Cruise Line Takes Sustainability From Sea To Shore, Wins Award

cruise lineSustainable Travel International (STI) is a global non-profit charged to help destinations, businesses and travelers protect the environment, adapt to climate change, preserve cultural heritage and more. This week, STI awarded their first-ever, Gold-Level Eco-Certification to a cruise line, honoring Royal Caribbean International for attractions and tour operations at their island in the Bahamas, CocoCay.

Encouraging green travel, STI awards certification for businesses that are engaged in responsible travel practices that focus on economic, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability.

CocoCay is the first operation of its kind to receive the certification, which rates on-island tours, island operations, workplace practices, guest communications and environmental management policies. Rated by an expert third-party, independent of Sustainable Travel International and Royal Caribbean, the CocoCay operation demonstrated an ability to successfully apply its at-sea sustainability initiatives to its on-shore operations.But Royal Caribbean did not just get lucky. Winning the award took a global focus, much like we saw when sailing to their private destination of Labadee in Haiti, just after the major earthquake of a few years ago. Then, Royal Caribbean was self-charged to deliver thousands of pounds of food and supplies to the devastated island, which was also home to resident Royal Caribbean employees who work at Labadee when ships come calling.

“Royal Caribbean developed a very thorough, attainable action plan, designed to implement higher levels of sustainability over time,” said Robert Chappell, Sustainable Travel International’s Senior Director of Standards and Certification in a press release.

Will more cruise lines follow Royal Caribbean and work to get their own private islands certified green and sustainable? Probably. Other cruise lines as well have been working to make a green impact. By recycling cooking oil used on ships as fuel for vehicles on Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line is making a difference.

Princess Cruises shore power program made history debuting in environmentally sensitive Juneau, Alaska, in 2001, expanding to Seattle in 2005, and then to Vancouver in 2009. Currently nine of the line’s ships have the capability to “plug in” to a shore-side power source, representing an investment for Princess of nearly $7 million in equipment.

“I’m excited to see them expand their action plan while developing innovative new solutions that are leading the way in the cruise industry,” added Chappell.

STEP is among the first global standards to be formally recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay is the first cruise line private island to receive the certification.

Want to know more about Sustainable Travel International? Check this video:



[Photo Credit – Flickr user kuddlyteddybear2004]

Cruise line private islands, a very safe port

Cruise Line Private IslandsOften a highlight of a cruise to the Bahamas or the Caribbean is a stop at one of the cruise line’s private islands. Probably one of the safest, most controlled ports of call you might visit, cruise line private islands are consistently ranked high by passengers. Most are located in the Bahamas and each one is unique.

On every private island you will find crystal clear water, sandy beaches, water sports and activities along with beach-side service for drinks and lunch will be served. Some require tendering in from the ship, others dock at the island.

The first passengers off the ship will find a pristine beach raked and clean, along with resident workers ready to make your stay comfortable. There is plenty to do (or not do) for adults and kids and even serene adult-only areas.Cruise line private islandsGreat Stirrup Cay, Bahamas is Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, under their care since 1977 when the line became the first to have one. The island features Snorkeling

Recent enhancements to the island that started in January of 2010 will continue through the end of this year. Several new island activities have been added since the project began including more than 16 wave runners, kayak rentals and an eco-adventure boat tour around the island. These are in addition to the existing snorkeling; floats; inflatable hippo slide; and parasailing.

The second phase of enhancements includes an arrival/departure pavilion, additional bar facilities; several comfort stations; a band stand; cruise program activity area; private beachfront cabanas; a kid’s play area; straw market; and beach volleyball courts. The beachfront will continue to be expanded on the island’s west end.

cruise line private islandsHalf Moon Cay, Bahamas This Holland America Line island (now also a Carnival island) was originally called Little San Salvador Island and has been rated as “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine. An international bird sanctuary in the Bahamas, the beauty and serenity of Half Moon Cay is unique.

There are a variety of exciting and new activities to choose from while exploring this privately owned paradise. You can go horseback riding on the sand and through the surf, take a stingray adventure, visit the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park, hike a nature trail or simply relax in an air-conditioned, private beachfront cabana.

cruise line private islandsPrincess Cays, Bahamas is Princess Cruises private island on the south side of Eleuthera Island about 30 miles from Nassau. Princess Cays guests will find equipment for many beach activities. Water sports fans can choose from water craft such as sailboats, catamarans, paddle wheelers, kayaks, and banana boats, while those who wish to explore the island’s coral reef can rent gear for snorkeling.

