When sunshine, frozen pina coladas and steel drums call, you know it's time for a Caribbean cruise. Luckily, you can choose from a wide variety of ships and itineraries throughout the Eastern, Western and Southern regions. Whether you're keen on visiting a particular port (scuba diving in Grenada, anyone?) or are simply in need of some vitamin D, we make it easy to decide which option is best for you. Compare everything from onboard activities to price tags in our breakdown of the 10 best cruise ships in the Caribbean.
When sunshine, frozen pina coladas and steel drums call, you know it's time for a Caribbean cruise. Luckily, you can choose from a wide variety of ships and itineraries throughout the Eastern, Western and Southern regions. Whether you're keen on visiting a particular port (scuba diving in Grenada, anyone?) or are simply in need of some vitamin D, we make it easy to decide which option is best for you. Compare everything from onboard activities to price tags in our breakdown of the 12 best cruise ships in the Caribbean.
1. Allure of the Seas
Size matters, and if you have a "bigger is better" mentality when it comes to cruise ships, Allure of the Seas is a perfect choice. The 5,400-passenger behemoth (along with island-hopping sister ships Oasis, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas) feels more like a floating resort than a ship, thanks to its Coney Island-style boardwalk; array of restaurants, bars and activities; and double the fun with two rock climbing walls and surf simulators.
Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale and Miami
- Zipwire that soars above nine decks
- High-diving aerial performances at the AquaTheater
- Main theatre puts on production of the West End's "Mamma Mia!"
- Families with tons of adrenaline
- Active couples
- Those who don't want to feel like they're on a cruise ship
2. Marella Explorer
Although it's not a new-build, new-to-Marella ship Marella Explorer could fool just about anyone. With 13 new and modern production shows, combination bar-nightclub-casino Indigo, and a partnership with luxury land-based spa Champneys, this vessel feels like one of the most modern in the line's fleet. Tip: To maximise your outdoor enjoyment while in the Caribbean's warmer climes, book a balcony cabin, and take advantage of the outdoor hammock that comes standard.
Sailing from: Barbados
- Indigo's high-tech DJ emulator and cocktail menu by London's Bar Wizards
- 13 new production shows with themes like steampunk and Americana
- Champneys spa area with Persian garden and several relaxation rooms
- Families with older children, as the kids club is small
- Trendy, active couples who enjoy solid nightlife
- Those on a budget who don't want to sacrifice fun
3. Norwegian Escape
If Jimmy Buffet had a favourite cruise ship, we bet it would be Norwegian Escape. The 4,248-passenger floating resort has two Buffett franchises onboard, 28 restaurants and 21 bars, so you'll never have to wait for it to be 5 o'clock somewhere. It also has myriad activities for all ages, including a waterfall grotto, ropes course and some of the fastest water slides at sea.
Sailing from: Miami and New York
- Oceanfront promenade offers alfresco dining and bars
- Broadway entertainment includes Tony Award-winning musical "After Midnight"
- Spa features snow room and salt room
- Families with picky eaters
- Couples who love to bar-hop
- Active solo travellers, who like Escape's Studio cabins for one
4. MSC Seaside
The winner of Best New Ship in Cruise Critic's 2017 Editors' Picks Awards, MSC Seaside was made for sailing the Caribbean. Sun lovers will enjoy features like a chic pool surrounded by daybeds, a boardwalk that wraps around the ship, glass-bottom bridges and lots of deck space. Indoors, the 4,132-passenger ship is full of sophisticated panache, thanks to unique touches like a Swarovski crystal staircase and a massive atrium with a wall of LED screens that showcase naturescapes throughout the day.
Sailing from: Miami
- Yacht Club offers more exclusive suites and secluded pool deck
- Adults-only pool offers soothing views from the back of the ship
- Wide variety of dining, including Asian venue by renowned chef Roy Yamaguchi
- Families who can take advantage of MSC's kids-sail-free policy
- Couples who want to relax by day and let loose at night
- Foodies keen on Italian cuisine
5. Anthem of the Seas
With innovative features like a skydiving simulator and London Eye-inspired ride perched on the top deck, Anthem of the Seas is unlike any other ship in the Caribbean. The 4,180-passenger ship spoils cruisers with an array of dining options (including readily available gluten-free and vegetarian options), activities and cutting-edge extras you have to try at least once. Ever thought you'd get to order a drink from a robot bartender or ride bumper cars at sea?
Sailing from: Bayonne, NJ (Cape Liberty)
- Multipurpose sports complex with roller skating, bumper cars and trapeze lessons
- West End musical "We Will Rock You" headlines main theatre
- Whimsical "Alice in Wonderland"-inspired restaurant specialises in molecular gastronomy
- Active families who have "been there, done that"
- Adrenaline junkies
- Multigenerational groups, thanks to two-storey suites and interconnecting cabins
6. Celebrity Silhouette
Celebrity touts itself as a "modern luxury" cruise line, and Celebrity Silhouette is a shining example. The 2,886-passenger ship is bold, chic and sophisticated -- from its decor to its features, which include some of the best dining in mainstream cruising as well as a wide variety of suites. On sunny days, head to the Lawn Club for a game of bocce or a picnic with wine and cheese. On rainy ones, opt for Cellar Masters, the ship's wine bar, to enjoy tastings curated through a partnership with The Wine Show.
Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale
- Grass-covered sun deck, great for bocce, picnics and cabana rentals
- AquaClass cabins with perks like thermal suite access and a healthier room service menu
- Cruise Critic award-winning restaurants and bars
- Sophisticated couples
- Discerning foodies and cocktail connoisseurs
- Those who want a more upscale feel without breaking the bank
7. Disney Fantasy
Disney takes the cake when it comes to family cruising. The 2,500-passenger Disney Fantasy wows little ones with character meet-and-greets, a watercoaster, action-packed kids' clubs and magical nighttime shows. But kids aren't the ship's only focus. Adults, even without kids in tow, have plenty of spaces to themselves. The District, for example, is a hub of multiple bars and lounges that enforces an "18 to enter, 21 to drink" policy after 9 p.m.
Sailing from: Orlando (Port Canaveral)
- Families whose kids want to feel like superheroes
- Multigenerational groups willing to splurge
- Couples who love Disney
8. Regal Princess
Regal Princess is prime for those who seek a more refined atmosphere but don't want to sacrifice fun. The 3,560-passenger ship is glamourous -- with its sparkling fixtures, warm tones and contemporary touches such as the SeaWalk, a glass-bottom walkway with panoramic views. Meanwhile, passengers can still enjoy fun favourites like Movies Under the Stars on the pool deck (popcorn, blankets and ocean breezes included) and a bar-lined, high-energy atrium (known as the Piazza) that hosts activities, music and dancing. There's also the occasional pool game; just don't expect any belly flop contests.
Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale
- Excellent pools, including one tucked away on the back of the ship
- Piazza atrium offers restaurants, bars and entertainment
- Adults-only pool and sun deck, with cosy loungers and cabana massages
- Couples who love to sip and socialise
- Multigenerational groups who don't need all the "mainstream gimmicks"
- Cruisers with disabilities who need large accessible cabins and wide decks
It's all about tradition on Holland America's Koningsdam. The 2,650-passenger ship, one of the more relaxed options in the Caribbean, looks and feels like the ocean liners of yesteryear -- with a modern twist. Classic touches like a vintage navy-blue hull and afternoon tea comingle with high-tech features such as a 270-degree LED screen that projects optical illusions in the main theatre. If your tastes are refined and you're content with peaceful sea days and far-from-wild nights, Koningsdam is a fitting choice.
Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale
- "Main street" with live music venues, including B.B. King's Blues Club
- Beautiful, two-tiered pool deck for daytime lounging and nighttime movies
- Wine-making venue lets you blend and bottle your own creations
- Couples who prefer a slower-paced holiday schedule
- Those looking for a bigger ship (and more options) not overrun with kids
- Foodies, thanks to quality restaurants and cooking classes
10. Queen Mary 2
Although it specialises in transatlantic crossings between Southampton and New York, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 also includes the Caribbean on its extended itineraries several times a year. Because the ship often spends a week's worth of consecutive days at sea, it offers a surprising variety of interesting and unconventional onboard amenities and activities, such as a planetarium, fencing classes and a proper English cream tea every afternoon.
Sailing from: Southampton and New York
- Classic cruise experience on the industry's only remaining ocean liner
- Phenomenal enrichment offerings that appeal to a number of tastes
- World's only at-sea kennel, featuring full service for up to 24 pets
- Sophisticated travellers seeking a traditional and elegant cruise experience
- Cruisers who enjoy learning new things
- Anyone wanting to travel from the UK to the Caribbean without flying
11. Viking Sea
For those with a little more time (and cash) to spare, Viking Sea's pampering, destination-immersive itineraries are an excellent choice. The ship's small size (930 passengers) means you can expect a more intimate onboard experience, and get into ports the bigger ships can't reach -- a nice perk for those who've "been there, done that" in the Caribbean. The best part: Select shore excursions; beer, wine and soft drinks at mealtime; speciality restaurants; gratuities; internet; and more are included in the cruise fare. Note: While Viking Sea offers the greatest variety of Caribbean cruises, you can find a few more itinerary options on its nearly identical sister ships, Viking Star, Viking Sun and Viking Sky.
Sailing from: Miami
- Nearly all-inclusive fare means passengers won't feel nickel-and-dimed
- One of our favourite thermal suites at sea is free to use by all passengers
- Thoughtful touches range from blankets in the theatre to poolside heat lamps
- Wanderlust-stricken travellers
- Foodies who crave international flavours
- Spa aficionados
One of P&O Cruises' newest ships, Britannia was christened by HM The Queen in 2015 and has a heavy culinary focus that includes a longstanding link-up with Marco Pierre White, who now oversees the Cookery Club, the ship's hands-on cooking venue; the atrium's Market Cafe with Eric Lanlard pastries; Olly Smith wine pairings in The Glass House; and a cheese partnership with former Blur bassist Alex James.
Sailing from: Southampton
- A plethora of dining and drink options backed by famous names
- Flexible Caribbean combination itineraries spanning two to three weeks
- Balcony cabins for solo cruisers
- Foodies wanting to try celebrity chef offerings at a lower price
- Retirees or travellers with a sizeable amount of holiday time
- Solo cruisers wanting balcony cabins without single supplements