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:

Cruise Lines To Plug In Ships, Finally

cruise shipMore than a year ago, Brooklyn’s Red Hook cruise ship terminal was to become the first East Coast cruise operation with the capability to let ships “plug in” and access power off the grid. A year later, ships have still not plugged in to cleaner, shore-side electric power and continue to spew fumes due to a $4 million price increase along the way. Now, Port Authority officials say they will approve the project and get going on it this month.

“The shore power project I expect will be on the Port Authority agenda for the June meeting,” Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye told the New York Daily News. “We’re working with our colleagues in city government to see what help they can provide and those discussions are ongoing. The environmental impacts to the local community – obviously it is an immensely populated area – are real and we’re focused on them.”

Concerned parties including state and local officials, Con Ed, Carnival Corporation and owners of ships that will use the facility, worked and debated for years to figure out how much electricity would cost and how to pay for it, before finally announcing a deal last April to split the cost.

Plugging in cruise ships is a big focus of cruise line environmental efforts, with several west coast ports already equipped to do so. When cruise ships come in to the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal they bring a lot of travelers. That business is great for the local economy. Each cruise ship also brings some 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of particulate matter annually when they park and burn their diesel engines – bad news for the humans that live near by.

“It will be the equivalent of removing 5,000 cars per year from the road annually,” Seth W. Pinsky, the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation told the New York Times.

In California, the ports of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco already have the ability for ships to plug in.


Port of San Diego Completes Shore Power System from Port of San Diego on Vimeo.

Photo by Ian Barbour via Compfight

Cruise Ships Still Choking Brooklyn, Not Plugging In, A Year Later

cruise ships at red hookAlmost a year ago, Brooklyn’s Red Hook cruise ship terminal was to become the first East Coast cruise operation with the capability to let ships “plug in” and access power off the grid. Now, almost a year later, ships have still not plugged in to cleaner, shore-side electric power and continue to spew fumes.

Cruise ships annually bring 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of particulate matter when they park and burn their diesel engines.

Last April, Gadling reported that the $15 million project would be funded with $12 million from the Port Authority, nearly $3 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant and Carnival Corporation would spend $4 million to retrofit their Princess Cruises and Cunard Line ships that dock in Brooklyn.

Now, costs have shot up another $4.3 million and the Environmental Protection Agency has not paid the extra money, according to local elected officials.

“It is critical that this project not fall by the wayside,” said Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-Brooklyn) in an article appearing in the New York Daily News.

Apparently, the cruise ships are ready to go but the system is still not in place for them to plug in, even though West Coast cruise terminals have had the ability for quite some time.

“It seems fairly pathetic that all of these things are in place but the Port Authority are twiddling their thumbs,” Adam Armstrong, 48, a blogger and father of two who lives on Pioneer Street near the terminal, told the Daily News. “I thought it was quibbling over a small amount of money considering the impact of the emissions on people’s health.”

It has been almost three years since Carnival Corporation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Port Authority first agreed to enable cruise ships to plug in to green shore-side power.

Last year, community leaders applauded the move to shore-side power. This year, not so much.


Flickr photo by j_bary

Cubby is your New York City luggage storage and courier

luggage storageMany visitors to New York City come for the shopping. What to do with all those bargains and souvenirs when it’s time for dinner? You could stow them at your hotel or use a left luggage desk at a transportation center like Port Authority, but what if your day takes you different places?

Cubby
is a new bag check and luggage storage service on Manhattan’s Park Avenue South and 23rd Street (perfect location for a post-shopping lunch at Shake Shack) that will not only watch your bag but also send them via bicycle courier to the destination of your choice. The shop is open daily from 8am to midnight and has an iPhone and Android app you can use to make a reservation and get a discount on storage. Cubby charges $5-8 for the first bag with lower rates for additional bags and $10 for courier service.

The current Gramercy location is a pop-up until October 31, but they are working on making it a permanent store and looking to expand to further downtown locations.

Hat tip to Jeanine Barone for the find. Photo courtesy Cubby.

Five ways to make bus travel bearable

I’ve been spending a lot of time on buses lately – and not the kind that trace an east-west route across Manhattan. For the trips I’ve been taking, it’s been the best way to go, but rolling by bus is still far from exciting. From having to smoke outside with the homeless people in front of Port Authority to being stuck next to or in front of a loud cell phone talker, it’s hard to find a less appealing way to travel. Some bus lines are better than others, and I’ve been fairly impressed by the one I’m taking these days. Nonetheless, it’s still a drag.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make your bus ride much easier.

There are obvious tactics, from music to reading materials, but anyone who travels (or has merely waited in a long line somewhere) can figure them out. Instead of the basics, which you should be able to figure out on your own, let’s take a look at five tricks that only come from painful experience.1. Get in line (or on the bus) early
This may seem obvious, but the reasons come with some subtlety. You want to claim your space as soon as possible. Wait too long, and you could wind up having to set next to someone who is already on board. Step onto the bus early, and you’ll be putting someone else in that position. The odds of having your own seat for the ride increase profoundly.

2. Look undesirable
As people get on, especially when there are no empty pairs left, they have to make some tough choices on where to sit. Your goal is to make them pass you without even considering an invasion of your personal space. Eat some smelly food, wear torn or dirty clothing or cough and sneeze. This will help you win the opportunity to stretch out later.

3. Spread out
If there are multiple stops before your destination, more passengers may get on. This only happens when you’re headed toward the “big place,” though. When I leave New York, for example, I don’t worry about losing space to passengers who get on later – the net flow is outward. Yet, when I’m headed back home, it’s hard to rest easy until we’ve left the last stop before the city. To further discourage people from sitting next to me, which is harder than in (2) above, I tend to spread out a bit, pluck away at my laptop and generally make it look time-consuming and annoying to clear space for another passenger. Nobody wants to wait in the aisle, especially for someone who is not really interested in helping.

4. Enlist your friends
While you don’t want to be among the degenerates who talk on the phone during the entire bus trip, you will need to be entertained. Texts, communication via BlackBerry Messenger and even traditional email will amuse you without annoying those around you. Make sure you have a few people on board to help you out, case someone gets bored or busy … or just doesn’t care about your plight.

5. Engage the world
I think the number of tweets I send while riding the bus skyrockets relative to my already elevated volume. If you aren’t a Twitter addict already, become one if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on a bus. It’s quiet, and it will keep you busy. Follow the right people, and it will also keep you laughing. To start, may I suggest @Gadling?

[tweetphoto via @tjohansmeyer]