Once aboard a cruise ship, the destination often becomes secondary to the ship itself. For many people, just the thrill of being on a cruise is enough. After a few cruises have been taken, those who enjoy a cruise vacation may begin to notice a difference between taking a cruise to the eastern and western Caribbean. Both directions have some pluses and a minus or two that should be considered.
There are many similarities between the eastern and western Caribbean that will seem apparent to cruisers.
All of the Caribbean is warm in the winter and hot in the summer. The tropical sun can give you a nasty sunburn regardless of the time of year when you choose to cruise. Every Caribbean port features the wonderful plant life and exotic wildlife of tropics. While it may not be identical, much of it is alike. You will not cruise to any place in the Caribbean that does not have at least some emphasis on water as a part of many of the activities that are offered.
The western Caribbean has fewer available ports of call.
In the western Caribbean, the choices for visitors tends to be Cozumel, the Mayan Riviera, Belize, Roatan Island in Honduras, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman. Occasionally, Costa Rica makes it onto a cruise itinerary. Key West, Florida, is often thrown in as a stop for both the eastern and western Caribbean cruises. When cruising in the western Caribbean, the cruise lines tend to mix and match from one to three of these ports on cruises lasting up to seven days. On some longer cruises, the Panama Canal can sometimes be included. In Central America, the ports that are south of Mexico tend to still be working to develop themselves to be tourist friendly and convenient.
One real advantage to cruising in the western Caribbean is that the exchange rate for currency can be simpler.
In Mexico, including Cozumel and the Mayan Riviera, most local businesses will make an even swap of one American dollar for ten pesos. This makes it extremely handy when trying to negotiate a price. You just divide the cost by ten, and you have the correct amount in dollars. In Belize, the exchange rate is two Belize dollars for every one American dollar. Again, it is easy to divide the price in half to know what the purchase price will be. All ports of call in the Caribbean will have a number of shops that accepts both local and United States currency. With a little discussion beforehand, you can make sure that they will give you your change in U. S. dollars and coins.
The western Caribbean has more ancient culture to study.
If you have leanings toward ancient civilizations, you can see a great deal of it in western Caribbean ports. This is especially true in Mexico and Belize. The tours to the Mayan ruins are well-developed and reasonably priced for tourist attractions. The sites tend to be user friendly and the guides informative.
The eastern Caribbean tends to be entirely island cultures.
While you can be exposed to the feel of islands in the western Caribbean, it seems more pronounced in the eastern Caribbean. Almost everything focuses on the immense amounts of water that surrounds each island. The beaches are more accentuated and the idea of being associated with water is felt even in the land based activities. You also have a better chance of getting a stop on a private island in the eastern Caribbean. This means that the only people on the island while you are visiting came from the cruise ship.
The eastern Caribbean features a few more potential United States ports.
Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands are frequent eastern Caribbean cruise stops. Since these are United States territories, you have most of the amenities of home available to you including safe drinking water in most places. If you are a U. S. citizen, you are also protected by United States law. This a something that is not usually emphasized in other Caribbean ports. In those foreign ports, you do not have U. S. legal protection.
Cruises in the eastern Caribbean can go farther south than those in the western Caribbean.
Many eastern Caribbean cruises originate in Puerto Rico and go south. This places the cruise in the northern reaches of South America. For the cruiser who has several cruises already in the book, these additional ports can hold a real attraction. By starting the cruise farther south, it opens up numerous other potential cruise destinations to the traveler.