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What You Need To Know About Cruising The Eastern Caribbean

Today’s post is going to cover all things Caribbean! My extended family and I spent a week cruising the eastern Caribbean this past July to celebrate my grandparent’s 80th birthdays! Our ship, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, left from Port Canaveral, located 45 minutes east of Orlando, Florida. Throughout the seven days, our eastern Caribbean cruise took us to the Bahamas, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten/St.Martin. If you’re visiting any of these places in the Caribbean soon, this post is for you!

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About Cruising

I can not recommend cruising the eastern Caribbean enough. Cruising is seriously the best thing ever and by far my favorite way to travel. I mean… you get to spend all day exploring a new place, eat your heart out at one of the many restaurants onboard, cocktails are pretty much on tap, there is always entertainment in the evenings, and after you wake up from a restful night sleep, you get to do it all over again in your next destination!

In the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

About The Ship

My family and I have cruised on Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Disney, but Royal Caribbean is by far our favorite. This ship, Harmony of the Seas, is one of the biggest ships at sea — it houses over 6,500 passengers!!! The ship is perfect for extended families as my cousins and I always found something to do onboard, but boy was it crowded.

This ship has 5 water slides, a rock climbing wall, a boardwalk-themed deck with a carousel, ice skating rink, and oh ya, a zip-line. On one of the main decks you’ll find the bionic bar, a bar run entirely by robots! Aside from these extra special amenities, the rest of the amenities were pretty standard of cruises: gym, spa, sports courts, several dining options, bars, cafes, excursion desks, theaters to watch evening shows in, pools, adult-only hot tubs, and a casino! Cruises really do have it all. Think of them as transportable all-inclusive resorts.

Here is a link to our exact boat we were on for cruising the Caribbean — great for families!

cruising the eastern Caribbean

The Bahamas

The Bahamas is an independent country comprised of over 700 islands in the Caribbean, with Nassau as its capital! It’s close to the US, making it the perfect destination to visit on family vacation or for students’ spring break. Many islands here are privately owned by cruise ships. For example, Disney has Castaway Cay, Norwegian has Great Stirrup Cay, and Royal Caribbean owns Coco Cay! Most Royal Caribbean cruises sailing in this region will include a Perfect Day at Coco Cay excursion.

Coco Cay has multiple pools (with swim-up bars), restaurants, cabanas for rent, paddle boards, jet skis, and a full water park! There is something for people of all ages here.

Photo from a perfect day at Coco Cay

The Bahamas is one of my favorite vacation destinations because of its blue Caribbean waters and proximity to the US! The flight from Boston/NYC is only 4 hours! If you aren’t cruising the eastern Caribbean to the Bahamas, you’ll probably fly direct into Nassau on the main island of New Providence. From here, hotel vans or taxis can bring you to your resort!

cruising the eastern Caribbean

I’ve been to the Bahamas a few times and have stayed on Paradise Island, where the world-famous Atlantis resort is located! As incredible as this place is, it is SO expensive to stay here…

Pro-tip: Stay at Comfort Suites on Paradise Island instead! Not only is this hotel located adjacent to the Atlantis, but full-day passes are included with your stay so you can take advantage of all the amenities without actually having to pay to stay at the Atlantis. My family and I did this in January 2017 and had the best vacation!

Staying at the Atlantis in the Bahamas
Snorkeling at Rose Island, Bahamas

St. Thomas

The second port of call we visited while cruising the eastern Caribbean was Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas! St. Thomas is a US Virigin Island located east of Puerto Rico and right next to St. John. I’ve always wanted to come here and was so excited to explore!

After walking through the quaint town of Charlotte Amalie, we found booked a tour guide to bring us around the island. If you’re visiting on a cruise, I highly recommend booking this tour on your own as it’s so much cheaper than the cruise excursions and you can support a local!

Our guide took us to all of St. Thomas’ hot spots:

  • Magen’s Bay
  • Drake’s Seat
  • Honeymoon Beach

Pro-tip: We were only in St. Thomas for a day, but if you’re staying on the island for longer, definitely do a day-trip to St. John! It’s super close, and this St. Thomas boat rental company can help you customize your dream day trip. 

Soaking up the sun in St. Thomas while cruising the eastern Caribbean

Saint Martin

Before getting into my recommendations for this Caribbean island, I want to clarify that St. Martin is one island, but two separate countries/colonies. There is a French side, Saint Martin, and a Dutch side, Sint Maarten. There is a noticeable difference between both sides, especially on the French side due to hurricane damage. The capital of the French side is Marigot.

Sint Maarten

The Dutch side is where the capital Philipsburg is located, and also where most of St. Maarten’s main attractions are located!

Similarly to St. Thomas, my family and I found a local tour operator in Philipsburg to explore both sides of the island with. We visited a scenic lookout, fed lettuce to wild iguanas, and checked out St. Maarten’s claim to fame — Maho Beach!

Pro-tip: Want to visit both sides of the island and love adventure? This Guided ATV tour was designed for cruise passengers and will show you all the highlights in just a few hours!

Wild iguanas in St. Maarten
Crossing the "border" to St. Martin while cruising the eastern Caribbean

Maho Beach is famous because it’s located adjacent to Princess Juliana International Airport (one of the top ten most dangerous airports in the world) and is a popular spot for tourists to watch planes land. They literally fly right above your head! Definitely hold on to your things if you visit because the blast from the jet engine is so powerful your things will fly away.

Linds & I posing under a jet at Maho Beach

This trip is so memorable to me because of my family. We had a wonderful week not only because of the places we went on our eastern Caribbean cruise, but because we were all together for the first time in over 5 years! I’m so blessed to have the best grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the world. Happy belated 80th birthdays G&G. What a trip! That’s all for my cruisin’ the Caribbean post!

Want to read about other Caribbean destinations? Check out my posts on the Bahamas, Barbados,  Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands!

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Cruising the eastern Caribbean travel tips

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