Monday, November 25, 2013

Cruise to Bermuda With N.Y. Ranger Legends

Any New York Ranger fans out there?  If so, you might be interested to know that  Celebrity Cruise Line has become the official cruise line of the New York Rangers.  You're probably thinking ""big deal, what does that have to do with anything?"" I suppose being the ""official"" anything for anyone can be just a lot of marketing mumbo jumbo.  However, in this case, the partnership brings Ranger fans a very special cruise event!

The August 3rd 2014 Celebrity Summit cruise will be a ""Rangers Legend Cruise."" The seven-night Bermuda cruise leaving from Bayonne, New Jersey will feature Ranger legends Ron Duguay, Adam Graves, Ron Greschner and Stephane Matteau.  The vacation package includes a cocktail reception ""meet and greet"", a hockey clinic, a Q&A panel, and an autograph session.  Guests will enjoy an exclusive breakfast, as well as a sunset BBQ on the pool deck with the Rangers.  There's even a poker tournament with the Rangers that guests can participate in!

Fans of all ages can sign up for optional shore excursions hosted by the Rangers.  You can tee off with your favorite Ranger great at the Port Royal Golf Club, or take part in a Dolphin Experience!  There is also an excursions to the Crystal Caves and a sunset cocktail cruise on a glass bottom boat!  This cruise has so many opportunities for fans to mingle with these legendary hockey stars that no Ranger fan will want to miss it!

A cruise to Bermuda on the Celebrity Summit is always something to get excited about.  When you add this once in a lifetime experience of cruising with legendary New York Rangers, Celebrity is taking things to the next level!  Interested?  Give the cruise consultants  at Direct Line Cruises a call, and we'll make sure you get onboard!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Visiting San Juan on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles Islands, which include Cuba, Haiti and Dominicana (sharing an island), and Jamaica.  Although Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico on his second voyage in 1493, it wasn’t until 1508 that Ponce de Leon was sent to conquer the island for Spain.  In the late 1800’s Puerto Ricans began to press for independence and Spain relented by granting the island broad powers of self-government. But during the Spanish-American War of 1898 American troops invaded the island and Spain ceded it to the U.S. Since then, Puerto Rico has remained a U.S. territory with its people granted American citizenship under the Jones Act in 1917.  Today, San Juan is one of the world’s busiest cruise ports and one of gems of an Eastern Caribbean cruise.  

Favorite Beaches: Beaches in the Eastern Caribbean are lovely.   The best beaches of San Juan can be found at the resort areas, but there’s nothing to worry about...all the beaches are open to the public!

Condado Beach is just a 10-minute drive from the pier. It’s a fusion of both the natural and urban environment that brings the best of both worlds to beachgoers. With the clear Caribbean water and fine grain sand of the beach, you have the backdrop of trendy shops and restaurants steps away on Ashford Avenue.  The waters are generally calm so it's an ideal beach for families. Condado may not be the beach for you if you are looking for wide open, quiet spaces.

Isla Verde is directly adjacent to Condado Beach. Plenty of shady palms, local restaurants, parking and shower facilities are just a few of the amenities that make this beach so popular with visitors and locals alike. Here you can rent beach chairs and lifeguards are usually on duty.

Favorite Attractions: There is always plenty to do in the ports of call of an Eastern Caribbean cruise, and San Juan is no exception!

Old San Juan: A leisurely walk through Old San Juan is one of the most pleasant experiences anyone could have here in Puerto Rico. The colonial architecture of hanging balconies and cobble stone streets make you feel like you have gone back in time.  You can also take advantage of the free trolleys. The one marked ""City Hall"" concentrates on the streets of Old Town while El Morro Fort takes a very scenic route by the sea up Calle Norzagaray, past the museums and eventually to the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Castillo de San Felipe: Commonly known as ""El Morro” this stronghold is believed to be one of the oldest Spanish forts in the Caribbean. Built to deter invaders who sought to topple the Spanish Empire, this six level fortress has 140-foot walls (15-feet thick) some of them dating back to 1539, it is even topped by a lighthouse! You can take an enjoyable guided tour through the whole complex which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

El Yunque: Forty minutes outside of the city, this national rainforest which is protected and maintained by the US Forest Service, is definitely worth the visit!  Inside its misty, dense vegetation you’ll find rare Puerto Rican parrots, hear the constant cheep of the tiny coqui frog and come across small waterfalls with picturesque pools to take a dip in. There’s a road to the top of the mountain so you can drive in, or you can park below and try to hike up. The visitor’s center about mid-way up the mountain has useful information on the rainforest’s plant and animal life, plus maps, restrooms and a cafeteria.  

Bacardi Run Factory: The six-story pink tower, where rum is distilled, is called the “Cathedral of Rum.” There are free tours of the plant leaving every 30 minutes, which allow you to see all the inner workings of this factory, which pumps out over 100,000 gallons of rum daily.

