Conjuring up images of fine white-sand beaches and idyllic hideouts among swaying palms flanked by turquoise water, the Caribbean Sea is the ultimate cruise destination, remaining immensely popular among Brits.

It’s easy to understand the attraction of a Caribbean cruise. The region makes for 
a gloriously hot winter-sun getaway and a cruise is the best way to see several islands in a single trip.

Popular destinations include Jamaica, home of reggae, rum and jerk chicken, where highlights include the terraced waterfalls at Dunn’s River Falls. Antigua, meanwhile, offers charming English culture – such as afternoon tea and cricket – that hails back to its colonial past, as well as historic attractions that include English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard National Park.

Barbados is the most ‘British’ of the Caribbean islands. Here a popular excursion is Friday Night Fish Fry at Oistins Bay, where tourists can rub shoulders with locals at this popular outdoor barbecue meet-up.

Andy Harmer, senior vice-president membership and director CLIA UK & Ireland, said: “In 2017 the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Bermuda, was the third most popular cruise region for British cruise passengers.

“It saw an increase of just over three per cent on 2016. Plus, last year the Caribbean attracted the youngest average age of cruisers at 52 years old, against an average of 56 for all British cruise customers.

“The Caribbean retains its position as one of the top-selling cruise destinations thanks to the diversity of the ships available in the region, the choice of islands and the different experiences they offer, plus, of course, the stunning scenery and sunshine.

“A Caribbean cruise is still seen by many as one of the ‘must-do’ travel experiences, it’s one to tick off the bucket list. Thanks to the incredible array of ships with a mind-blowing array of on-board amenities, there’s never been more choice.”

A Cuban delight

New to the region for 2018/2019 will
 be Holland America Line’s latest ship Nieuw Statendam, which will spend its inaugural season exploring golden beaches and sunkissed skies on round-trip Fort Lauderdale cruises, including calls at Half Moon Cay, the line’s private Bahamian island.

Private islands are a huge draw in the Caribbean and Princess Cruises passengers will have a choice of new excursions, including a stingray beach encounter and clear-floor kayak lagoon ride, when they land on the cruise line’s newly upgraded 40-acre private island, Princess Cays, this year.

Princess Cruises vice president UK and Europe Tony Roberts said: “We’re continuing to develop Princess Cays as the premium Caribbean hideaway. Its powder-white sand and crystal-clear seas make it the ultimate place to relax, unwind and enjoy yourself.”

Meanwhile, Cuba takes centre stage in SeaDream Yacht Club’s Caribbean spring 2019 itineraries, with the introduction of new immersive sailings, allowing passengers
to travel in style by megayacht, departing directly from Havana or Cienfuegos for a discovery tour circling the island.

Jannicke Rognstad, vice president at SeaDream, said: “Cuba is changing now in noticeable ways, and for many there is a desire to see it before it loses its identity. It truly is one of those ‘you have to see it’ experiences. Pictures and second-hand accounts won’t do it justice.”

Example itineraries

SeaDream Yacht Club offers a seven-day voyage around the fascinating island of Cuba, from Havana to Cienfuegos, taking 
in Trinidad, Cayo Largo, Isla de Juventud and Maria la Gorda in 2019. Fares start at £3,992pp for an ocean-view stateroom and include drinks with meals, gratuities and one complimentary land activity.

Crystal Cruises guests can enjoy an upmarket sun-drenched voyage through tropical isles, from crystalline waters in Turks 
& Caicos to coral reefs in Grand Cayman and quirky treasures in Key West, on a seven-night cruise round trip from Fort Lauderdale aboard Crystal Symphony. Cruise-only prices start at £1,752pp on 24 November 2019.