Ports of Call: Profiles of popular cruise destinations

Ports of Call: Profiles of popular cruise destinations

Cruise Port Spotlight: Frederiksted and Christiansted, St. Croix

March 3, 2011

Cruise Port Spotlight: Frederiksted and Christiansted, St. Croix

The largest of the trio of U.S. Virgin Islands (the other two being St. Thomas and St. John), St. Croix is also the easternmost point of the U.S. Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 and named it Santa Cruz, which means Holy Cross, before the native Caribs chased him away. The French claimed the island in the 17th century (hence its current name of St. Croix, (the French translation of Santa Cruz). Denmark purchased St. Croix from the French in the 18th century, and the Danish influence prevailed until the latter part of the 19th century (the U.S. acquired it and St. Thomas and St. John in the early 20th century from the Danes), so Danish architecture is in evidence to this day.

Cruise Port Spotlight: Costa Maya, Mexico

March 3, 2011

Cruise Port Spotlight: Costa Maya, Mexico

Located in the southern half of the 236-mile Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo, Mexico, approximately 100 miles south of Playa del Carmen and near the border with Belize, Costa Maya suffered extensive damages from Hurricane Dean, a category five storm that made landfall here in 2007, but the area has recovered and rebuilt.

Cruise Port Spotlight: Colon and Cristobal, Panama

February 3, 2011

Cruise Port Spotlight: Colon and Cristobal, Panama

Most people, when they think of Panama, come up with Panama hats (although these well-known hats are really made in Ecuador) and, of course, they associate the country with the Panama Canal, a modern-day marvel connecting the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean on Panama's narrow isthmus (the Canal was constructed in the early 20th century by the U.S, and turned over to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999).

Cruise Port Spotlight: Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

February 3, 2011

Cruise Port Spotlight: Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

Often likened to a Noah's Ark due to its rich fauna, including 1,250 species of butterflies and multitudes of bird species, Costa Rica is sort of a poster child for eco-tourism. This tiny Central American country -- roughly the size of West Virginia -- has 12 ecological zones and has made an effort to preserve its many natural attributes and wilderness in national parks. It also offers multiple eco-friendly activities: from river rafting to hiking, snorkeling and kayaking, to zip-lining and tram-riding over the rainforest canopy.

Cruise Port Spotlight: Belize City, Belize

February 3, 2011

Cruise Port Spotlight: Belize City, Belize

A Central American country, located between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize has a variety of Caribbean islands including St.George's Caye (the site of the 1798 battle during which the British defeated the Spanish and laid claim to Belize), Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker both of which lie within the Belize Barrier Reef -- the largest tropical reef in our hemisphere, famous for the Great Blue Hole, which beckons divers from around the world. The barrier reef, while the top reason for many travelers to visit Belize, is not the only one. Others include Mayan ruins (some excavated, others still jungle-covered) and a tropical rainforest inhabited by many species of birds.

Cruise Port Spotlight: St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

February 3, 2011

Cruise Port Spotlight: St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

St. John, the smallest and least densely populated of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands (the other two are St. Thomas and St. Croix), is east of nearby St. Thomas, and it is known for its picture-postcard-perfect beaches -- St. John is all about the water and unspoiled surroundings.

Cruise Port Spotlight: Key West, Fla.

November 29, 2010

Cruise Port Spotlight: Key West, Fla.

Key West, Florida's "Last Key" is a popular port of call on Western Caribbean cruise itineraries. Located closer to Cuba than to Miami, the island is a laid-back tropical oasis that has attracted the likes of Harry Truman, Ernest Hemingway, and Tennessee Williams, among other writers, artists and luminaries.

Cruise Port Spotlight: Basse-Terre, Pointe-a-Pitre and Iles Des Saintes, Guadeloupe

November 22, 2010

Cruise Port Spotlight: Basse-Terre, Pointe-a-Pitre and Iles Des Saintes, Guadeloupe

A French isle, less visited than Martinique, Guadeloupe is sometimes called "the butterfly island" due to its shape that loosely resembles that beautiful insect --the two "wings" of the butterfly are Grand-Terre (on the eastern side with rolling hills and sugar plantations) and Basse-Terre (on the western side dotted with banana plantations and mountainous landscapes that are dominated by the 4,104-foot peak of still-active, La Soufriere Volcano). A drawbridge over a river, the Riviere Salee (the Salt River) that flows between the Caribbean from the Atlantic connects both sides of the island.

