For generations of snowbirds and their European counterparts left shivering in the icy grip of an encroaching winter, the sudden allure of escaping on a Caribbean cruises is almost too much to resist. The option of swapping plum pudding for palm trees, blizzard swept streets for blinding white sand beaches, seems almost to good to be true.
And escape we do; literally by the hundreds of thousands, too. From November through to early March, the seven day Caribbean fun palaces sailing out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale are almost swamped by tidal waves of warm weather refugees. Airports from Berlin to Toronto, via all points Zurich, become magical portals to a beguiling world of sunny smiles, rum punches, reggae and rip-roaring entertainment. No wonder we go in droves.
But, as with anything, there are pros and cons to cruising the Caribbean at this time of year. And, as these immutable facts apply equally to both Europeans, and our American and Canadian cousins, now seems as good a time as any to flag these up. So, here we go;
With so many ships in the Caribbean- most of them having returned from summer seasons in Europe and Alaska- fares are sure to be competitive. If you can book at short notice, you’re almost certain to land a bargain. This is especially true if you are open about your choice of ship or line.
The weather is wonderful; there is no denying the sheer, euphoric adrenaline surge of feeling the warm sun on your faces again. Once you’ve prised winter’s clammy fingers from around your windpipe and shed three or four layers of clothes, everything looks better. If not quite everyone….
The beaches; my word, few things beat a frosty Margarita on a warm, sandy beach with a side order of sparkling water. Be as active or as bone idle as you like.
The sheer volume of human and maritime traffic. The Caribbean becomes massively overcrowded, and that makes everything happen slower. One December not so long ago, no less than fifteen cruise ships descended on Cozumel at the same time. They were literally stacked up like flights, waiting to come into land at Heathrow. The big ships hogged their regular berths, while some of the most illustrious names in the cruising firmament were reduced to tendering passengers ashore.
So, expect crowds everywhere, long lines to get on and off the really big ships, and sometimes a frayed temper or two, among both locals and passengers.
Airports, too, can become charnel houses, both outbound and homeward. And with airports from Newark to Newcastle all too susceptible to winter flurries, as well as fog, rain and ice, these overcrowded, disorganised spaces can make Alacatraz look as alluring as Antibes.
So, just a few points that you might want to consider. Only you can balance the pros and cons for yourself- every individual has a different tolerance level after all- and it may be that many Europeans simply do not want to fly all that way. It’s a consideration.
But- between me and you- if I were to be put in the agonizing position of having to decide whether to watch chestnuts roasting over an open fire, or Cuba Libres clinking in some beach cabana somewhere, I will always- and I do mean always- go with the latter.
How about you?