Caribbean and Panama Canal

gustavia-st-bartsThe Caribbean is the stalwart of cruise destinations, enduringly popular year upon year. Tropical heat, dry days and sunny skies entice crowds of tourists, especially in winter months when the weather is practically guaranteed. The topography of the Caribbean is tailor-made for cruising, with islands so perfectly spaced to allow ships an idyllic new port every morning. The region is wonderfully diverse, even the shortest of itineraries; imagine lush rainforests, mountains, coral beaches, volcanos, Mayan ruins, designer shops, uninhabited islands, Mediterranean culture and Colonial heritage.

rf-thinkstock_turtle-154270811-702x405Voyages tend to last from a week to a fortnight, taking in the busy and well-developed Eastern Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Bahamas and The British Virgin Islands), the quieter South (Martinique, Aruba and St. Barth’s) or the varied Western Carribean (Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Mexico). Luxury lines tend to have smaller ships which slip into secluded spots to uncover hidden coves,  deserted crystal- white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and authentic local culture.

crystal_symphony_panamaIt’s possible to combine a Caribbean cruise with a transit of The Panama Canal and stops in Central America. These exciting and emerging destinations are distinctly different from the established resorts of the Caribbean and are popular stand-alone cruise destinations in their own right. The Panama Canal is a classic route, an engineering masterpiece connecting the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Built in 1914, this 48 mile trip ended the torturous route through jungle rivers or past the notorious Cape of Good Hope. This is a lifetime experience, one of the Modern Wonders of the World.

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Onboard lectures educate and entertain in preparation for the fascinating ports still to come; Costa Rica’s Puntarenas, Cartagena in Columbia and Guatemala’s Puerto Quetzal are highlights, rich with nature and fascinating excursions. Ocean cruise lines such as Silversea, Azamara, Seabourn, Crystal and Regent Seven Seas all offer voyages to these places, as does Lindblad which sails expedition cruises including trekking in the rainforest and snorkelling the reefs of the Eastern Pacific.

Photos courtesy of Silversea, Lindblad, Regent Seven Seas

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