We’ve been on quite a few cruises now, thanks to my previous job as an editor at Princess Cruises. While I call California beaches home, it’s that white sand and turquoise water of the Caribbean and Mexico that really makes you want to forget everything you know and go live under a palm tree. We all need vacations like that, and there’s no better way to travel than by sea to an exotic place. I’ve compiled a few of the best beaches you can cruise to.
Aruba: You know you love an island when you go into the real estate office in town just to look at pricing. Aruba has literally perfect weather (80 degrees year-round) and really warm water (it’s one of the closest Caribbean islands to the Equator.) On one cruise, we took a bus ride and short boat ride to De Palm Island, known for its all-you-can-eat buffet, open bar, snorkeling and water slides. The food was okay, but you can’t really beat an open bar in such a gorgeous location. On another cruise, we went snorkeling over the shipwreck Antilla. The crew was personable and everything was pretty clean, and we loved getting to cross snorkeling a shipwreck off our bucket list.
We found the local merchants in Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, to be very friendly, especially when James broke his sandal and we had to search for some new ones in port. Aruba also has a great beach for baby, aptly named Baby Beach, that you can take a taxi to. If your family wants more excitement, try Bachelor’s Beach for coral-reef exploration.
Cabo San Lucas: This is the port to get up early for, so you can catch El Arco, a natural arch made out of rock, before dawn. If you’re on a normal cruise ship, you’ll also need to tender to this Mexican port. The street right off the ocean is clean, tourist-oriented and sanitized. Here you can order your mango margarita (which I’m pretty sure they serve as a breakfast item), and sit and watch the crazy people riding their Jet Skis over the choppy waves. That was my first time on a Jet Ski, and it’ll most likely be my last. However, there are plenty of things to rent here, from kayaks to banana boats to parasailing rides.
Once you get past the upscale mall, you’ll be right back in Mexico with its small sketchy liquor stores and locals meandering around. Most cruise passengers take a water taxi to Lover’s Beach, so named to get romantics out to the tiny section of beach between El Arco and the rest of land.
The “Cays”: Most Caribbean cruises include a stop at the cruise line’s private island, whether it be Princess Cays, Castaway Cay, Half Moon Cay, Great Stirrup Cay, CocoCay (all in The Bahamas) or Labadee (Hispaniola). Usually, a private island means endless BBQ, peddler-free beaches and a kid’s club that continues on land. On Princess Cays, we rented snorkel equipment for a small fee; many other rentals were available, including cabanas and all sorts of beach gear.
One thing we really liked about Princess Cays (despite that we took the first tender right before a torrential rainstorm that made the entire ship disappear) was that it really feels like your private island. If you walk far enough from where the tenders drop off, you can quietly sit in a hammock and pretend you’re stranded. We even knocked some coconuts off trees and drank them for good measure. Private islands, while not so good for culture, are great for a simple beach day.
Cruises are best when you’re looking to visit several of the best beaches in one trip without the pain of traveling. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, this can make all the difference in your relaxation potential.