The people that steer cruise ships to Caribbean cruise ports have been looking for new places to send ships for quite some time. Formerly satisfied with the standard fare of Western, Eastern or Southern Caribbean itineraries, cruise travelers are tired of the same old thing and want something different. Cruise lines are delivering, not by just sailing to new, exotic destinations but by building their own.
Banana Coast is the newest western Caribbean cruise port destination at Trujillo, Honduras. One of the first to call, luxury line Silversea with 296-passenger Silver Cloud, scheduled to make its first visit in December 2014.
“We are pleased to have a high-end brand like Silversea Cruises be the first to commit to call at Banana Coast,” said Michael Greve, president of Global Destinations Development, one of the companies involved with developing the port, in a Travel Pulse report. “It’s a testament to how we have carefully created a destination that is culturally and historically appealing to the most sophisticated travelers.”
When the project is complete, the Banana Coast cruise destination will have a 50,000-square-foot shopping facility and transportation hub, and be far more than other cruise line made islands. Boasting “something for everyone,” it looks like this one really will be via its “Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea” theme.
“We have met with several other cruise lines and have hosted site inspections by cruise line executives,” said Greve. “We expect that several lines soon will commit to adding Banana Coast to their itineraries.”
Ten acres of beachfront land is just the start for the Banana Coast. Enabling travelers to experience the pristine area from air, land and sea, “shore excursions” are more than a ride around the island in a tour bus.
A VIP airplane trip to Mayan ruins, snorkeling, kayaking, ATV rides, a culinary tasting tour and more will be available to adventure travelers. Waterfalls, rivers, streams, mountains, a tropical rainforest, a nature reserve, coral reefs and crystal clear waters should make this destination one to visit.
This one just might have it all.
Oh, and there is some fair surfing there too, as we see in this video:
Norwegian Cruise Line today released the first image of the hull art planned for its next ship, 144,000 ton Norwegian Breakaway, designed by pop-artist icon Peter Max.
Covering 40,000 square feet of the ship’s exterior, the New York City-themed design features images of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.
“The Big Apple is known for its love of art and its many galleries — and now, Norwegian Breakaway becomes a floating piece of that art that will cruise in and dock every Saturday on New York’s West Side,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian president and CEO in a statement.
Artists and art at sea is nothing new, Peter Max was along for the ride on inaugural sailings of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and an on-board Britto store with works from Romero Britto, is featured on the ship.
Sister line Celebrity Cruises has a similar focus on the arts, offering hands-on instruction from experts in drawing, painting and beading, as well as the art of food with culinary-themed classes on their Solstice-class ships.
Currently under construction in Germany, Norwegian Breakaway will debut in April 2013. The ship is scheduled to sail year-round from New York to Bermuda and the Bahamas and will be the largest ship ever to be based year-round in the city. That adds one more drive-to-the-port option for cruise passengers in the often under-served New York market.
Embarking on seven- to twelve day cruises to the Bahamas and Florida from October 2013 to April 2014, ports include Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay, Orlando and Port Canaveral. Two 12-day Southern Caribbean voyages and two “Weekend Escape” cruises in January 2014 are also scheduled with the 12-day itinerary incorporating visits to San Juan, St Thomas, Philipsburg, Castries, Bridgetown and Basseterre.
Crime in Mexico has caused cruise lines to carefully assess whether or not they should be bringing business to the country. Recently, the situation has been improving as narco drug lord activity remains focused in areas where cruise passengers do not travel, and some of the world’s biggest Carnival celebrations ended this week without incident. Nevertheless, twenty-two cruise passengers recently robbed at gunpoint on a normally safe ship-sponsored shore excursion, is causing the travel industry to take another look at safety.
It’s not the first time cruise passengers have been robbed at gunpoint — that also happened in November of 2010 on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.
“At the time of the robbery, the passengers were traveling to the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a well-visited UNESCO World Heritage Site on the southern Caribbean island,” reported CruiseCritic. The article reports that masked gunmen “put a tree across the road to block the bus.”
On a Celebrity Cruises ship-sponsored tour, the excursion was canceled indefinitely pending the outcome of the investigation. No one was harmed, calls for increased security went out, and law enforcement in St. Kitts pointed to their nearly spotless record of being a safe destination for travelers.
