Where will I go on a Caribbean cruise?
This depends on your itinerary. Caribbean cruises may include ports in the Dominican Republic, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Jamaica, Central America, the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba or Barbados.
When is the best time to take a Caribbean cruise?
Caribbean cruises are available all year. The climate is warm year-round with little seasonal variation in temperature.
How long do Caribbean cruises last?
These trips typically last four to 14 nights, but there are a few longer sailings.
Will I need a passport or visa?
All cruises now require proof of citizenship. On some itineraries, a certified copy of your birth certificate and a driver's license or government-issued photo I.D. are sufficient, on others a passport is required. Visas may also be required on the more exotic itineraries. Your cruise counselor will advise you on documents you will need depending on your itinerary.
Is English spoken?
It is spoken and understood in many ports of call, especially those connected to the tourist trade.
What is the time difference?
Many Caribbean islands are in the Atlantic Standard time zone, which is three hours ahead of Eastern Standard time.
What is the local currency?
The local currency varies by port. The U.S. dollar is accepted in many Caribbean ports. Currency exchange stations are available at most banks, hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Service is sometimes included in restaurant bills. If not, a tip of 15% to 20% is customary. Taxi drivers generally receive 15-20% and other service staff, such as maids and porters, generally receive $1 to $2.
What should I wear?
Casual resort wear, including shorts and T-shirts, is the standard daytime attire for most cruises. Bring a variety of footwear, including low-heeled or rubber-soled shoes for walking on deck, sandals for beach excursions, sturdy walking shoes for guided tours and a pair of dressier shoes for formal dining. You can check your ship's dress codes for options suitable for nighttime, but most restaurants encourage slacks and nice dresses during evening meals.
What should I pack?
Think about the kinds of activities you will want to try -- a round of golf or a relaxing day at the beach, for example -- and pack accordingly. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and swimsuits, protective hats, good walking shoes and windbreakers. Also, remember to pack all of your medications, prescription or otherwise, in a bag you can keep with you as needed.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most resorts and restaurants filter their tap water, though bottled water is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't usually necessary for visitors from North America, but it never hurts to check with your health care provider and discuss the countries you'll be visiting.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
U.S. cruise companies use the standard 110-volt outlets. International guests will likely need converters and adapters.
How do I make a telephone call from the Caribbean?
Resort hotels and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available for sale in tourist-friendly markets. U.S.-based cell phones might not work everywhere.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Many of the hotels in the Caribbean have air conditioning. If recycled air is important to you, make sure to consult your travel counselor before booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
What is the shopping like? What souvenirs should I buy?
You'll find some of the best souvenir shopping in streetside stalls. Everything from hand-painted pottery and intricate wood carvings to souvenir shot glasses and T-shirts can be found in the loud, colorful markets that anchor most tourist destinations. In the Dominican Republic, find designer fashions by native son Oscar de La Renta. Amber and larimar, a pale-blue, semi-precious gemstone, are mined here and made into jewelry. The best shopping in Puerto Rico is in Old San Juan, where there is no duty for citizens of the United States. Don't miss the "santos," carved and painted wooden figurines of the patron saints. Other local handmade specialties include "cuatros," ten-string guitars, and carnival masks made from papier-mâché. The primary shopping area in Barbados is in Bridgetown on Broad Street. If you have a passport or some other form of ID and a departure airline ticket, you can make your purchases duty-free. Here you'll find imported English bone china as well as watches, perfume, antiques and many other luxury items. In Aruba, visit the shopping district that stretches along Oranjestad's waterfront. Here, find goods that range from t-shirts and Delft Blue salt and pepper shakers to European tres chic designer outfits and fine jewelry. Duty-free goods are a-plenty in the Caribbean, and you can find great deals here on cameras, watches, china, crystal, gems, jewelry, designer clothing, electronics, liquor, linens, rum, and perfume. In established shops, bargaining may not be welcome.
How do I get around?
Most ports of call provide taxis, buses and scooter rentals. Bicycle and moped rentals may also be available, and many tourist areas of town are pedestrian-friendly. Shore excursions purchased through your cruise line highlight top attractions and include transportation and a guide.
Can I rent a car?
Yes, if you're over 21 years old, carry a valid driver's license and can provide a major credit card to cover insurance costs. Keep in mind that car rentals can be expensive here -- some companies charge extra for "accident-prone" customers between 21 and 24 years old. Some companies require drivers to be 25 or older to rent.
What can I do there?
Just about anything, but most activities are based on the beach; try fishing, diving, snorkeling, sailing, surfing or working on your tan. If you prefer land-based adventures, you can tour museums and archaeological sites, sample the local shopping or stay active with a hike, bike ride, tennis game or round of golf. Your cruise company also can provide a number of engaging activities with a full roster of shore excursions.
Do you have any photography tips for travelers to the Caribbean?
There's plenty of natural beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards (1 gigabyte is recommended). If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter. Make sure photography is permitted before shooting in museums, churches and cathedrals; in some cases, you'll just be asked to turn off your flash.