The Caribbean too is divided into regions - East, South and West each with its own particular appeal. The islands provide an unrivalled blend of water sports, beaches and crystal clear seas while some bring a mix of colonial architecture from years past.
Each of the Caribbean islands is culturally and physically different to its neighbours and most have tastefully maintained and restored their colonial buildings. There are many plantations open to the public with plenty of opportunities for visitors to test the local delicacies, rum and fruits. Of course those wishing to sample the famous beaches and water sports will definitely not be disappointed here. Alongside this the shops generally cater for an international scene, especially in Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, and are often very popular with cruise guests.
Probably the most popular cruise region in the world, the islands of the Eastern Caribbean are well tuned towards receiving thousands of visitors each day.
The majority of cruise passengers in the Caribbean are obviously from the United States and Canada. The relative short flying time to the embarkation ports of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, San Juan and Barbados from the United Kingdom also make the area attractive to British travellers.
The region became increasingly popular in the 1960s, when the major transoceanic cruise liners saw their passengers diverting to jet aircraft. In the 1930s, Prohibition in the United States contributed to the operation of short 'booze cruises' to the Bahamas.
Each of the Caribbean islands is culturally and physically different to its neighbours and most have tastefully maintained and restored their colonial buildings, opening some of them to the daily influx of cruise passengers. There are many plantations open to the public with plenty of opportunities for visitors to test the local delicacies, rum and fruits.
Those who seek an unrivalled blend of water sports, beaches and sightseeing will not be disappointed. The shops generally cater for an international scene, especially in Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.
Today, the Caribbean offers year round cruising although the most popular months are between October and March. Prior to this season, there is a risk of freak hurricanes which are known to play havoc with cruise schedules and holiday resorts.
Many operators reposition their ships at the beginning and end of the season, giving passengers the opportunity to fly in one direction and cross the Atlantic by sea in the other. These cruises offer excellent value for money and often carry the most favourable discounts.
Looking to the South Caribbean, this region has generally been regarded as less popular in the past, but has experienced a massive rise in guests from cruises over the last few years. The tiny islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles are known as the ABC islands and are favourites for diving, shopping and sightseeing. Meanwhile, the mainland port of Cartagena in Colombia could not be more different and provides an abundance of Spanish colonial architecture alongside a thriving international beach resort.
Many World Cruise itineraries incorporate southern Caribbean ports of call on a voyage to the Panama Canal. Some take a whole day to transit the canal through to the Pacific Ocean whilst others enter the Gatun Locks in the morning and spend a day cruising in the Gatun Lake before returning to the Caribbean Sea in the evening.
The island of Grenada is well equipped for its daily influx of cruise passengers and is recognised as the spice capital of the world. The capital, St Georges, has traditional English style, red phone boxes, a hilltop fortress and plenty of opportunities to buy up souvenirs in the colonial streets. Other destinations such as Trinidad are especially vibrant, particularly when the Carnival seasons swings around, as the island endeavours to exceed the flamboyance of the extravaganzas of previous years.
Spice estates, rum distilleries and banana plantations provide interesting insights to the life of these eclectic islands and each has a variety of tropical beaches for relaxation, alongside a wide variety of excursion opportunities from leisurely sightseeing to snorkelling the Caribbean Sea.
Those seeking a healthy combination of relaxation and cultural sightseeing will not be disappointed by a cruise to the Western Caribbean. The sites of the lost civilisations of the mighty Mayan people attract visitors through the ports of Costa Maya, Cancun and Cozumel on the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula, with the fortress city of Tulum being one of the most famous. Extended excursions are available to Chichen Itza and these are best arranged through the cruise operator as independent travel may be difficult.
Adventure seekers are excited by white water rafting in Jamaica and the climb to the top of the 600 ft Dunn's River Falls. Grand Cayman is a popular calling point for diving, water sports and exploring the world famous Stingray City.
The Western Caribbean enjoys all year cruising, although the main season is between October and March. All the cruise ports are designed to receive the many ships that frequent these waters although some smaller destinations like George Town in Grand Cayman and Belize City may require the use of tenders.
The east coast ports of the United States are also worthy of consideration when selecting a cruise in the area. Galveston and New Orleans are notable ports of embarkation and Cruise and Stay options. Key West provides an exciting day for those wanting to walk in the steps of Ernest Hemingway and then join in one of the world's most famous sunset parties.
In recent years the Cuban capital, Havana, has opened up to cruise ships and some European operators offer overnight stays in port. As one of the most popular regions for cruising in the world, the options of itinerary and lines are numerous so it is worth thinking about exactly what you want to get from this beautiful, sun-drenched area of the world.