Culture By Corey Quinlan Taylor

Culture Hopping Across the Caribbean

Besides turquoise waters, serene beaches and sun-filled days, there are Caribbean cultures beyond the coasts, rich with artistic, historical and ecological significance. This is a region where the mastery of sugar and the ocean determined the course of Britain’s prosperity, where the production of chocolate emerges from volcanic-rich soil and where manipulation of two coastlines created an engineering marvel. 
Below you will find amazing shore excursions that delve deep into the Caribbean’s cultural treasures. And best of all: these exclusive shore events are complimentary when booked through the SELECT Distinctive Voyages program. The cruise departures below also include a dedicated onboard host and a private welcome reception—at no additional cost. 

Our first excursion involves an island engrained with English and African influences, set across a rainforest palette. To better understand Antigua’s history, visit Betty’s Hope, the island’s first sugar plantation, built in 1674. Your private local guide will then lead you to Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the opulent Clarence House, a colonial-era landmark, which has hosted governors, naval commanders and British royalty. After the estate, drive through the lush rainforest to the capital town of St. John, concluding your excursion.   

Nelson's Dockyard Antigua


St. Lucia is a charming island of African and English influences, with a dash of French culture, manifested in its Créole language, music and cuisine. During your tour, drive through Castries, the lively capital known for its immersive marketplace and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, where you’ll be amazed at the Afro-Caribbean flare of the murals.  Drive along Marigot Bay until you reach the historic Rabot Estate of Soufrière. Founded in 1745, this cocoa estate is the oldest one on the island. Shell and grind cocoa beans, enriched by the soil of the Soufrière volcano. Instructors will teach you mixing and pounding techniques, allowing you to create your own chocolate bar! After class, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant where Callaloo, a spinach-like soup, or spiny lobster are often on the menu, before returning to your ship.  
Cocoa pods
Castries, St. Lucia

Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

Panama is a country of strategic importance and Old-World architecture. During your tour, your knowledgeable guide will transport you from Panama City to Colonial Panama, where your eyes will soak in the European-style buildings dating back to the 16th century.  After a delicious lunch, possibly of local favorites like empanadas or ceviche, your coach will transfer you to the Panama Canal, one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. Visit the Miraflores Locks, where colossal ships pass with precision. Stop by the Miraflores Visitor Center to see exhibitions from the Canal’s history. Return to your ship with a profound appreciation of Panama and its industrial wonder.

Colonial Panama City


Like Panama, Costa Rica also exists between two great continents. Yet this tropical isthmus is unique for its oxcarts that are as colorful as its local flora. During your tour, visit the town of Sarchi, where artisans have painted kaleidoscopic patterns on their oxcarts for more than a century. Stop by the Eloy Alfaro Oxcart Factory, the epicenter of this tradition, to learn from craftsmen how to design your own oxcart wheel. Afterwards, enjoy a lunch of Costa Rican specialties that are fresh and flavorful, like Casado, tamals or black bean soup. Next, your transfer will take you to the Else Kientzler Botanical Garden to experience nature’s colors in the form of 2,000 tropical plant species. At the Garden’s greenhouse nursery, the climate is great for growing caterpillars. Near the end of your tour, you’ll be invited to release the adult butterflies into the wild, (try not to sing The Circle of Life). Take your colored wheel and relax on the drive to the pier.  

These are all sample Exclusive Shore Events that are complimentary on a SELECT Distinctive Voyages departure, which also includes a Distinctive Voyages Host and an Invitation to a Private Cocktail Reception. View all Caribbean departures here.

Casado - Costa Rica
Oxcart - Costa Rica

Many voyages in the Caribbean begin and end in Fort Lauderdale, a family-friendly city to spend extra nights and explore before or after your cruise. You have exceptional hotels to choose from at this relaxing destination, several of which your travel advisor can secure you bonus SELECT amenities to enjoy during your stay. In Fort Lauderdale, your choices include Conrad Fort Lauderdale, considered an elegant anchor point for successful adventures; the Pelican Grand Beach Resort, just six miles north of the airport with spacious rooms and a 500-foot private beach; or W Fort Lauderdale, a luxurious oceanfront hotel featuring steak and sushi restaurants, a relaxing spa and two infinity edge-pools. 

Fort Lauderdale