Friday, September 10, 2010

Cruising the Western Caribbean

Sun worshipping, snorkeling, shopping, sightseeing…a cruise to the Western Caribbean is all that and so much more! These ports of call include those islands that are west of (and including) Haiti and those along the Yucatan Peninsula.  Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, nothing quite compares to strolling barefoot along an expanse of powdery white sand or splashing in the warm, crystal clear turquoise Caribbean Sea. Water sports of every type; jet skiing, kayaking, fishing, and sailing are readily available on all these islands. Diving amid the brilliant coral reefs in this area of the world is an extraordinary experience. History buffs can enjoy a day of discovering exotic cultures or exploring Mexico’s Mayan ruins. And who can resist a day of bargaining in the local markets for one of a kind crafts or shopping for duty free treasures? The air and sea temperature is warm year-round making it a perfect escape from Northeast winters!

 Each Western Caribbean island offers unique opportunities and divergent experiences.  Some of the more popular stops on a Western Caribbean cruise are as follows:

Key West, Florida: Okay, not exactly the Caribbean, but lots of ships that travel to the Western Caribbean include this port.  Known for its spectacular sunsets, Duval Street, Hemingway's old hangouts and its tropical vibe, Key West is always a favorite stop!  Both designer shops and eclectic boutiques make shopping an exhilarating way to spend the day!

Roatan, Honduras: Not your typical cruise ship port where you find big shopping districts and attractions within walking distance, the real attraction of Roatan is its lush vegetation, stunning beaches, and the pristine coral reef. You can try the jungle canopy zip line or something a bit tamer such as kayaking the beautiful, quiet north shore along the deserted beaches and mangroves. Spend the day at one of several private all inclusive beach clubs that can be booked through the cruise lines or independently.

Belize City:  Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala on the Caribbean coast of Central America, Belize is one of the few remaining unspoiled places on earth.  Belize’s 185 mile barrier reef is the largest in the Western Hemisphere; a diver’s paradise! In the thick of the jungle lay Mayan temples for you to explore. An abundance of national parks, private nature reserves and botanical gardens offer a range of rainforest activities for the quiet observer to the active adventurer.

Costa Maya: Costa Maya is a small tourist region in Mexico. The area is generally undeveloped but has been growing rapidly after construction of a large pier to accommodate cruise ships. The port has a central plaza often offering free, live entertainment, shops, and a saltwater pool with a swim-up style bar. The Mayan ruins at Chacchoben and Kohunlich are a perfect half-day excursion. The seaside village of Mahahual, a quick cab ride away, has a beautiful 1.5 mile beach promenade with restaurants, shops, and all inclusive beach clubs.

Cozumel: Cozumel is Mexico's largest island, nestled just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. There is so much to do here you’ll want to return again and again! Beaches that are simply paradise, impressive shopping opportunities, and the magnificent Mayan ruins at Tulum make it difficult to decide how to spend a day. Chankanaab Park is a fantastic location to explore Cozumel’s amazing reefs and wide variety of sea life, including an opportunity to swim with dolphins. Book in advance to avoid disappointment!

The cruise ships that make stops in the Western Caribbean are as amazing as the ports of call themselves.  Norwegian Cruise Line has some remarkable ships cruising the region and Direct Line Cruises is sweetening the deal with FREE onboard credit and FREE travel insurance for select ships. There’s the 93,000-ton Norwegian Pearl that was built for “freestyle” cruising. Her chic bowling alley, rock climbing wall, 16 delicious dining options, 13 bars and lounges, casino, spa, and pools makes the Pearl a gem of a choice.  Cruising weekly from Miami, October through April, the Pearl visits Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya and Key West.  In addition, the brand new Norwegian Epic is a destination in its own right! Featuring entertainment that you would only expect to find in big cities and over 20 dining options, it’s hard to believe you’re on a cruise ship! Sailing from Miami until April of 2011, the Epic makes stops at Costa Maya, Roatan and Cozumel."

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