Should You Choose a Cruise to Europe or the Caribbean?

If you have decided to take a cruise, you have plenty of company. According to a study by the Cruise Lines International Association, 26 million passengers hit the high seas in 2017. More than a quarter of those cruisers fall between the ages of 60 and 74, and another quarter are 50 to 59.

But how do you decide whether to head to Europe or the Caribbean? We have a few tips, as well as one big question you must ask yourself before you book (page 7).

1. Many European sites rest near port


You might be able to make a quick trip to Paris. | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

TripSavvy points out that because of its size, many of the most popular sites in Europe rest near a port. That means you can access them either on an ocean or river cruise — and many look really impressive from the deck of a ship. The few sites you cannot access from the water also rest just a short bus or train ride away.

Next: But if you want beaches, this type might work better for you.

2. You will get island time on Caribbean cruises

Anguilla island in the Caribbean

If you love the beach a Caribbean cruise is for you. | daniloforcellini/iStock/Getty Images

Typical shore activities in the Caribbean might include snorkeling, hanging out on a pristine beach, or even racing in a sailboat. St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, for example, features amazing snorkeling. Other Eastern Caribbean islands also offer that possibility. Some cruisers like seeing big yachts and shopping at tropical locales. If you also prefer these types of activities, you may want to check out a Caribbean cruise.

Next: But if you want the following perk, you might like Europe better.

3. You can see many cities and sites quickly in Europe

Big cruise ship Norwegian Sky

You’ll make it to several countries. | photosvit/iStock/Getty Images

Because of its compact size, you can see a lot of different sites and cities on a European cruise. Most cruise ships sail at night and arrive in the next port of call early in the morning, giving passengers a full day to explore. In addition, cruise ships often offer guided tours of popular sites, making your adventures even easier. If you want to check the most destinations off your list, a European cruise might fit the bill.

Next: If you crave the following exciting adventure, hit the islands.

4. If you want to swim with dolphins, head to the Caribbean

swiming with dolphins

You’ll experience all the Caribbean has to offer. | abezikus/iStock/Getty Images

The ports of call in the Western Caribbean can offer more diverse options than in the Eastern Caribbean. You can explore ancient Mayan ruins, hike the rain forests, or go snorkeling or scuba diving in some truly amazing locations. If you want high adventure with more strenuous activities — rather than wandering museums and seeing architecture and art — you may also like the Caribbean better.

Next: Keep this additional consideration in mind when booking, as well.

5. European cruises can feel more tiring for passengers

Man sleeping in his bed

It takes a while to get there from the U.S. | tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images

It takes quite a bit of time to get to Europe because of the distance and time difference. Because it can take at least a day each way to travel across the Atlantic, you might have to book a longer cruise if you’re heading to Europe. Jet lag can also become a concern for many people. If you tire easily, or do not want to factor in recovery time, a European cruise also might not fit your needs.

Next: You should also know the following important fact when booking.

6. Cruises rarely cover the entire Caribbean

Cruise Port in St. Maarten

Make sure you’ll be in your favorite area. | fallbrook/iStock/Getty Images

Most cruise lines split their offerings by sub-region in the Caribbean: Southern, Eastern, and Western. Make sure you do your research before booking, so you end up in your desired area. Attractions vary among the destinations.

For example, if you’ve always wanted to experience the birthplace of Reggae, a Western itinerary that includes Jamaica may fit the bill. If you love shopping, an Eastern itinerary that includes St. Thomas and St. Martin may work out better for you. Do some soul-searching about your desired itinerary for the best results.

Next: The most important consideration may come in who cruises with you.

7. How well do you handle crowds?

cruise ship passengers

Cruise ships carry thousands of people. | Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images

Cruise ships seem to get bigger every year, and that means more passengers. Royal Caribbean’s 2-year-old Allure of the Seas can carry more than 6,000 people — nearly twice as many as the largest ships could just a decade ago. But never fear. You don’t have to cruise with the entire population of your city if you don’t want to. While many of those big ships head to the Caribbean, make sure you read the booking information if you really want a smaller one.

In general, the bigger the ship the more it offers in terms of eateries, entertainment, and deck-top amusements. River cruises tend to use smaller boats because of geographic restrictions. So if you want a more intimate experience, choose that type of excursion.

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