The part of the Caribbean located furthest from popular cruise ports in Florida, such as Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Miami, the Southern Caribbean is less-visited than the Western and Eastern Caribbean. That’s not to say it’s also less beautiful, though. Rather the contrary, in fact, it boasts gorgeous tropical islands, fascinating cultural heritage, and that laid-back vibe that makes the Caribbean such a popular cruise destination. Let’s check out some of the best destinations to visit on Southern Caribbean cruises.
Best Southern Caribbean Cruise Destinations
7 Stunning Islands to Visit on Southern Caribbean Cruises
The Southern Caribbean islands are the far southwestern corner of the Caribbean Region. They’re more or less the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, located just off the north coast of South America. The island group includes some of the smallest—and also most beautiful—islands in the entire region.
So, if you’re wondering which destinations you can visit and explore on Southern Caribbean cruises, check out the amazing list below. Stunning beaches, towering volcanoes, verdant rain forests, swaying palm trees, historic towns, bustling waterfronts, mouthwatering food,… it’s all there.
The westernmost of the Southern Caribbean islands, Aruba is just north of the coast of Venezuela. Along with Bonaire and Curaçao, these three Dutch islands are known as the ABC Islands. A former Dutch colony and still part of the Netherlands, Aruba is home to some amazing Dutch colonial architecture, especially in photogenic Oranjestad.
Unlike many other Southern Caribbean cruise destinations, however, Aruba has no tropical jungles or mountains. Instead, the island has a rather flat and arid landscape, dotted with cacti and caves. Its shoreline, on the other hand, is as stunning as any other in the Caribbean. From Aruba’s dramatic north coast to spectacular white sand beaches, this is a great destination for sunbathing, snorkeling and swimming with sea turtles.
On Southern Caribbean cruises to Aruba, you can also visit the island’s historic aloe plantations, the California Lighthouse and browse the numerous boutiques and souvenir shops in Oranjestad.
Few small islands represent the entire Caribbean vibe and image as well as Barbados. It’s easily one of the most popular Southern Caribbean cruise destinations. The capital of this stunning coral island is Bridgetown, a centuries-old city founded by the British. Since its establishment in the 1600’s, the city has developed to become the major tourist destination it is today.
There’s tons of culture and history to discover in Bridgetown, including Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011. Besides its wealth of colonial history, Barbados also boasts beautiful sandy beaches, rich fauna and flora, and dazzlingly blue water.
But it doesn’t stop there, though! This is also the birthplace of rum, which is probably the most typical and famous liquor from the Caribbean. Consider paying a visit to the Mount Gay Distillery in Barbados. Founded in 1702, it’s the oldest still-operating rum distillery in the world.
And that’s not all! Barbados also happens to be the birthplace of rum, arguably the most characteristic alcoholic drink from the Caribbean. You can visit the Mount Gay Distillery, founded in 1703 and the world’s oldest rum distillery.
Just like its neighbors, Curaçao and Aruba, Bonaire is outside of the Caribbean’s so-called Hurricane Alley. While some of the other cruise destinations in the Southern Caribbean, and especially in the Western and Eastern Caribbean, get hit by hurricanes almost annually, the ABC Islands are usually spared.
Bonaire, too, has a relatively dry climate, its landscapes consisting of shrublands, salt flats and mangroves. The real attraction of Bonaire is its rich marine life. In addition to gorgeous beaches, the island has some of the most pristine snorkeling and scuba diving locations in the world. Bonaire’s beaches, coral reefs and land reserves are part of Bonaire National Marine Park, which offers world-class underwater exploration.
Home to one of the best-known towns in the Southern Caribbean, Curaçao is a wonderful island that sits peacefully in the southern Caribbean Sea. The capital is postcard-perfect Willemstad, famous for its vibrant waterfront lined with pastel-colored Dutch-style houses. Walk around this historic town or explore Fort Amsterdam, browse the countless shops and eat out at local restaurants
In a nutshell, Curaçao is the meeting point of Europe and the West Indies, resulting in a cosmopolitan blend of culture and colors. This is the largest of the former Netherlands Antilles, a gorgeous island home to epic beaches, a bustling island life, excellent snorkeling locations, local liqueur distilleries, and natural attractions like the Hato Caves and Boka Tabla Sea Cliffs.
Nature lovers planning a cruise to the Southern Caribbean may want to make sure Dominica is part of their itinerary. One of the northernmost islands in the Southern Caribbean, Dominica is nicknamed “Nature Island”, home to breathtaking parks and reserves.
On this lush island, you can hike in rain forests, visit thundering waterfalls, explore botanical gardens and unwind in bubbling hot springs. Also consider visiting Scott’s Head Marine Reserve. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers world-class scuba diving and snorkeling in a dormant volcanic crater. Additionally, another truly unique experience is swimming in the waters of Champagne Beach, which got its name from the volcanic gases that fizzle toward the surface from the ocean floor.
Dominica’s capital, Roseau, is the one of the smallest capitals in the entire Caribbean, yet it oozes charm, liveliness and general joie de vivre. Indulge in homecooked Creole meals, browse the Roseau Market, enjoy the beats of soca and reggae you’ll hear all over town. This is island life at its absolute best.
One of the Windward Islands, Martinique is just north of St. Lucia and south of Dominica, making it a logical and convenient stop on Southern Caribbean cruises. Its location is not the main reason so many cruise ships visit the island, though. Martinique offers everything you think of when dreaming about a Caribbean cruise holiday, from historic sites and delicious food to beautiful beaches.
Part of France, the island boasts a rich local and colonial history. Visit amazing places like the ruins of the 17th-century Chateau Dubuc or the Cathedrale St. Louis in Fort-de-France, the island’s capital and one of the largest cities in the Caribbean.
When you choose a cruise to the Southern Caribbean that includes a stop in Martinique, you get to experience a truly unique island life. Stroll Fort-de-France’s cobbled streets, sunbathe on Plage Anse d’Arlet and indulge in sensational French-Caribbean fusion cuisine at one of the numerous local restaurants.
In terms of sheer natural beauty, few island nations in the Southern Caribbean are as objectively stunning as St. Lucia, home to the majestic Piton Mountains. Covered by lush rain forests, these two volcanic peaks are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which you can explore.
Other popular attractions that show the volcanic origins of the island of St. Lucia include sulfur mud baths, ancient pools and the world’s only drive-thru volcanic cave. Very few Southern Caribbean cruise itineraries skip St. Lucia, simply because it’s so spectacular—the very epitome of a tropical paradise.
Cruise ships visiting St. Lucia dock in Castries, the island’s largest city and capital. Disembark and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of Caribbean island life. Visit banana plantations, go ziplining through the rain forest, swim at resort beaches or go duty-free shopping. We’re pretty sure you’ll want to stay longer!
Cruise Lines That Offer Southern Caribbean Cruises
Many of the world’s biggest cruises lines offer Southern Caribbean cruises. Here’s a selection of the major ones.
- Carnival Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Cunard Line
- Disney Cruise Line
- Holland America Line
- MSC Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Oceania Cruises
- Princess Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
- Royal Caribbean
- Silversea Cruises