Thursday’s incident happened in Puerto Vallarta, when passengers who came ashore from Carnival Splendor were robbed while on a ship-sponsored tour. Held at gunpoint, they were “stripped of cameras, watches and other valuables they had with them,” reports Informador. Here too, no one was harmed, calls for increased security went out, and the Shore Excursion, a seemingly harmless nature walk, was canceled pending investigation.
“Carnival also apologized to the passengers for the ‘unfortunate and disturbing event’ and said it is working with passengers to reimburse them for lost valuables and assist with lost passports or other forms of identification,” said CruiseCritic.
The incident once again raises questions about the safety of tourists in Mexico, an ongoing matter that concerns not only cruise lines, but hotels, resorts, and pending spring breakers set to go south of the border within the next 30 days.Earlier this month, The U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for Mexico, superseding last April’s warning. Cartel violence stemming from drug trafficking, specifically, violent struggles among the criminal organizations for control of trafficking routes, has resulted in a rising number of carjacking’s, kidnappings and gun battles throughout Mexico.
“U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter TCOs (Transnational Criminal Organizations) which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico,” said the State Department in the new warning posted on their website.
Though crime is nothing new for Puerto Vallarta. Not quite a year ago, in May of 2011, Leonard Schell, a Canadian father of two, was stabbed 25 times in his Puerto Vallarta home and robbed of about $13,000, bank cards, and passports, as CTV.ca reported. “They cut him from his lip to his throat. It’s terrible, and just to rob money,” said Elba Ruiz, Schell’s wife.
Still, Mexican tourism officials claim they are the victims of an unfair media focus, concentrating on isolated incidents, not typical of what visitors to Mexico commonly experience.
“We believe that these travel alerts are too broad-based and making very blind statements about Mexico that do not reflect the reality,” Lopez-Negrete said at the time.
Really? Tell that to the 22 tourists robbed at gunpoint in Puerto Vallarta this week.
This latest incident of crime involving tourists in Mexico adds yet another legitimate reason for travelers to stay away from Mexico or at least exercise extreme caution when visiting.
Hotel guests and cruise passengers will have added concern as they normally experience a destination through a sponsored tour or excursion, promoted as the safe way to go. Tour operators are said to be vetted by the hotels and cruise lines, implying they are safe to travel with.
Hotel guests get picked up and dropped off at their safe hotel, for the most part without incident. Cruise passengers know that if the locally operated tour runs late, the ship will wait for them. Those going ashore on their own take a risk using unapproved operators. If their tour runs late, the ship will leave without them. But most of those also end with great memories of a beautiful destination they may want to visit again.
It’s a hot-button topic with Gadling readers as well, causing a variety of comments both in support and against travel to and in Mexico.
“It was not the sight of 4 armed guards loading ATM machines that scared us but the fact that we were drugged at our resort and my husband ended up in a Mexican ICU, I can tell you first hand as a nurse, YOU DO NOT WANT to get sick in MEXICO.”
Considered safer than Mazatlan, where cruise lines have abandoned all calls, Puerto Vallarta continues to get ships calling from a number of lines and has a brisk hotel business. But, like the caution they urge about Mazatlan, the U.S. Department of State warns, “You should also exercise caution when traveling at night outside of cities in the remaining portions of this state.”
Readers disagree here too with one commenting:
“Puerto Vallarta is safe!? lmao I was chased back to my hotel by three drunk Mexicans throwing rocks at my head for no reason while I was on vacation. I thought it was safe and this was 6+ years ago.”
Still, many Americans and Canadianstravel to and live in Mexico, without incident. Another reader, a New Yorker who lives in Mexico during the winter, has a different take on safety in Mexico:
“(I have) been coming to Mexico since 1970, never had a problem. Have owned a home in Cozumel for 6 years. My wife and I live here winter and spring, then summer and fall in Upstate NY I’ve told many of my NY friends it’s safer here than going a NY mall on a weekend. If you don’t go looking for trouble it won’t find you. But don’t let the word get out too much, we don’t want our beautiful little island to change.”
It’s a long, ongoing battle between those in favor of travel to Mexico who love the place and those against who urge caution; one not likely to end any time soon.