Learn more about the places you can visit on your dream cruise vacation.
BASSETERRE, ST KITTS
Pink sands, emerald peaks, turquoise lagoons - with so much natural beauty, Christopher Columbus named the island after himself. (The British shortened the name to St. Kitts.) Brimstone Hill, with its panoramic view, is the Caribbean's most impressive fortress. Along with the quaint downtown area, picturesque fishing villages and stunning scenery, the island boasts a rich history of pirates, legends and folklore. And don't miss a quick look at the sister island of Nevis with its sugar plantations, mineral spas and black sand beaches.
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE
Welcome to the capital of Belize. Still relatively undiscovered, the nation is carpeted with forests and fringed with barrier reefs and islets. Swampy lowlands spread over the northern half, while mountains dominate the south. It was settled in the early 17th century by British adventurers, but the Mayan people flourished here long before, and relics remain at the mouth of the Belize River. Snorkling excursions are a favourite activity for cruisers of all ages.
Barbados is fronted with miles of palm-fringed beaches on the West Coast, and hills and valleys coated with acres of sugarcane to the northeast. The island was named Los Barbados, "the bearded ones," because of the numerous banyan trees whose hanging, shaggy roots resembled beards. A former British colony, Barbados mixes tropical allure with Old World charm. Bridgetown, the capital, has its own Trafalgar Square, while St. Michael's Cathedral resembles an Anglican Church. Visit Sam Lord's Castle and Harrison's Cave. Then join the locals for afternoon tea.
Only 20 years ago Cancun was nothing more than a sleepy village of about 120 fisherman. Today it's a city with a population of half a million. Modern hotels sprawl along its beaches. Pleasures proliferate from golf to scuba diving, and much of the rest of the Yucatan is easily accessible. Here you'll discover a combination of culture and sun worshipping, an abundance of shops and restaurants, sun, sand, sea, and yes, a touch of the "real" Mexico.
CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA
From the twin peaks of the Pitons that rise right out of the ocean to the sulfur springs bubbling with curative waters, this emerald isle is known as the "Crown Jewel" of the Antilles. The island has many banana plantations with more than 127 varieties of the country's main export. Cultural traditions, cuisine and language are strongly influenced by both the French and British, who for 150 years fought for control.
CHRISTIANSTAD, ST. CROIX
Though a United States Territory since 1917, the island of St. Croix still carries evidence of its Scandinavian ancestry. Charming Danish architecture along with cave-like coral grottos pepper the mountainous landscape, situated prettily between the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. For years its primary crop was sugar, but today its 80 square miles-are covered by a carpet of vegetation, nourished by a tropical climate and a prevailing trade wind.
The Mayans considered this tropical island a sacred shrine and referred to it as the "Island of Swallows." Cortez arrived in 1519, and in the 17th century, pirates used Cozumel for refuge. Black Coral, a rare and beautiful product of the reefs, can be purchased here. It was thought to be extinct until Jacques Cousteau discovered it about 30 years ago, when he proclaimed Cozumel one of the greatest diving destinations in the world.
Used by Sports Illustrated as a backdrop for their 1997 swim suit models, illustrious Eleuthra (meaning freedom in Greek) serves up the Caribbean, picture-postcard-perfect. There are white sand beaches, white picket fences, blooming hibiscus and purple bougainvillea. And if that isn't enough to brighten your day, dive into a turquoise surf where underwater gardens bloom with beds of coral in striking hues and fish in every color of the rainbow. Stress ebbs with the tides on Eleuthra. So find a beach of your own and relax.
GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN
On the surface Grand Cayman is charming, prosperous and British to the teeth. George Town is filled with shops of British porcelain and Irish crystal. Just to the north, Seven Mile Beach is actually a six-mile stretch of pure white sand, inviting surf and quiet coves. There is a thriving marine park system in all three islands, and translucent waters, bountiful marine life, and the remains of old Spanish galleons have given the Cayman Islands the status of a diver's paradise.
GREAT STIRRUP CAY, BAHAMAS (NCL'S PRIVATE ISLAND)
This tropical cove, about 2 1/2 miles long by 1 1/2 miles wide, is part of the Berry Island Chain, a tropical playground of talcum white beaches, coconut palms and sea grapes. You can swim or sun bathe. Snorkel and play volleyball. Or do a bit of shopping at the little straw market. Then jam to the steel band music as you feast on the mouth-watering barbecue. If you have ever wanted to be cast in paradise, Great Stirrup Cay will more than do.