Floating mattresses are available for lazily drifting in the sun, and several protected swimming areas are available on both the north and south beach areas. Beachside, reggae and calypso music set the mood, and guests can enjoy a game of volleyball or basketball, or choose to relax with a hammock, beach chair or under an umbrella.

cruise line private islandsCocoCay, Bahamas is one of two private islands for Royal Caribbean. This one is more along the lines of other cruise lines private islands with sandy beaches (duh) and a nice hammock here and here to enjoy your island-style seaside barbecue.

Tip: When you get off the tenders, there are three beaches to go to. The first one is the biggest and the most crowded. Keep walking and you’ll find the second beach, which is a little smaller and less crowded. Keep going even further and you’ll find the third beach, which is the smallest and least crowded.

cruise line private islandsLabadee, Haiti in is the home to what Royal Caribbean calls their “private destination” and with good reason. On the north coast of Hispaniola, the secure, secluded area is surrounded by exotic foliage and mountain slopes. Guests can enjoy beautiful coral reefs, a pristine public beach as well as a very nice private beach area reserved for suite guests.

A year ago Royal Caribbean International came under close scrutiny as the line planned to visit their private destination of Labadee, Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake rocked the island. I was on board Freedom of the Seas last January when critics said it was in bad taste for the line to have cruise passengers go ashore for fun and sun while so many were suffering on different parts of the island nation. A year later, not a lot is better in Haiti and Royal Caribbean continues to call.

cruise line private islandsCastaway Cay, Bahamas is Disney Cruise Line’s private island. Unique to Castaway Cay is that the ship docks at the island, no tendering involved, which makes for a great experience. Recently updated, this one has it all.

This is Disney Cruise Line turning an island into a theme park, complete with rides, trams to get around on, gift shops plus really good food. All other private islands pale by comparison. Really.

They should build hotels here and let people stay a while. No wonder some sailings include two stops at the popular island.

If all those are not good enough for you, maybe you should just buy your own



Flickr photo by fotodawg

Alpine coasters bring theme park thrills to ski resorts




There are a number of ways for roller coaster fans to get a fix during the long, cold winter months when most of the country’s theme parks are closed. Riding one of the alpine coasters that are popping up at ski resorts has got to be one of the best options. These personal thrill rides give spectacular views of the surrounding areas as they take advantage of the mountainous terrain that they’re built on.

Alpine coasters are similar to traditional roller coasters, but there are a few differences. The ride’s cars have a braking system that guests can use to control their speed which tops out at about 30 mph. Also, unlike roller coasters, alpine coasters can run in any weather. Their courses don’t appear to be too steep as they traverse wide, winding paths down hilly terrain and mountainsides.

Alpine coasters offer breath-taking views and a unique experience. Rides are a bit pricey though and they vary by ski resort. Prices for a single ride start out at around $9 and can cost as much as $20 or more. I’d pay up to $20 for a single ride, but I’m not sure I’d ride it more than once.

German company Wiegand, has built alpine coasters across the globe in Asia, Europe, North America and South America. The seven alpine coasters at U.S. ski resorts are: Breckenridge, Glenwood Springs, Jiminy Peak, Mount Cranmore, Okemo, Park City, and Wisp. Park City Utah’s Alpine Coaster is the largest in North America. Alpine coasters aren’t limited to ski resorts. They’re even popping up in tropical locations. In 2009, Dragon’s Tail opened at Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s port in Labadee, Haiti.

[Image 1 credit: Flickr User dubswede]

Royal Caribbean still helping Haiti- a year later

Royal Caribbean HaitiA year ago Royal Caribbean International came under close scrutiny as the line planned to visit their private destination of Labadee, Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake rocked the island. I was on board Freedom of the Seas last January when critics said it was in bad taste for the line to have cruise passengers go ashore for fun and sun while so many were suffering on different parts of the island nation. A year later, not a lot is better in Haiti and Royal Caribbean continues to call.

“Please go back to the ship and tell everyone to come ashore, we need them” I was told by local resident and Royal Caribbean island crew member “Franclin” at the time.