Cruise Port Spotlight: St. George's, Grenada

November 15, 2010

Cruise Port Spotlight: St. George's, Grenada

A cruise passenger who wants to "spice" up his life can certainly do so --literally--during his ship's call to Grenada. Known as the "Spice Island," Grenada boasts more spices per square mile than anywhere else in the world: ginger, cocoa, cinnamon, mace, tonka beans and nutmeg --a third of the planet's supply of the latter. Along with Carriacou and Petit Martinique, Grenada, located off the coast of South America and part of the Grenadines group in the Windward Islands, is an independent, three-island nation.

Port of Call Spotlight: British Virgin Islands

November 8, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands, in the northeastern Caribbean, beckon cruise passengers with their unspoiled coves and hidden bays. Sparsely populated --the islands, with a land area of 59 square miles, are inhabited by some 22,700 people --they were discovered by Columbus in 1493 and annexed by the British in 1672. They remain a British colony with their own elected government.

Port of Call Spotlight: Basseterre, St. Kitts

October 8, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Basseterre, St. Kitts

Unspoiled St. Kitts and Nevis, its smaller sister island, welcome cruise passengers with a lush landscape including rain forests, mountains and dormant volcanoes, 18th century sugar plantation heritage, and wonderful beaches some white sanded, others with black or gray volcanic sands.

Port of Call Spotlight: Gustavia, St. Barthelemy

October 4, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Gustavia, St. Barthelemy

Chic St. Barthelemy could be said to be the island of many names: in addition to St. Barthelemy, it is often referred to as "St. Barths," "St. Barth's" and "St. Bart's." A tiny idyll of the French Antilles--about 8.5 square miles--located between the Caribbean and the Atlantic, it is a frequent stop on Caribbean voyages from Florida.

Port of Call Spotlight: St. John's, Antigua

September 27, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: St. John's, Antigua

If when you think of the Caribbean, you conjure up beaches and more beaches, Antigua may be the island for you. It has 365 beaches -- presumably one for each day of the year. And it is not just quantity, but quality too: Antigua's beaches are beauties, for the most part with white facial-powder-like sands and clear aquamarine waters protected by coral reefs.

Port of Call Spotlight: Willemstad, Curacao

September 20, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Willemstad, Curacao

Part of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao is the"C" of the"ABC" Dutch Caribbean islands (the other two are Aruba and Bonaire). Located 35 miles north of Venezuela in the Southern Caribbean, it is the largest (37 miles long and almost seven miles wide) and also the most populous of the Dutch islands with more than 170,000 inhabitants.

Port of Call Spotlight: Freeport/Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island

September 13, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Freeport/Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island

Due to its proximity to Florida --only 50 miles east of Palm Beach -- Grand Bahama Island is a popular destination for many Floridians for a quick, grab-your-beach-towel-and-go fun day getaway by cruise ship. Grand Bahama-bound ships sail from Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach and offer short cruises --generally, one- and two-days -- that can be combined with land packages at resorts and hotels on Grand Bahama Island for a longer vacation. Other big draws are the island's beaches and other natural attractions, great fishing, snorkeling and diving, as well as its relatively affordable prices.

Port of Call Spotlight: Roatan, Honduras

September 13, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Roatan, Honduras

A popular stop on Western Caribbean cruise itineraries, Roatan, 30 miles off the coast of Honduras, is the largest and most developed of the Bay Islands, a region comprised of three primary islands and more than 60 isles and keys in the Caribbean Sea. A paradise for divers, it is surrounded by the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world's second largest, after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. There are some 80 special sites for diving, including rich marine life, dramatic drops, wrecks, crevices and caverns.

Port of Call Spotlight: Castries, St. Lucia

September 13, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Castries, St. Lucia

One of the loveliest islands of the Caribbean, St. Lucia, the second largest of the Windward Islands at 240 square miles, is a frequent stop on Southern Caribbean cruise itineraries. Now independent, it changed hands more than a dozen times during its history, with Great Britain and France vying for it during colonial times.

Port of Call Spotlight: Fort-de-France, Martinique

September 13, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Fort-de-France, Martinique

In the Carib language of her first inhabitants, her name means "island of flowers." And Martinique's landscapes of seaside villages, green-clad volcanic mountains and hills are indeed adorned with a profusion of blossoms: bougainvillea, hibiscus, bird of paradise, anthuriums and more.

