The Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise destinations. And given its amazing weather, stunning beaches and vibrant culture it’s not hard to see why. Whether you fancy spending days languishing on the golden sand or trekking through lush rainforests, we’ve rounded up the best Caribbean cruises in 2020 to book now.

Barbados

A mill-pond sea on the glitzy west coast or the wild Atlantic waves for surfers – choose your beach! If you prefer a tour, St Nicholas Abbey is a Jacobean plantation house and rum distillery with tastings and souvenirs. There are also wonderful gardens, including Hunte’s, about 30 minutes’ drive from St Lawrence Gap. Anthony Hunte, whose English ancestors settled on Barbados in the 1600s, has created a botanical world in a deep sink hole, where music fills the air – it’s a magical place to visit. In Bathsheba, the Andromeda Botanic Gardens are a colour blaze, thanks to tropical gingers and lilies, and there are resident monkeys as well as fabulous views over the eastern shore.

Get on Board

•7-night ‘Tropical Delights’ cruise aboard Marella Explorer 2, round trip from Barbados via Grenada, departing 8 March 2020, from £1,502, tui.co.uk
•48-night ‘Southampton to Sydney’ cruise aboard Arcadia, via San Francisco, departing 3 January 2020, from £4,719, pocruises.com

Caribbean cruises, colourful houses in Barbados

Belize City, Belize

Often overshadowed by its more glamorous neighbours, this sun-soaked nation is a fascinating mix of Caribbean cool and Central American funk. Hugging the coastline south of Mexico and east of Guatemala, it offers unspoilt beaches and lush rainforests, while its sapphire-blue seas span the Belize Barrier Reef – second only to Australia’s – and the mystical, 124-metre deep Blue Hole. In Belize City you can savour the local specialities at Celebrity Restaurant, close to the waterfront, or imbibe the nation’s rich Mayan history at the Museum of Belize. For the more intrepid, there are excursions to the Altun Ha Mayan ruins.

Get on Board

•6-night ‘Western Caribbean’ cruise aboard Carnival Legend, round trip from Tampa via Grand Cayman, Belize City and Cozumel, departing 29 November 2020, from £364, carnival.com
•9-night ‘Tropical Island Tapestry’ cruise aboard Crystal Serenity, round trip from Miami via Cozumel, Costa Maya, Belize City and Grand Cayman, departing 12 November 2020, from £2,471, crystalcruises.co.uk

Grenada

The sweet smells of cinnamon and nutmeg overwhelm your senses as you disembark in the glorious Spice Island of Grenada, where spices and fruits grow in green hills and palms line powder-soft beaches. The island is also known for its cocoa, and a call ahead to the Diamond Chocolate Factory will secure you a tour and tasting of local Jouvay chocolate. Over in the capital, St George’s, with its old- world buildings, a hike to the 18-century Fort George rewards you with the best vistas imaginable – but make sure you also leave time for the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, where eerie coral-covered statues lie beneath crystal-clear waters.

•7-night ‘Southern Caribbean’ cruise aboard Enchantment of the Seas, round trip from San Juan, Puerto Rico, via Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, St Maarten and St Thomas, departing 5 December 2020, from £564, royalcaribbean.co.uk
•31-night ‘Rhythm of the Caribbean’ cruise aboard Spirit of Adventure, round trip from Southampton via Antigua, St Kitts, St Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and Barbados, departing 15 November 2020, from £7,119, travel.saga.co.uk

Grenada

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Jamaica is one of the largest Caribbean islands, and many bigger vessels dock at Montego Bay. This sparkling turquoise port is known for its quintessentially Caribbean beaches, championship golf courses and family-friendly activities, such as ziplining and rides at the beachside Aquasol amusement park. The Caribbean is just as beloved for its food as its beaches, and the jerk chicken at beach shack Scotchies is legendary. History buffs will enjoy the eerie Rose Hall Georgian mansion – home to the legend of the White Witch and harbouring a dark history of slavery.

