6 Ways to Find Your Groove on a Caribbean Cruise
Like its iconic palm trees, the Caribbean sways. And while its rhythms have certain commonalities—the harmonic pulse of steel pans, the nostalgic hum of beach-bar standards—each island moves to its own beat.
The best (and most value-driven) way to sample a whole series of regional rhythms, of course, is to hop a ship—particularly one that makes a point of bringing the tropics back on board. Enter Princess Cruises, whose nearly 30 Caribbean itineraries are—as of this year—blurring the line between island life and ship life, to the delight of everyone from pirate-loving kids to their mojito-loving parents.
So what does this new immersion program actually look like on board? Think menus filled with island specialties (Puerto Rico’s mofongo and Jamaica’s jerk chicken, for starters); dockets stacked with Caribbean cultural activities (concerts, crafts—even presentations by resident shark experts and treasure hunters); and dance parties fueled by live local music under the stars (or the kids’ alternate: pirate family dances). Point is, the rhythm is going to get you, whether you’re on board or off.
And when you are off, Princess’ famed excursions are your perfect intro to the beat of each island. Here, six favorite cases in point.
Rhythm rating: Adagio, like a slow sway in the breeze
Of all the islands fringed with pristine sugared sands, the Turks and Caicos—a group of more than 40 islets and cays—stand out for their serenity. And though you’ll have a long list of excursion options in Grand Turk, the ones that deposit you directly in the surrounding see-through water will sync you immediately with the island’s mellow vibes. Whether you go for a snorkel, a swim at a beach club or a glass-bottomed kayak ride, you’ll find that the healthy local reef system is home to a mesmerizing array of marine life.
Then again, an equally appropriate use of your time here is to do nothing more than chill on the beach: Book a private bungalow and sip rum punch; kick back in a hammock with a good book; or just lie on the sand and exert only as much energy as is necessary to snap selfies in paradise.
Find this stop: Grand Turk is on some of Princess' Eastern Caribbean sailings.
Rhythm rating: Vivace—as in, step lively!
Maybe it’s that the island’s Dutch colonial architecture transports you mentally to a bustling waterfront in the Netherlands—or that all the colorful little commercial boats plying these waters create their own buzz. But whatever the case, there’s a palpable energy here that puts a little spring in your step—ideal conditions for an exploration of the maker culture of Curacao.
First up on this excursion is a beloved brewery on a plantation estate, where you’ll also find some local artwork for sale. From there, things get even more spirited with a stop at the historic mansion that houses the island’s first distillery, where guides will lead you through the process of making the signature local Blue Curacao liqueur. Last, you'll visit an aloe farm to see how the crop goes from field to juice glass. And yes, tastings are included (and recommended) throughout.
Find this stop: Curacao is on some of Princess' Southern Caribbean sailings.
Rhythm rating: Andante—moving at a leisurely pace
Welcome to your private island—or a close approximation thereof: This 38-acre islet off the Bahamian Out Island of Eleuthera is owned and used exclusively by Princess.
So while you’re here, you’ll really want to slow down and savor the fact that you have run of the place. Or pedal of the place, as the case may be. There’s a new (and leisurely) bike tour that’s arguably the best way to take in the scenery and local highlights, from an artisan’s market to a mangrove-framed lagoon to the Salt Pond (the salt industry thrived here in the 19th century). Final stop? The Princess Cays Wishing Well, where you’ll simply ask the universe to never make you leave.
Find this stop: Several of the cruise line's Caribbean itineraries, regardless of region, include Princess Cays.
Rhythm rating: Allegro, picking up the pace
Despite its reputation for being “more English than England sheself,” this onetime British colony can have a wild, windswept look (as the easternmost of the Lesser Antilles, Barbados juts into the Atlantic). So there’s an up-tempo feeling that takes hold as you make your way from the centers of civilization out into nature—precisely the reason the four-by-four soft adventure is so well suited to the place.
Marvel at the mountainous interior as you bump and swerve over the the island's backroads. Then check out historic mansions and seemingly endless farmlands until you reach the sea, where you’ll snorkel a famed shipwreck and marvel at the kaleidoscopic array of fish.
Find this stop: Barbados is on some of Princess' Eastern Caribbean sailings.
Rhythm rating: Accelerando—it starts slow, then starts soaring
Of all the beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, there’s one that’s always topping best-of lists. Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach—with its wide swath of glittering sand and Rothko-like gradations of aqueous blues—is lauded by travel experts, aesthetes and beach bums alike.
And though you’ll have plenty of options to take in the iconic scene at sea level (a good, old-fashioned walk on the beach being among the best), you may also want to experience a more, well, soaring local rhythm: Princess’ new exclusive helicopter ride flies you over not only Seven Mile Beach, but the island’s verdant interior, famed sunken ship and historic George Town.
Find this stop: Grand Cayman is on some of Princess' Western Caribbean itineraries.
Rhythm rating: Presto—as fast as a zip line
Belize—which, okay, isn’t an island, but does have them—sits on Central America’s Caribbean coast. Inland, dense jungles hide all manner of wildlife—jaguars and monkeys and toucans, oh my!—to say nothing of the Mayan ruins secreted away in the lush vegetation. Then, of course, there are the extensive cave systems and one of the world’s largest reefs. Put otherwise: Belize is overflowing with heart-pumping adventures.
One of the best will have you cave-tubing along a subterranean river in the Mayan underworld of the Nohoch Che'en Reserve; another will have you zip lining through the jungle canopy; and yet another is a new exploration of said barrier reef—a favorite of Darwin’s and UNESCO's—where you may find more than 100 coral species and five times that number of fish species.
Find this stop: Belize is on some of Princess' Western Caribbean itineraries.