Caribbean cruise ports you didn’t know existed

For those who want the quintessential Caribbean cruise vacation, with time to lie on a palm tree-lined beach, frosty rum punch in hand, blue sea lapping the shore, cruise lines offer tried-and-true itineraries – including one-week sailings to such popular destinations as St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Cozumel.

But then there are Caribbean cruises that go further afield, in some cases exploring islands you may not ever have heard of.

Here are 10 offbeat Caribbean itineraries that you can do in a week.

Seabourn: Cruise from ports including St. Maarten and Barbados on Seabourn’s 208-passenger Seabourn Spirit. Itineraries include Yachtsman’s Caribbean, concentrating on harbors you might visit on your private yacht. You call at Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), fancy St. Barts, quaint Terre-De-Haut on Iles des Saintes (Guadeloupe), St. Kitts, St. Lucia and the tiny island of Mayreau in the Grenadines.

Star Clippers: The Treasure Islands itinerary, among several the line offers on two ships in the Caribbean this winter, takes you round-trip from St. Maarten to Anguilla, the BVI (including Virgin Gorda), St. Kitts and St. Barts. Your cruise is on the four-masted, 170-passenger Star Clipper, one of the largest and tallest full-rigged sailing ships in the world. Help pull lines if you want; climb the mast (in a harness) if you dare.

Windstar Cruises: Set sail from ports including Bridgetown, Barbados on the motorized sailing yachts Wind Star or Wind Surf, December to March. The 148-passenger Wind Star’s Jewels of the Windward Islands itinerary visits Grenada, Pigeon Island (St. Lucia) and spends time exploring St. Vincent’s and The Grenadines, including Bequia and Tobago Cays. On Mayreau there’s a special beach party.

Royal Caribbean: In the big ship category, Royal Caribbean’s 2,501-passenger Jewel of the Seas does southern Caribbean exploration beyond the norm, November through March, from San Juan. On alternating weeks, the Radiance-class ship visits the “Nature Island” of Dominica, Barbados and St. Kitts, along with St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Or head to St. Thomas and the less-visited St. Croix, Antigua, St. Lucia and Grenada.

Ponant Yacht Cruises: Explore the French West Indies, the Grenadines or the British Virgin Islands on this fancy French line’s 64-passenger, three-masted sailing ship, Le Ponant. Winter itineraries sail from St. Martin or Martinique. Some itineraries include St. Barts.

Oceania Cruises: While tending towards longer itineraries, upscale Oceania Cruises focuses on Caribbean Delights for a pair of weeklong sailings in November, both from San Juan and visiting Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Barts. The cruises are on the 684-passenger Insignia.

Island Windjammers: This small sailing line is about carefree Caribbean, paying special attention to the hundreds of islands that make up The Grenadines. You can help the crew pull ropes or sit back with a rum punch onboard the 12-passenger brigantine schooner Diamant or the 24-passenger Sagitta. Itineraries are based somewhat on the captain’s whim.

Silversea Cruises: The luxury Silversea ships roam the world, stopping by the Caribbean in winter. The 296-passenger Silver Cloud visits St. Barts, Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and Tortola (BVI) on a pair of seven-day cruises from San Juan in February.

Adapted from USA Today Travel

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