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What is the Difference Between an Eastern, Western or Southern Caribbean Cruise Itinerary?

By Jessica Hobby
Updated May 23, 2024
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When travelers decide to embark on a seven day Caribbean cruise, they typically have three options when selecting the perfect cruise itinerary. A Western, Eastern, or Southern Caribbean itinerary is offered by most major cruise lines operating in the Caribbean Sea. Although all of the itineraries travel through the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, they differ by their departure points, the number of stops they make on their voyage and which ports of call they visit. Once these differences are understood, it becomes easy for cruising singles, couples or families to decide which cruise itinerary best fits them.

When cruising on a Western itinerary, travelers are able to board their ship from a variety of cities. Western Caribbean cruises depart from port cities in Florida, such as, Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale or Port Canaveral. There are few Western Caribbean itineraries that begin in Galveston, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama. Most commonly, Western Caribbean cruises make three to four stops and spend anywhere from 8-24 hours at a port of call. The Western Caribbean itinerary is most recommended for first time cruisers, or travelers seeking a good amount of rest and relaxation because there are usually at least two full days at sea on a seven day cruise. Cruisers interested in visiting Cozumel, the Mayan Coast of Mexico, the Roatan Bay Islands of Belize, Grand Cayman, Jamaica and sometimes a stop in the Bahamas, should consider choosing a Western Caribbean Cruise itinerary.

Normally departing from Florida ports of call or San Juan, Puerto Rico, an Eastern Caribbean cruise itinerary offers a bit more variety and more stops than a Western cruise. The Eastern Cruise itinerary may start out and end with a day at sea if it leaves from Florida, or may only have one day at sea if it leaves from San Juan. The majority of Eastern Caribbean itineraries include stops in San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and more stops in the British Virgin Islands, Haiti or the Bahamas. Aside from the Bahamas, the other islands are relatively close together allowing travelers to arrive at a new island three or four days in a row. These cruise itineraries are great for active travelers or experienced cruisers that want to spend more time sight-seeing than relaxing.

Finally, the Southern Caribbean Cruise itinerary, having the most variety of the three itineraries, is best reserved for a third time cruiser, at least. There are many seven day Southern cruise itineraries, however, due to the short island hops and fast pace it is recommended to look for at least a ten day itinerary when booking a Southern Caribbean cruise. A Southern cruise itinerary frequently departs from San Juan, Panama, Barbados or Florida. The stops may include, but are not limited to, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Antigua, Martinique, Guadalupe, St. Lucia, Margarita Island, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis. Different cruise lines stop in different ports and some cruise lines have 14-day Southern itineraries that stop in most of the ports. Cruisers on seven day Southern Caribbean cruise itineraries usually don’t have much time at sea and will need a vacation to recover from their vacation because of vigorous island hopping. However, for active thrill-seekers, a southern cruise itinerary may be perfect.

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Discussion Comments

By BestJamaica — On May 25, 2013

I think that cruising to the Caribbean is a great way to vacation. The fact that beyond the horizon there is always a mystery,a different port of call, a different culture I think that is intriguing.

By Moldova — On Dec 28, 2010

Oasis11- I heard of that ship. Wow is sounds amazing. I know that Norwegian Caribbean cruise lines now includes the Epic which is their largest ship.

It is smaller than the Oasis but it does offer a lot of activities. It has a large waterslide for the kids which is great.

Most of the cruise lines have the same itineraries but the experiences on the ships are completely different.

For example, the Disney cruise has a revolving dining room in which the backdrop is different every night.

The Celebrity cruise line offers the best food and world class service, but it is more for adults and not so family friendly.

I have never been on a Carnival Caribbean cruise but I know that they have Caribbean cruise deals all of the time. As a matter of fact, the best time to book a Caribbean cruise is in the month of September.

Most Caribbean cruise lines discount their fares 50% this month because it is the height if hurricane season. I think that for active adults and families, the Royal Caribbean cruise line is by far the absolute best Caribbean cruise ships.

By oasis11 — On Dec 26, 2010

I have been on Caribbean Princess cruise, a Disney Cruise, a Celebrity cruise and a Royal Caribbean Cruise.

I have to say that my absolute favorite was the Royal Caribbean cruise line cruise. I went on an East Caribbean cruise that went to the Bahamas, St. Martin, and St. Thomas.

What was most amazing was the cruise ship itself. We sailed on the Oasis of the Seas. It is the largest cruise ship in the world and offered an amazing experience.

There was a zip line, stand up surfing and boogie boarding. There was also and ice skating rink, and three large pools. In addition, they had a water park and a rock climbing wall. They also offered miniature golf and basketball.

If that was not enough entertainment, the shows were Broadway quality and very entertaining. They had an ice skating show, a water show with acrobatics, and they also had several regular acrobatics shows as well as the Hairspray show.

The Allure, the sister ship that is identical is featuring their version of the Chicago show.

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