Sail the Unexplored Caribbean
Cruising in the Caribbean is as popular as ever, thanks to well-known ports of call and shore excursions. However, there are also many less-explored ports and adventures on the lineup for many cruise lines. And, it’s only natural that a long-time line like Royal Caribbean International — with “Caribbean” literally in its name and almost 50 years of Caribbean cruising — would provide its passengers with unique shore excursions.
Beyond the Norm
Long-time Caribbean cruise ports like Nassau (Bahamas), Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands), San Juan (Puerto Rico), Philipsburg (St. Maarten) and George Town (Grand Cayman), are all popular for good reason. Their history, culture, cuisine and watersports (among other attractions) are a lure for visitors. However, Royal Caribbean and other lines offer itineraries that visit lesser-known destinations, as well as unique shore excursions. With dozens of itineraries, 30-plus Caribbean ports of call, and hundreds of shore excursions, it’s simply a matter of exploring the possibilities and getting ready for the varied Caribbean adventures that Royal Caribbean is well-known for offering.
Whether your itinerary highlights the Bahamas, the Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean, the Panama Canal (with Caribbean stops) or a combination of regions and destinations, there are unique ports of call and activities to suit everyone onboard. Royal Caribbean is particularly well known for offering “adventurous” outings, ranging from mild to wild activities in or on the water, inland and even up in the air. Booking shore excursions directly with the cruise line, which your AAA Travel Agent assists you with, is your best bet. The adventures have been vetted by the line, they’re convenient and passengers can be sure the ship won’t leave without them.
Royal Caribbean shore excursions are generally grouped into categories, making it easy to know the style of the adventure. These include: Active Adventures (activities for every level, from beach breaks to high-energy adrenaline rushes); Family Connections (including nature, history, cultural and wildlife explorations for kids and kids at heart); Royal Tour Challenge (challenge-based activities targeted at families and groups); Culture and Sights (guided sightseeing, museums visits, performances, and more); Culinary Delights (featuring local flavors and people); Caring Discoveries (making a difference with hands-on activities and tours); and Multi-Day Adventures (where lucky passengers disembark the ship during the cruise for in-depth multi-day exploration, which is not currently offered on Caribbean cruises — though overnight cruise ship stays in Havana, Cuba, are featured).
With “Take Your Vacation to New Depths” as a motto, Royal Caribbean is also particularly well-known for their snorkeling and scuba diving excursions (for all levels), as well as an array of private journeys designed by the line’s Destination Insiders. For example, a seaplane trip out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, takes lucky adventurers to their own catamaran and on to a private island.
Purpose-built “private” islands and ports of call feature a great way to explore the Caribbean in a different way, and there are many options throughout the tropics. Royal Caribbean International’s CocoCay® in the Bahamas and Labadee® in Haiti, Hispaniola Island (which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic) provide two picture-perfect examples of unique private ports and adventures.
Offered on many Royal Caribbean itineraries, CocoCay is better than ever. The offerings include Caylana’s Aqua Park (a fun-filled floating playground), sandy beaches (including exclusive beach experiences), eco-tours, wave runners, barbecue lunches and parasailing. In March, Royal Caribbean announced a $200 million investment to enhance and update CocoCay. Improvements will include a 13-slide water park, one of which will be the tallest in North America (at 135 feet), a wave pool, a helium balloon that rises 450 feet and a 1,600-foot zip line. In addition, Chill Island will offer motorized water sports options and South Beach will increase their sportive offerings with soccer, glass bottom kayaking and basketball (among other activities).
Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s Private Destination, is equally popular for good reason. Highlights here include: Dragon’s Breath Flight Line (the world’s largest zip line over water); Dragon’s Tail Coaster; Arawak Aqua Park; family-friendly Columbus Cove; the Haitian Cultural Tour at Paradise Cove & Beach Break; Sandbar Island Getaway; and multiple beaches and restaurants.
Down on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Costa Maya is another purpose-built port of call. It also features a variety of shore excursions and adventures, ranging from watersports to Mayan ruins. Cozumel, with its world-class diving and snorkeling, and Progreso, with convenient colonial Merida excursions, are other classic Mexico ports of call in the Caribbean.
Scuba diving and snorkeling remain very popular shore excursions for all levels of experience. Along with aforementioned Cozumel and Grand Cayman, other diving and snorkeling hotspots include Belize, Honduras, Aruba, Bonaire, Caribbean-like Key West and several other Royal Caribbean destinations where it’s popular to get wet.
Even More Options
Many more out of the way ports of call and distinct adventures await Royal Caribbean passengers. For instance, the Banana Coast (Trujillo) in Honduras consistently gets rave reviews for its horseback riding excursions to Campo del Mar Nature Park, which includes botanical gardens and a beach. As with many other more recently developed ports, there’s also ziplining at Mahogany Bay and adventures that feature exploration of the local culture — and cuisine. Another lesser-known port, Falmouth, Jamaica, is also known for its horseback riding excursions (including riding through sparkling Caribbean waters on a white sand beach).
Other unique options include: Basseterre, St. Kitts (hiking in the island’s rugged mountains that include dormant volcanoes); Castries, St. Lucia (featuring the twin peaks of the Pitons mountain, with great views from catamaran trips along the rugged coast); hiking excursions from busy Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, to quiet Virgin Islands National Park on St. John; oh-so-French Fort de France, Martinique (with the beautiful gardens of La Savane right in town); Ponce, Puerto Rico (lots of history and short ferry rides to pristine beaches and more); St. Croix (providing adventures above and below the surface on Buck Island Reef National Monument); the “Nature Island” and wild to mild adventures on Dominica (Roseau); St. John’s, Antigua, Nelson’s Dockyard (known as the “Caribbean’s Colonial Williamsburg”); St. George’s, Grenada (“Spice Island” tours and more); and, Willemstad, Curacao (including Hato Caves and their near-mystical underground lake).
And, then there’s Cuba. Of course, Havana offers several unique tours in its classic cars, but Royal Caribbean also offers the opportunity for adventures in even less-explored Cuba ports of call, including Cienfuegos (Cuba’s “Pearl of the South”) and Santiago de Cuba (the city’s castle, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, is a UNESCO World Heritage site).
It’s easier than ever to plan an unforgettable Caribbean cruise. Contact your local AAA Travel Agent to book today!