The Caribbean Sea includes thousands of islands running the gamut from overcrowded ports of call stuffed with shopping opps and loud bars catering to the throngs pouring off the big ships to much quieter, far more appealing isles where you can absorb some local culture and good food along with the sea and sun. Small ships tend to stick to the islands in the eastern and southern parts of the Caribbean — the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles — where the islands are small and clustered together. Here they can dock or drop anchor almost anywhere to give you access to the islands’ charms. Many sprout mini-marinas at the stern for easy access to swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and other watersports. Life doesn’t get much better. Cuba is the new major attraction, and small ships can dock in so many more ports.
For most Americans, the island is a brand-new cruise destination, and especially for the small ships that can more easily dock at ports and wildlife centers than the big ships, which cannot because lack of infrastructure. Small ship cruises may leave from Florida or embark in Cuba, and some make circumnavigations, while Havana is always included.
Gulf of Mexico
This circular body of water is fringed by the US southern states, with New Orleans the most popular destination; the less frequented Mexican east coast; the highly popular Yucatan Peninsula for beaches and Mayan ruins; and the western end of Cuba where Havana is located.
The Caribbean Sea is a vast body of water stretching between the Yucatan Peninsula, Florida and Venezuela. Of the thousands of islands, 28 are independent countries, with small ships mostly sticking to the islands in the eastern and southern parts of the Caribbean — the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles — where the islands are small and clustered together.