The Western Caribbean is perhaps the world’s most popular destination for cruising – and it’s not hard to see why. Bright blue waters lap at gleaming white or pink sand beaches – warm and soft enough to sink into – fringed by palm trees, whilst friendly locals sashay by with a smile and a greeting to the soundtrack of reggae rhythms. But while you may already be familiar with the attractions of Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, there’s a wealth of other paradise islands to discover.
Long isolated from the wider world, Cuba has pursued its own path for decades, creating unique cityscapes and a culture all of its own. The splendid colonial architecture may be crumbling and the vast 1950s American automobiles may be on their last legs, but the Cuban people are full of vitality, life and hope – Havana is a riot of colour and fun, filled with cosy eating places and vibrant bars, where the music pulsates until the early hours.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island, but in many ways they’re worlds apart. The oldest self-governing territory in the Caribbean, Haiti may have suffered earthquakes and hurricanes but it stands proud, despite its poverty, and has long welcomed tourists from around the world. The slightly larger and significantly wealthier Dominican Republic shares the same stunning scenery and the same magnificent weather, making it one of the world’s defining travel experiences.
In complete contrast, the wealthy and cosmopolitan Turks and Caicos Islands is one of Britain’s smallest overseas territories – remnants of a vast empire that once spanned the world. It’s the destination of choice for the most sophisticated celebrities, and once you’ve discovered its urbane delights you will appreciate why. Similarly, Puerto Rico is territory of the USA, but is a nation with its own Latin American traditions and unique culture. With a strong musical and artistic tradition, and landscapes ranging from gleaming skyscrapers to shantytowns to unspoilt beaches, it is a truly remarkable destination that makes for a memorable visit.