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Caribbean Cruise

10 Best Eastern Caribbean Cruise Ports

Lambert beach on Tortola
Lambert Beach in the British Virgin Islands. © BVI Tourism Board

The best eastern Caribbean cruise ports are close and convenient for many people living in the United States, which makes them a tempting choice for someone going on their first cruise.

Common departure ports are Miami, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale in Florida for people who want the convenience of flying into Florida without any stopovers.

Typical eastern Caribbean cruise ports of call include:

1. Antigua

Antigua lays claim to having 365 beaches or one for every day of the year. Cruise visitors surely can’t visit all 365, but instead head to a few of the best and most convenient.

Fort Bay beach, also known as Miller’s Beach, is a 10-minute drive by taxi from the cruise port at St. John’s. Other nearby beaches worth visiting include Deep Bay, Runaway Bay and Dickenson Bay.

The cruise port at St. John’s has a nice shopping and dining district at the cruise docks. The island has an important historical attraction at English Harbour on the southeast end of the island. It was one of the most important British naval bases on the Caribbean.

Antigua also is a common stop on southern Caribbean cruises.

Atlantis Bahamas
Atlantis Bahamas resort; ©

2. The Bahamas

No island in the region has more visitors than the Bahamas because of numerous tourist attractions, recreational activities and shopping opportunities.

It is arguably the most commercialized and will give visitors the most feeling of familiar settings. Nassau and Freeport are typical ports of call.

Treasure Cay Beach and Harbour Island Beach are two of the most popular and well-publicized beaches in the islands.

Duty free shopping includes Port Lucaya Marketplace on Grand Bahama Island and the Welcome Center at Festival Place on Nassau.

The Bahamas technically are in the Atlantic Ocean and not the Caribbean Sea. But they are a common stop on many eastern Caribbean cruises, especially ones that depart from Miami.

Sandy Cay BVI; ©

3. British Virgin Islands

BVI is a place of quiet beauty, beautiful beaches and great snorkeling and scuba diving.

The most likely port of call is Tortola, the largest island in this chain of dozens of islands.

Unique attractions include Dolphin Discovery, a chance to interact in the waters with dolphins; the historic forts Burt and Recovery, both dating back centuries; and Tortola’s Main Street, which is both a shopping and historic district. BVI also is known for Cane Garden Bay Beach and the Baths at Virgin Gorda.

The islands are closely packed together, which makes it easy for someone to make an excursion out of boating from one island to another.

4. Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic is the second most popular island in the Caribbean. Its main draw is its plush, numerous, all-inclusive resorts on fantastic white sand beaches.

It is one of the few islands with whitewater rafting. Although people visit DR mostly to stay at the resorts, eastern cruises do stop there at small ports such as La Romana and Amber Cove.

5. San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is a key stopping point and starting point for many cruises in the Caribbean.

Old San Juan is one of the top tourist attractions in the region because of its history, architecture, shopping and quaint winding streets.

The shopping is extensive and the old Spanish forts are massive.

6. St. Kitts

The island of St. Kitts is a rising star among eastern Caribbean cruise ports because of expansion projects that led to larger docks, more capacity and a massive outdoor shopping mall at the docks.

St. Kitts has an attraction that is unique among Caribbean islands. The St. Kitts Scenic Railway is a narrow gauge train that takes visitors on a three-hour, 30-mile circular tour of the island.

An attraction that no one can miss is the 3,800-foot Mount Liamuiga, which dominates the center of this small island that is only 69 square miles. It is popular with hikers.

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in 1690, is one of the best-preserved forts in the Caribbean.

Like Antigua, St. Kitts often appears on schedules for southern Caribbean cruises.

7. St. Lucia

The St. Lucia port city of Castries has one of the most beautiful harbors in the Caribbean.

The island has plenty of its own nice beaches, but nature lovers might want to visit its most famous landmark, the Pitons. They are a pair of dormant volcanoes more than 2,000 feet high. They also are home to an unusual attraction—volcanic mud baths.

St. Lucia is another destination for visitors on both eastern and southern Caribbean cruises.

8. St. Maarten

This small but beautiful island has fewer attractions, although visitors are more likely to go because of cruises and for quiet overnight vacations.

Perhaps the best attraction on the island is the cruise port of Philipsburg. It is one of the best ports in the Caribbean because of its size and atmosphere. Like St. Kitts, it has a massive outdoor shopping and dining mall by the cruise docks.

Other attractions include the famous (and topless) Orient Bay beach and the French towns of Marigot and Grand Case, which have the best restaurants on the island. I recommend the panoramic views atop Fort Louis in Marigot and taking an excursion to the nearby St. Barths or especially Anguilla.

9. Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos is not two islands but 40 islands and cays. This British overseas territory—like the nearby British Virgin Islands—has become a common stop for eastern Caribbean cruises. Cruise ships typically dock on the small island of Grand Turk.

Popular attractions include migrating humpback whales from January through April, the largest cave system in the Caribbean and a variety of historical tours.

10. U.S. Virgin Islands

The main cruise port at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, is one of the most popular duty-free shopping meccas in the Caribbean.

It also offers excellent snorkeling. Cruise visitors can spend an easy afternoon at a good assortment of public beaches near the cruise port.

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.
April 10, 2024

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