Best Caribbean Cruises for 2018-2019 | Islands
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Best Caribbean Cruises for 2018-2019

From big cruise lines to smaller luxury ships, these are the Caribbean cruises to book this year.

What makes for the best Caribbean cruise? It depends on the traveler. For the well-traveled lot, perhaps it’s the lure of enchanted destinations — the chance to sail past a dormant volcano or to explore a rarely visited beach. Others yearn for the glitz of the mega-yachts, where robotic bartenders sling drinks, guests can glide across an onboard ice-skating rink and acrobats stage daredevil shows that dazzle the whole family.

For the 2018-2019 Caribbean cruise season, we've picked our favorite adventures — ships and itineraries that deliver the best of the Caribbean in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas

The pool deck of Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world

SBW Photo

Sailing from: Miami
Cruise line: Royal Caribbean
Destinations: Miami; Basseterre, St. Kitts; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; CocoCay, Bahamas

This is Royal Caribbean's newest mega-ship (the largest cruise ship in the world — for now), and after a shakedown mission in the Mediterranean this spring, she'll be sailing from Miami on eastern and western itineraries in fall 2018. (We prefer this eastern trek, which includes a fairly rare stop at St. Kitts.) To be honest, the ship is the main attraction here. Kid zones and pool areas are amped up to include laser tag and high-speed water slides. In addition to acrobatic shows at the AquaTheater, and Broadway hit Hairspray, the Royal Caribbean original show Flight, a family-friendly satire on the history of air travel, will debut in May 2018. And the food scene has been bumped up to include a choice of more than 20 specialty and complimentary restaurants (including a raw bar where oysters are shucked to order).

Regal Princess

Regal Princess

The Chef's Table Lumiere on the Royal Princess

Courtesy Princess Cruises

Sailing from: New York
Cruise line: Princess
Itinerary: New York, New York; St. Maarten; Antigua; Aruba; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

We're fans of the “repositioning” cruise, when a ship takes a more unusual itinerary while moving from one homeport to the next. This 10-day adventure (available only on Nov. 1, 2018) includes stops in two lesser-visited ports — Antigua and Aruba — before it eventually ties up in Fort Lauderdale for the winter season. If vacation days aren't a limitation, look over Regal Princess’ other repositioning options, including journeys to Denmark and Germany. While onboard, foodies can enjoy a twice-weekly "crab shack" (complete with steamer pots, bibs and brown sheet paper on the tables) or splurge at the Chef's Table Lumiere, which includes a galley tour with champagne along with a special menu and wine pairing.

Viking Sea

Viking Sea

Sail to the southern Caribbean aboard the Viking Sea

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Sailing from: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cruise line: Viking Ocean Cruises
Itinerary: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Cartagena, Colombia; Santa Marta, Colombia; Orangestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curaçao

The Viking brand usually conjures up visions of sleek, intimate vessels journeying up and down the rivers of Europe. In 2015, Viking expanded to the ocean market with a handful of traditional styled cruise liners that are a fraction of the size of mega-liners, yet still feature many of Viking's signature touches (free Wi-Fi, complimentary wine and beer at meals, and so on). This 11-day journey on the Viking Sea — starting at San Juan and ultimately touching destinations in South America — immediately caught our eye. Signature stops in ports such as Aruba and Curaçao are among the highlights.

Silver Wind

Silver Wind

The pool deck on the Silver Wind

Antonio Vanni

Sailing from: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cruise line: Silversea
Itinerary: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Spanish Town, British Virgin Islands; Basseterre, St. Kitts; St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Gustavia, St. Barth; Road Town, Tortola

With just shy of 300 passengers on a Silver Wind cruise, it's not hard to imagine knowing most of their faces by the end of the first two days. As with other boutique lines — is that a label yet? — onboard activities are minimal. Instead of gala shows, guests enjoy a cocktail (part of the all-inclusive Silversea package) and light lounge entertainment. Save your energy instead for a slew of impressive destinations, many of which are neglected by the larger lines.

Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity Reflection

The formal dining room aboard Celebrity Reflection

SBW Photo

Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Cruise line: Celebrity
Itinerary: Key West, Florida; Costa Maya, Mexico; Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman

Western Caribbean cruises can seem all too similar these days, what with the requisite stops in Mexico, Cayman Islands and Jamaica. Celebrity Reflection, however, subs out Jamaica for a stop in Key West, always a welcoming destination — and a good chance to show the island some love after the wrath of Hurricane Irma in 2017. Celebrity caters to cruising fans that appreciate a fine bottle of wine and an exquisite dining experience more than the adrenaline-fueled amenities of its competition. Reflection also offers an exclusive spa, a lounge and dining features to its suite passengers. On deck, the cruise line's Lawn Club (with a half-acre of real grass) beckons those who savor a relaxing day in the sun.

Wind Surf

Wind Surf

Wind Surf is one of Windstar’s sail-powered vessels

Courtesy Windstar

Sailing from: Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Cruise line: Windstar
Itinerary: Falmouth Harbour, Antiqua; Soper's Hole, Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands; Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands; Gustavia, St. Barth

Admit it: You've always been a little curious when your cruise ship passes one of the sail-powered vessels from Windstar. Granted, the onboard experience is toned down — forget about balconies and Broadway-style shows. Windstar guests instead rave about the access to private beaches and quaint barbecues on deck. Wind Surf, the line's flagship yacht, delivers both in the Caribbean with stops to remote destinations such as Prickly Pear Beach and Soper's Hole in the BVI.

ms Koningsdam

ms Koningsdam

The Hydro Pool at Greenhouse Spa & Salon aboard ms Koningsdam

Courtesy Holland America

Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Cruise line: Holland America
Itinerary: Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; Fort-De-France, Martinique; Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Launched in 2016, ms Koningsdam is the largest and most luxurious of Holland America's fleet, yet with "just" 2,650 guests, it maintains an intimacy that eschews the label of mega-liner. This 11-night Southern Caribbean voyage allows guests to explore all the ship’s venues, including the popular B.B. King's Blues Club. While island hopping, the Koningsdam's voyage includes passage through scenic Soufriere Bay in St. Lucia, and a daytime passage by Mount Pelee, a non-active volcano on the northern tip of Martinique.

Seabourn Odyssey

Seabourn Odyssey

The all-suite Seabourn Odyssey

Courtesy Seabourn Cruise Line

Sailing from: Bridgetown, Barbados
Cruise line: Seabourn Cruise Line
Itinerary: Bridgetown, Barbados; Trois Ilets, Martinique; Carambola Beach, St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Johns, Antigua and Barbuda; Terre-de-Haut, Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe; Castries, Saint Lucia; Port Elizabeth, Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Saline Bay, Mayreau, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Basse-Terre, Guadaloupe; Charlestown, Nevis; Fort-De-France, Martinique; Saint Georges, Grenada; Charlotteville, Trinidad and Tobago

If mega-liners aren't your idea of a proper vacation, Seabourn is the cruise line to consider. Seabourn Odyssey carries a mere 450 passengers with a nearly 1-to-1 crew to passenger ratio. And the ship's cabins are all suites — perfect for this expansive 14-day itinerary. Destinations here include little-visited ports that can't accommodate the larger ships, providing a more intimate experience for explorers.

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