The 8 Best Caribbean Cruises of 2019

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The Rundown

Best Overall: See Carnival Rates "A 3,960-passenger vessel that is the sister ship to the immensely popular Carnival Vista."

Best Budget: See MSC Cruises Rates "Frequently runs promotions like 'kids sail free,' or the 'go all in' with free drinks and Wi-Fi."

Best for Luxury: See Crystal Cruise Rates "You’ll never feel crowded with plenty of space in public areas staterooms, most of which have private balconies."

Best Tall Ship Cruise: See Sail Windjammer Rates "A completely different type of cruise that focuses on the love of the sea."

Best All-Inclusive: See Viking Ocean Cruises Rates "On the 10-night 'West Indies Explorer' sailing, there are no 'at sea' days, so guests will discover nine different island destinations."

Best for Adventure: See Ponant Rates "This jam-packed itinerary includes the several stops in the Grenadines, as well as St Lucia and Guadeloupe."

Best Small Ship Cruise: See Pearl Seas Cruises Rates "On the Cuba voyage, guests are treated to six exciting ports – where most larger ships do not call on."

Most Stylish: See Celebrity Cruises Rates "Ideal for couples or passengers who appreciate the mainstream cruise style but are looking for a more modern, sophisticated experience."

Our Top Picks

01 of 08

Best Overall: Carnival

Carnival

Courtesy of Carnival cruises

  • Sails from: Miami
  • Duration: 8 nights
  • Ship Name: Carnival Horizon
  • Itinerary: Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; La Romana, Dominican Republic; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic 

Carnival’s newest addition to its fleet of “Fun Ships” is the Carnival Horizon, a 3,960-passenger vessel that is the sister ship to the immensely popular Carnival Vista. While many Southern Caribbean cruises depart from San Juan, Carnival Horizon sails round-trip from Miami, making it a convenient option for cruisers on the East Coast. Onboard, guests can take in a movie in the IMAX theater or ride around on a thrilling sky bicycle. Kids can splash around in the whimsical Dr. Seuss WaterWorks park, and adults can relax in Serenity, an 18-and-older retreat lounge. In addition to Aruba and Curacao, the cruise stops in two ports in the Dominican Republic – including the new purpose-built port of Amber Cove.

02 of 08

Best Budget: MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

Courtesy of MSC Cruises 

  • Sails from: Miami
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ship Name: MSC Armonia
  • Itinerary: Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; Havana, Cuba 

If you’re looking for a wallet-friendly Caribbean cruise with Cuba on the itinerary, consider MSC Cruises, the Mediterranean cruise line that’s breaking into the U.S. market with a slew of affordable cruises. The cruise line frequently runs promotions like “kids sail free,” or the “go all in” with free drinks and Wi-Fi. As a 2,000-passenger ship, MSC Armonia is considered “small” for a mainstream vessel, but there’s still plenty of onboard entertainment like live theater productions with acrobats, dancers, and musicians. There’s also dance lessons, trivia, competitions, a mini golf course, a casino, sun decks, and swimming pools, plus several kids clubs. However, the ship doesn’t have specialty restaurants for extra charges (as many others do), so be prepared for fewer dining options. 

03 of 08

Best for Luxury: Crystal Cruise

Luxury Crystal Cruise

Courtesy of Luxury Crystal Cruise 

  • Sails from: San Juan
  • Duration: 8 Nights
  • Ship Name: Crystal Serenity
  • Itinerary: Phillipsburg, St. Maarten; Gustavia, Saint Barthelemy; Basseterre, Saint Kitts; St. Johns, Antigua; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Miami

Crystal has achieved success as a luxury cruise line that maintains a wide variety of entertainment. On the 980-passenger Crystal Serenity, you’ll never feel crowded with plenty of space in public areas staterooms, most of which have private balconies (but all have at least an oceanview window). Crystal also offers some extremely exclusive, high-end shore excursions, as well as volunteer excursions – so passengers will feel more involved in the ports of call. On the Eastern Caribbean voyage, the ship overnights in Phillipsburg for more time ashore. Onboard there’s trivia, magic and comedy shows, movies, live music, theater performances, and the fabulous Crystal spa.

Take a look at some of the other best luxury cruise lines for romantic cruises.

