Monday, February 25, 2013

Cruising into Port Canaveral

Although Port Canaveral is a homeport for many cruise lines, it is also a port of call on cruises that leave from the Northeast. When visiting Port Canaveral, many cruisers opt to spend the day at the theme parks in Orlando. While that can be a lot of fun, it can also be a long and expensive day.  For those looking for other options, it’s as easy as renting a car or grabbing a cab and hitting the road!

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex, about 30 minutes away, gives you the unique chance to tour NASA’s launch and landing facilities.  You can experience interactive simulators, live shows, and jaw dropping encounters with massive rockets!

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge covers 140,000 acres near the Kennedy Space Center and is home to thousands of amphibians, birds and mammals. Head here for a self-guided tour of a part of the refuge to see West Indian manatees, snakes, sea turtles and other native wildlife up close.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cruising to Western Caribbean Beaches

A Western Caribbean cruise offer idyllic port days spent on gorgeous beaches, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and strolling the pearly white-sand. Here are a few that we consider the “best of the best”.

Grand Cayman Island:

Seven Mile Beach as the name implies, is one extensive beach nearly seven miles long.   Located on the more tranquil western side of Grand Cayman, the water is generally calm and inviting, making it ideal for families. It is public property, and it is possible to walk the full length past many hotels and villas. There are restaurants open to the public at most of the resorts, and several public beach bars The hotels also have water sports kiosks where you can book parasailing and windsurfing excursions or rent snorkeling equipment. There are many spots to rent chairs and umbrellas.  Cabs are readily available in both directions.

Smith’s Cove is a free public beach, located south of George Town in South Sound.  This is where you want to go if you’re seeking the peace and tranquility absent from Seven Mile Beach.  It offers the convenience of being close to the cruise port (about a mile, and it is walkable if you choose) to allow for more time enjoying the sun, sand and sea. There are restrooms, picnic benches, and showers, but you cannot rent chairs and there are no restaurants or snack bars. However, there is phenomenal snorkeling! The cove, protected by limestone formations and coral reefs, features crystal clear waters and a multitude of parrot fish, sponges, star fish and sea fans.


Nachi-Cocom is actually one of several beach clubs on a three-mile long stretch of San Francisco Beach. The water is crystal clear and the sandy bottom is free of rocky surprises.  The club is fully equipped with a beautiful seaside swimming pool, a large Jacuzzi, swim-up bar, comfortable beach chairs, a huge palapa style restaurant, a water sports kiosk, bathrooms, and a warm friendly staff. The price ($55 adults / children cost less) includes an open bar with unlimited domestic and top international brands including bottled beer, wine, cocktails, sodas, juices and bottled water. A delicious 3-course lunch is served a la carte and includes Mexican specialties as well as international selections. Massages and hair braiding are available on site for an additional charge.

Paradise Beach is aptly named! It is one of the most photographed beaches in the Caribbean  There is no entrance fee but you must purchase a minimum of $10 per person in food or drink.  There is a nominal charge for lounge chairs. Fun-Passes are available for $12 per person which include unlimited use of kayaks, floating mats, trampolines, 14' climbing iceberg, Spacewalker bungee-trampoline ride, climbing coconut trees, 3 water slides, paddle boards, and snorkel gear. Parasailing, banana boat rides and wave runner rentals are also available. Facilities include a restaurant, cocktail bar with free internet, shop, changing rooms, lockers, showers and bathrooms. Paradise Beach is located just five miles from the international cruise ship pier.  All-inclusive packages can usually be purchased through the cruise lines.


Chukka Beach (Falmouth) is only a 5 min ride from the dock. The beach is beautiful with a nice view, very soft sand, and clear water with waves to frolic in. Umbrellas and floats are available, for $5 each. The vendors are numerous, but with a simple no thanks they leave you alone. If you are uncomfortable venturing out on your own, you can book a day here as an excursion through the cruise line.

Sunset Beach Resort (Montego Bay or Ocho Rios) Located just a few miles from the port, this all-inclusive resort offers day passes to cruisers. Enjoy white-sand beaches, beautiful pools, a water park and non-motorized water sports like kayaking, pedal boats, pool games, and sailing The price includes savory lunches, snacks, beverages and tropical drinks. Spending a day at this resorts may be the highlight of your Western Caribbean cruise. You can book this privately or as a shore excursion sponsored by most cruise lines."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cruising To Eastern Caribbean Beaches

There are always lots of activities for cruisers to pick from when their ship docks at a Caribbean island, yet heading to the beach is probably the most popular choice.  Below are some of the prettiest beaches of the Eastern Caribbean, all perfect for your day in port. Cabs are readily available when you step off the ship, as well as lined up at the beach for the ride back.

St. Thomas, USVI:

Magens Bay is St. Thomas' most popular beach. The beautiful one-mile stretch of powdery white sand has a modest entry fee; funds are used to maintain the facilities and the beach. The water is usually very calm with no waves or current, great for floating along and for swimming. Magens Bay is not known for good snorkeling. A water sports booth rents paddleboats, kayaks and sunfish. Beach chairs, floats and snorkel sets are available at the concession. Also at the concession is a bar and restaurant that serves burgers, pizzas and other snacks, a gift shop and a hair braiding stand. Lifeguards are on duty everyday.

Coki Beach is a small, pretty beach located on Coki Point. The crystal clear water is usually very calm and deepens gradually. A rocky, reef area offers great snorkeling. Beachside eateries serve picnic table fare including burgers, sandwiches and some local dishes. There are hair braiders, chair rentals and a dive shop on site. A jet ski rental booth is located just across the road, opposite the beach and a few vendors rent snorkel gear, floats and noodles. Coki Beach is located right next to Coral World Marine Park.  Visiting both places makes for a fun-filled day in port.

