Where will I go on an Eastern Caribbean cruise?
This depends on your itinerary. Eastern Caribbean cruises may include ports in the Dominican Republic, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
When is the best time to take an Eastern Caribbean cruise?
Eastern Caribbean cruises are available all year. The climate is warm year-round with little seasonal variation in temperature.
How long do Eastern Caribbean cruises last?
These trips typically last five to 14 nights, but there are a few longer sailings.
Will I need a passport or visa?
All cruises now require proof of citizenship. On some itineraries, a certified copy of your birth certificate and a driver's license or government-issued photo I.D. are sufficient, on others a passport is required. Visas may also be required on the more exotic itineraries. Your cruise counselor will advise you on documents you will need depending on your itinerary.
Is English spoken?
It is spoken and understood in many ports of call, especially those connected to the tourist trade.
What is the time difference?
Many Caribbean islands are in the Atlantic Standard time zone, which is three hours ahead of Eastern Standard time.
What is the local currency?
The local currency varies by port. The U.S. dollar is accepted in many Eastern Caribbean ports. Currency exchange stations are available at most banks, hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Service is sometimes included in restaurant bills. If not, a tip of 15% to 20% is customary. Taxi drivers generally receive 15-20% and other service staff, such as maids and porters, generally receive $1 to $2.
What should I wear?
Casual resort wear, including shorts and T-shirts, is the standard daytime attire for most cruises. Bring a variety of footwear, including low-heeled or rubber-soled shoes for walking on deck, sandals for beach excursions, sturdy walking shoes for guided tours and a pair of dressier shoes for formal dining. You can check your ship's dress codes for options suitable for nighttime, but most restaurants encourage slacks and nice dresses during evening meals.
What should I pack?
Think about the kinds of activities you will want to try -- a round of golf or a relaxing day at the beach, for example -- and pack accordingly. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and swimsuits, protective hats, good walking shoes and windbreakers. Also, remember to pack all of your medications, prescription or otherwise, in a bag you can keep with you as needed.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most resorts and restaurants filter their tap water, though bottled water is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't usually necessary for visitors from North America, but it never hurts to check with your health care provider and discuss the countries you'll be visiting.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
U.S. cruise companies use the standard 110-volt outlets. International guests will likely need converters and adapters.
How do I make a telephone call from the Eastern Caribbean?
Resort hotels and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available for sale in tourist-friendly markets. U.S.-based cell phones might not work everywhere.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Many of the hotels in the Eastern Caribbean have air conditioning. If recycled air is important to you, make sure to consult your travel counselor before booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
What is the shopping like? What souvenirs should I buy?
In the Dominican Republic, find designer fashions by native son Oscar de La Renta. Amber and larimar, a pale-blue, semi-precious gemstone, are mined here and made into jewelry. The best shopping in Puerto Rico is in Old San Juan, where there is no duty for citizens of the United States. The typical assortment of china, crystal, cameras, watches, jewelry, and electronics is always on hand. Don't miss the "santos," carved and painted wooden figurines of the patron saints. Other local handmade specialties include "cuatros," ten-string guitars, and carnival masks made from papier-mâché. This area is also known for high quality rum, coffee, cigars and hand-woven mundillo lace. In St. Thomas, find great shopping in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Here, there is an area of warehouses built in the 1700's, which now includes more than 400 shops in the converted spaces. Duty-free goods are a-plenty here, and just as in many other Caribbean shopping destinations, you can find great deals here on cameras, watches, china, crystal, gems, jewelry, designer clothing, electronics, liquor, linens, rum, and perfume. Also be on the lookout for native specialties like straw brooms, dolls, calabash bowls, baskets and shell jewelry. In established shops, bargaining is usually not welcome.
How do I get around?
Most ports of call provide taxis, buses and scooter rentals. Bicycle and moped rentals may also be available, and many tourist areas of town are pedestrian-friendly. Shore excursions purchased through your cruise line highlight top attractions and include transportation and a guide.
Can I rent a car?
Yes, if you're over 21 years old, carry a valid driver's license and can provide a major credit card to cover insurance costs. Keep in mind that car rentals can be expensive here -- some companies charge extra for "accident-prone" customers between 21 and 24 years old. Some companies require drivers to be 25 or older to rent.
What can I do there?
Just about anything, but most activities are based on the beach; try fishing, diving, snorkeling, sailing, surfing or working on your tan. If you prefer land-based adventures, you can tour museums and archaeological sites, sample the local shopping or stay active with a hike, bike ride, tennis game or round of golf. Your cruise company also can provide a number of engaging activities with a full roster of shore excursions.
Do you have any photography tips for travelers to the Eastern Caribbean?
There's plenty of natural beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards (1 gigabyte is recommended). If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter. Make sure photography is permitted before shooting in museums, churches and cathedrals; in some cases, you'll just be asked to turn off your flash.