Glistening turquoise water as far as your eyes can see. White sand beaches as far as your legs can go. Cruising the Caribbean gives you sun-kissed adventures on the ship—plus the chance to experience new places on land. This handful of both well-loved and off-the-beaten-path ports showcases the kaleidoscope of Caribbean cultures.
The vibrant slice of paradise serves up historic and geologic wonders, making it easy to choose your own adventure. Ships dock in Castries, the capital city of the island nation.
Make a beeline to Soufrière Volcano (a.k.a. Sulphur Springs), the world’s only drive-in volcano. Though it’s dormant and last erupted in the 1700s, the volcano remains an awe-inspiring sight. Soak in a warm mud bath—which is said to detoxify the body and help soothe sun burns, eczema, arthritis and sore joints. If the mountains are calling your name, trek up Gros Piton, the taller of the two peaks comprising Saint Lucia’s iconic Pitons. The UNESCO designated hill features marked trails to the summit—a trek that typically takes between three and six hours. For a shorter excursion, try the 45-minute Tet Paul Nature Trail and snag great views of both Gros and Petit Piton.
FOOD & DRINK
Foodie dreams come true at Castries Market, where vendors serve up some of the best versions of traditional Saint Lucian cuisine. Try the national dish of green fig and saltfish, creole-style lambi (a.k.a. conch), souse or bouyon—a soup filled with lamb, beef, pork, saltfish and root veggies. If spirits are your thing, Saint Lucia Distillers Rhythm of Rum Tour showcases each step of the distilling process, from huge fermentation vats to the impressive copper stills.
Alongside stalls hawking tropical fruit, chocolate, hot sauce and spices, the 131-year-old Castries Market showcases the work of Saint Lucia’s finest artisans. Wander through colourful displays of hand-painted masks, wooden toys, bespoke dolls and Caribbean-inspired jewellery. You can also watch makers at work, as weavers, woodworkers and painters often ply their trades at the bustling marketplace.
RELAX AND COAST
Book a cruise by contacting an AMA Travel Cruise Specialist at 1-866-989-6594
Turks and Caicos
Grand Turk, where cruise ships dock for the day, is at the southeastern end of a chain of 100 islands that make up Turks and Caicos.
Many cruise passengers find everything they need for a great day at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. Enjoy a giant pool, glorious beaches, snorkelling, massages, shopping and restaurants all in one location. To venture further afield on tiny Grand Turk, try scuba diving at a nearby reef, horseback riding on the beach or dune buggy tours. You can book excursions at the cruise centre.
FOOD & DRINK
Take a 10-minute taxi ride into Cockburn Town for the catch of the day at one of many cafés or inns. Near the cruise centre, Beached Whale Bar & Grill is right on the sand and serves classic Turks and Caicos fare such as coconut shrimp, cracked conch, conch fritters, seafood chowder and daily fresh fish specials. Or head to the Caribbean’s largest outpost of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville to lick the salt off the rim of your margarita, a nod to the centuries of salt production on Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos islands.
Learn more about the islands’ salt production, from the 17th century to the 1960s, at the Turks and Caicos Museum in Cockburn Town. Explore the tiny town centre on foot, checking out pastel-coloured colonial buildings. Back at the cruise centre, a free NASA exhibit celebrates astronaut John Glenn’s splashdown near Grand Turk, after orbiting the Earth in 1962. The 1,066-square-metre exhibit features a model of the space capsule, a six-metre Atlas rocket and a life-size replica of Glenn in his famous spacesuit.
Along the central coast, Belize City is the country’s main port of call and exudes eclectic charm, colonial architecture and creole culture.
FOOD & DRINK
Try the country’s signature dishes in Belize City. Grab a seat at the Wet Lizard and start with Belizean ceviche, which is traditionally made using fresh conch, followed by a plate of conch fritters. Be warned: These deep-fried treats, served with spicy mayo, are dangerously addictive! Don’t leave without sampling some traditional rice and beans—cooked together in coconut milk—with your meat of choice (we highly recommend red snapper). For an after-lunch refreshment, make your way to Lucca’s oceanfront bar and order a local Belikin beer.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the secluded Mayan site of Altun Ha (a.k.a. Rockstone Pond), where the region’s largest jade head was discovered. Weighing over four kilograms, the impressive gem is now considered Belize’s crown jewel. Altun Ha was once a trading hub where some 10,000 Mayans lived, worked and played for nearly two millennia. Nowadays you can visit two of the site’s plazas, which are surrounded by temples dating to at least 200 BCE.
Known for the Belize Barrier Reef, part of the largest in the Western Hemisphere, Belize is the ultimate spot to explore under the sea. Head to Ambergris Caye for spectacular snorkelling with stingrays, nurse sharks and sea turtles. For something a little more leisurely, explore Belize’s Nohoch Che’en caves while floating on a tube. And animal lovers won’t want to miss the Belize Zoo, which rescues and rehabilitates regional fauna like baby jaguars, toucans and even tapirs, the long-snouted, pig-like national animals of Belize.
Jamaica offers five cruise ship ports: Montego Bay, Falmouth, Port Antonio, Kingston and Ocho Rios, which is the perfect jumping off point for the iconic Dunn’s River Falls.
FOOD & DRINK
While not everyone will want to try goat curry (a Jamaican staple), you won’t want to miss spicy jerk chicken, pork or fish. Jerk became popular in the 1600s when runaway slaves hid in the mountains, cooking pimento-spiced meat underground over hot coals. Other beloved local dishes include fried sweet dough, meat patties, ackee and saltfish, and pepper pot soup. Non-meat lovers should look for hearty, vegetarian Rastafarian fare. Wash everything down with an ice-cold Red Stripe beer.
At Dunn’s River Falls, just a few minutes from the Ocho Rios cruise port, visitors hold hands to form a human chain and climb up the rocks. The waterfall, which drops 55 metres into the Caribbean, is the site of the 1657 Battle of Las Chorreras, which saw English forces defeat the Spanish. Another sky-high experience awaits at Mystic Mountain. The popular attraction begins with a chairlift ride to the summit, with stunning views of Ocho Rios and the turquoise ocean beyond. At the top, you can zip-line over the rainforest or jump in a custom bobsled for a 1,000-metre ride through the lush tropical landscape.
Music fans will want to see where it all started for reggae legend Bob Marley. The musician grew up in Nine Mile, a mountain town about an hour southwest of Ocho Rios. Tour his humble ancestral home, learn about Rastafarianism, marvel at Marley’s guitars along with other artifacts, and see the mausoleum where he rests. Guided tours begin and end at the cruise ship port.