Which summer Caribbean cruise should you book?
It’s been more than a year, but Caribbean cruises are a back! They’re looking a little different in summer 2021, with departures from island homeports rather than U.S. ones., but you can still get all the sun and sand you’ve been missing.
Six ships across three cruise lines are sailing summer Caribbean cruises (including one to Bermuda, which we realize is in the Atlantic) in 2021. Which ship and itinerary fit your vacation personality and needs?
Here are our recommendations for which summer Caribbean cruise you should book this year.
Adventure of the Seas
Best for: Families
The 3,114-passenger Adventure of the Seas is tricked out with many of Royal Caribbean’s signature attractions. Up top, you’ll find water slides and a splash park, a surf simulator, and rock climbing wall. Down below is an ice skating rink and a promenade full of restaurants, shops, and bars. Adventure’s expansive kids club area includes a play space, teen disco, video arcade, mini-golf, and a conveniently located Johnny Rockets.
The ship’s summer 2021 Caribbean itinerary is family-friendly, as well. It sails seven-night cruises roundtrip from Nassau, a short flight from Florida and home to gorgeous beaches and plenty of things to do. The cruise highlight is two full days at Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island playground with a massive water park, beaches, a pool, water sports, overwater cabanas, and a balloon ride. The ship also stops in Cozumel, Mexico, and Freeport, Bahamas, for more beach time, water-based activities, and adventuring.
This weeklong cruise is an ideal Caribbean getaway for anyone, but families will especially appreciate the varied options for kids of all ages. Plus, with cabins ranging from insides to family cabins and suites, families will have plenty of accommodation choice to fit their budget and space requirements.
Best for: Sophisticated adults
Celebrity is a cruise line for folks with urban tastes. To that end, Millennium’s ice cream shoppe is actually a gelateria, and its cafe is Italian not Starbucks. Passengers whet their whistle at the martini and wine bars before dining on sushi, Tuscan fare, or inventive meals at a high-tech experiential dining venue. The ship’s spa – with its own cafe, solarium, and thermal suite – is always popular.
The cruise line’s summer 2021 Caribbean itineraries are equally chic. Celebrity Millennium sails from St. Maarten on alternating routes to the more exclusive Southern Caribbean. Each weeklong cruise mixes three sea days with three port calls, but one sails southwest to Curacao and Aruba before veering east to Barbados and back, while the other cruises to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) then south to the Lesser Antilles islands of St. Lucia and Barbados.
Not only are these islands far from the bustling crowds of Mexico and the Bahamas, but on Millennium, you can upgrade to VIP status by booking into The Retreat. These suites give you access to a private sun deck, lounge, and restaurant only for Retreat guests. Whether the pandemic has you shying away from large groups or you like a more exclusive ambiance, Celebrity’s summer cruises can offer you some space for a relaxing vacation.
Best for: Active travelers
You don’t want to sit on your butt all cruise long; you want nonstop action. Then seek out Norwegian’s summer 2021 cruises on Norwegian Joy, which combine a bustling ship with a packed itinerary, leaving no time for boredom.
The seven-night itinerary hits four Western Caribbean ports, plus the homeport of Montego Bay, Jamaica, with only two sea days for taking advantage of all the ship has to offer. Kayak, paddleboard, and zipline on Harvest Caye, Norwegian’s private island off the coast of Belize. Roatan in Honduras is renowned for its diving and snorkeling; Ocho Rios, Jamaica, has Dunn’s River Falls (a waterfall you can scramble up); and Cozumel, Mexico, offers everything from tours of Mayan ruins to parasailing and ATV rides.
Onboard, the choice isn’t what to do, but which activity should you do first. Waterslides, laser tag, go-karts, and Broadway musicals will keep you busy day and night. With so many restaurants onboard, you won’t be able to experience dinner in each one on a weeklong cruise. You might even want to come back from port early one day to explore more onboard the ship.
Vision of the Seas
Best for: Relaxing sea days
Vision of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s older ships. Carrying 2,050 passengers, it’s smaller than the newer Royal Caribbean ships you see on TV with their surf simulators and multi-deck slides. It’s the perfect home base for action-packed itineraries – but Royal Caribbean has assigned it a more leisurely itinerary for summer 2021.
The ship will sail roundtrip from Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda, spending a day in Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas, and a full day and night back at the Dockyard at the end of the trip. In between, you’ll be sailing the Atlantic, stopping in Freeport, Bahamas, briefly with no debarkation allowed. That’s four sea days and two port calls during your weeklong cruise.
If all you want from a vacation this summer is long hours on a deck chair by the pool, perhaps some time in a gym or spa, and a leisurely dinner and a show or drinks in the evening, this cruise will check all the boxes. Action-seekers may prefer to look elsewhere.
Best for: Something for everyone
Norwegian Gem sets sail from the Dominican Republic in summer 2021 with weeklong itineraries to four ports of call, with just two sea days. The 2,394-passenger ship doesn’t have the same number of activities as sister ship Norwegian Joy, but the ship and the ports it visits all offer something for everything. That means it’s a good fit for groups or families with a variety of ages and interests.
Gem calls first in Barbados, known for its British history, Mount Gay rum (visit the distillery), and shopping. Rugged St. Lucia is the place to tour volcanoes or sail along the island’s lush-yet-craggy coastline. Hit the water in St. Maarten, whether that be in a sailboat, kayak, or sea helmet, and get a mix of history, local food, and water play in Antigua. Each island gives passengers the option to be as active or as lazy as they’d like.
The same holds true onboard. Book an affordable inside cabin, or splash out on The Haven, the ship’s suite area with exclusive lounge, sun deck, and restaurant access. Get wild on the waterslide or find Zen in the spa. Take the kids to dine on comfort food at O’Sheehan’s, then have date night at the French Le Bistro. Entertainment runs the gamut from song-and-dance shows to casino play and bar hopping. You might have to split up, but everyone will find an activity to suit their vacation preferences.