As the cruise industry moves to a worldwide existence, cruise guests are offered more selections than ever before.
With that, the thought of taking "just a Caribbean cruise" might seem rather docile by today's industry standards. But actually, there has never been a better time for your group or you to reconsider taking the Caribbean cruise for a number of reasons.
There is a renewed interest in cruising because there are more itinerary variations and departure ports than ever before, with some of the biggest and most technically advanced and designed ships sailing to the Caribbean.
Finally, a Caribbean cruise still offers one of the best cruise values around.
In the 1980s, when modern day cruising really began to take hold, Caribbean itineraries really only offered three choices: eastern, western and southern.
The refocus on homeland cruising has made Caribbean cruise itineraries even more accessible and has added to the variety of choices available.
To sail to the Caribbean, your group can depart from Tampa, Port Canaveral, Galveston, Fort Lauderdale, Mobile, Ala., Norfolk, Va., Baltimore, Md., Jacksonville, Charleston, S.C., New England or even New York, in addition to the traditional Port of Miami departures.
Cruising has really become an easy vacation considering how accessible the ports are.
The best thing about cruise lines is their ability to help create new destinations.
When NCL started the "Out Island" concept in 1977 with Great Stirrup Cay, other cruise lines followed. Royal Caribbean eventually created an out island experience beyond the traditional Bahamas Island with Labadee, located on the north shores of Haiti, Hispaniola.
Earlier this year, when Holland America Line's newest ship, Noordam, sailed into the Caribbean's newest port facility, the Grand Turk Cruise Center in British West Indies, she made history. It was the official opening of this new state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar facility, which serves as a gateway to one of the loveliest islands in the Caribbean.
This new port facility accommodates two large super vessels, and also features a 13-acre complex, complete with an 800-foot white sand beach, array of shops, cabanas and a swimming pool. It's also home to the Caribbean's largest "Margaritaville" themed bar and restaurant, owned by musician Jimmy Buffet.
The new Grand Turk Cruise Center was developed and is operated by Carnival Corporation.
In addition to cruise lines creating new ports, they keep adding new destinations to their itineraries.
Princess Cruises, for instance, offers a Western Caribbean itinerary aboard Grand Princess that includes Belize, Roatan and Honduras as ports of call.
Other ports that are beginning to be featured on more cruise lines' itineraries include: Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, Bonaire, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Costa Maya and an "up-and-coming" port near the ancient Mayan cultural centers, and La Romana in the Dominican Republic.
There really is not a "traditional" Caribbean cruise itinerary anymore.
The Caribbean has customarily offered the newest fleet additions, and it's getting even better.
The bar has been raised again with Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. This new 3,600-passenger ship, now the world's largest, was designed to offer high-quality, choice filled and active cruise choices for guests, with even more exclusive features.
Activities include the new outdoor H20 zone water park for kids, but adults are by no means ignored.
The Solarium offers an adult-only environment and, like the Voyager class design, there are two pools side-by-side, with one designated for water sports.
In addition to the mainstay features of a rock-climbing wall and ice-skating rink, Freedom of the Seas also has a boxing ring and the first ever to have surfing onboard, with the much- anticipated "FlowRider."
For groups that might not want a ship as large as Freedom of the Seas, other cruise lines are still adding tonnage to their fleets.
Holland America Line's newest ship, Noordam, takes on a different cruise viewpoint.
The Noordam, which is the first Holland America Line ship to be launched with the full complement of signature of excellence enhancements, exemplifies the classic style of the golden age of ocean travel with contemporary amenities and modern enhancements.
Caribbean cruises still tend to offer the most affordable rates. The industry now has more and larger ships than ever before, and that makes it possible to have 21st century cruises at 1980s prices.
Booking early is still the best option for securing space and the best rates.
Even with the increasing number of ships sailing throughout the Caribbean starting later in fall when ships move back from the other parts of the world, demand is high.
Taking a cruise vacation, especially to the Caribbean, is one of the best vacation and group vacation values available.
Contact Karrie Torok at Gadabout Travel at (321) 253-3674.