If you’re looking for a warm winter getaway, a Holland America Line Caribbean cruise is exactly what you need. The line’s elegant ships let guests experience the Caribbean in absolute comfort and style, sailing to some of the region’s most popular islands as well as some off-the-beaten-path jewels.
The Caribbean features something for everyone. For foodies, the diverse mix of cultural influences in the islands make for eclectic cuisine options. Adventurers can explore some of the world’s largest reefs or head to the only rain forest that is part of the U.S. forest system. And if all you want to do is dig your toes in the sand and listen to the crashing waves, the powdery white sand beaches will have you feeling like you’re living a dream.
Beginning in October, eight Holland America Line ships will cruise the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Florida. Among them — the line’s new flagship Koningsdam — sailing from a U.S. port for the first time since entering service in April. The ships will cruise itineraries ranging from four- to 21-days to the Bahamas, eastern, western and southern Caribbean, and will even take guests to beautiful island destinations during the holidays. If you’re not sure which one to choose, here’s some more information.
Half Moon Cay
Perhaps the highlight of all of Holland America Line’s Caribbean cruises is Half Moon Cay — featuring a blissful island experience unlike any other. This is Holland America Line’s own private island in the Bahamas, named Porthole Magazine’s “Best Private Island” 11 years in a row. Guests can spend the day in ultimate relaxation, basking on powdery beaches beside a crystal-clear sea. The island features plenty of water activities, waterfront bars and private beachside cabanas.
Eastern Caribbean islands include St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and the Turks & Caicos.
Grand Turk is the capital island of the Turks & Caicos. Its surrounding clear blue waters offer world-class snorkeling spots filled with beautiful reefs and abundant marine life. For divers, checking out some of the area’s popular wreck sites will be the highlight of their stay.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, founded in 1521 by Ponce De Leon, is the oldest city in U.S. territory. It makes for a beautiful vista as guests cruise in and sail by El Morro — the oldest Spanish Fort in the New World. You can explore the city’s many plazas, churches and gardens or head to Casa Bacardi, for a tour of one of the famous brand’s distilleries. If you’re looking for adventure, you can reach the only rain forest that belongs to the U.S. forest service, El Yunque.
Western Caribbean cruises include world-class diving opportunities and ancient Mayan ruins. Itineraries feature a mix of calls at Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Key West, Fla.; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Roatan, Honduras; and Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala.
Georgetown has everything you would expect from a Caribbean hotspot: warm breezes, clear seas and an infectious, laid-back attitude. Here, guests can walk along the world-famous Seven Mile Beach or on the streets and stroll by historic sites and lush gardens. Those looking for adventure can head into the waters and enjoy a swim, snorkel or dive.
Roatán, Honduras, lies about 40 miles off the coast of the Central American country, sitting atop an ancient, exposed coral reef. For divers, this spot is conveniently located near the second-largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef. Mahogany Bay, where the ship will be, features white-sand beaches which can be reached by a scenic chairlift. Guests who opt to stay near the Mahogany Bay cruise center can shop for local art made of salvaged materials or visit the Stone Castle Cameo Factory that features cameos made of conch shells.
Costa Maya, Mexico, boasts dozens of Maya sites, some only recently rediscovered and excavated. These include pyramids, temples and ceremonial centers in places like Chacchoben and Kohunlick. Chacchoben features several pyramids that have been restored by archaeologists. On a tour, guests can climb the Grand Basement and learn about the wildlife and medicinal plants that are used by the modern-day descendants of the ancient Mayan people. Kohunlich features the popular Temple of the Masks, a pyramid flanked by large masks made of stucco.
Southern Caribbean Cruises
Southern Caribbean cruises feature off-the-beaten-track islands, not typically included on eastern and western Caribbean cruises, like St. Lucia, Martinique and Barbados, and further south the popular ABC islands of the Lesser Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.
The ABC Islands all have their own character. Aruba is located just off the coast of Venezuela. Its capital, Oranjestad, is a maze of Dutch-colonial architecture painted in a palette of Caribbean pastels. Its California Lighthouse offers the best vistas of the northern section of the island. Popular souvenirs are jewelry and gold — which was mined here in the 19th century.
Bonaire is even more laid-back than other Caribbean islands and has a sleepy feel. It also boasts a stunning natural habitat with plenty of beautiful wildlife. The island has Amerindian, Spanish, African, Dutch and British influences, making it an interesting place for a stroll around town. You may hear Papiamento, the creole language spoken throughout the Netherlands Antilles, or some French and Portuguese.
Curaçao features a deepwater harbor, interlacing waterways and narrow shop fronts. Its capital of Willemstad features pastel neighborhoods highlighted by picturesque markets. The Hato Caves are one of the most famous sites here — beautiful limestone formations and caves. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring a fruit and vegetable market and beautifully colored merchant houses on the quayside.
Holland America Line’s ships begin to reposition to the Caribbean in October. Eurodam, Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Prinsendam, Rotterdam, Veendam and Zuiderdam will all sail from Port Everglades this winter. For more details on specific itineraries, click here.
Fourteen-day (and longer) Collectors’ Voyages combining shorter cruises to different regions are also available. For guests who find it more convenient to depart from Tampa, Florida, Oosterdam will sail a series of western and southern Caribbean cruises through March.
Have you been thinking of a warm winter getaway? Which cruise would you choose? Tell us in the comments below.