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Which cruise line has the best Caribbean private island? Four amazing ports of call in the Bahamas

When choosing the best Caribbean cruise for yourself, consider not only the general itinerary and the amenities you’ll get treated to on board; think about which private island getaways you’d prefer as well.  One of the perks of signing up with a reputable cruise line company is what they could offer you on their own land in the Caribbean.

Which cruise line has the best Caribbean private island? Here are four you’ll find in the Bahamas alone.

Disney Cruise Line (Castaway Cay): You’ll find Castaway Cay, Disney’s own private island, in the Northern Bahamas.  It has separate beach areas geared towards teens, adults, and people of all ages.  The company also offers you free childcare so that you can relax with a yoga class or sip a drink and get a massage.  Disney characters greet you when you arrive, and you can immediately get down to enjoying a number of different aquatic activities, from kayaking to parasailing to hanging out with stingrays.  They’ve also set up water play areas that have slides and floating platforms, among other fun features.

Holland America Line & Carnival Cruise Line (Half Moon Cay): This private land is part of Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas.  With gorgeous white sand beaches to lounge on, plus cabanas and three beach bars (including one called “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever”), you’ll be able to relax the whole day if you want.  But if you want to be more active, there are a wide variety of activities available on land, including biking and nature hikes, and in the water, such as deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, windsurfing, and a special watercraft adventure that lets you explore the coastline.  Other options straddle both land and water; for instance, you can go horseback riding to the highest point on the island, and then ride on the horses as they swim in the ocean.  Unwind afterwards with some BBQ and shopping.

Norwegian Cruise Line (Great Stirrup Cay): Part of the Bahamas’ Berry Island chain, this lovely 250-acre island is like a sprawling resort town, with a market, bars, and a free BBQ, surrounded by shimmering turquoise waters.  You also get your pick from a huge assortment of activities, ranging from parasailing, kayaking, and different kinds of boating, to eco-tours that show you the diverse beauty of the area’s wildlife.  Norwegian Cruise Lines are trailblazers, as they were the first company to offer their customers a private island experience.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (CocoCay): 140 acres of tropical beauty, carefully preserved, for you to appreciate and enjoy.  Spot lovely coral reefs and colorful fish while snorkeling, go kayaking among sting rays, or hop on a waverunner for an exciting tour of the coast and its natural and historic gems.  People of all ages can also enjoy a huge aqua park, a floating adventure playground complete with trampolines, log rolls, and towering “icebergs.”  Afterwards, dry off with a stroll on a nature trail, or sprawled out on a hammock or floating mat.

Before booking a given cruise, confirm the ports of call to ensure that they include a private island you’re interested in.  Even if you limit your selections to the Bahamas, you’ll find at least four amazing private islands to enjoy.

4 Great Ports of Call on your Southern Caribbean Cruise

If you’re looking for a cruise adventure to exotic locations where you can experience unique cultures, food and adventure, a southern Caribbean cruise is the perfect way to vacation. Here are four places to visit that will make memories to last a lifetime.
  1. Antigua. Antigua may only be 14 miles long but it has 365 beaches, all with white sand and crystal clear water. An unbroken coral reef wall encompasses the island and is the perfect destination if you love to scuba dive or snorkel. The food ranges from international fare to local delights such as conch, fresh snapper, and even pumpkin soup. Gaming, golf, fishing and yachting are just a few of the fantastic activities you can experience while on your visit.
  2. Grenada. Some people may not be as familiar with Grenada as some of the Caribbean islands but this location is not to be missed. It has unique, black sand beaches as well as snow white sand and the mountains make way for lush, rainforest where you can see waterfalls on your hike as well as the spice plantations where Grenada is actually known as the Isle of Spice. Conch and lobster are just a few of the local delicacies and you can find international cuisine as well. Sailing, shopping, beach-going and sight-seeing are just a few of things you can experience in Grenada.
  3. St. Lucia. St Lucia has volcanoes, blue waters and white sand beaches. Known for the two volcanoes, Petit Piton and Gros Piton, that you can hike, you can also enjoy the banana plantations and the lush rainforest. Whether it’s wind surfing, hiking, snorkeling or just lounging on the beach, St. Lucia has it all. Much of the food has a banana presence due to the plantations so banana bread, boiled green bananas and even banana salad can be tasted along with all kinds of fish and shellfish such as snapper, kingfish, lobster and swordfish.
  4. Curacao. Curacao has an astounding over 12 miles of underwater park area that attracts scuba divers worldwide. Shipwrecks, coral beds and a variety of sea life can be explored and discovered here. The fun doesn’t stop with diving, visitors can enjoy the culture that includes historic buildings and world-class shopping as well as a botanical garden and watersports. The cuisine is diverse ranging from international fare to local favorites like iguana soup, fish soup featuring coconut, and a rice table known as rijsttafel.

