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Holland America ship arriving to Half Moon Cay

5 Best Caribbean Cruise Destinations

Dreaming of the Caribbean? Every Caribbean destination offers an idyllic escape with its own culture, natural splendors and attractions. No one place is better than the other, but some are better than others for specific experiences and activities.

Start with our list of the best Caribbean cruise destinations to find the islands that have the most of what you want out of your cruise. And remember, this list is just the beginning. There are many destinations to explore as you cruise the Caribbean.

1. Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay tops our best Caribbean cruise destinations list. Yes, we’re biased, as it’s our private island, but we’re not the only ones who love this crescent-shaped slice of heaven. Porthole Cruise Magazine named it “Best Private Island” twenty years in a row. 

Once you step in the powdery sand or wade into the 700-acre Bonefish Lagoon, you’ll wish you could stay here forever; a feeling so common on Half Moon Cay, it’s the name of the most popular bar on the island.

What to do: Put your feet up and enjoy the view. Get a clamshell or luxuriate in a private villa with cool drinks, fresh fruit, and misting showers. Or cool off in the crystal waters. 

Much of Half Moon Cay acts as a nature reserve, so be on the lookout for mockingbirds, wood doves, and Cuban finches. Kayak mangroves, ride through foamy surf on horseback or touch the silky wings of a stingray. If you’re cruising with kids, a children’s waterpark has bucketloads of aquatic entertainment.

Prepare for fierce sun. See our Caribbean cruise packing list for tips. 

2. Nassau, Bahamas

Though it’s not technically in the Caribbean Sea, Nassau, Bahamas is a favorite port on Eastern Caribbean cruises  and we had to include it. Nassau bustles with a rainbow of shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s noisy and fast-paced in contrast to the laid-back vibe on the rest of New Providence Island.

What to do:  When you tire of the cacophonous capital, unwind on one of the island’s many beaches or get a day pass and go to Atlantis, a massive casino resort with a sea theme and aquarium. 

Soak up the sun on Cable Beach, a long stretch with rustling palms. Climb the Queen’s Staircase, a limestone staircase with 65 steps leading to a fort and overlook. See birds of a feather flocked together at the Ardastra Gardens & Wildlife Conservation Centre or take in Bahamian art and history at the National Art Gallery. 

3. Oranjestad, Aruba

Aruba’s otherworldliness secures it a forever spot on our best Southern Caribbean cruise destination list. It has all the quintessential beachscapes, plus surprising bonuses, such as vast cactus forests, unique rock formations, and wild donkeys. 

What to do: Lounge in the shade of a twisted fofoti tree with a beach book and umbrellaed Aruba Ariba cocktail. Shop Oranjestad’s knot of colorful boutiques and markets. Go deep under the surface on a submarine tour of a shipwreck. Or just unwind and watch waves meet the shore.

4. Philipsburg, St Maarten

With a distinct difference between its Dutch and French sides, St Maarten is like two best Caribbean cruise destinations in one small island. Philipsburg, the port and capital of the Dutch side, features an array of art galleries, thrumming clubs and lively casinos. Beyond, it teems with beaches and nature conservancies. The French side is where to go for bistros and sidewalk cafes, chilled rosé or to practice your bonjour and merci.

What to do: Explore Marigot, a French market town with charming European boutiques and pop-in pastry shops. Or take a catamaran to a secluded beach and let the sea lull you into a dream state. 

Find cruises to St Maarten

5. Grand Turk, Turks And Caicos

Turks and Caicos is one of the best Caribbean destinations for diving, snorkeling and beachcombing. As soon as you wash ashore, you’ll notice palm-fringed beaches along cerulean waters, a postcard come to life. Under the surface, there’s vivid marine life and reefs that draw divers from all over the globe.

What to do: Dive a 7,000-foot wall drop and swim with a kaleidoscope of neon fish. Spend a picture-perfect beach day on the west side, sheltered from trade winds. Get up close to a shipwreck on the soft sand at Governor’s Beach. Zip around the beach on a sand dune buggy. 

Turn your travel dream into travel plans. Find the best time for a Caribbean cruise and read more Caribbean travel tips