By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor
A Caribbean cruise is never a bad idea but not all ports are created equal. These 10 ports of call, which offer a winning combination of passenger facilities and proximity to the island attractions we really want to see, are must-sees on our dream Caribbean itinerary. These are our Best Caribbean Cruise Ports rankings for 2015.
You can’t get much closer to the action than Prince George Wharf. It’s just steps to the shops and restaurants on the main drag, Bay Street; Junkanoo Beach is a quick cab ride away; and a 10-minute water taxi ride gets you to idyllic Paradise Island.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
This classic cruise port may not be one of the Caribbean’s newest or fanciest but it is the gateway to some of Jamaica’s must-see attractions, including Dunn’s River Falls and Mystic Mountain.
The island’s newest port can accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world, and offers easy access to attractions westward in Montego Bay and eastward in Ocho Rios. The 32-acre port complex, inspired by the town’s Georgian architecture, features restaurants and duty-free and local shopping.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Smack in the center of the city, this port is one of the Caribbean’s busiest. Disembark here and you’re a stone’s throw from the diverse dining, impressive shopping and colorful architecture of one of the region’s most vibrant capitals.
Philipsburg, St Maarten
If you’re a shopper or a beach bum this is your port. The terminal itself has shopportunities galore; the Dutch-side sandy sweep at Great Bay is just a quick taxi ride away; and French St Martin’s capital, Marigot, with its clothing-optional beaches and open-air market, is easily accessible.
Gustavia, St Barth
Proving that bigger isn’t necessarily better, this port is petite but perfect. Passengers on the smaller ships that dock here step immediately into the center of this French-Caribbean capital where stylish boutiques, charming waterfront restaurants, and idyllic white-sand beaches make every moment ashore magnifique.
Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas
This is the Caribbean’s most popular cruise port, with as many as six ships docked a time. Stunning Magens Bay beach; duty-free shopping galore; and the ease of visiting neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands (St. John, Water Island) are just three reasons why.
Basseterre, St Kitts
A five-minute stroll from Port Zante brings passengers to the Kittitian capital’s bustling town square, a throwback to bygone times. Hop a taxi to the beach bars of Frigate Bay; see the Caribelle Batik fabric factory, or visit St. Kitts’ magical sister island of Nevis, a 45-minute ferry ride away.
You’ll wish you had more time on this French-Caribbean island where the terminal at Pointe Simon is in the “centre de ville” (city center). That means you’ll be close to the grand marche (covered market), where shopping for local spices is a feast for the senses, and only a 20-minute ferry ride from the charming beach town of Trois Ilets.
It’s only 300-square-miles but this island off the Yucatan peninsula has three cruise piers – all the better to accommodate the ships that bring in more than a million passengers a year. Stroll the town of San Miguel; snorkel the world’s second-largest barrier reef, or take a 45-minute fast-ferry jaunt to Playa Del Carmen, the boho beach town on the mainland.