The best Caribbean cruise for every type of traveler

There is no shortage of choices for a cruise to the Caribbean — the most popular place in the world for cruising. More than 200 cruise ships spend at least part of every year in the region. Cruise-selling websites list thousands of individual Caribbean sailings.

This can be great news for would-be Caribbean cruisers, but it also can be overwhelming. With so many options, where do you even begin? Which one of these ships and sailings is the best?

I get the latter question a lot — and I always answer the same noncommittal way: It depends. The best ship and sailing in the Caribbean for whom? The best for me? The best for you? The best for your kids?

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When picking the best cruise in the Caribbean, as with choosing the best cruise anywhere, a lot comes down to tastes and preferences. Some people love the big-resort feel of the biggest-of-big ships. Others are horrified by the very idea of them. Some people demand (and are willing to pay for) the highest levels of luxury. Others are on tight budgets. The best cruise for a family with kids isn’t necessarily the same as the best cruise for a couple looking for romance.

What kind of cruiser are you? It’s important to think that through before narrowing down your choices.

The bottom line is that the best Caribbean cruise for you depends a lot on your travel style. Below, we’ll help you narrow down the choices by looking at Caribbean cruises by broad category type. The good news is that in the Caribbean, at least, there really is something for everyone.

Best Caribbean cruise for megaresort fans: Royal Caribbean
If your idea of a great vacation is a week at a big, bustling resort filled with every sort of amusement known to humans, you’ll probably want to start your Caribbean cruise search with a look at the biggest vessels from lines like Royal Caribbean.

If “more is better” is your mantra, skip the search and look up Icon of the Seas. At 250,800 gross tons, the new, 20-deck-high vessel is the biggest cruise ship in the world. No ship in the Caribbean is quite like it.

Some of Icon of the Seas’ wow factors include an incomparably massive water park with six waterslides, a cantilevered infinity pool, a huge glass dome encompassing an indoor AquaTheater for acrobatic and diving shows, and innovative new cabin and suite layouts for families.

Royal Caribbean offers seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings departing from Miami aboard Icon of the Seas through April 2026.

Eastern Caribbean itineraries vary but include stops at St. Maarten; St. Thomas; Nassau, Bahamas; Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and the line’s private island Perfect Day at CocoCay, in the Bahamas. At the time of publication, prices for the seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise started from $1,731 per person.

Western Caribbean ports of call include Puerto Costa Maya and Cozumel; Roatan, Honduras; Nassau; and Perfect Day at CocoCay. Prices start from $1,651 per person.

With at least two sea days per sailing, passengers will have ample opportunity to explore all the attractions the ship has to offer.

Best Caribbean cruise for families: Disney Cruise Line
In the family cruise arena, it’s hard to top Disney Cruise Line. As you might expect, the line caters heavily to families in every aspect of the cruise experience — from onboard attractions to family-friendly cabin configurations.

Disney’s attention to detail transfers to its voyages on the sea. Kids receive the royal treatment with high-quality kids clubs and onboard attractions like the 765-foot-long AquaDuck water coaster. Plus, they have plenty of opportunities for photo ops with their favorite Disney characters.

Parents will find opportunities to unwind at adults-only sun decks and pool areas that are closed to kids; there are also bars and clubs that are off-limits to anyone younger than 18.

Additionally, many cabins on Disney’s ships feature extra pull-down bunks and pull-out sofas that will allow four or even five people to stay in a single cabin. Most cabins have two bathrooms — one with a sink and a toilet, and one with a sink and a shower or tub. This is rare in the cruise world, and it’s designed to make it easier for families sharing a room to get ready.

For family fun on the high seas, try a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise aboard Disney Fantasy. Departing from Port Canaveral, the ship stops in Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.

Also, depending on the time of year you sail, you can enjoy special onboard activities and events for Halloween or Christmas. Some itineraries also include a “Pixar Day at Sea,” which features a day of playing, dancing, swimming and dining with your favorite Pixar characters. Prices start from $2,959, double occupancy, and include taxes, fees and port expenses.

Best budget Caribbean cruise: Carnival Cruise Line
The undisputed leader in the Caribbean cruise market when it comes to affordability is Carnival Cruise Line. Not only does Carnival offer lower fares than you’ll find at most rival lines, but it also purposely deploys its Caribbean-focused vessels to a wider variety of U.S. “home ports.” The idea is that a large percentage of the U.S. population can reach a Caribbean-bound Carnival ship by car, saving the cost of flights.

Carnival ships are packed with fun-focused attractions, including multiple pool areas, water parks with waterslides, basketball courts, miniature golf courses and even roller coasters on select ships.

The cruise line is known for its multitude of included-in-the-fare dining spots. Every vessel has two main dining rooms and a casual buffet eatery. Most ships feature two of the best quick-serve poolside dining venues you’ll find on mass-market ships at sea: BlueIguana Cantina for burritos and tacos as well as Guy’s Burger Joint.

Carnival ships sail to the Caribbean from all the major Florida cruise hubs but also from ports as far-flung as New York City; Baltimore; Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans; and Galveston, Texas.

The line’s 10-day Eastern Caribbean sailing from New York City on Carnival Venezia is a solid choice for budget-minded travelers seeking an affordable Caribbean escape. Passengers can swim with graceful stingrays in Gibbs Cay or tour historic Cockburn Town during a port call in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. In Amber Cove, Dominican Republic, you can take an exciting ATV tour through the lush backcountry.

Year-round sailings in 2024 offer ample itineraries to fit your schedule and budget. Rates start from $529 per person, based on double occupancy. Price does not include taxes, fees and port expenses.

Best Caribbean cruise for solo travelers: Norwegian Cruise Line
When it comes to catering to solo cruisers, the king of the hill in the Caribbean is Norwegian Cruise Line — at least among the big-ship lines. The Miami-based cruise operator in 2010 began adding entire zones for solo travelers to the center of every new ship it deployed to the region.

You’ll now find these zones on Caribbean-focused vessels like Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Prima. Each of these solo cruiser zones, which are unrepeated in the industry for now, includes dozens of cabins for solo travelers, all clustered around each other. There is also a private lounge with a bar and television where solos can mingle at daily hosted happy hour gatherings.

Known as Studio cabins, the tiny solo rooms in these complexes measure just 100 square feet. But they’re superbly designed to maximize storage space. I sailed solo in one of the cabins on Norwegian Epic, and I was smitten. I particularly loved its futuristic “Jetsons”-like design and the multicolored mood lighting.

One big caveat with Norwegian’s solo cabins: They’re all “inside” rooms without an ocean view. That said, most have a window that looks out onto a corridor.

Norwegian ships sail to the Caribbean from a variety of U.S. ports, including Miami, Port Canaveral, New Orleans, New York City and Tampa, Florida.

The line’s seven-night Western Caribbean sailing from Miami on Norwegian Encore is a great choice for solo travelers seeking a Caribbean adventure. The voyage includes stops in Roatan, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. Prices start from $1,099 per person, based on double occupancy. Price does not include taxes, fees and port expenses.

Whether you’re a fan of megaresorts, traveling with your family, on a budget, or a solo traveler, there is a Caribbean cruise that’s perfect for you. Consider your travel style and preferences, and you’ll be able to narrow down your choices to find the best Caribbean cruise for you. Bon voyage!

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