#6 Trunk Bay, St. John

The beautiful beaches of St. John
The beautiful beaches of St. John

Sometimes all you need in life is a beautiful beach. Crystal clear water. White powder sand. Snorkeling in a tropical fish bowl. Gently swaying palms. Total relaxation beneath a sky of puffy clouds, and untroubled sun-filled days, with none of the worries of a normal schedule.

To me the Caribbean is one of those idyllic destinations, a part of the world that ticks off all the items on the list above, and the perfect place to regenerate and relax while learning about some of the islands' natural wonders. An itinerary by ship allows one to slowly cruise among the sea's treasures, creating a true balm for the spirit. With Princess Cruises sailing the eastern, western, and southern Caribbean, you can discover myriad beautiful islands, countless coves, and endless spots in which to dream.

But let's start with the wonder of wonders within this itinerary. Trunk Bay in Saint John—with its perfect combination of white sand, turquoise water, and pristine setting—is one of the world’s true natural beauties. It's that postcard-worthy place we daydream about, especially on a cold winter day. The spot was voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the kind of white sand idyll that's worthy of a Corona campaign. In fact it might be the place you will name later when searching to describe the most perfect, and most tranquil, place in the world.

Trunk Bay might be the most spectacular destination on this Caribbean cruise, but the region is jam-packed with magnificent beaches and tropical paradises. The Baths at Virgin Gorda, for example, is another of the Caribbean's most beautiful spots, with a perfect stretch of clear sea set between huge stone boulders measuring up to 40 feet high. The shallow waters between them form natural swimming pools, perfect for floating under a tranquil sky (bordered by gently swaying palm trees), and snorkeling right offshore in shoals of bright fish that flash brilliantly right beneath the water's surface. Luckily, since the granite formations are a geological wonder, the area has been protected as a national park. Magens Bay on St. Thomas is another can't-miss. One of the island's most celebrated beaches, it boasts an arboretum, coconut groves, and a wealth of pristine photo-ops.

For divers and snorkelers, Roatan is another must. It wasn't until fairly recently that ships were allowed to anchor here. One of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras, it teems with otherworldly marine life and has the second largest barrier reef in the world. A few years ago I had the good fortune to dive there, and the diversity of fish and sea creatures was on par with those in much more remote destinations. Smiling whale sharks, green turtles, and eagle rays are among the possible sightings, while parrot fish, damselfish, butterfly fish, and angelfish are constant companions that make you feel as if you are a part of their world.

Sometimes it's the attractions beyond the water that provide the conversation points, as is the case with the Pitons in Saint Lucia. These two spire-shaped volcanic plugs bookend Jalousie Bay on the southern part of the island and reach over 2,000 feet into the sky. The geological formation of healthy coral reefs and hot springs, as well as the volcanoes themselves, have led to the area's designation as a World Heritage Site, protecting it from any further development. Along the same cruise route, you can discover more on land, including ancient Mayan ruins throughout the Yucatán with a tour from Belize to Cozumel, and Costa Maya.

In addition to the beauty on both land and sea, one also can’t underestimate the Caribbean's diverse cultures, a mix of influences on the region—from food to architecture and crafts. Saint Maarten is certainly one of the most interesting examples of this, an island still half French and half Dutch, an arrangement that dates back to 1648. Each is known for its vibrant atmosphere: On the Dutch side, rollicking nightlife, rum drinks, and a lively casino scene, while Francophiles love the French cuisine, plethora of shopping opportunities, and white sand beaches.