Shopping: The streets of the Old City are where you need to head for great shopping. Native handicrafts can be good buys, including needlework, straw work, ceramics, hammocks, as well as paintings and sculptures by Puerto Rican artists.  Look for santos, carved religious figures that have been produced since the 1500s. If you’re looking for designer handbags, there is a Coach and Dooney & Bourke shop to check out.

Discerning shoppers will want to visit the designer shops in the Condado Area. Condado offers brand-name stores such as Gucci, Dior, and Salvatore Ferragamo."

Monday, November 04, 2013

Visiting St. Maarten on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Could an Eastern Caribbean island be so exquisite that conquering countries would refuse to give it up? Obviously, yes! St. Maarten / St. Martin history shows that in the 1600’s the French (that arrived from nearby St. Kitts) and Dutch (that sailed over from St. Eustatius) were both eager to gain control of this beautiful land. After a few battles both sides realized the other would never retreat. In 1648 the Treaty of Concordia was signed, which separated the island into two distinct countries; one side owned by the French (St. Martin) and the other by the Dutch (Sint Maarten).  The French control twenty square miles in the north and the capital, Marigot, is quintessentially French and cosmopolitan. The Dutch rule over sixteen square miles in the south. It’s capital, Phillipsburg, has rapidly gained a reputation for being the shopping capital for Eastern Caribbean cruisers!  The border is almost imperceptible and people cross back and forth without ever realizing they are entering a new country.

Favorite Beaches:

The beautiful beaches are the number one draw on an Eastern Caribbean cruise. On St. Maarten, Dawn Beach as the name suggests, is known for its stunning sunrises, but lovely any time of day! With reefs just off the shoreline it provides great snorkeling opportunities. The surf can sometimes be a little challenging, so for very young children or toddlers, Dawn Beach is not always an ideal. There are a couple of restaurants on the beach, which great options for lunch.

Orient Beach is St. Martin's flagship beach and is often referred to as the ""French Riviera of the Caribbean "". This expansive one mile beach is home to numerous beach bar/restaurants offering various menus, from formal French to pizzas, burgers and local fare. Known best for being 'au natural', stick to the north end of the beach if you'd rather keep your bathing suit on.

Pinel Island is protected nature reserve that boasts a calm and sheltered beach, perfect for families. Lunch, beach chairs and umbrellas are available, and there's also great hiking. There are three beach bars / restaurants right on the beach, next to the ferry. To get to Pinel Island you drive to French Cul the Cac. Follow the road till you arrive at the seaside / big sandy parking lot. From there ferryboats go over. They charge you $6 pp roundtrip. First boat leaves at 9:00 am and last boat brings you back at 4:00 pm.

 Favorite Attractions:

Butterfly Farm: Within large meshed enclosures you can see hundreds of exotic butterflies flying freely, with dozens of the most spectacular species from all over the world. You can also witness all stages of their life cycle from tiny egg to curious caterpillar and jewel like pupa. Early in the morning is the best opportunity to see a butterfly emerging from its pupa and watch newborn butterflies take their first flight! The Butterfly Farm is near Orient Beach so it’s convenient to visit both places in a day!

Maho Bay:  This strip of white sand beach is within yards of the runway at the Princess Juliana International Airport. To be honest, people do not go to Maho because it is one of the best beaches on the island. The planes are the big draw! They have chairs and umbrellas for rent if you like, or you can just hang out at the bar. Grab a burger and a cold beer and get your camera ready. Photo ops are unbelievable! The daily 747 and Airbus 340 flights touch down around 2 p.m. A taxi from the port to Maho should be $26 for 1 or 2, and down to $8 pp in a group of 6 or more.

Fort St. Louis: This is the largest historical monument in St.Martin. It was originally built in 1767 to protect the settlement at Marigot from foreign invaders. The plans were sent over directly from Versailles at the order of King Louis XVI. The steep climb up to the summit provides a panoramic view of the island and the sea surrounding it. The area is open 24/7 and there are signs explaining historical events.

Shopping:

Everyone likes to get in a bit of shopping on a Caribbean cruise. The picturesque bayside town of Philipsburg is very close to the cruise ship pier (within one mile). You can walk 15 to 20 minutes or hop aboard a water shuttle that makes stops at the east and west side of town. It may only be four streets deep and one mile long, but this downtown area contains everything worth shop for! Front Street which is closest to the bay is literally lined with gold, silver, diamonds and other precious gems found in shop after shop!

The capital city of Marigot is perhaps the most French in spirit of all the cities in the Caribbean. The entire city is only four streets wide, so it is very easy to get around. Colonial houses stand beside smart caf├ęs and bistros, pastry shops and trendy boutiques. There’s a shopping center at the foot of Fort St. Louis, with luxurious boutiques such as Chanel and Lacoste. At the southern end of town down by the harbor is the Marina Port la Royale; elegant stores with the latest in European designer fashions and fine jewelry.