Port of Call Spotlight: Cozumel, Mexico

June 4, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, the island that the Mayans considered their Eden from where they believed they came to populate the continent, like bees from a hive, is located near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It's tiny, approximately 10 miles wide and 30 miles long-but like the Eden it was for the ancient Mayans, it is a paradise for today's travelers and cruise passengers.

Port of Call Spotlight: Grand Cayman

June 4, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Grand Cayman

A popular stop on Western Caribbean cruise itineraries, Grand Cayman is best known as a paradise for divers as the clarity of its waters afford visibility of up to 200 feet. The island offers family friendly attractions, including beautiful beaches with calm, warm, waters, and duty-free shopping in the capital of George Town.

Port of Call Spotlight: Nassau, Bahamas

June 4, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau, the capital of the 700-island chain of the Bahamas, is a popular port of call on Caribbean and Bahamas cruise itineraries departing from Florida ports. It is easily explored independently on foot or via horse-drawn carriage tours, as the cruise ship pier, Prince George Wharf, is steps from downtown and the starting point of the horse drawn carriages.

Port of Call Spotlight: San Juan, Puerto Rico

June 4, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: San Juan, Puerto Rico

The capital of Puerto Rico, the city of San Juan Bautista, is like a big pirate trunk filled to the brim with treasures for cruise passengers. Founded by the legendary explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who arrived with 300 settlers in 1519 and who served as the first governor of Puerto Rico, San Juan is a classic walled city with centuries of history.

Port of Call Spotlight: St. Martin

June 4, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: St. Martin

Often referred to as the Caribbean island with a "split personality," St. Maarten/St. Martin--half Dutch, half French--offers cruise passengers the travel equivalent of a "two-for-one" special at their favorite store: two destinations, but just one stop.

Port of Call Spotlight: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

June 4, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Arguably the Caribbean's most popular cruise ship port--visitors can count nine or 10 ships in port on any given day--St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is often dubbed "the shopping center of the Caribbean." Its capital city, Charlotte Amalie, certainly lives up to the moniker, offering hundreds of shops along the waterfront housed in red-roofed buildings which were formerly Danish warehouses. The U.S. acquired St. Thomas and the other U.S. Virgin Islands of St. John and St. Croix from Denmark in 1917.

Port of Call Spotlight: Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos

June 14, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos

Grand Turk, one of a chain of more than 40 islands in the Turks & Caicos, offers cruise passengers a tropical, laid-back ambience, excellent diving and fishing, colonial architecture, miles of beaches and a recently inaugurated pier and cruise ship terminal.

Port of Call Spotlight: Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, Jamaica

June 28, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, Jamaica

Jamaica, situated south of Cuba and west of Haiti, has all the natural attributes most people associate with a Caribbean island. One of the Greater Antilles, and the third largest island in the Caribbean with 4,400 square miles (after Cuba and Hispaniola) Jamaica mountainous isle with a peak rising 7,284 feet, and it offers everything one expects to find on a tropical idyll: white sand beaches, lush vegetation, beautiful waterfalls and historic great houses that exemplify the island's plantation economy.

Port of Call Spotlight: Cruise Lines' Private Islands

June 28, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Cruise Lines' Private Islands

It was an idea pioneered by NCL several decades ago: offer cruise passengers a beach day on a private island (Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas' Berry Islands). The idea took hold and now a number of cruise lines (Costa, Disney, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean) in addition to Norwegian Cruise Line feature stops at private islands or parts of islands for the use of their passengers.

Port of Call Spotlight: Bridgetown, Barbados

July 12, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Bridgetown, Barbados

A blend of Caribbean and British cultures, Barbados is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, having achieved independence in 1966. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, driving is on the left, cricket is the national sport and the custom of afternoon tea is observed. A frequent stop on southern Caribbean cruise itineraries, this island in the Lesser Antilles also serves as a home port for several ships during the winter season.

Port of Call Spotlight: Oranjestad, Aruba

July 19, 2010

Port of Call Spotlight: Oranjestad, Aruba

Aruba, the westernmost of the so-called Dutch "ABC islands:" Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, is less than 20 miles from the coast of Venezuela. A small island, about 20-miles long and six-and-a-quarter miles wide at its widest point, Aruba could be said to be where the desert meets the sea.

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