldom crowded. As an added incentive and if time permits, check out the mansion near the beach. It's called Waterloo and is the official residence of the country's governor.
Cruises to the Turks and Caicos Islands are on circuits involving Carnival, Holland America and Princess.
Sapphire Beach In St. Thomas Starting At $229
If you happen to be swimming or snorkeling in the turquoise waters of Sapphire Beach, don't be surprised if you run into a school of tropical fish. A lot of that benign marine life often make a detour into the cover that outlines the beach in search of food or to satisfy their curiosity.
Besides snorkeling, the cove is also a prime spot for windsurfing, adding to the ambiance of the beach scene. Otherwise, there's plenty of sandy real estate for stretching out, but if the elements get too hot, there's always shade in the sea grape trees nearby.
Carnival dominates the St. Thomas itinerary although you can find the odd trip via Holland America.
Brandon Beach In Barbados As Low As $154
Some of the whitest and softest sand in the Caribbean can be found at Brandon Beach, only minutes away from the cruise harbor stop in Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for a small fee, enabling you to pick your spot to watch the waves from your own personal camp away from home.
The surf at Brandons Beach is one of the calmest you'll ever encounter in the region, making a swim a relaxing experience. But if you're up for an excursion, try the Mount Gay Rum Visitor Centre near the beach for some hiking options.
Bridgetown is a frequent port for almost all cruise lines, most commonly Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean.
Cable Beach In Bahamas A Deal At $119
Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, isn't notorious for having a vibrant nightlife and it's just as tranquil in the day, making Cable Beach ideal for a relaxing time under the sun. What's more is that you can choose a spot from among two and a half miles of beachfront to park yourself, taking in the view of crystal clear ocean while seeking out your turf on sole-friendly sand.
While it's easily the country's most popular beach, it's seldom crowded as resort guests tend to stay in areas close to their suites. But expect prompt service from vendors offering lounges, umbrellas and even cold drinks to make those precious hours one of the most relaxing experiences of your cruise vacation.
A Bahamian stop is included in trips being offered by Carnival, Celebrity, MSC, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.