You may also like
Trunk Bay, St John Island, US Virgin Islands (Photo: Sorin Colac/Shutterstock)
Trunk Bay, St John Island, US Virgin Islands (Photo: Sorin Colac/Shutterstock) (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Eastern Caribbean vs. Western Caribbean Cruises: Which Is Best?

Trunk Bay, St John Island, US Virgin Islands (Photo: Sorin Colac/Shutterstock)
Trunk Bay, St John Island, US Virgin Islands (Photo: Sorin Colac/Shutterstock) (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
Assistant SEO Editor
Marilyn Borth

Last updated
Nov 17, 2023

Read time
5 min read

Eastern vs. Western Caribbean: Which of these desirable destinations is best for your next cruise? Cruise lines differentiate itineraries in the Caribbean by referring to them as Southern, Western and Eastern Caribbean, but the latter two tend to be highly popular yet nebulous options.

Each location offers its own enticing destinations, so it can be difficult to know which is best for you. Whether you're perusing a Western Caribbean cruise with stops in Belize, Jamaica and Honduras or you're eyeing up the Eastern Caribbean's Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and French West Indies, there's a lot to consider.

If you're looking to compare and contrast Western Caribbean vs. Eastern Caribbean cruises, you've come to the right place. Check out our recap of the similarities and differences between two of the most popular cruise regions below, from weather and locations to excursions and cultures.

Find more resources to help you plan your next Caribbean cruise.

Eastern vs. Western Caribbean Cruises: The Similarities

St. John (U.S.V.I.) (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
St. John (U.S.V.I.) (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Geography, Weather and Climate Are Similar Between Eastern and Western Caribbean Cruises

Although the specific cultures, customs, history and even food in each Caribbean port can vary greatly, there are similarities between these Caribbean cruises. Geographically, the Caribbean islands are located near the equator in the tropics (meaning they're warm-weather destinations that experience tropical climates).

Eastern and Western Caribbean islands are all easy to reach from the southeastern coast of the United States, making them an easy cruise getaway for anyone who craves warm, sunny weather and lots of time outdoors.

In addition to the weather, the general attitude of locals is often comparable. Life moves more slowly, both because of the heat and because of the friendly locals' desire to savor everything with an appreciation not regularly found in other more fast-paced areas of the world.

Featured Article: Explaining Which Caribbean Cruise Destinations are Located Where.

Activities and Shore Excursions on Eastern and Western Caribbean Cruises

In terms of activities, visitors to either region can shop, learn about history, lounge on the beach or have active adventures that involve some of the best areas for snorkeling, hiking, ziplining and other adrenaline-pumping activities.


Same Mainstream Cruise Lines and Opportunities to Visit Their Private Islands

Similar cruise lines sail to these regions as well. These include most mainstream lines, like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Princess, Disney and Holland America, as well as some luxury lines such as Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

You'll also get the opportunity to visit private islands owned by cruise lines in both locations. These do differ for the most part, however. The only private island shared by these regions is Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private island in Haiti.

Eastern vs. Western Caribbean Cruises: The Differences

Progreso (Photo:Lewis Liu/Shutterstock)
Progreso (Photo:Lewis Liu/Shutterstock)

Itineraries: Ports of Call in the Caribbean

The biggest differences you'll encounter when comparing Eastern Caribbean versus Western Caribbean cruises are the actual itineraries. The only ports that tend to show up on sailings in both regions are Nassau and Freeport in The Bahamas and Labadee.

Otherwise, Western Caribbean sailings include ports in the Greater Antilles such as Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cuba, as well as Mexico and sometimes Central American ports, such as Belize City and Roatan.

Meanwhile, Eastern Caribbean voyages frequently feature San Juan, Grand Turk and the Dominican Republic, as well as the Lesser Antilles. That region includes the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas), British Virgin Islands (Tortola), St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, St. Martin/St. Maarten and St. Lucia.

Embarkation Ports in the Eastern and Western Caribbean

Not only do ports of call tend to differ between Western and Eastern Caribbean cruise itineraries, but as do embarkation ports. Eastern Caribbean cruises embark from numerous ports in Florida, such as Orlando (Port Canaveral), Port Miami and Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades), and others in the northeast of the U.S., like New York City.

Western Caribbean itineraries also depart from a variety of Florida ports. However, they also depart from other southern ports, such as Galveston, New Orleans and Mobile.


Duration of Sailings and Pricing of Eastern vs. Western Caribbean Cruises

The duration and pricing of Western Caribbean versus Eastern Caribbean cruises are also different. Western voyages offer a range of itinerary lengths, from shorter four- or five-night cruises to weeklong sailings; shorter sailings are typically less expensive. Eastern Caribbean sailings tend to last a week.

Luxury Cruise Lines Typically Stick to the Eastern Caribbean

Some luxury cruise lines do venture into the Western Caribbean as mentioned above, but most tend to stick to the Eastern Caribbean. Cunard, Windstar and Seabourn are some examples of luxury cruise lines that sail to the Eastern Caribbean but not the Western.

Eastern Caribbean vs. Western Caribbean: Bottom Line for Cruisers

If you're new to cruising and want a shorter, more budget-friendly cruise to warmer climes, check out a Western Caribbean cruise. The Western Caribbean is also ideal for those who want to visit fewer island ports and are interested in exploring Mayan culture in Mexico and Central America.

An Eastern Caribbean cruise is better for first timers and repeat cruisers who can cruise for a week or longer. It's also the better bet for shopping enthusiasts and beach connoisseurs.

Publish date October 10, 2019
How was this article?

Get special cruise deals, expert advice, insider tips and more.By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

© 1995—2024, The Independent Traveler, Inc.