Photos: Caribbean way of life

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  1. Barbados

    This undated photo courtesy of the Barbados Tourism Authority shows Harrismith Beach, Barbados. Sun, surf and sand are the main draws on this tropical Caribbean island. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Barbados

    This undated photo courtesy of Barbados Tourism Authority shows The Watering Hole rum shop in Barbados. The rum shops on the island are good places to sample local food and drink, watch a game of dominos, or just get to know the friendly and hospitable Bajans. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. St. Lucia

    Developed, beautiful and situated in the Eastern Caribbean, St. Lucia is accessible from Europe and Canada, and reachable -- albeit not as easily -- from the United States. St. Lucia is known as a romantic destination. The island gets plenty of visitors, including wedding parties. (Holger Leue  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. St. Lucia

    Cocoa pods lie on the ground ready to be processed at Fondoux Plantation in Soufriere, St. Lucia. Cocoa is one St. Lucia's main produce alongside the more obvious banana crop. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. St. George's

    The capital of Grenada, St. George's is considered one of the prettiest harbor towns in the Caribbean. Grenada's unique layout includes many finger-like coves, making the island a popular sailing destination. (Richard Cummins  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Cayman Islands

    The Cayman Islands very popular attractions, Stingray City and the nearby shallows known as the Sandbar, provide the only natural oportunity to swim with Atlantic Southern Stingrays. (David Rogers / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Stingray City

    The Cayman Islands very popular attractions, Stingray City and the nearby shallows known as the Sandbar, provide the only natural oportunity to swim with Atlantic Southern Stingrays. (David Rogers / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. St John's

    In high season, up to five cruise ships visit St John's, Antigua, each day. The boats unload mostly American and European passengers who fan out across the island visiting the casinos and beaches. Antigua is easily accessible, and can offer good values for tourists. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Antigua

    Antigua, located in the Northeastern Caribbean, is a popular tourist spot. While there are high-end, stylish hotels, the island also features a large number of mid-priced options. Visitors will find beach bars, restaurants, casinos and shopping. (Richard I'Anson  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Antigua

    People walk along an area known as Devils Bridge in Indian Town Point, Antigua. Antigua is a wintertime destination for many visitors from the north. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Dominica

    Not as well known as other Caribbean islands, Dominica is green, fertile and mountainous. Visitors will find some opportunites to scuba dive, but watersports are not its main draw. The island does, however, offer a slew of rainforest trails -- great for hiking and sightseeing. (Greg Johnston  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Dominican Republic

    An old church building is seen in La Romana, the third-largest city in the Dominican Republic. (Wayne Walton / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Belize

    Belize gets more than 850,000 visitors each year. The hot spot allows watersports such as kayaking and snorkeling, as well as inland activities like hiking and birding. The Mayan ruins of Altan Ha, pictured, are easily accessible from Caye Caulker. (Andrew Marshall / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. La Tortuga

    A fisherman repairs his nets on Cayo Herradura, off the island of La Tortuga in Venezuela. The country offers visitors a variety of activities to choose from, but remains undervisited -- especially compared to its South American neighbors. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Cuba

    Cuba blends the fantastic attractions associated with other Caribbean destinations with an amazing history. Tourists can stroll white sand beaches, take in the incredible architecture and party into the early-morning hours. (Javier Galeano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. St. Barthelemy

    St. Barthelemy is a vacation spot of stars and millionaires. Trendy, chic and sexy, St. Baarths is safe for tourists, but expensive to visit. About 8,700 people reside on the island. (Mark Mainz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Puerto Rico

    A man climbs to a 40-foot waterfall at the south side of the Caribbean National Rain Forest, commonly called El Yunque, near Naguabo, Puerto Rico. Most visitors hike the well-marked paths in the northern half of the park's rain forest but the trails in the south allow hikers and nature lovers to explore the only tropical forest in the U.S. national forest system. (Herminio Rodriguez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Puerto Rico

    The cupola of San Juan Cemetary as well as colorful homes sit next to the ocean in Old San Juan, the original capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The old city is a historic district of seven square blocks made up of ancient buildings and colonial homes, massive stone walls and vast fortifications, sunny parks and cobblestoned streets. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Puerto Rico

