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It's easy to understand why the Caribbean is the world's first choice for cruising. Carried on the warm, blue waters, you get a taste of life in different countries without having to worry about baggage or accommodation. And when the ship leaves port for the next leg of your adventure, you can escape from the world beyond the horizon and relax in the comfort of your floating hotel.

What could be a little more difficult is deciding on the cruise that's right for you. A huge range of cruise lines operate in the Caribbean, and between them they offer holiday choices that are almost as varied as the region itself. From the romance of a fully-rigged clipper carrying fewer than 100 passengers to a large modern liner providing thousands of holidaymakers with everything they'd expect in a grand hotel, the ships of the Caribbean will take you on an unforgettable journey.

CL Bahamas HMC 2006 RA50

Carnival Cruise Line exploring the beauty of the Caribbean.

The large liners operate year-round, with 3-14 day itineraries in the Caribbean's three major cruise areas. Western region cruises provides you with a taste of Latin American and Mayan culture. On an Eastern cruise you could explore the Bahamas and St Thomas, while a Southern route might visit Puerto Rico and Grenada. Most of them give passengers plenty of time for sightseeing and shopping.

Some major in gambling, while others appeal to gourmets, specialise in honeymoons or are particularly child-friendly. Many cruise lines have health spas, and most provide entertainment ranging from dance bands to discos, cabaret to karaoke. If you're not interested in the stars on stage, you can spend the evening on deck gazing at the sky and watching the moonlight on the waves.

Cruise in port

Cruise port – San Juan Puerto Rico

If you want to be with people who share your passions, pick a themed cruise. There are cruises for music lovers, sports fans and gardeners. Others focus on history, the arts and culture. Christmas cruises need no explanation. You name it, they theme it.

And for the sailor who wants to chart his own course, professional yacht charterers offer a choice among some of the world's most beautiful sailing grounds, on a range of craft, with a crew or bareboat.

Choose your cruise and savour the freedom of the Caribbean.