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Southern Caribbean cruises typically call on ports that are farther away than most Caribbean itineraries, and thus more remote -- they can bring back that feeling of discovery. There are actually ports with nary a fast food chain in sight and islands where English is barely spoken. You'll find towns that make you feel as though you've walked through the looking glass into a colonial past, with sugar mills and manor houses offering high tea and gourmet repasts. We've selected some of our favorite places and shore excursions -- journeys that offer varied glimpses of life of these islands. How about a train ride through the region's sugar cane history? Or snorkeling in a sea of Champagne? Most of the excursions we've chosen are available on major ship itineraries, although they might vary slightly from one cruise line to the next. As always, we encourage you to read up on Southern Caribbean ports, look into the Cruise Critic destination boards, ask questions and determine which excursions are best for you.
Between wrecks and reefs, pinnacles and pelagics, the Southern Caribbean offers some of the region's best opportunities for diving and snorkeling. Undersea adventures are easy to arrange on Southern Caribbean cruises that call on these islands, and many dive shops offer newbies a Discover Scuba
The Southern Caribbean harbors the lion's share of the region's islands. But, because many are smaller and less developed than more easily accessible northerly ones, they tend to be less traveled. And that's a big plus for been-there, done-that cruisers eager to experience new ports of call. The region, which includes islands lying east and south of St. Maarten/St. Martin, has always been a bit more exotic than its Western and Eastern Caribbean counterparts. That's due, in part, to strong colonial influences that endure. Indeed, Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Barts are part of the Republic of France; Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire are part of the Netherlands; Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda retain a British colonial legacy; and farthest south, just off the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago exude Latin flair. These influences guarantee an interesting mix of natural beauty and culture. Aruba and Antigua are regarded for their soft, sandy beaches. Martinique, St. Lucia and Guadeloupe wow visitors with spectacular scenics, from rainforests to volcanoes. Dutch-influenced Curacao and its sibling, Bonaire, host great snorkeling and scuba diving spots. St. Barts is so French, you'll swear you're in the Mediterranean while sipping a glass of something at a sidewalk cafe. Martinique and Guadalupe also harbor both French and West Indian trappings. Grenada, relatively undeveloped, is laidback and exudes a genuine small town vibe. Opportunities to go (quite literally) off the beaten path abound on islands such as Dominica, where the countryside is so lush, the foliage is in and of itself, an attraction. In contrast, the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) are arid and sandy, but have their own stark beauty. With its cultural diversity and geographic variation, the region is bound to appeal to all types of travelers.