by Dave Monk, The Telegraph, May 14, 2018
When Britain shivers in its coldest months, the allure of the tranquil waters of the Caribbean tempts many cruisers. But where is it best to start your voyage - in the Caribbean itself, in the US or from home in the UK? We explore the different options.
In the Caribbean
Don’t lose any precious holiday time getting to your destination by starting your cruise on one of the islands. Viking Sea, one of the five ocean-going ships from Viking Cruises, is based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sailing 11-day round-trip West Indies Explorer voyages to such places as Tortola, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados.
Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas also has its home port in San Juan, but it’s a 12 to 14-hour total flight via a connecting city such as Miami, New York or Philadelphia as no airlines fly directly from the UK.
However, there are nine-hour non-stop flights to Barbados, where new 1,924-passenger ship Marella Explorer will be based in Bridgetown from November until April, or to St Lucia, from where P&O Cruises flagship Britannia sails several itineraries.
Windstar does many island-hopping voyages, setting off from Bridgetown, San Juan and St Maarten. Star Clippers also offers week-long trips on tall ships Royal Clipper and Star Flyer, catering for 227 and 170 passengers respectively.
Sea Dream II has a seven-day round trip from Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, on November 17 calling at ports including St Barts, Virgin Gorda and Jost van Dyke.
Seabourn Odyssey does a round trip from Bridgetown, Barbados, on December 1, 2018, calling at islands including Dominica, Guadeloupe, St Kitts, St Maarten and St Lucia from £3,999 a person for an oceanview suite( seabourn.com, 0843 373 2000)
In the US
Combine your cruise with a big-city stay by sailing from a US port such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale or New Orleans. With a couple of days at sea to reach your first Caribbean resort, up to four days of a return trip can be spent away from land. Some cruise lines break the journey by calling in at a private island and sea days do allow you to totally unwind and enjoy the comforts of your ship.
Oceania sails a Miami round trip called the Caribbean Explorer on January 12, 2019. Its ship Riviera spends two days cruising the Atlantic before arriving in Antigua. Other stops include Tobago, St Lucia and St Barts. Regent Seven Seas offers several Miami round trips, including a visit to its island of Great Stirrup Cay.
Holland America has a 21-night Authentic Cuba and Southern Caribbean holiday on Veendam from Fort Lauderdale on January 4, 2019, calling in to such places as Cozumel in Mexico and Roatan in Honduras before visiting Cienfuegos and Havana in Cuba.
More Caribbean islands and a stop at the private island of Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas precedes the sailing back to Florida. Princess also sails from Fort Lauderdale.
Carnival serves the Caribbean from ten US mainland ports, as well as having Carnival Fascination operating out of Barbados and San Juan. From November, Norwegian Breakaway will be based in New Orleans.
Disney operates from ports including Port Canaveral in Florida - ideal for combining with a trip to Disney World, Orlando - and Galveston in Texas.
Crystal Cruises offers a 14-day round trip from New Orleans on Crystal Symphony, calling at stops including Cozumel, Ocho Rios in Jamaica, Puerto Rico and St Kitts from £5,597 per person (crystalcruises.co.uk, 020 7399 7601)
Passengers who want to sail to the sunshine from our own shores have a choice of cruises from Southampton.
The Fred Olsen ship Braemar leaves the port on December 3 for a 17-night voyage to the Caribbean via Lisbon and Madeira.
There are a total of nine days at sea before visiting five Caribbean islands and flying home from Bridgetown in Barbados, so there’s plenty of time to explore the 929-passenger ship’s bars and lounges, enjoy the five-course a la carte dinners and the cabaret shows, dancing and live music, as well as activities and lectures.
For travellers who want a total no-fly option, Cunard has a 26-night Grand Caribbean Celebration which leaves Southampton on December 15 and returns on January 10.
The voyage on Queen Mary 2 begins with a six-day crossing to New York and another three days at sea to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, then Antigua, Barbados, St Lucia and St Maarten before returning home via New York.
As well as a planetarium, QM2 offers a variety of speakers, the largest library at sea and unforgettable afternoon teas - plus there is plenty of time on sea days to dress up for the formal evenings.
Londoners who don’t want to travel to the south coast can opt for a 33-night round trip from Tilbury with Cruise & Maritime Voyages on Marco Polo on November 5 sailing to the West Indies and the Azores from only £1,999 per person. The voyage includes nine Caribbean islands.
Saga offers a 33-night Tales of the Caribbean voyage round trip from Southampton, leaving on January 5, 2019, and sailing via Madeira to ports including Antigua, St Maarten, Bequia and Martinique on Saga Sapphire from £6,074 per person (travel.saga.co.uk, 0800 50 50 30)
If you prefer to do a shorter transatlantic crossing, the Hapag-Lloyd ship Europa 2 - one of the most luxurious at sea - leaves Tenerife on November 9 for a 16-day voyage to Miami via Cape Verde, Barbados, Martinique, St Barts and Jost Van Dyke.
The German ship offers a bilingual cruise with English shore excursions. You can even shape up on board with classes in yoga, tai chi and shiatsu. Prices start from £6,052 per person (hl-cruises.com)