His plea was in response to a lower than normal number of passengers getting off ships calling at the island, a move that was hurting them financially as natives tried to sell hand-crafted items.

At the time, Royal Caribbean was scorned by some for visiting the island even though they were delivering much-needed relief supplies including much-needed basics like water at a time when ports elsewhere were damaged and unusable.

The effort continues today, a year later, as the cruise line continues to call at Labadee.

Humanitarian Relief to Haiti is an ongoing effort at Royal Caribbean. Highlighted by opening one fo the first schools to be built after the earthquake in October 2010 and company blogs that helped keep the world informed, relief efforts started just three days after the earthquake. The efforts continue too as company lets those with Royal Caribbean Visa cards help by donating their points to help in aide programs. Guests aboard sister-lines Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises can donate to Food for the Poor’s Haiti Relief Fund via their onboard charge accounts while sailing.

Noted by AOL Travel as one of 2010’s Worst Natural Disasters, the question remains:

“Well, it can only get better there in 2011, right? Right??”

Royal Caribbean has made much more than a “show” of support as they continue efforts long after the TV cameras and journalists have moved on.

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Photos: Whitney Owen

10 great zip lines from around the world (videos)

Roller coasters and other such thrill rides are fun, but imagine reaching speed of up to 100 miles per hour on a metal cable, with nothing more then a harness, a helmet… and the air below you.

Around the world, zip lines have become an adrenaline seeker’s favorite, literally allowing you to hurtle through awe-inspiring landscapes at jaw-dropping speeds. In some cases, the mere presence of a zip line can be a decision-maker between two competing travel destinations. Not sure about all this? Strap in and enjoy the ride on these videos, which feature some of best zip lines in the world.

At a height of 918 feet, speeds of up to 100 mph, and spanning just over a mile, Sun City, South Africa boasts the steepest, fastest, tallest zip line on the globe. On this particular line, the rider zips down the cable while flat, rocket-like. This particular zip line gives the rider the experience of being able to fly like a bird… well, like a very, very, very fast bird.


Glide through rain forest terrain and enjoy the breathtaking view of the local volcanoes in Costa Rica, one of the world’s most popular zip line destinations. This particular video showcases just a fraction of a full zip line tour that’s a total of 1.7 miles — and because of its amazing first-person perspective, it’s un-miss-able.

Pro tip: This particular company also has night tours offering the possibility of seeing volcanic eruptions and nocturnal rain forest creatures (like vampires!).

Riders can enjoy the aerial view of Alaeloa Valley in Hawaii from a zip line. The scenic ride is 2,000 feet long and is fantastic for adventurers seeking a different perspective of the beautiful island landscape.

Forget hiking from one mountain to the next! This zip line offers riders a quick and exhilarating alternative. In Vancouver, British Columbia, this line ranges from Dam Mountain to the peak of Grouse Mountain, and zooms along at up to 49 mph. Not only does the line offer riders excitement but, of course, there’s also a wonderful view.

Labadee, Haiti is home to a 2,650-foot-long zip line that glides over crystal clear waters. The line begins on the top of a mountain and cruises over a stretch of ocean giving riders a spectacular view of the surrounding scenery. Towards the end of the line, the rider sails almost within reach of the gentle waves below.

On the longest zip line in the United Kingdom — located in Stirling, Scotland — riders can observe the gorgeous mountains nearby. This zip line offers riders the chance to travel on a cable that spans 1,397 feet and flies above lush, forested terrain.

Hoonah, Alaska is the self-proclaimed home to the tallest and longest zip line in the United States. The zip line reaches speeds of 60 mph, spans a mile of Alaska sky, and hurtles ocean-ward from a height of 1330 feet high. Watch this video, and you’ll know immediately why the town is called HOONAH!!!

Visitors to the Great Wall of China have an insanely fun way to get to a lower section: an intense zip line ride. Fly over blue waters and get amazing (albeit short) views of The Great Wall.

Shoot through a rain forest canopy on this zip line in Puerto Rico. With the trees whizzing within arm’s reach, riders get a quick view of the lush native rain forest and a fun adrenaline rush.

At the Moaning Caverns in California, visitors can get an overhead view of the area at speeds of around 40 mph. The cable stretches 1500 feet and is a great thrill for adrenaline junkies.

So… where are you headed first?