The fourth largest city in the United States and the eighth busiest port in the world, Houston is home to the Johnson Space Center, Rice University and the Astrodome. You can head for Six Flags Astroworld or try Tex Mex food at Old Market Square. With its vibrant economy and booming port, Houston is an international mecca.
KEY WEST, FLORIDA
The southernmost town in the US has inspired some of America's foremost native sons including Emest Hemingway, John James Audubon, and Harry Truman (who spent many a working vacation watching the sunsets at Mallory Square). Take the Conch Tour Train first to get your bearings. Then perhaps visit Audubon's beautifully restored home. Charter a boat for some deep sea fishing. Eat at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Cafe. And cap it all off with a cool drink at Sloppy Joe's, Hemingway's favorite hangout.
Brash and brazen, glamorous and multi-cul tural, Miami sprawls for over 2,109 square miles from Key Biscayne to the Everglades. This international metropolis is a product of its neighborhoods. Affluent Coral Gables and artsy Coconut Grove; suburban Kendall and secluded Key Biscayne. The art deco district has replaced the Hamptons as the darling of the superstars; Gloria Estefan, Madonna, Cher - all have staked their claim on South Beach, amid the churning nightlife, golden beaches and lavish waterfront estates.
MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA
Here in the heart of Jamaica's Gold Coast, you'll find a mix of primitive island charm and contemporary resort convenience. Sand, water and marine life flourish in beautiful Montego Bay, an important port and rail terminus and a popular tourist destination since the early 1900s, with its fine beaches, golf courses and yacht basins. Traces of early Spanish occupation may be seen nearby. Shoreside excursions are fun for the whole family.
We arrive in Nassau bright and early to give you plenty of time to bargain at the Straw Market. Spend the rest of the day trying to decide whether to ride a submarine, sail a catamaran, play golf, or try your luck at a world-class casino. There are historic and scenic tours, too. Or you can just sit back on a golden beach under a cloudless sky and enjoy the blue sea and the Bahamian's famous easy does-it attitude. "No problem, mon!"
OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA
Mile-high blue mountains, ribbons of powder white beaches, sapphire seas, hot rhythms, and even hotter cuisine this is Jamaica, an island of unbounded beauty. The Arawak Indians roamed the island for four centuries before the Spanish and then the British took over in 1655. In 1962 Jamaica became an independent nation with loose ties to the British Commonwealth. Jamaica has 120 rivers to wade in, canoe up, fish in or picnic by. Or try a river trip by bamboo raft - an island staple.
Spotlessly clean and as Dutch as a wooden shoe, Aruba hosts some of the best pure white sand and snorkeling in the Caribbean. In 1499, Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda landed here and proclaimed. "I came to an island of giants." Archaeological findings confirm that the original inhabitants were much larger than the Europeans. You'll find more shoppers than sightseers in the freeport of Oranjestad. While in the interior, desert-like scenery divi-divi-trees, aloe plants, coral formations and hundreds of cacti species look like a set from a Western movie.
PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN
St. Maarten was frst inhabited by the Arawak and Carib Indians; then by the French, English, Dutch, and Spanish. Today the north side (St. Martin) is French with Marigot as its capital, and the south side (St. Maarten) is Dutch with Philipsburg as its capital. Dutch influences the architecture in Philipsburg, known for its fabulous duty-free shopping, while Marigot features haute French cuisine. And in between the two sprawls the beautiful beach at Mullet Bay where you can relax and bask in the sun.
The Caribbean is one of the world's favourite destinations, for many good reasons. Beautiful scenery and lush surroundings are just one of the attractions.
PORT LUCAYA, BAHAMAS
Shop 'til you drop in the Grand Bahamas' Port Lucaya, where the centerpoint is a festive straw market and, harborside, a 12-buildingpastel-colored complex of more than 75 stores. Stroll along its protected walkway, imbued with the delicate fragrance of bordering hibiscus and croton gardens. You'll be serenaded by the free entertainment in Count Basic Square; small musical groups, steel bands and gospel singers perform regularly from its vine-covered bandstand. Nearby is the Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO), a world-renowned scuba dive training facility.