04 of 08

Best Tall Ship Cruise: Sail Windjammer

Sail Windjammer

Courtesy of Sail Windjammer 

  • Sails From: Grenada
  • Ship Name: MV Mandalay
  • Duration: 6 nights
  • Itinerary: Carriacou, Union Island, Mayreau, Bequia, Grenadines 

For a completely different type of cruise that focuses on the love of the sea, Sail Windjammer offers a unique alternative to the standard cruise. On the MV Mandalay, a tall sailing ship, instead of staterooms you’ll have traditional wood-paneled cabins with bunk-style beds (berths). After serving as a research vessel for many years, the ship now transports 58 passengers interested in hands-on approach to sailing. While in each island passengers can go on rainforest and waterfall hikes, snorkeling, or join a beach barbecue. Be aware that the sailing schedule is subject to change depending on the weather (and the captain). 

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Best All-Inclusive: Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking Ocean Cruises

Courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises 

  • Sails from: San Juan
  • Duration: 10 nights
  • Ship Name: Viking Sea
  • Itinerary: Tortola; St. Kitts; Castries (St. Lucia), Bridgetown (Barbados); Roseau, Dominica; St. John’s, Antigua; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, USVI

Viking River Cruises established itself a leader in river cruising in Europe, and the same unparalleled service with all-inclusive pricing extends to its newest venture, Viking Ocean Cruises. On the 10-night “West Indies Explorer” sailing, there are no “at sea” days, so guests will discover nine different island destinations. Onboard the 930-passenger, Viking Sea, the atmosphere is casual yet stylish with Nordic décor throughout. There’s a dazzling two-story observation lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows, a tastefully curated library, and a spa that is one of the finest at sea – complete with a Norwegian “snow grotto.” Like the river vessels, there are no outlandish theme park-style attractions but you’ll enjoy included shore excursions and comradery with fellow passengers.

See accommodations in the area with our selection of the best Caribbean hotels.

06 of 08

Best for Adventure: Ponant

Ponant cruises

Courtesy of Ponant

  • Sails from: Fort-de-France, Martinique
  • Duration: 8 nights
  • Ship name: Le Champlain
  • Itinerary: Bequia, Grenadines; St. George’s Grenada; Mayreau, Grenadines, Tobago Cays, Grenadines, Bridgetown, Barbados; Pigeon Island, St. Lucia; Castries, St. Lucia; Soufriere, St. Lucia; Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.

If you’re searching for adventure in the Caribbean without sacrificing comfort, Le Champlain is the newest yacht-expedition ship of the French cruise line, Ponant. With eight ports in eight nights, this jam-packed itinerary includes the several stops in the Grenadines, as well as St Lucia and Guadeloupe – with many departures later in the evening (for more time to explore). One highlight of the cutting-edge ship is an underwater viewing lounge with reinforced glass to gaze out below the water line, ocean sounds on the sound system, and sleek visual projections – all which can be enjoyed will sipping a cocktail. There’s also a retractable marina, spa treatment rooms overlooking the ocean, and enrichment talks in the theater. 

For travel ideas, check out our guide on planning a Caribbean vacation.

07 of 08

Best Small Ship Cruise: Pearl Seas Cruises

Pearl Seas Cruises

Courtesy of Pearl Seas Cruises

  • Sails from: Ft. Lauderdale
  • Duration: 12 Nights
  • Ship Name: Pearl Mist
  • Itinerary: Santiago de Cuba, El Cobre, Trinidad, Casilda, Cienfuegos, Havana

Those who are seeking a smaller vessel with a port-intensive itinerary should consider Pearl Seas 7-night cruise to Cuba. The under-the-radar, luxury cruise line spends its summers plying the waters of the Great Lakes and New England, but from November through April, the 210-passenger Pearl Mist sails round-trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Cuba. The elegant ship staterooms have more than 300 square feet of space – most with private balconies, as well as full-sized bathrooms. On the Cuba voyage, guests are treated to six exciting ports – where most larger ships do not call on. Onboard the vessel you should expect historians and naturalists, evening entertainment with live music, and complimentary cocktail hours for mingling with other guests. 

08 of 08

Most Stylish: Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

  • Sails from: San Juan
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ship Name: Celebrity Summit
  • Itinerary: Basseterre, St. Kitts; Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; Kralendijk, Bonaire 

Fresh off a revitalization, the Celebrity Summit (which debuted in 2001) is practically a brand-new vessel, with sleek new hotel-style staterooms and suites, fresh, redesigned dining areas, and the addition of the Retreat, an exclusive lounge and sundeck. This 2,218-passenger ship is ideal for couples or passengers who appreciate the mainstream cruise style but are looking for a more modern, sophisticated experience. Suite passengers also have access to Luminae – an international restaurant with fabulous desserts. The ship also boasts a two-story theater, library, and Canyon Ranch Spa. On the voyage to the ABC islands, the Summit spends two full days at sea – allowing time to appreciate the enhanced ship.

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