A cruise through the western Caribbean offers something for everyone. History buffs will enjoy a walk through Key West and a visit to one of Mexico's Mayan ruins. Grand Cayman and Jamaica offer plenty of opportunities for watersports enthusiasts. Shopping pros will enjoy bargaining in Jamaica. The kids won't pass up an opportunity to swim with dolphins in Mexico. If your family or traveling companions are hard to please or have divergent interests, plan a cruise through this region.
Key West, Fla.; Grand Cayman; Montego Bay and Ochos Rios, Jamaica; Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Progreso, Mexico
Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla.; New Orleans, La.; Baltimore, Md.; Galveston and Houston,Texas
(almost all of these lines offer cruises year-round) Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Costa, Disney, Holland America, Mediterranean, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Royal Olympia, Silversea
See Key West on your own. You can walk to most of the sites or take the Conch Tour Train ($18 for a 90-minute tour). Among the sites: the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum; the Ernest Hemingway House; Bahama Village.
On Grand Cayman, book the shore excursion to Stingray City, a gathering place for stingrays on a
sandbar off the island. You get the chance to feed, pet and swim with these huge sea creatures. Not an experience you will soon forget!
You can generally visit the same sites whether your ship docks in Montego Bay or Ochos Rios, Jamaica (about two hours apart by road). Dunn's River Falls, which you can actually climb, is Jamaica's most famous cascading waterfall. For shopping, Montego Bay has duty-free shops right at the port. Near Ochos Rios, visit Ocean Village Shopping Centre. Be prepared to deal with aggressive salespeople!
Mayan ruins are a fixture of any trip to Mexico. From either Cozumel or Playa del Carmen, you can visit Tulum, site of the only Mayan city built on the coast. Cruisers also rave about the shore excursion to Xcaret, an ecological theme park where you can swim with dolphins. If you land in Cozumel and want to visit Playa del Carmen or vice versa, there's a 45-minute ferry between the ports.
Progreso is one of Mexico's newest ports of call with a new cruise terminal completed in 2002. Chichén-Itzá and Uxmal, two major Mayan sites, can be reached from here.