Tired Of Caribbean Islands? No Problem: We’ll Make More, Say Cruise Lines

Caribbean
breezy421/Flickr

After a few sailings in the Caribbean, North American cruise travelers can get tired of going to the same islands. Their cruise vacation may be a great value and easy to do but they want more. The problem is that ships can only go so far before having to turn around and get back in a week, the time most travelers have for vacation. The answer: make more islands.

While the cruise industry has not exactly figured out how to make there be land where there was none before, they have become good at building custom cruise ports. New Banana Coast cruise port in Honduras is a great example.

Beginning construction in 2011, the $30 million Banana Coast cruise destination is scheduled to open in November 2014. Billed as “Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea,” the western Caribbean port already has cruise lines adding Banana Coast as a port of call. So far, Silversea Cruises, Holland America Line and, just this week, Oceania Cruises have committed to regular stops with more lines expected as they roll out future itineraries.When the project is complete, Banana Coast will have a 50,000-square-foot shopping facility and transportation hub, which will take visitors to other places on the island. Possible experiences include a VIP airplane trip to the Mayan ruins, snorkeling, kayaking, ATV rides, a culinary tasting tour and more. The diverse climate and topography of Honduras offers waterfalls, rivers, streams, mountains, a tropical rainforest, a nature reserve, coral reefs and crystal clear waters all at the same destination.

This is not the first man-made Caribbean cruise destination either. The Jamaica port of Falmouth, a joint project between Royal Caribbean International and the Port Authority of Jamaica, is another good example. Reminiscent of the historic 1700’s and 1800’s when Falmouth was the big port for sugar exports worldwide, the port is built to handle Royal Caribbean’s huge Oasis-class ships. The location also allows visitors to do shore excursions from both existing ports of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, each about a half-hour away.

Back in Honduras, the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center is a Carnival Corporation sponsored destination that has welcomed over one million cruise passengers since opening in 2009. The Roatan, Honduras, location is on 20 acres of waterfront property and is an attractive area to visit for guests of Carnival Cruise Lines. In addition, there are sister-lines Seabourn, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Costa Cruises and non-Carnival Corporation vessels.

In the Dominican Republic, construction continues on the Amber Cove Cruise Center, a giant $65 million facility that will be able to accommodate up to 8,000 cruise passengers and 2,000 crew members daily. This one is expected to host more than 250,000 cruise passengers in its first year of operation. Amber Cove will feature a welcome center with a variety of retail offerings, including a marketplace for locally sourced Dominican crafts and souvenirs, as well as a wide range of themed restaurants and bars, water attractions and a transportation hub allowing visitors easy access by land and sea to the surrounding destinations and attractions.

As the high price of airfare continues to keep North American cruise travelers sailing from home ports scattered around the United States, look for these man-made islands to continue gaining popularity.

Another Caribbean destination, which has become increasingly accessible by sea or air is Curacao. Boasting 35 beaches and an eclectic mix of history and culture, the capital city of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a good choice to visit as we see in this video:

Eat while traveling on cuisine-focused adventures

eat while travelingWhat we eat while traveling has always been a big part of a memorable trip. A recent survey by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism says 71% of Americans participated in at least one culinary activity while on an out-of-town trip and that activity was one of the most significant travel experiences of the vacation. Now, cuisine-focused adventures offered by travel agencies are making menus much more than a souvenir.

“With interest in local cuisines growing thanks to the success of popular television shows like the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, gastronomic adventures are overtaking itineraries among gourmets and casual diners alike,” said travel service company Amadeus in a recent newsletter.

Noting trending travel requests and getting the information out to travel agencies who want to be prepared with their offerings, Amadeus sent along information about a variety of food-oriented travel packages.

Taste-full tours
Travel agencies are creating itineraries that include tours of wineries, food and wine events, festivals, cooking classes, cruises with guest chefs and more so travelers can experience the unique flavor of a particular geographic region or city.

Learn to cook on a cruise
On cruise lines, dining has always been a big part of the experience. Now, many lines have gone beyond buffets to offer culinary-themed voyages. Holland America’s Culinary Arts Center and Oceania Cruises’ Bon Appetit Culinary Center are floating cooking schools where passengers get up-close and personal instruction from chefs on the ship.

A side order of history
“Culinary tourism offers foodies a taste of history with experiences such as the Tasting Tour of the French Quarter in which the rich New Orleans food culture comes alive,”adds Amadeus. “After experiencing a historical walking tour, travelers visit the city’s famous eateries such as Antoine’s and Tujague’s, both established in the 1800s.”

Chocoholics unite
Die-hard chocolate addicts will want to experience the Swiss Chocolate Train and visit the Cailler-Nestle factory and tasting room at Broc, Switzerland. In the U.S., life doesn’t get much sweeter than the town of Hershey, Pa., or the Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory in San Francisco.

Cooking on all burners
Culinary travelers want to take home practical knowledge of how to prepare the foods they’ve discovered and can sign up for cooking classes, such as the weeklong Culinary and Art Adventure in Provence with Chef Philippe Gion. Participants go home with a personalized cookbook of dishes they’ve learned during the week.

Trips and tours with special, focused themes like the food-oriented travel options listed here won’t be found on a click-to-buy website. A qualified travel agency, specializing in food-oriented travel packages is the place to look for these and other themed travel options.


Cooking School of Rancho La Puerta in Mexico

Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina

2 unique new cruise ships sailing in 2011

new cruise ships2010 was a good year for new cruise ships. Highlights included Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic that set the bar solidly higher for at-sea entertainment, highlighted by a Cirque Dreams and Dinner experience that was well received. Answering that call for improved entertainment, new largest-ship-in-the-world Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas followed nicely in the footsteps of older sister Oasis, clearly establishing herself as a unique ship of her own.

Looking forward to 2011, more new ships are on the horizon including Oceania Cruises new Marina, nearly double the size of the line’s existing three ships; Celebrity Silhouette, the fourth Solstice-class ship from Celebrity Cruises and another new yacht from Seabourn, the Seabourn Quest among others. Today we focus on two different ships by two different lines that will probably be the most talked-about of the bunch.

Disney Dream – at 128,000 tons, Disney Cruise Line’s new entry, the first of two with Disney Fantasy coming out next year, promises to steer Disney in a unique new at-sea direction. Sailing from Port Canaveral, the new ship will more than double the size of the Disney fleet carrying up to 4000 guests. Called “the most anticipated ship of 2011” by CruiseCritic.com editor Carolyn Spencer Brown

Carnival Magic – the second of Carnival Cruise Line’s Dream-class ship and will offer 3,693 guests a 7 to 12 day Mediterranean sailing in the Summer followed by a unique first for Carnival; home-porting a new ship in Galveston Texas. 130,000 ton Carnival Magic will make a total of 23 ships in the fleet. Look for this one to be launched with some unique, social ways capitalizing on Carnival’s signature “fun” element.