13 Reasons A Caribbean Cruise Is Waaaaaay Better Than A Hotel
Here's how to see ALL of the Caribbean on a budget...
Planning a beach vacay this year? STEP AWAY from the tourist traps: you can travel luxury Caribbean destinations on a budget with one simple trick: book yourself on to a cruise instead of an expensive resort!.
Way more affordable than funding yourself through high-end hotels and just as luxe, this is an incredible way to see all of the Caribbean on a budget. We tried out the travel hack on MSC’s young and recently refurbished ship, Opera, thanks to a great package from Cruise Nation. With different restaurants, bars and most importantly, touring the Caribbean ports of Jamaica, Mexico and Grand Cayman all from Havana, Cuba, it’s the fanciest (and easiest) island hopping trip evs. And if all this has you fancying your own MSC Caribbean vacay, you can check out all their Caribbean destinations here!
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Here’s why a Caribbean cruise is *so* much better than a hotel…
You Get To Explore Loads of Different Places
Doy, probably the main reason for booking a cruise, sure! But it has to be experienced to be believed, there’s nothing like spending one day in Jamaica and the next in Mexico. It’s totally magical!
...Places like Negril, Jamaica
Where you can be whisked away to your own private beach - complete with white sand, Jamaican BBQ and cocktails for days.
And when you’re full of rice n' peas and tequila, go visit the unforgetable cliff divers at famous spot Jimmy’s beach. Talented (and frankly, bonkers) cliff divers leap off the huge rock and into the sea. Time a visit against the backdrop of the Jamican sunset - this has to be seen to be believed.
And You Get To Do Loads of Awesome Activities
You’ll find yourself joining in once-in-a-lifetime trips you would’ve only dreamed of otherwise, because you can organise all your day trips via the cruise ship at their excursion desk. Easy! Which means zero thinking and maximum chillin!
Like, taking a party catamaran to go snorkelling on a private beach in Cozumel, Mexico
Think luxe loungers, soft sand and frozen margaritas on tap… complete with inflatable ocean obstacle course! How would you normally organise playing on one of these in between cocktails? I HAVE LITERALLY NO IDEA.
Thankfully on this hol it’s a simple case of going ‘I WANT TO GO TO THERE’ and the MSC experts doing the hard work to make all your beach inflatable dreams come true.
And visiting the Cayman Turtle Centre in Grand Cayman
This marine centre in Georgetown, your port of call in Grand Cayman, is the ultimate way to spend a day for animal lovers.
Get there during feeding time for added AWWWWs. They also give you the chance also the chance to HOLD AN ACTUAL TURTLE but I don’t recommend that, because, well, look at both of our faces. Turns out turtles are flappier than expected. Neither of us were into it.
And, erm, Hell
Yes, this is a real spot in Grand Cayman. Worth popping by for the Instagram location tag alone.
Life at sea is pretty sweet
The pool area on board the MSC Opera is where you’re going to want to spend alllll your time (when you’re not getting lit in Jamica, obv).
Luxe loungers line the ship’s two pools and Jacuzzis, as well as a super fun 'Spray Park' – basically a water playground at sea. APPARENTLY this is meant for children, but I had a brilliant time in it, so whatevs.
Of course, there’s also pool bars, a juice bar and an ice cream bar on deck to cool down during your sunbathing sesh. Perfect!
And then there’s straight chillin' in the spa
As well as a massive gym, the ship’s Aurea spa offers lots of beauty and Balinese relaxation treatment to choose from. The full body massage I had was made even more luxurious and unique by the treatment room’s floor-to-ceiling view of the sea. It was so relaxing, in fact, that I fell asleep half way through. But the half I was awake for was the perfect retreat after a day of non-stop fun on the beach.
There’s fun stuff going on all the time at sea
For me, the only downside to not staying at a resort is not having the local nightlife that goes with it. A great thing about this cruise, though, is that all-night-long stops - on this itinerary at Havana - meant that you can get on and off the ship as you please through the night – and enjoy Havana’s unrivalled parties at the same time!
On the ship, its many bars, lounges and nightclub are the places to hang at night, while shows ranging from karaoke to cultural AF operas will keep you entertained into the small hours.
Super comfy rooms
Think you’ll be cramped in a teeny cabin with even teenier porthole? Think again! Our Standard Balcony room was home to a big comfy double bed, modern en suite bathroom, floor to ceiling windows, big dressing table for making yourself look fine in the sunshine, a stocked minibar and a big balcony to laze around on in total privacy! Or at least, private to you and the open ocean. You’ll discover that the ultimate sea view room is one where you are *literally* at sea!
You Get A Two-Centre Vacay In Cuba
MSC’s Caribbean cruises depart from Havana, Cuba. Which means that if You get there a few days in advance of your ship’s embarkation, you get a whole EXTRA hol in Havana!
We stayed in the gorgeous old Hotel Ambos Mundos – situated right in the middle of beautiful Old Havana, and mere walking distance away from the cruise port. It’s a stunning 1920s building, and the actual one which writer Ernest Hemingway called home for seven years. And it’s probably the classiest elegant place I’ll ever stay in. Even if you don’t end up staying there, we recommend popping up to the rooftop bar for a mojito or five.
While you’re there, make like Vin Diesel
This year’s Fast & Furious 8 took the globe-trotting gang to Havana, and while you probs shouldn’t drive as fast or as furiously as Dom Toretto, you can easily take to the streets in amazing vintage cars. Opt for a vintage car tour through Havana, which can be arranged through the cruise ship, for a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the city’s most incredible sights.
Check out Havana’s huge mansions, which were left by the citizens who left for America during the revolution in the 1960s, and Christopher Columbus cemetery – the third biggest in the world – and pay your respects to - among others - the grave of the man who invited daiquiris. RIP, sweet prince.
We recommend you end your tour with a trip to the world-famous Floridita bar, where legend has it Ernest Hemingway drank NINE Cuban daiquiris a day. We don’t recommend you have that many though. Those things are STRONG.
Cocktails. ALL the cocktails.
Cuba Libres in Havana. Pineapple juice in Jamaica. Frozen Margaritas in Mexico. The best way to cool down as your coast the Caribbean is with a delicious concoction – frozen or on the rocks, fruity or bitter, boozy or virgin. On the ship, expert bartenders will be able to put together the perfect recipe whether you’re chilling by the pool or hanging out with holiday mates into the night. MSC make it easier to try ONE OF EVERYTHING with their prepaid drinks packages, which essentially make the vacay all-inclusive. Pour it up!
MTV travelled with… Cruise Nation on the 4* MSC Opera, departure dates through to October 2017. Package: 7nt Cuba and Caribbean cruise with 1nt Havana stay (Full Board Cruise, B&B Hotel). Flights: included from London Gatwick (other airports may be available for a supplement). £969pp with the itinerary: Havana overnight x3, Montego Bay, Georgetown, Cozumel, Havana.