Located some 30 miles off the Caribbean coastline of Honduras, this rustic, banana-shaped island with its florid foliage and idyllic beaches is only about 29 miles long and 2 miles wide. The Payan Indians were the original inhabitants but were wiped out by Spanish slavers in the 1500's. It passed into British hands in the 17th century and finally became a part of Honduras in 1859. An extraordinary reef, a continuation of the Belizean Reef, surrounds Roatan, and scuba divers have discovered an unspoiled underwater garden teeming with marine life.
Although Dominica is tiny, its topography is so unique that the island has its own macro-climate and a reputation as "the Nature Island of the Caribbean." With its Valley of Desolation, Boiling Lake (from 180deg. to 197deg. F), untouched rain forests and mountain peaks, Mome Trois Pitons National Park in the interior is a naturalist's paradise. The Caribe Reserve is home to the only surviving trace of this Indian culture in the Caribbean. And in the mountainous northern forests, a plethora of birdlife includes both the imperial and red necked parrots; once numbering in the millions, now only a few hundred survive.
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO
Savor a city rich in Spanish tradition, with cobblestone streets lined with fine colonial architecture and graceful, wrought-iron balconies ablaze with purple bougainvillea. Climb up to old El Morro, a 16th-century fortress with arabesque Martello towers hanging out over the harbor. Then head for glitzy new San Juan with its elegant resort hotels, sparkling beaches and grand casinos.
SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Santo Domingo is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere and, architecturally, one of the richest. Founded in 1498, the original walled portion of the city is called the Colonial Zone, and the restored commercial hub, La Atarazana, is a delightful neighborhood of craft shops and restaurants. Beach lovers will also discover endless stretches of pure white sand winding against a backdrop of emerald mountains.
ST. CROIX, US VIRGIN ISLANDS
Palm-lined beaches, turquoise seas, a quaint Danish capital - welcome to the island paradise of St. Croix, the largest of the three US Virgin Islands in the Lesser Antilles. Snorkelers will find their own paradise a few miles offshore at Buck Island's Reef while nature lovers may catch a glimpse of the giant leatherback turtles; some mature up to 800 pounds!
ST. JOHN, US VIRGIN ISLANDS
Three-fourths of St. John is occupied by the US Virgin Islands National Park, established in 1956. Most of this magnificent natural reserve is under sea level. The Danish West India Company staked its claim to these islands in 1683, until the United States purchased St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix for $25 million in 1917 - a reasonable price tag considering St. John's beaches are among the finest in the Caribbean.
ST JOHN'S, ANTIGUA
You could swim at a different beach every day of the year on the largest of the British Leeward Islands. Antigua is partly volcanic and partly limestone, and has a coastline of safe harbors and a protective wall of coral reef. In 1493 Columbus named the island, "Santa Maria la Antigua," after the "miracle-working saint" of Seville, Spain. In the late 18th century, Lord Horatio Nelson was headquartered here as he battled with the French and pirates. For historical interest, you can tour Nelson's Dockyard where the great admiral kept his fleet.
ST. THOMAS, US VIRGIN ISLANDS
St. Thomas is a classic cruise lover's port, combining a beautiful tropical island and laid-back fun with a shopping Shangri-La. Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands, was founded by the Danes. Explore their little fort built in 1697. Then take a ride topside to Drake's Seat, where Sir Frances watched for the Spanish fleet. Go down under at Coral World, an underwater observatory with just glass between you and the sharks!
TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Only 10 square miles, Tortola is the largest of the 36 islands which form part of the Lesser Antilles, a dependency of Great Britain. The picture-perfect beaches are equipped with translucent waters and hideaway coves. Visited by Columbus in 1493, the islands were first settled by the Dutch in 1648 and were acquired by England in 1666.
Some 35 miles off the northern shore of Venezuela lies the exquisite Dutch island of Curacao. Gentle trade winds and sunny skies make this atoll the perfect place for water sports, reef diving and long walks along the beach. The countryside is dotted with stark shrubbery and cacti while the streets are lined with neat rows of pastel-colored town houses. Curacao boasts a mix of 50 nationalities with a large blend of Latin, European and African roots.