No matter which area you want to visit, southern Caribbean cruises there’s something for everyone to experience and enjoy. From beaches and water sports to local cuisine and culture, you’ll have the time of your life.

Food Specialties in The Bahamas

The Bahamas encompasses over 700 islands and is a favorite vacation getaway, especially since it sits just 50 miles off of the coast of Miami. Something you must do when visiting is to experience the authentic Bahamian cuisine for a taste of food in the tropics that is exciting, fresh and unique.
  • Fresh Conch. Anyone who knows anything about The Bahamas is probably familiar with conch. Conch is a seafood that can be prepared a variety of ways such as fried, steamed or even served raw. To some, the flavor is similar to an oyster but no matter what your palate, a visit to The Bahamas isn’t complete without this local cuisine. The Boathouse Restaurant serves this dish as an appetizer with their conch fingers dish and in a salad where it is sauteed with grouper and lobster. The Poop Deck also serves conch in a chowder, as an appetizer, fried and in a salad.
  • Johnnycakes. These little accompaniment breads are made from corn meal and cooked in a frying pan. They go perfectly with a variety of dishes, especially chowders. They’re not only a Bahamas favorite but a favorite served throughout the Caribbean. Your visit to The Bahamas wouldn’t be complete without trying a johnnycake or two. You can find stewed fish and johnnycakes offered at the Columbus Tavern Waterfront Restaurant.
  • Bahamian Fish Chowder. This perfectly seasoned soup is a mainstay in The Bahamas. The most popular fish used to make it is grouper but it can be prepared with a variety of fishes. You’ll find ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, spices and some chefs prepare it using peppers and sauces such as A1 or worsheshire.
  • Specialty Drinks. The Bahamas has a myriad of drink options but a few local favorites stand out as true Bahamian fare and that’s the Yellow Bird, the Bahama Mama, and the Goombay Smash. You’ll also find that most places serve the Planter’s Punch and each place has their own version.

No matter what type of food you enjoy, The Bahamas has exciting cuisine that is tropical and fresh. If you love seafood and fruits, you’ll probably want to visit The Bahamas time and time again to experience their local food.

Grand Case in St. Martin: A Place of Pure Delight

Located on the resplendent island of St. Martin is the distinctly French town known as Grand Case. It’s renowned for its enticing beach, rave-worthy cuisine and enjoyable nightlife. With that said, here’s a look at some of Grand Case’s standout attributes:

Grand Case Beach

As we mentioned previously, one of the best places to visit in Grand Case is Grand Case Beach. It overlooks the serene and inviting waters of Grand Case Bay. The bay is home to Creole Rock and the La Reserve Naturelle de St. Martin. The rock is a popular dive site that’s home to a multitude of ocean life. The reserve, on the other hand, is a government run marine park that allows visitors to enjoy a variety of activities. Among them are eco-snorkeling, scuba diving and boating. The rock is said to be a part of the reserve. We should also mention that luxury villas are available to rent on the beach.

Culinary Delights

Near the beach and all along the main street are amazing eateries. So there is no chance that you’ll walk away from the area hungry. The cuisine on offer runs the gamut. Some of the restaurants serve authentic Creole creations. Others serve French, Italian and Nouveau Caribbean. A few of the palate pleasing entrees to look for are French sea bass grilled with fresh fennel, lobster raviolis dressed with passion fruit sauce and cozze alla marinara. Restaurants to keep on your radar include Baccus, Le Tastevin, Le Pressoir and Le Santal.

Night Life

One of the ideal times to visit the charming town’s “restaurant row” is on Tuesday evenings from January through April. During that time, it’s not uncommon for the streets to fill with live entertainment and craft vendors too. The added excitement is all part of the Mardi Du Grand Case Street Festival. In addition, you might be able to catch a concert on the beach or inside the restaurants too. One restaurant that sometimes features access to evening entertainment during festival time is Le Tastevin.

