The southern Caribbean offers a stunning array of cultural diversity. In 1 week, you can salsa dance in the Dominican Republic, learn about Dutch history in Curacao, eat delicious French dishes St. Barts, and English fish and chips in Barbados. This region also offers many natural wonders, including a volcano, mountains, rain forests, beaches, waterfalls and rivers.
Barbados; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa, FL; New Orleans, LA
Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Nevis, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, British Virgin Islands: Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke
(All offer cruises year-round unless noted) Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal (Nov. - Dec.), Cunard, Holland America, Norwegian (Oct. - April), Princess, Radisson (March - Dec.), Royal Caribbean, Seabourn (Nov. - Dec.), Silversea (Dec. - April), Windjammer, Windstar (Dec. - April)
Aruba has some of the best weather in the Caribbean. The island gets only 17 inches of rain a year and lies outside the hurricane zone. One of the most beautiful natural wonders in the Caribbean is Aruba's Natural Bridge, a 100-foot-long coral rock bridge made by crashing waves.
One of the prettiest old sugar plantations in the Caribbean can be found on Barbados. Flower Forest is part of the Scotland District of the island (named for its resemblance to the original Scotland). Everywhere you look on Barbados, you will be reminded of the island's history as a British colony.
The famous Casa de Campo Resort in the Dominican Republic offers almost any land or sea activity you can think of; some cruise lines offer transportation directly to this exclusive resort. Altos de Chavon, a replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village, is also nearby.
Dominica is a nature lover's paradise. What the island lacks in beautiful beaches, it makes up for in rain forests, waterfalls and coral reefs. Emerald Pool, about 45 minutes from the port, offers a stunning swimming experience in the interior of a rain forest. If you want to stay closer to the ship, the Botanical Gardens are within walking distance.
Old San Juan is a must-see for any visit to Puerto Rico. The cobblestone streets ooze history, beginning with the city's settlement by Spaniards in the 1500s. To get the full breadth of the history here, sign up for a walking tour. If you're docked overnight, this is the time to venture away from the ship for some salsa and meringue dancing.
This department of France is home to many interesting historical sites. Book the shore excursion to St. Pierre, a town that served as the island's capital until 1902 when it was destroyed by volcanic eruption, earning it the nickname "The Pompeii of Martinique." Art lovers will want to visit the beach town of Le Carbet, which Paul Gaugin depicts in his work "Bord de Mer."
Baie St. Jean is a bit of the French Riviera in the Caribbean with ritzy shops, cafes and plenty of (rich) people watching.
The scenery here is stunning; visitors won't forget the green hues of the Petit Piton and Gros Piton mountains. If your ship offers the La Soufriere Land and Sea Tour, take advantage of it; it includes a visit to the mountains and a stop at Mont Soufriere volcano, where you walk through the crater and dip in the Diamond Mineral Baths.
The Baths on Virgin Gorda are the most popular beach destination on the island. They were formed by boulders falling down and creating saltwater grottoes and pools. Nearby Spring Bay is great for snorkeling.