10 best Caribbean cruise itineraries

The Caribbean Sea is the world's fifth largest body of water and is home to more than 7,000 islands. While you can't sail a major cruise ship to every nook and cranny of the Caribbean, you do have an abundance of choices when it comes to picking an itinerary.

Feeling overwhelmed? No worries, mon! I've pared down the cruise line's offerings to the top 10 Caribbean itineraries. This list will give you a sense of what the different voyages have to offer, and help you decide where you want to go on your next island cruise.

Western Caribbean

New to Caribbean cruising? The basic seven-night western Caribbean cruise is one of the best itineraries for first-timers. You can depart from a variety of homeports and get a mix of Central American and island ports, as well as days at sea. Princess' cruise on the Grand Princess departs from Ft. Lauderdale and calls at the quintessential western Caribbean ports of Jamaica; Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; and Princess Cays (Princess' private island in the Bahamas). Activities range from snorkeling and scuba diving off Grand Cayman, exploring Mayan ruins in Mexico, and climbing a waterfall in Jamaica. Plus, you get two days at sea to enjoy the ship.

Eastern Caribbean

The sister itinerary to the western Caribbean is the seven-night eastern Caribbean cruise. Many ships alternate between the east and the west each week, creating opportunities for back-to-back two-week sailings. Such is the case with one of the largest ships on earth: Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. Its eastern Caribbean itinerary stops in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten with three days at sea. You can enjoy shopping, lying on the beach, and exploring rainforests on the islands, and spend the remaining days rock climbing, ice skating, and boxing on this gargantuan floating resort.

Southern Caribbean

Experienced cruisers who've sailed the Caribbean before look to the southern Caribbean for more exotic and less crowded islands. Most week-long itineraries depart from Puerto Rico or Barbados because the islands are too far to reach from the U.S. mainland. To cruise in style, try Silversea's eight-night voyage out of San Juan on the Silver Wind. With only one day at sea, you can visit Grenada, Barbados, Bequia, Dominica, Antigua, and the exclusive St. Bart's. Look for unspoiled beaches, spice plantations, and romantic settings.

The deep south

No, I'm not talking about a cruise through Mississippi and Alabama, but a voyage to the southernmost reaches of the Caribbean sea: the ABC islands and the northeast coast of South America. These off-the-beaten-path itineraries aren't offered by every line, but they can be especially good choices during hurricane season because most storms don't strike that far south. Regent Seven Seas'11-night cruise on the Seven Seas Voyager out of Ft. Lauderdale visits not only Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, but St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk as well. You'll experience the Caribbean from tip to toe.

Short Caribbean cruises

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