Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Caribbean Cruise

Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call: Eastern, Western, Southern

Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Caribbean cruise ports of call are divided into three major regions: eastern, western and southern. Each region has distinct attractions and advantages for cruise visitors.

Eastern and western cruises are more common than southern cruises in part because they also sometimes go to southern ports. The eastern Caribbean offers the most islands and most beaches. Historical attractions are common.

Western cruises are especially popular during late winter and early spring during the area’s dry season. They often include some combination of western islands, the Mexican coast and the Central American coast. They also have some of the most memorable shore excursions.

Southern Caribbean ports of call often include Aruba, sometimes the nearby Curaçao and occasionally the smaller and nearby Bonaire. Otherwise, they often visit eastern Caribbean islands that lie farther south than others such as St. Lucia.

The following guides include the ports of call for each of the three Caribbean cruise regions.

Eastern Caribbean

The Bahamas are not technically part of the Caribbean, but eastern Caribbean cruises often include them, especially Nassau on Paradise Island.

cruise ship
Grand Turk is a popular eastern Caribbean cruise port. © Dreamstime

Eastern Caribbean cruise ports range from the Bahamas in the north to a cluster of islands in the south that include Puero Rico, Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands.

One of the best and most popular cruises is a combination of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. San Juan, Puerto Rico, is often a starting point for western and southern cruises.

Western Caribbean

Stingray City Tour
Stingray City, a western Caribbean excursion. ©

Cozumel, Jamaica and Grand Cayman are the three most popular western Caribbean cruise ports. Belize, Panama, Roatan and Costa Rica attract a high number of visitors on the Central American coast.

Southern Caribbean

The ever-popular southeastern Caribbean cruise port at Philipsburg, St. Maarten, draws many visitors who enjoy the beaches and especially the shopping. Barbados, St. Kitts and St. Lucia also are major destinations.

All three are common ports of call for both eastern and southern cruises.

Aruba is better known for long-term stays, but it and neighboring Curaçao are attracting more cruise visits to the southwestern part of the Caribbean.

The best ports combine good shopping and dining, easy access to beaches and the ability to explore the island. Our picks for the best ports are:

  1. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (eastern)
  2. Ocho Rios, Jamaica (western)
  3. Philipsburg, St. Maarten (southern)
  4. Oranjestad, Aruba (southern)
  5. Nassau, Bahamas (eastern)
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
January 29, 2024

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