top of page

Western Caribbean cruise reviews: Ports & more info

Exploring the Enchanting West: Western Caribbean Cruise Reviews

Set sail on a remarkable adventure through the warm, turquoise waters of the Western Caribbean, where each port of call promises new colors, cultures, and experiences. From the bustling markets of Cozumel to the yesteryear charm of Grand Cayman, and the lush, untamed panoramas of Jamaica, the Western Caribbean is a patchwork of destinations offering the best of island life. Here, we'll hoist the anchor and take you on a voyage of discovery, uncovering the charm of each port, the activities that await you, and how to make the most of your Caribbean cruise experience.

Carnival Glory pulling into port in Montego Bay Jamaica
Carnival Glory pulling into port in Montego Bay Jamaica

Personally, I feel that there is no better way to take a vacation. The ship guides you along, you don't have to worry about anything except the travel to and from the ship. Sure, at times you may feel you don't have enough time to explore the areas, and only have time for 1 of the port experiences, but that's why you take several cruises or come back for a week's vacation if you like. A cruise gives you a good glimpse at the port of call, with just enough time to decide if you would like to spend more time in the future at that port.

The Ships That Travel to the Western Caribbean

Before we dip our toes in the crystalline waters of the Caribbean, it's important to choose the right vessel that will be your home on the sea. There’s a barrage of cruise ships that traverse the stunning routes of the Western Caribbean, ranging from the grand and opulent to the sleek and modern. Each ship offers a unique array of amenities to cater to all types of cruisers, from family-friendly facilities to adults-only enclaves. From Royal Caribbean to Princess cruises, to NCL to Carnival Cruises, they all come here. 

Carnival Cruise Line tend to be the most common in the waters, but that is all throughout the Caribbean, and usually due to their price point. But you can find deals on all cruise lines at times, depending on a variety of factors. Sometimes though it is not the deal that conveniences you to take a specific cruise. It could be the Itinerary, or cruise ship itself. The last cruise I went on was the NCL Epic that left Port Canaveral and ventured to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel and it was lovely.

Setting Sail on Adventure

Sunset in the Western Caribbean
Sunset in the Western Caribbean

Royal Caribbean International's 'Icon of the Seas' is an architectural marvel on the water, with its Central Park neighborhood complete with greenery and open sky features, something bound to impress even the most sophisticated of travelers. Carnival's 'Breeze' is a delightful option for those seeking a more relaxed and festive aboard. For the luxury of a boutique hotel on water, 'The Azamara Quest' by Azamara Club Cruises is an intimate affair, perfect for immersive cultural explorations. Don't forget the Disney Cruise, which offers packages from Port Canaveral that include time in Orlando visiting Disney World, Epcot and more. Norwegian Cruise line offers a variety of ships that cruise the Western Caribbean. From the small ship like the Sky to the large ships like the Getaway, even the NCL Epic makes appearances in the western Caribbean. 

If you prefer Holland, Celebrity, or even Virgin cruises, you can find them leaving from a variety of ports also. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa tend to be the most common, but Carnival Cruise Line leaves from Galveston and New Orleans for their Western Caribbean cruises.

Port of the Western Caribbean, and Things to Do

From storied cities built upon long histories to tiny atolls that feel like they were dropped straight from the dreams of an island lover, the Western Caribbean’s ports are as diverse as they are beautiful. Here's a taste of what you can experience at each one. From Mayan ruins to authentic culture, great food and a sense of life. You feel like you are on vacation when you are in the Western Caribbean.

Cozumel's Cultural Tapestry

Margaritaville Cozumel
Margaritaville Cozumel

Cozumel, a Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea, is renowned for its world-class snorkeling and scuba-diving sites. Beyond its rich marine life, Cozumel is a kaleidoscope of Mayan history and contemporary Mexican culture. Visit the ancient ruins of Tulum for a historical immersion or take a tequila-tasting tour to savor the island's local flavors. For an adventure, zip-line through the island’s canopy or explore the natural underground river channels and caves known as cenotes.

There is so much to see and do in Cozumel, you could come here many times and not see it all. I personally have had 4 trips to Cozumel, with each time trying something new.

My top pick for a beach day is Mr. Sanchos beach day. This is not offered by the cruise ship, book it from a third-party site like Viator. It will cost you $69 per person and a $20 cab ride, but it is well worth it. Great food, ocean front, and pools with swim up tables so you can eat and drink and never leave the pool. They even have massage services and if you would like romantic couples beach day they do offer a sp

Costa Maya's Coastal Charms

Costa Maya, Mayan Ruins
Costa Maya, Mayan Ruins

Situated on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula on the Caribbean coast, Costa Maya tempts visitors with its pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs. The port itself is a destination, offering attractions like a saltwater pool, shopping and bars, and a serene beach club. For those wanting to go a bit further, the nearby old fishing village of Mahahual beckons with laid-back beach vibes, hidden beach bars, and the serene Banco Chinchorro, a UNESCO-protected marine biosphere.

