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Teri's top 10 Caribbean ports of call

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We sell a lots of cruise vacations here at 7 Seas Cruises. We take a lot of cruise vacations, too. So, with more than 40 voyages under my belt, I have pretty much been there; done that.

So when someone asked the other day just what are the most interesting ports in the Caribbean. I had to think for a bit, because I can't recall any that I just don't like at all. But we're talking about your vacation here, so I owe it to you to give a carefully considered reply.

So, here we go... my Caribbean top 10 (the order is pretty arbitrary, I admit)

1. Curacao. I love this pastel-toned recreation of the Netherlands set in a turquoise sea. There are beautiful beaches, but the most appealing part to me is the unique charm of the town. Strolling across the floating Queen Emma foot bridge (which can be pulled back to let ships enter the town) is, in itself, a unique activity. Then, when you get into the town filled with flat-front, pastel buildings, there are interesting shops and a floating fruit market to amuse. Venture into the heart of town and you'll come to an alley with a mural that proclaims "shut up and dance." We've been taking pictures in front of that mural for 35 years and I wouldn't trade those photos for anything.

2. Martinique. It's not easy to get there these days, and it's a shame. This isn't just a Caribbean island, this IS France. Its also a breathtaking volcanic island, home to 12 brands of rum, excellent prices on French cosmetics and perfumes, and a one-of-a-kind shore excursion to St. Pierre, the one-time capital and home to 50,000 people. And then, in 1902, Mont Pelee, the local volcano erupted. One person survived, incarcerated in the local jail. Today, St. Pierre is a ghost town in ruins. The jail still stands, along with a fascinating museum. Much of the rest has been reclaimed by the verdant forest.

3. St. Maarten. Where else can you visit two European countries in one day? You'll dock in St. Maarten, Dutch, commercial, bustling, but grab a cab and within 30 minutes, you're strolling the laid-back streets of Marigot, St. Martin, as French as it can be. There are beaches on both parts of the island. The Dutch is more conservative; the French side, especially Orient Beach, is nude if you want it to be.

4. Cartagena, Colombia. Forget scary stories of drug cartels and crime. That's not what you'll encounter in Cartagena. This ancient walled city is classically Spanish colonial, complete with fortifications and forts. The old town is breathtaking! See a museum that recalls the Spanish Inquisition (in graphic detail) or the solemn beauty of the old church, where St. Peter Claver lies below the altar in a glass coffin (also pretty graphic). Shoppers will love the chance to buy a Colombian emerald for a reasonable price or take home a few pounds of coffee.

5. Belize. The tourist village is where your tender will take you, but it's only a jumping off point for adventure. Try the cave tubing, take a ride on the river to see the crocodiles on the banks and the monkeys overhead. For a unque adventure, visit the Belize Zoo. Even if you've been to every zoo in the world, you haven't seen one like this. Wild animals are enclosed in pens in the jungle. All are native Central American critters, including tapirs, monkeys, big cats and a stork with a 9-foot wingspan.

6. Cozumel, Mexico. There may be crime issues along the Mexican Riviera, but Cozumel is safe to explore. The beaches are beautiful, the locals are friendly, and the sterling silver is amazing.

7.Costa Rica. Puerto Limon is not the prettiest part of Costa Rica, but it is accessible from the Caribbean and it is the gateway to a fascinating assortment of sights. We love riding the rivers and looking for the wildlife, which includes sloths in the treetops and blue butterflies as big as your head.

8. St. Thomas & St. John. For sheer beauty, it's hard to top the US Virgin Islands, especially these two. Beaches and shopping are great in St. Thomas, but an excursion to St. John shows the islands at their very best.

9. Barbados. So very British and so very beautiful. Great beaches and one of the best beers in the Caribbean! Take a tour of the Banks brewery, then relax in the picnic area outside the factory and sip a complimentary cold one!

10. Grenada. My memories of Grenada are of a quiet, mountainous paradise that smells faintly of cinnamon and allspice. The spices are still there, but the island is home to a thriving resort population and plenty of international visitors. It's still worth the trip, for the nice natives and the breathtaking beaches.

Ready to sail away to one of these ports? Or perhaps you'd enjoy Panama, St. Kitts, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Grand Cayman, Antigua, Tortola or the Bahamas? You really can't go wrong. And if you book with 7 Seas Cruises, you'll save money, too. Call us toll-free at 1-866-424-1090 or write us at cruise7seas@msn.com. There's an itinerary that's just right for you, I promise!

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