•6-night ‘Western Caribbean’ cruise aboard Carnival Glory, round trip from New Orleans via Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, departing 20 September 2020, from £348, carnival.com
•7-night ‘Secret Shores’ cruise aboard Marella Discovery 2, round trip from Montego Bay via Dominican Republic and Turks & Caicos Islands, departing 18 February 2020, from £1,456, tui.co.uk

Nassau, Bahamas

In a paradise archipelago of more than 700 islands, Nassau is the only metropolis, and its raw energy is unmistakable. A history of pirates and smugglers has given the city a certain swagger, epitomised by the Bay Street hustlers selling tax-free wares, local cigars and straw-made goods. You’ll quickly find the islanders love rum, and you can enjoy a tour and a taste at John Watling’s Distillery, housed in an old plantation, which produces blends especially for local consumption. To escape the enchanting madness, head over to the sugar-lump beaches of Paradise Island, connected to the city by two bridges, and enjoy lunch at Viola’s.

Get on Board

•6-night ‘Eastern Caribbean’ cruise aboard Nieuw Statendam, round trip from Fort Lauderdale via Nassau, San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Half Moon Cay, departing 15 March 2020, from £729, hollandamerica.com
•7-night ‘Very Merrytime Bahamian Cruise’ aboard Disney Wonder, round trip from Galveston via Nassau, Castaway Cay and Key West, departing 20 November 2020, from £3,273, disneycruise.disney.go.com

Nassau, Bahamas

Nevis

Nevis is one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands, with a spectacular peak that rises to 3,232ft. Begin your trip with a walk around Charlestown, on the west coast, with its Georgian buildings and Museum of Nevis History. From there it’s easy to find Pinney’s Beach, which stretches about three miles with white sand, swaying palms and some great local bars and restaurants serving traditional dishes and drinks (look out for Turtle Time Beach Bar & Grill). If you love flora and fauna, book a trip for a bike or hike through one of the most spectacular rainforests in the world.

Get on Board

•6-night cruise aboard SeaDream II from St Maarten to St Thomas via St Kitts and Nevis, departing 28 March 2020, from £2,307, seadream.com
•23-night ‘Barcelona to San Juan’ cruise aboard Silver Shadow, via Madeira, Fort Lauderdale, Grand Turk, Nevis, St Lucia and St Barts, departing 10 November 2020, from £7,400, silversea.com

Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Founded in 1763 by French governor Gabriel de Clieu, Pointe-a-Pitre is a blend of old colonial buildings and vibrant modern architecture with a charming harbour. Take a day trip to Basse-Terre and the spectacular Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, where a mile of pathways winds through 15 different garden zones, with many species of bird, exotic plants, manicured grounds, waterfalls and fragrant blooms. Designed by Michel Gaillard, it was once the property of Coluche, a renowned French actor. If you’re partial to rum, go for a tasting at the Montebello Rum Distillery and walk through this working estate to learn all about the famous distillery’s history and production methods.

Get on Board

• 14-night ‘Caribbean, Cuba and Antilles’ cruise aboard MSC Splendida, round trip from Point-a-Pitre via Tortola, British Virgin Islands, departing 29 November 2020, from £1,949, msccruises.co.uk
•33-night ‘Tales of the Caribbean’ cruise aboard Saga Sapphire, round trip from Southampton via Pointe-a-Pitre, departing 5 January 2020, from £5,537, travel.saga.co.uk

Caribbean cruises, Gaudeloupe sunset

St Lucia

Head for picture-perfect Marigot Bay, where the original Doctor Dolittle movie was filmed, to find yourself in a tropical paradise of yachts, palms, soft sands and powerful rum punch. Then explore the rainforest to see parrots and hummingbirds – choose from biking, jeep and hiking tours, all available on most cruise ships. St Lucia is dominated by the twin peaks of Les Pitons, and island tours also take in the dramatic La Soufrière volcano, nestled at their base, as well as the colourful Diamond Botanical Gardens. If you want to get back on the water, there are also numerous boat trips to spot dolphins and whales.

Get on Board

•14-night ‘Caribbean’ cruise aboard Britannia, round trip from St Lucia via St Kitts, Antigua, St Vincent, Barbados and Grenada, departing 8 February 2020, from £1,663, pocruises.com
•13-night ‘Exotic Caribbean In-Depth’ cruise aboard Seabourn Odyssey, round trip from Barbados via St Kitts & Nevis and St Lucia, departing 4 January 2020, from £5,298, seabourn.com