Costa Maya is a stop common for Carnival Cruise Lines, I have only been here once and compared to Cozumel it is tiny. The cruise port has shops, but you really want to take an excursion if you pick this port. One for the best from this port is visit the Mayan Ruins. It is a bus ride away and included in the excursion. Tour the grounds, look at the structure and learn about the history and Mayan Culture. I thoroughly enjoyed taking this tour and leaning about the Mayans.

Grand Cayman's Grandeur

Beautiful water at Grand Cayman
Beautiful water at Grand Cayman

The largest of the Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman is synonymous with stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. Swim with stingrays at the famous Stingray City, or venture beneath the sea at the Cayman Turtle Centre and the nearby USS Kittiwake wreck. For beach lovers, the Seven Mile Beach is a paradise with its powdery sand and gentle surf. Don’t miss out on savory stops for fresh seafood and Caymanian specialties like conch chowder and turtle stew.

I have visited this island a few times and done a variety of excursions. The beaches, like the 7-mile beach, are wonderful, plus this is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, so take some time to visit Georgetown and do some shopping. Also, one thing to consider, there is not a long pier at Grand Cayman Island so cruise ships will use tender boats to take you to shore. Tender boats make it very hard for people in wheelchairs to travel to the island. Electric scooters cannot be taken on tender boats and regular wheelchairs cannot have someone in them while being loaded into the boat, unless they have the weight of a young child.

If you would like to read my blog about Grand Cayman, click here.

Jamaica’s Rhythms and Rainforests

Leaving Jamaica Cruise Port
Leaving Jamaica cruise port

A cruise to the Western Caribbean wouldn't be complete without a stop in Jamaica. This laid-back island is the birthplace of reggae and delivers an infectious rhythm found nowhere else. Visit historic plantation houses and bask in the beauty of natural wonders like the Dunn's River Falls or opt for a thrilling experience on a bobsled ride at Mystic Mountain. And of course, no visit to Jamaica is truly authentic without trying world-famous jerk chicken and freshly cut mango straight from the tree.

Jamaica has 3 cruise ports, and I am only familiar with Montego Bay. The cruise port here is not much and there are just a couple souvenir shops at the port. The port is in an industrial area so you will have to take a taxi, bus or have an excursion to take you away from the cruise port, you cannot walk anywhere. You can visit beaches, or the town that is just a few miles away, but one of the best things to do here is book a trip to a local all-inclusive resort like Iberostar, you can explore the resort, enjoy the beaches and pool. Making it a beach day at a resort is a wonderful thing.

Roatán's Rustic Paradise

Beach near Roatan
Beach near Roatan

Honduran island Roatán is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Experience the vibrant marine life of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef or simply relax at one of the island's many paradisiacal beaches. If you're feeling adventurous, take a zip-line course through the lush canopy, or encounter sloths and monkeys at Daniel Johnson's Monkey and Sloth Hangout. Roatán's famously friendly locals will make you feel at home as you sample the island's traditional baleadas—made with a flour tortilla and savory fillings.

My favorite thing is to snorkel on the coral reef. I have had the best experiences snorkeling here, but honestly, I have had great snorkeling experiences in Grand Cayman and Cozumel too.

Belize's Natural Splendor

Belize Rainforest howler monkey
Belize Rainforest howler monkey

Belize is a small nation on the eastern coast of Central America, and its cays and barrier reef are second to none in ecotourism and adventure. Cruise the reef or scuba-dive the Great Blue Hole, a giant submarine sinkhole, or visit Mayan ruins in the mainland. The laid-back Caribbean culture here is mixed with a strong Mayan influence, evident in the local cuisine, arts, and crafts. Be sure to try stewed chicken, rice, beans, and fresh caught seafood.

Some cruise lines stop in Belize City, where it is best to take an excursion. I took a trip into the rainforest from here and saw howler monkeys and learned about other animals that live in the wild. Belize City itself is not really impressive, sure it is a large city compared to other cities in the Caribbean but nothing fancy. 

NCL has Harvest Caye as its own private island off the coast of Belize, just in case you have seen the name Harvest Caye and wondered. It is too far from Belize City to travel to for the day, so Harvest Caye becomes a beach day unless you book an excursion with NCL. You will have a good time on this island.

