Where will I go on a Western Caribbean cruise?
This depends on your itinerary. Western Caribbean cruises often visit ports in the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico's Caribbean resort towns, including Cozumel and Calica, the port serving sunny Cancun. These itineraries may include ports in Jamaica, Haiti, Belize, the Cayman Islands or Central America.
When is the best time to take a Western Caribbean cruise?
Western Caribbean cruises are available all year. The climate is warm year-round with little seasonal variation in temperature.
How long do Western Caribbean cruises last?
These trips typically last four to 14 nights, but there are a few longer sailings.
Will I need a passport or visa?
All cruises now require proof of citizenship. On some itineraries, a certified copy of your birth certificate and a driver's license or government-issued photo I.D. are sufficient, on others a passport is required. Visas may also be required on the more exotic itineraries. Your cruise counselor will advise you on documents you will need depending on your itinerary.
Is English spoken?
It is spoken and understood in many ports of call, especially those connected to the tourist trade.
What is the time difference?
It is the same time in many Western Caribbean ports as it is in the Eastern Time Zone, or one hour behind.
What is the local currency? Where can I exchange currency?
The local currency varies by port. The U.S. dollar is accepted in many Western Caribbean ports. Currency exchange stations are available at most banks, hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Service is sometimes included in restaurant bills. If not, a tip of 10% to 15% is customary. Taxi drivers generally receive 10-15% and other service staff, such as maids and porters, generally receive $1 to $2.
What should I wear?
Casual resort wear, including shorts and T-shirts, is the standard daytime attire for most cruises. Bring a variety of footwear, including low-heeled or rubber-soled shoes for walking on deck, sandals for beach excursions, sturdy walking shoes for guided tours and a pair of dressier shoes for formal dining. You can check your ship's dress codes for options suitable for nighttime, but most restaurants encourage slacks and nice dresses during evening meals.
What should I pack?
Think about the kinds of activities you will want to try -- a round of golf or a relaxing day at the beach, for example -- and pack accordingly. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and swimsuits, protective hats, good walking shoes and windbreakers. Also, remember to pack all of your medications, prescription or otherwise, in a bag you can keep with you as needed.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most resorts and restaurants filter their tap water, though bottled water is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't usually necessary for visitors from North America, but it never hurts to check with your health care provider and discuss the countries you'll be visiting.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
U.S. cruise companies use the standard 110-volt outlets. International guests will likely need converters and adapters.
How do I make a telephone call from the Western Caribbean?
Resort hotels and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available for sale in tourist-friendly markets. U.S.-based cell phones might not work everywhere.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Many of the hotels in the Western Caribbean have air conditioning. If recycled air is important to you, make sure to consult your travel counselor before booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
What is the shopping like? What souvenirs should I buy? Can I haggle over prices?
You'll find some of the best souvenir shopping in streetside stalls. Everything from hand-painted pottery and intricate wood carvings to souvenir shot glasses and T-shirts can be found in the loud, colorful markets that anchor most tourist destinations. Find some of the best duty-free shopping in ports like San Juan, Jamaica and Colon, Panama. Plenty of cruise ship passengers find low-priced imported goods like electronics, jewelry and designer clothing. Bargaining is a common practice in many Western Caribbean ports.
How do I get around?
Most ports of call provide taxis, buses and scooter rentals. Bicycle and moped rentals may also be available, and many tourist areas of town are pedestrian-friendly. Shore excursions purchased through your cruise line highlight top attractions and include transportation and a guide.
Can I rent a car?
Yes, if you're over 21 years old, carry a valid driver's license and can provide a major credit card to cover insurance costs. Keep in mind that car rentals can be expensive here -- some companies charge extra for "accident-prone" customers between 21 and 24 years old. Some companies require drivers to be 25 or older to rent.
What can I do there?
Just about anything, but most activities are based on the beach; try fishing, diving, snorkeling, sailing, surfing or working on your tan. If you prefer land-based adventures, you can tour museums and archaeological sites, sample the local shopping or stay active with a hike, bike ride, tennis game or round of golf. Your cruise company also can provide a number of engaging activities with a full roster of shore excursions.
Do you have any photography tips for travelers to the Western Caribbean?
There's plenty of natural beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards (1 gigabyte is recommended). If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter. Make sure photography is permitted before shooting in museums, churches and cathedrals; in some cases, you'll just be asked to turn off your flash.