St. Maarten / St. Martin:

 Dawn Beach is located on the Dutch side of the island and has become quite popular in the recent years.  It has pristine white sand, great rental facilities for beach chairs, umbrellas, and snorkeling gear, as well as bar and restaurant services. Snorkeling is absolutely incredible. The coral reef is a bit off the shore, so you'll have to first swim out a bit to get to the best snorkeling spots. The surf can sometimes be a little challenging, so keep a careful watch on young children.

Orient Beach, on the French side, is the most developed, popular and busiest beach on the island; probably the most famous beach in the entire Caribbean. The beach is reputed as much for its natural beauty as it is for being the island’s foremost swimsuit optional beach! This beach resembles the French Riviera with its many restaurants and bars all on the beach, showcasing fine French cuisine, grill styled food to local cuisine Water sport facilities are available, such as jet skis, sailing boats, and paragliding.

Maho Beach is also worth mentioning, as it’s definitely the island's most dramatic swimming spot. Swimmers splashing in the water can experience the unusual thrill of airplanes passing right over their heads as they head for the nearby runway!  Flights usually land in the afternoon, so if you don’t want to spend the day, at least ask your cab driver to stop by on the way back to the ship.

 San Juan, Puerto Rico:

 Condado Beach is a small, public beach at the western end of the Condado area, just east of the bridge on Ashford Avenue. It is protected from most of the strong winds by the hotels (though there is still a nice breeze to help keep you cool). The water is usually calm because there is a coral rock formation to break the waves. The shallow water is warm and clear. The beach is fine, golden sand. There are trees lining the back of the beach, providing lots of shady spots in the morning and early afternoon. There are lifeguards on duty during the day, outdoor showers for rinsing off, and there are usually vendors selling food and drinks.

Luquillo Beach is a bit further from where the ship docks, situated 30 miles east of San Juan, but well worth the trip.  It’s beautiful! It has a coral reef perfectly located that limits the rough oceans that are evident at some other beaches. As a result, the waters are usually calmer, clearer and better suited for small children. Picnic areas, which include changing rooms and showers, are easily located making Luquillo Beach family friendly. Its beauty is one reason why it is one of the most photographed beaches in Puerto Rico, as well as the entire Caribbean!

Monday, February 04, 2013

New Music And Dance on Celebrity Cruise Line

Celebrity Cruise Line has announced an affiliation with both Billboard and Zumba Fitness, two companies that hold particular appeal to a younger clientele that the cruise line is trying to target.

Billboard is an international news magazine devoted to music.  It maintains several internationally recognized charts that track the most popular songs and albums in various categories on a weekly basis. Collaborating together, new entertainment experiences have been developed based on Billboard charts, and are now available on every Celebrity Ship.

“Billboard: The Music Game Show” is modeled after a typical TV game show, and tests guest’s knowledge through multiple rounds of music challenges, with even the audience being able to participate.” Billboard: The Music Trivia Series” has teams participate in trivia contests comprised of questions based on various genres, such as Music Legends, Music in the Media, Decades, Country, British Invasion: Now and Then, '70s and '80s. Guests participating in the trivia series and game shows have the chance to win Billboard music cards, which can be used to redeem music from Billboard.

The “Totally '80s Theme Party”, currently offered exclusively on Celebrity Reflection, transports guests back to the '80s in this fully produced and choreographed party, featuring Billboard Hits of the decade and encouraging dancing all night long!

Speaking of dancing, Celebrity’s partnership with Zumba fitness proved so popular, that it has been expanded. In addition to the original classes, Celebrity Cruises will offer guests a range of complimentary specialty classes that vary by ship, including Zumba Gold, for active, older adults; Aqua Zumba, the ultimate “pool party” workout, and Zumbatomic, Zumba routines for kids. Each cruise will feature a licensed Zumba instructor who will lead the various classes.

Celebrity Cruises will also add a Zumba fitness party to the brand’s theme party lineup to each sailing. Led by a licensed Zumba instructor, the party will be held in the ship’s nightclub, where guests can learn the basic steps of Zumba, ultimately creating the most high-energy parties on the cruise. In the true essence of Zumba, the parties will be all about moving, enjoying the music and having fun.

Friday, February 01, 2013

A "Grand" Grandeur of the Seas Returns to Baltimore

Grandeur of the Seas will be “making waves” upon her return to Baltimore this spring, replacing sister ship, Enchantment of the Seas! Grandeur of the Seas was Royal Caribbean’s first ship deployed in Baltimore from 2004 to 2009, but if you think this is the same vessel you remember from days gone by, you couldn’t be more wrong!

Last spring the Grandeur underwent an extensive $48 million bow to stern refurbishment. She emerged refreshed and revitalized, now offering amenities similar to those found on Royal Caribbean’s larger ships.  Guests sailing on the Grandeur can look forward to new dining venues, technological upgrades and amazing new entertainment on par with the newest builds in the fleet.

Cruisers have been unanimously asking for more dining options aboard ships, and they will certainly find an exciting and diverse selection aboard the “new” Grandeur of the Seas. In addition to the lovely three-level main dining room, and the casual Windjammer CafĂ©, guests can enjoy:

•Giovanni’s Table: An Italian trattoria meant to remind you of a restaurant in the Tuscany region of Italy.  It features classic dishes served family style, encouraging you to taste everything on the table. (Open for lunch, $15 per guest, and dinner, $20 per guest)