    Men play dominos in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a well-preserved colonial city that allows tourists a peek into the past. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Guadeloupe

    Guadeloupe isn't as developed as some other Caribbean islands, but it offers a variety of beaches -- some active with watersports, some secluded. The island also offers beach bars, restaurants, mid-range hotels and other tourist amenities. (Marcel Mochet / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 2/24/2009 11:06:04 AM ET 2009-02-24T16:06:04

The deal
Does recent stress have you daydreaming about disappearing to a deserted island in the sun? Join the club. Florida-origin cruises have been flooding the usual Caribbean ports, and gone are the cheap prices we'd seen in past years like seven-night voyages from the Sunshine State for under $300.

Most of these Caribbean cruises leaving Florida are selling for an average of $800. The alternative to these inflated prices is embarking from a port in the Caribbean or Central America. The cost to get there is cheaper than you might believe, as more budget airlines like JetBlue launch new Caribbean routes.

In fact, we found fares in March to popular departure ports for as little as $69 each way. Here’s a sampling of weeklong cruises offering colorful itineraries and less-crowded destinations from just $299.

$299 Royal Caribbean from Santo Domingo
This seven-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary comes with a French flair. Departing from Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, the first stop on this cruise is Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe. This island has often been described as the Caribbean version of Marseille, and is most notable for its bustling outdoor markets.

Next, take in a little coconut palms, rum punch, and calypso music in Fort-de-France, Martinique. After that, visit Bridgetown, Barbados where passengers can take a tram rides along an underground river beneath Harrison's Cave.

The final port before the ship returns to Santo Domingo is Castries, in St. Lucia, where the 18th-century city of Soufriere is a must see. The Vision of the Seas sets sail March 1 starting from $299, with additional embarkation dates available at slightly higher prices.

$399 7-night voyage from Colon, Panama
The Enchantment of the Seas sets sail from Colon, Panama, and sets out for two days of exploration in Colombia, visiting Cartagena and Santa Marta. Sample some rich Colombian coffee, wander through ancient forts, churches and palaces, or explore world-class snorkeling and scuba diving reefs.

Next the ship anchors in Oranjestad in Aruba, an ideal island for kicking back and soaking in some sun, or picking up duty-free souvenirs. After Aruba, the ship calls on Willemstad, in Curacao. The houses on this charming island are all painted in soft pastel colors, making it seem ever-so-inviting.

It's A Snap! Readers' best shotsThe last port of call on this weeklong itinerary is Kralendijk, Bonaire where flamingos inhabit much of the island, and many historical buildings abound. The ship sails on select dates through March starting from $399 for interior cabins, with oceanview staterooms available from just $50 more.

$449 luxury cruise from Barbados
If you are looking for a luxurious cruise at a reasonable price, look no further than this seven-night cruise from Bridgetown, Barbados, starting from just $449. Set sail on the Sea Princess to Kingstown in St. Vincent, an area rich with volcanic black-sand and cobblestone streets. Then, it’s on to Roseau, the capital city on the island of Dominica where passengers can spend the day hiking to hidden waterfalls and pools, or dining on Creole cuisine.

After that it's friendly St. John's in Antigua, a perfect place to explore a museum or art gallery, and to admire the handmade local pottery. Next, it’s on to St. Maarten, where you can head to beaches like Mullet Bay for some relaxation time, or opt to watch the sunset while riding down the beach on horseback. Following St. Maarten is a day spent at sea before visiting Princess Cays, the cruise line’s privately-owned island in the Bahamas. There is only one sailing for this great itinerary departing on May 2.

The dollars
All prices are per person and based on double occupancy. Accommodations, meals, some beverages, entertainment, and port charges are covered in the cost. Government fees and taxes, as well as off-boat expenditures are extra.

The catch
Hunting down airfare to and from the departure ports. Visit our Caribbean flight page for great fare sales.ShermansTravel is a guide to top travel deals and destinations. Sign up for Sherman's Top 25 e-newsletter which features the best editor-screened deals from hundreds of travel providers and is delivered to over 2.5 million subscribers, free, each week. ShermansTravel also publishes trip ideas and travel features to inspire, guide, and go.

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