San Juan, Puerto Rico

Is the Caribbean calling but you are not sure whether to go east or west? Whichever you choose you won’t be disappointed and, to help you decide, here is our guide to the differences between the two.

WESTERN CARIBBEAN

The Western Caribbean: Natural Splendour & Outdoor Adventure

The Western Caribbean is full of lush landscapes, tropical wildlife and outdoor adventures – with a spot of shopping! Ports of call include Costa Maya, Cozumel and George Town in the Cayman Islands.

WESTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISES

On the Mexican coast, Costa Maya is perfect for your adventurous spirit, from snorkelling in the crystal-clear lagoon to trekking through the tropical jungle. On the island of Cozumel, the wildlife is the highlight. This is the ‘Island of Swallows’ where you can discover tropical birds as you explore ancient Mayan ruins, before diving into the azure sea to marvel at the coral.

Cozumel, Mexico

George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands, is the place to soak up the sun and meet the resident stingrays. If you can drag yourself away from the beach, the bustling town offers plenty to do, including tax-free shopping for your souvenirs.

Take a longer cruise and visit Belize City, where you can trek through the jungle to caves of stalactites or visit the world-famous zoo to meet the honey bears. On this cruise, you will also visit Roatán one of Honduras’s Caribbean islands, with white sandy beaches and the world’s second largest coral reef, teeming with colourful marine life.

Roatan, Honduras

And the food? Seafood, spice and colour are the cornerstones of western Caribbean cuisine; from the signature Cayman conch, a type of sea snail, to the tamales of Costa Maya – steamed parcels of sweet or savoury delights with their origins in Mayan and Aztec cultures.

EASTERN CARIBBEAN

The Eastern Caribbean: Colonial Memories & Present Day Delights

The Eastern Caribbean offers colonial charm alongside those Caribbean palm-fringed beaches. Destinations include Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and The Dominican Republic.

EASTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISES

The echo of past times permeates in these eastern outposts, from the imposing Spanish forts and Old City of San Juan to the pirating history of Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, where Blackbeard was known to make his presence felt. Charlotte Amalie also happens to be great for duty-free shopping!

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

Over on St. Kitts, the capital, Basseterre, was the Caribbean’s first French town and its colonial heritage is the contrasting backdrop to today’s laid back reggae atmosphere.

The French connection comes up to date in the chic town of Marigot on St. Martin, where boutique shops and stylish pavement cafés jostle for space. This small island is divided between two nations and your cruise ship brings you into the port of Philipsburg on the Dutch side, St. Maarten.

Philipsburg, St. Maarten

When hunger calls, the food of the Eastern Caribbean satisfies. It is just as eclectic as you would expect with influences from a colonial past that takes in French, Spanish, Danish and the local signature dish, of Ackee and Saltfish, a West Indies favourite.

Finally, for the Caribbean dream of sun, sea and sand, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic is your port. Here, the sunsets are the very essence of holiday memories.

Punta Cana, The Dominican Republic

East or west; which is best?

Have you decided whether it’s to be Eastern Caribbean or Western Caribbean yet? Both offer the paradise island beaches of your dreams, both have a rich history, both are welcoming, warm and sunny.

Head east if you want to add culture, colonial highlights and a touch of sophistication into the mix. Head west if you are looking for outdoor adventure, natural wonders and wildlife.