The Antilles, a.k.a. Caribbean Islands
The nomenclature of Caribbean Islands can be a little confusing: just what are the Antilles, and why are some Greater and some Lesser? Exactly which islands are in each grouping? And, which ones can you visit on a cruise?
Collectively, the islands of the Caribbean are known as the West Indies. They can be sorted into three groups by location: the Bahamas (which some people consider too far north to qualify as true Caribbean Islands); the Greater Antilles; and the Lesser Antilles.
The Greater Antilles include Cuba, Hispaniola (which is divided into the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica and Puerto Rico. The Cayman Islands are often included in the Greater Antilles as well, as they are located quite close to Cuba. These larger, older Caribbean islands are generally made of continental rock. The Caymans and Jamaica are popular cruise destinations, while Puerto Rico is a starting and ending point for many Caribbean itineraries, offering opportunities to explore San Juan pre- or post-cruise.
The Lesser Antilles, sometimes called the Caribees, are numerous smaller, younger islands – some made of volcanic materials, some of coral – that form the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea. They are further grouped into the Leeward Islands, the Windward Islands and the Leeward Antilles. The Leeward Islands that welcome cruise ships include several of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, as well as Saint Martin, Saint Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe and more. The Windward Islands group includes the popular cruise destinations of Martinique and Saint Lucia. The Leeward Antilles include the ABC Islands – Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire – as well as other small islands off the coast of Venezuela.
To explore the many options for cruises that will introduce you to the Antilles, Greater or Lesser, talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
Learn more about the Caribbean.