Out to Sea for October 1/16
(c) By Jim and Barb Fox
Turquoise waters, coral reefs, exotic blooms, cooling trade winds and bright sun with clear skies make the Caribbean the top warm-weather tourist destination in the world.
There are 33 island nations – each with their distinctive culture and customs – making up this tropical paradise that’s easily accessible.
Cruise ships are a great way to take in these sun-drenched lands, lapped by the azure waters on their white sand beaches with palm trees swaying in the breeze.
|Parking your ship -- the Carnival Pride -- right at the beach (Jim Fox photo)|
The Caribbean – east, west and south – is, not surprisingly, the world’s most popular cruising region, says Terry Thornton, senior vice-president, fleet deployment at Carnival Cruise Line.
He notes as well the “world-class beaches, excellent dining and shopping opportunities and unforgettable landside experiences,” that ship passengers have the opportunity to explore at each port.
Carnival is the Caribbean cruise leader with 20 of its 25 ships operating in the region on a year-round or seasonal basis and carrying millions of guests.
After Americans, Canadians make up a good percentage of passengers.
|The Carnival Pride tied up at the pier in Grand Turk. (Jim Fox photo)|
“Canadians love Carnival – between our close proximity to many North American homeports and our incredible value, we typically get a high percentage of new-to-cruise every year,” said Justin French, Carnival managing director, Canada and international sales.
We recently returned from a one-week “beach run” with 12 family members sailing on the Carnival Pride round-trip from Baltimore.
It’s a convenient port to reach by a quite scenic same-day drive through several mountain ranges including the Allegheny and along the Susquehanna River.
|The sign says it all
at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. (Barbara Fox photo)
For this sailing, the ship spent two days at sea before a day at Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands, then the private Carnival island of Half Moon Cay and Freeport in the Bahamas before two days at sea back to Baltimore.
The ship also sails to Bermuda as well as other Eastern and Western Caribbean islands, the Panama Canal and Central America destinations, and from Tampa.
The kids in our group especially liked the WaterWorks aqua park, miniature golf and basketball court on top of the ship and the Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss breakfast.
|There’s booze in the blender at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Grand Turk. (Jim Fox photo)|
The ship, which carries 2,124 guests, rocks almost around the clock with musical entertainment and shows at the Taj Mahal Lounge, the RedFrog Pub, with its laid-back Caribbean vibe, and the sing-along Piano Bar and at numerous deck parties.
There’s 24-hour dining at the Lido buffet while traditional dining is at the elegant Normandie Restaurant and there’s Bonsai Sushi (individual item charge) and the upscale Renaissance-era allure of David’s Steakhouse ($35 extra charge).
New and very popular are the more casual Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint, the Mexican Blue Iguana Cantina and candy store Cherry on Top.
|Serenity is the adults-only retreat on the Carnival Pride. (Barbara Fox photo)|
At the aft (rear) of the ship is the adults-only retreat, the Serenity lounge, with a pool, plush recliners and hammocks.
The upcoming Caribbean season is highlighted by the arrival of the Carnival Vista, called the line’s “largest and most innovative ship to date.”
The 3,954-passenger ship had its maiden voyage in Italy on May 1 and has been sailing in Europe.
After a 13-day trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Vista will operate a pair of 11-day cruises from New York next month and then begin six-and eight-day, year-round Caribbean service from Miami.
The ship has a variety of “exciting and unique features” including an outdoor suspended cycling experience called SkyRide, the first IMAX theatre at sea with seating for 182 and a three-deck screen and Kaleid-o-Slide, the line’s first raft-riding water tube slide.
The RedFrog Pub & Brewery offers three beers brewed on board and there’s also the New England-inspired Seafood Shack.
The Family Harbor staterooms can accommodate up to five people and there’s a family lounge with concierge serving breakfast and snacks.
The ship expands the line’s popular Latin-infused Havana Bar to include a pool and colourful cabanas featuring private outdoor patios.
There’s all of the line’s popular dining, bar and entertainment concepts, along with Camp Ocean children’s area and the Dr. Seuss Bookville facility.
For more information and reservations: carnival.com; 1-800-CARNIVAL or a travel agent.
Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at email@example.com
For more Out to Sea trip tips: http://outtoseatravel.blogspot.ca