Caribbean Cruise Watch Outs. 7 Things The Brochures Don’t Warn You About

Caribbean Cruise Watch Outs. 7 Things The Brochures Don’t Warn You About

You’re about to
discover the seven things brochures don’t always warn you about when you’re cruising the Caribbean. Hi, I’m Gary Bembridge, this is another of my Tips For Travellers. I’m just back from a Caribbean cruise and wanted to share with
you seven watch-outs, things I think you need to know, if you’re planning to go on
a cruise in the Caribbean, starting with this one. First of all, especially if
you’re cruising out of Florida, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, you will find crazy,
busy disembarkation ports so plan for that. If you’re sailing out of Miami especially, which is the biggest passenger
cruise port in the world, you could have 15,000 to 20,000
people getting off the ship and the same amount getting on the ship. When I was there on the
Friday there was eight ships, the Saturday there was nine ships, the Sunday there was seven ships, the Monday there was six ships. So huge amounts of turnover,
really, really busy, so try and plan to be
ready for big crowds. So especially if you’re
getting your transfers to or from the port you might want to try and get there really early
or get a little bit later once the crowds have died down. And also the same when
you’re disembarking the ship, really plan so that you’re not caught up in the big, huge amounts of crowds. So what I like to do, for
example, is either get off really, really early
or later on in the day when it’s just a little bit less manic. The second big watch-out
is that these cruises pretty much all go to the same place. The Caribbean cruises tend
to be seven days long, you’ll find that some
are a little bit shorter, and they pretty much go
to the same itineraries because the islands are geared up to cater for cruise ships, the facilities, so it’s a fairly limited
amount of itineraries. There’s three big core Caribbean cruises that you’re gonna be looking at, there’s the Eastern Caribbean,
the Western Caribbean, and the more southernly Caribbean. So if you’re heading off
to the Eastern Caribbean, you can expect to go to
a place like Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Haiti, Dominican Republic, the British Virgin Islands,
the U.S. Virgin Islands, possibly Puerto Rico, Saint Barth, and if you go to the Western Caribbean you could be looking
at places like Jamaica, Cayman Islands again, but it tends to go to lots of Mexico places like Cozumel, Costa Maya, might go to Belize, might go to the Honduran island of Roatan. If you’re going to the Southern Caribbean you’re looking at places
like Saint Kitts, Antigua, possibly Dominica, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Vincent,
those kinds of places. So they all do have pretty
much the same itineraries, so when you start to look at a cruise the itineraries are going
to be pretty much the same and they kind of blend a
little bit into each other. The ports all start to blend
a little bit into each other as they build more and more infrastructure to cater for the cruise industry. When you step off a port some of the distinctiveness
is kind of gone. Saying that, the Caribbean
still, of course, is a fabulous place to go. Great beaches, great weather
depending on the time of the year you go, and it’s
a fabulous place to cruise but that does all blend into one. The third big watch-out is
as you look at your itinerary look very carefully because increasingly cruise lines are owning islands and manufacturing islands as destinations. So you’re not actually going
to an original, unique, and specific Caribbean island
which has a lot of history, you’re going to an island
which has been created by the cruise line where
they’ve got great facilities. You might have things like water sports, you might have zip-lines,
you might have water parks, all sorts of activities. However they’re not
original Caribbean islands, these are created and
owned by the cruise lines. There’s a lot of them. So for example, on my last
cruise, which was on Oceania, which is part of the
Norwegian Cruise Line group, we went to Harvest Caye
which was a beautiful place, but again it’s a little bit
Disney-fied if you’d like because it is manufactured. But some of the other islands
that you could come across is you’ve got Castaway Cay which is the Disney Line owned one, you got Half Moon Cay
which is Holland America’s, you’ve got CocoCay which
is Royal Caribbean, Great Stirrup Cay, and as
I mentioned Harvest Caye which is part of the
Norwegian Cruise Line. You’ve got Labadee which
is also a Royal Caribbean. Princess Cay, Princess Cruises’, and MSC Cruises’, which
opened in 2019, Ocean Cay. So bear in mind, as you
look at the itinerary, you may be going to a manufactured
cruise line owned island. Now you can pretty much
cruise to the Caribbean all year-round but there are certain times that you should consider going based on what your key needs are. So the best weather is
really that December through to sort of March, April time, but there’s some big watch-outs. If you want to go at that time of the year go early in December if you possibly can because once you get to
mid-December and the holiday season it is crazy busy and the
prices do accelerate a lot. January, February for me
personally is a great time to go, the schools are back, it’s
less busy, the fares are lower. You can find slightly more
unpredictable weather, it can be a little bit more cloudy and you might have slightly more, you know, not rough seas as such, but you might get a little bit more motion because the nature of the winds. Once you get to March/
April time and into May be really cautious again
because you’ll find you have Spring Break where
again, it’s crazy busy. I have been around the ports just watching and it can be really busy
and quite boisterous. And of course you then get
into the whole Easter holiday period, so really be
extremely cautious about that. Personally the time of year
that I go to the Caribbean and I really like going to the Caribbean is early December or I
like to go in February, those are the times I’ve found
I’ve had the nicest weather. Although going towards
the end of November, although it’s a little bit unpredictable, but I’ve have had some
great trips at that time. So what are the other big watch-outs in terms of weather and
times to go and look out for? Once you get into that May
period, May through to November, you are more in the rainy season, but very critically important you are heading into the hurricane season, which of course brings
with it much more risk. The hurricane season officially runs from June to the end of November although in reality most
of the hurricane activity that’s going to happen is really
between August and October, so be extremely cautious if you go there because you could have
disruptions due to hurricanes and of course you may have
really unpredictable weather. July, August is actually a
period of time, despite all that, when a lot of people
do go because of course it’s the key summer holidays