Key West, tropical but stateside

beautiful beach
beautiful beach

Key West, a vibrant gem nestled in the western Caribbean, exudes an irresistible charm that captivates the soul. This lively island destination beckons with its colorful streets, rich history, and boundless energy, promising an adventure like no other. From the moment you step onto its shores, Key West ignites your imagination, infuses your spirit with enthusiasm, and encourages you to embrace your own joyful and expressive experiences. It's a fusion of creativity, passion, and fun, where every moment is an opportunity to indulge in the magic of this tropical paradise.

Not all ships use Key West as a port stop, but if they do you will have a wonderful time exploring the city and beautiful beaches. My favorite thing to do while visiting was exploring the city itself, visiting the marker that claims it's the southernmost point in the United States and drinking on Duval Street.

Prices of Cruises to the Western Caribbean

The allure of the Western Caribbean is undeniable, but how much can you expect to pay for the pleasure of a tropical cruise? It's important to consider your budget, the length of the cruise, and what amenities you prioritize when looking at prices. Commonly Western Caribbean tends to be a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the Eastern Caribbean cruises. Also, if cruises have fewer ports of call and more sea days it is less expensive, as you do not have to pay port fees for the cruise. Sea days are great especially if you enjoy lounging by the pool deck and drinking frozen cocktails. 

Also, one thing to be aware of. Prices may differ during peak times; the sail date always matters. Spring Break and Summer cruises are more expensive than any other time, but also cruises during hurricane season which technically is not peak time, puts you at risk for part if not all of your cruise being canceled due to weather. 

beach near Miami
beach near Miami

The cost of a Western Caribbean cruise can vary greatly depending on the cruise line, departure port, cabin type, and travel dates. Typically, a 7-day cruise to the Western Caribbean can range from $500 to $3000 per person, not including additional expenses like gratuities, excursions, and onboard purchases. Off-peak seasons, last-minute deals or special cruise deals, could offer significant savings. Be sure to explore package deals that include airfare or pre-cruise hotel stays, and consider booking through a travel agent, who can often secure exclusive savings and perks.

Also, the prices change if you are an independent traveler. Solo cruises have become more popular recently, but most cruise lines have an up-charge for solo travelers because they typically sell cruises at the double occupancy price. Some cruise lines offer special rates and solo studio cabins for the solo traveler to make it cost effective.

To make the most of your cruise budget, prioritize the inclusions that matter most to you. If you're a foodie, consider a line known for its high-quality and diverse dining options. The Main dining room is included in cruises, where specialty restaurants are not, so if you want specialty, it will cost you extra. If entertainment is your thing, look for cruises that include onboard shows and activities. For some people spending time in the Spa on a cruise is their favorite thing, but this will add extra charges too. And remember, many Western Caribbean ports offer excellent excursions, but sometimes, the best experiences are free—like a leisurely stroll through the local markets, or a dip in the warm Caribbean Sea from a secluded beach.

Navigating the Tricky Terrain of Additional Costs

Cruising the Western Caribbean can come with hidden costs, but with savvy planning, you can avoid any financial squalls. Understanding what's included in your fare, like meals and many onboard activities, can help you budget for the rest. Consider purchasing a beverage package if you plan to indulge in specialty coffees, cocktails, or smoothies, as these costs can add up quickly. And remember to review your bill for the day’s purchases regularly, so there are no surprises when it’s time to disembark.

Cozumel Cruise dock
Cozumel cruise dock

As for a review of the Western Caribbean, I love it. My favorite 3 ports in all of the Caribbean are in the western Caribbean (Cozumel and Grand Cayman). Each cruise I have taken here has been different including cruise lines, but whichever cruise line I picked I enjoyed. One thing I will suggest is to avoid reading all the negative reviews you see online. If you read a lot of negative reviews you will go into the cruise, thinking bad about it. Go on the cruise and enjoy your time away from work and home. If you focus on the bad things you hear, you will not enjoy your vacation and cruises are meant to be enjoyed. If you are worried especially if this is your first cruise, seek some expert advice from a travel agent. My typical advice for a first time cruiser is to take a short cruise, 3-5 days to see if you like it. They can be extremely helpful. Also, cruise critic forums are a great way to learn about your cruise and meet people who will be on the same cruise by using their roll calls.

In conclusion, with careful preparation, a Western Caribbean cruise offers an unbeatable mix of relaxation, adventure, and cultural immersion. It's a chance to explore some of the most beautiful and diverse destinations the world has to offer, all while enjoying the comfort and luxury of a modern cruise ship. Whether your passion is history, food, nature, or just basking in the warm Caribbean sun, there's something for everyone on this enchanting voyage.

So, grab your sunscreen, your sense of adventure and your whole family— the Western Caribbean is ready to be explored, one unforgettable port at a time. Whichever cruise you choose you are bound to have a great time.

Hilton Honors

This blog contains affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might receive a commission. at no extra cost to you.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page