The Difference in Cruising the Western Caribbean, like Belize

by Carolee Chanona
Xunantunich belize caribbean cayo

For cruise fanatics, the Caribbean is the warm-weather option of choice. However, choosing where within the region’s three divisions — Eastern, Western and Southern — can prove daunting when itinerary planning. If you’re already looking forward to your next Caribbean cruise, here’s the difference in cruising between the western and eastern Caribbean, so you can choose the destination that’s best for you.

Countries in the Western Caribbean

snorkeling caribbean belize underwater

Snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef. Photo courtesy Duarte Dellarole Photography

Western Caribbean sailings often include stops in the Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman), Jamaica (Falmouth, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay), Honduras (Roatan and Banana Coast), Belize (Belize City and Harvest Caye, a Norwegian Cruise Line private island) and eastern Mexico (Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Progreso). Like voyages to the Eastern Caribbean, cruises to the Western Caribbean can also include visits to Labadee and the Bahamas. During the brief time when U.S. citizens were able to visit Cuba, Western Caribbean itineraries also included Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos ports.

Countries in the Eastern Caribbean

Puerto Rico Caribbean island reopening

Puerto Rico has halted inbound tourism, open only for “essential travel” only.

The Eastern Caribbean generally consists of Puerto Rico (San Juan), the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix), the French West Indies (St. Maarten/St. Martin, Martinique and Guadeloupe), the British Virgin Islands (Tortola, Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda), the Dominican Republic (La Romana, Santo Domingo, Samana, and Amber Cove), Grand Turk, St. Kitts/Nevis, Antigua and St. Lucia. Passengers on these itineraries can also expect calls on Key West, Labadee (Royal Caribbean’s private island in Haiti) and the Bahamas (Nassau, Freeport and several cruise line private islands).

Whats the difference between cruising the two?

As outlined above, the biggest difference between Western Caribbean versus Eastern Caribbean cruises is their itineraries. Not only are the ports largely different, but the length and pricing also vary. While cruises to the Eastern Caribbean usually last about a week, the Western Caribbean provides passengers with a choice of shorter — and, therefore, less expensive — sailings. The Western Caribbean also features more calls on mainland countries like Belize, Mexico and Honduras. Meanwhile, the Eastern Caribbean consists mainly of island stops.

The Belize City cruise port inside the Tourist Village.

Additionally, Caribbean destinations tend to run on something called “island time,” which means everything is more relaxed. Don’t mistake islanders’ nonchalance or tardiness for rudeness; it’s simply a more laid-back way of life. If you’ve sailed the Eastern Caribbean, consider heading West to Belize.

Belize reopens October 1 for international travel in Phase 3 of 5, with cruise tourism listed as the last phase in its Travel Reopening Plan. Learn more here. Itineraries source from

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