and it’s going to be very busy. So again, my little tip
if you possibly can, take a look at early
December and take a look at sort of the February, early March time. That’s when you’re going to
actually get lots of choice and the prices do tend
to be a little bit lower and generally you’re going to
have great, great weather. The fifth big watch-out
I’ve got is around crime. Over the last couple of
years there’s seems to be more and more reports about issues and crime and risks in the Caribbean. Now of course there are many more people going to Caribbean as well,
but I think one of the dangers that people have is they
head off on vacation and it’s very easy to get into a sense of I’m on vacation and
let your guard down. Now very importantly there
have been various hiccups and various issues on some of the islands in recent times as I record this, and in fact some stops have
actually been changed because there’s been some disturbances
with elections and politics. But generally speaking the
islands are safe but be cautious. So one of the things that
I always recommend you do is all of the big
governments around the world have websites where they have
the latest travel advisory. So the U.K. has one, the U.S. has one, Canada has one, Australia. So actually, when you’re
looking at booking take a look at what the actual
advice is for those ports. But again, very importantly,
when you head off into ports, make sure that you’re not showing off that you have expensive
watches, jewellery, cameras. Be a little bit cautious, stick to areas that are
really populated and busy. And a good idea, if you
are a little bit nervous, is make sure you go on organised tours. So either with the cruise line or with reputable independent providers. Now some of the islands
that have had bad publicity over the last few years,
if you are interested, include the Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Honduras, Barbados. And you have found, even
though it has a reputation of being very up-market and civilised, Barbados and Saint Lucia
have had reports of issues. These are places where
lots of people are going, there’s, again, lots of
people that don’t have a huge amount of money seeing
lots of wealthy people coming, and of course you’re always going to have bad eggs along the way. So do bear in mind, think cautiously when you head off on the
islands and plan accordingly. My next big watch-out is around
the whole area of shopping. Now I mentioned a little bit earlier that when you head into the Caribbean ports are becoming more and more similar, more and more homogeneous,
and what you’re finding in those ports is the same chain lines, Diamonds International,
Tanzanite International, all sorts of well-known
chains of food and drink and it is really just becoming the same. So when you get off
the port you have these big shopping areas and shopping has become a big part of the Caribbean experience. Now one of the arguments I’ve heard when I’ve listened to
shopping advisors talk onboard is the number one
activity in the Caribbean is actually shopping because
everybody buys something. But bear in mind it’s become
a very slick operation, so this is why I’m
having it as a watch-out. I do have a whole video about
shopping in the Caribbean if you want to find out much more detail but the critical thing to know is if you’re on a Caribbean cruise you’re probably going to find there’s shopping advisors on board. Now these people are incentivized to drive you towards certain stores and give you various
inducements and incentives. The idea is to get you into
the store to buy those things whether it’s jewellery, watches,
clothing, whatever it is. And of course the people in the stores have become masters, because
they’re seeing thousands of people everyday, at selling you things. So before you go to the
Caribbean think very carefully, is there things you want to buy? Because obviously it’s duty-free, tax-free, so there are some great prices on things. But make sure you
understand what the price of those things are at
home, particularly online, because often you can
get them cheaper online. And make sure that you’re
really, really clear so you don’t head off on an excursion, head off on a shopping trip, head off into one of these malls and find you’re spending
a lot of money on things that you either don’t really need or you can get cheaper actually back home. But shopping is a big, big focus so be prepared and be ready for shopping as one of things that’s
really thrust upon you. Another big watch-out is one
where there’s much more debate and I thought it was
worth building into this when we talk about watch-outs. There are two camps of thought about what cruising brings to the Caribbean. There’s one which is a more negative view and there’s a book which I
read many, many years ago which is a good way of expressing the negative part of the
argument for the Caribbean, and it’s by a guy called Ross Klein and the book that he wrote is
called “Cruise Ship Blues.” And he has advocated for a very long time that the cruise ships are not
that great for the Caribbean because the ships arrive,
they don’t bring onboard food because that’s all loaded
in Miami or Fort Lauderdale or wherever, they often have relationships or even own some of the excursions, and actually people don’t
spend a lot of money on the island in the hands of locals because they’re shopping in
the shopping malls and so on. So one of things you might want to do if you are worried about that is look at booking more
independent excursions, perhaps with more local providers. Try and shop in some of the markets which are run by local people, try and eat in some of the
more local restaurants. The other side of the argument of course is the cruise line argument,
particularly through CLIA, which is the cruise line association where they do talk about
the amount of investment that is brought into the islands where many of these
developments are created. They’re bringing lots
of people to the island and they are putting money
into the local economy, whether it’s the taxi drivers, the guides taking them to the beaches, the sights, whatever it is. But bear in mind, as you
head into these islands, the people on the island
are not wealthy so are there ways that
you can actually get some of your cruise dollars
into the hands of the locals? The Caribbean is a
magnificent place to visit, I love going on a Caribbean cruise, but those are some of
the watch-outs and things that I didn’t really know before I went cruising to the Caribbean and
I hoped they’ve helped you. I have many more videos, tips, and advice on cruising, the Caribbean,
and so much more, so why don’t you watch another
one of those right now?

2 thoughts on “Caribbean Cruise Watch Outs. 7 Things The Brochures Don’t Warn You About

  1. I lived in Puerto Rico for a few years and was able to do all Caribbean routes from there.
    Back then San Juan used to get new ships as homeport ……but this is no longer the case.
    Right now San Juan is home for just 2 older ships.

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