Why is Caribbean cruising enduringly popular with guests?

Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line share why travellers visit the region

Why is Caribbean cruising enduringly popular with guests?
Jamaica offers a unique ship-to-shore experience with its five cruise ports and countless attractions

By Alex Smith |

Every year, cruise guests flock to the Caribbean in greater numbers than any other region in the world. According to Cruise Line International Association’s 2021 Global Passenger Report, the Caribbean accounted for 36.7 per cent of the total global passenger volume in 2021, ahead of the Central and Western Mediterranean at 14.9 per cent and Asia and China at 13.9 per cent. It’s clear that travellers continue to return to the Caribbean time and time again.

To find out why the region continues to capture the imagination of cruise travellers, we spoke with Gary Anslow, senior sales director for the UK and Ireland at Norwegian Cruise Line; Benjamin Bouldin, vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Royal Caribbean International and Ugo Savino, director of deployment and itinerary planning at Carnival Cruise Line.

Why do you think the Caribbean continues to lead the way as the most popular region for cruising?

GA: The Caribbean offers travellers an unparalleled sense of escapism and is one of those rare locations that people visit once and then begin planning their return as soon as they get home. It has an incredible climate, tropical beaches, not to mention the great food and culture – you could happily return every year and experience something new.”

BB: The Caribbean is a unique and beautiful location that truly offers something for everyone. Yet air travel between the Caribbean islands can be limited and costly. Therefore, travellers who want to experience a range of sought-after locations can look to the sea to do so. A cruise gives holidaymakers the chance to visit a wide selection of picturesque destinations conveniently, without having to manage multiple flights.

US: There are several reasons why Carnival guests love cruising the Caribbean. Of course, one of the most desired ways to spend a vacation is on the beach in the sun, so these tropical destinations are perfect for slipping into the relaxation mindset. But more than that, these islands are also rich in culture and history.

Given that there are so many cruise ships visiting the Caribbean, how do you find ways to differentiate your itineraries from others?

GA: Norwegian Cruise Line has a 55-year history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising and a heritage founded on pioneering industry firsts. We were, for instance, the first cruise line to offer roundtrip voyages to the Caribbean in 1966 and have since set industry-leading standards for the ultimate holiday experience. We have continued to innovate through our ‘Extraordinary Journeys’ and increased Caribbean itineraries, which are specifically designed to fly in the face of the traditional cruise experience and suit all tastes and budgets.

BB: Royal Caribbean works closely with the local destinations to create unique holiday experiences for our guests. By partnering with the communities, we’re able to offer guests one-of-a-kind experiences that enable them to immerse themselves in the local culture. We really do see the Caribbean as part of our Royal Caribbean family; it’s thanks to our great relationships with local people that we are able to deliver such incredible holidays in the region.

US: At Carnival, we’re constantly monitoring the performance of our programmes. This gives us plenty of input in changing our portfolio to keep up with guests’ wants. We make sure that our itineraries remain fresh by rotating and adding new destinations to existing itineraries.

How do you continue to make the region appealing to guests who may have visited before?

GA: One of the best things about cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line is the incredible range of varied activities onboard. There is something for every type of guest and holiday, from water sports and race tracks to massages and spa visits. Our ships feature complimentary youth programmes for all ages and kid-friendly activities, including Splash Academy and Entourage.

BB: The Caribbean lends itself well to social media marketing as the images evoke a feeling of escapism, which is especially key during the winter months for UK guests. Our private island destination, Perfect Day from CocoCay, is another great marketing tool for us, as it is exclusive to our ships and a strong draw to both adrenaline and relaxation seekers alike. We have a wide range of ships sailing in the Caribbean all year round so you can keep your holiday fresh by testing out each class – or you can stick to your favourite!

US: We’re constantly having discussions with destinations to see how we can create new experiences for our guests and we’re always adding new shore excursion experiences and attractions to our ports of call to give returning guests new reasons to come back.

What are some of your most popular destinations in the Caribbean, and what do you think makes them so appealing to guests?

GA: Our private destinations are amongst our highest-rated destinations in the Caribbean, including our private island, Great Stirrup Cay. As part of The Norwegian Edge programme Great Stirrup Cay undertook a number of enhancements, elevating the offerings available across the 270-acre tropical oasis. Our newly launched ship, Norwegian Prima, will provide the most extensive port experiences in the region with every itinerary visiting four ports. It will call in to Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Harvest Caye, the Caribbean’s premier island destination in Belize and exclusive to guests of Norwegian Cruise Line; and Roatan Island, Honduras, with all visits featuring between eight and nine in-port hours.

US: Our private islands receive some of the highest ratings from our guests. We’re always finding new entertainment options and new shore excursions to deliver the best experiences to our guests.

BB: At the moment, our most popular Caribbean sailings are seven-night West and Eastern Caribbean itineraries departing from Miami, Florida, onboard our Oasis-class ships. Perfect Day at CocoCay continues to be a hit with all guests and remains a popular draw for Caribbean sailings. Our Barbados itineraries are also proving popular with guests thanks to the beautiful ports of call including Kingstown, St Vincent, Castries in St Lucia and Scarborough in Tobago.


Essential destinations

CFIP highlights two of the premier destinations that guests can enjoy in the Caribbean


With five cruise ports and countless attractions, Jamaica offers a destination for families, friends, nature lovers, and thrill-seekers. Jamaica is one of the most attractive Caribbean destinations, with a unique ship-to-shore experience and easy access to a diverse range of attractions and tours. Every trip to Jamaica offers chances to taste unique cuisine, enjoy music and dance, experience local culture, and collect expertly crafted keepsakes. Jamaica offers fresh air, endemic species of flora and fauna and signature hospitality.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts offers an authentic Caribbean experience, inviting cruise travellers to discover the island of 1,000 treasures, from breathtaking landscapes and shimmering waters to the vibrant capital city of Basseterre. Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in an array of adventures from diving to rainforest hiking. Visitors can explore a breadth of duty-free shopping at Porte Zante or take part in an island excursion, like the Scenic Railway Tour or Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park.

This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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