5 Great Caribbean Beach Bars

Where do you go for the best beach bars? Where the best beaches in the world are located, of course! The Caribbean is known for having beautiful beaches and great bars. The beach bars are the image of the Caribbean’s laid-back atmosphere; the essence of sand, sun, reggae, rum and wild personalities that create the wonderful island life. So come along as we explore five great Caribbean beach bars!
Nipper’s Beach Bar & Grill: This beach bar in the Out Islands of the Bahamas features a busy dance floor, an energetic tiki bar and two huge beach-side pools. For an honest Nipper’s experience, their weekly Sunday pig roast buffets are a must attend for lots of great food! You’ll also want to try their famous, and feared, drink called Nipper Juice; they say it’s difficult to only have just one, but that you’ll probably wish that’s all you had the next morning. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be on the small island for the semi-annual concert of Barefoot Man. Thousands flock to the island to hear the two-day event of music and fun where a famous local musician and his buddies put on a show.

Dune Preserve: Many beach bars have live music, but this beach bar in Anguilla is one of only a few in the Caribbean that’s an authentic concert scene. Located between the Temenos world-class golf course and the world famous CuisinArt Resort and Spa, the Dune Preserve is owned by famed reggae artist, Bankie Banx. Every year there’s a big celebration called Moonsplash that brings in many different performers from all over the world. Most of the acts that perform at the Dune Preserve are free; however, there’s a cover charge when Bankie is performing. This rickety, open-air bar and restaurant was built from materials gathered from shipwrecked racing boats as well as driftwood and sits in the sand dunes on Rendezvous Bay. Many locals and tourists alike go there to relax, listen to some good music and enjoy the signature drink, the Duneshine, or the top secret Dune Rum Punch.

Pelican Bar: This unique bar, near Jake’s Resort, rests on stilts and is near Treasure Beach in Jamaica. To reach the Pelican Bar there’s realistically only one way to get there—by boat. The beach bar is surrounded by water though it’s shallow enough for adults to stand in. The Pelican Bar is constructed of palm tree leaves and bamboo and isn’t really the best place to be on a rainy day—the roof isn’t waterproof. So be sure to check the weather before venturing to this beach bar. Most customers like to lay about in one of the hammocks that are hanging between sections of the Pelican Bar, sit in the sheltered bar area or like to relax on the small boat dock.

Infiniti Bar: This black marble bar and restaurant is the Caribbean’s longest bar and the first infinity-edge bar in the world. It stretches 90 feet across the Grace Bay Club to the shores of Grace Bay beach in Turks & Caicos. The restaurant lets guests dine under umbrellas with the water gently slapping at the feet. The menu offers creative dishes of appetizers and desserts as well as many types of alcohol and sexy cocktails. The Infiniti Bar, located in the adults-only section of the club, is a good place to visit in the daytime, but it comes alive in the evening with entertainment on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Rick’s Café:  Rick’s Café on the cliff-top perch of Negril beach in Jamaica is well-known for its breath-taking sunsets and for about 15 minutes every night only whispers can be heard as everyone casts their eyes to the west to watch. You’re allowed to lay claim to a place on the wooden deck, make your way along footbridges that lead to the cove or just ease into the cliff-side pool to watch the magnificent sunset. In the daytime, the main attraction is the ocean pool that is created by the concave cliffs around the café. Visitors and locals love to dive off the cliffs from up to 35 feet high into the pool below; the thatched cabana roofs around the pool are the best seats in the house for viewing and enjoying a meal that’s served during this time. At night, Rick’s Café dishes up an early dinner then changes into a reggae night club. It’s crowded, but Rick’s is full of atmosphere!

 

Antigua Fun on the Water

When visiting Antigua, the beauty of the ocean and the numerous white sand beaches will immediately beckon you to the wonderful beaches.  And while it’s fun to hang out on the beach, soaking in the sun and splashing around a little in the water, many visitors won’t want to pass up the chance to explore the surrounding ocean more in-depth.

Coral reef surrounds the island, tempting scuba divers and snorkelers to observe the wildlife and savor the natural beauty beneath the waves.  Fortunately, there are a number of tour companies that can immerse you in the waters off of Antigua.  The following are five of the best.

The South Coast Horizon Eco Tour: Kayaking, snorkeling, and stunning natural beauty, combined in one tour.  In addition to taking you through an exotic palm garden and aviary, the tour gives you an introduction to a beautiful lagoon from a 300-foot boardwalk, where you can spy on colorful fish and crabs.  From there, you’ll be guided by boat through the lagoon’s mangrove trees, a unique ecosystem where many species of fish grow to maturity.  Finally, you’ll get to a remote white sand beach, where you’ll be given the option of snorkeling at the nearby Cades reef.

Stingray City Antigua: You’ll be taken out by speedboat to a shallow pool in the midst of a coral reef.  There, you’ll be able to feed stingrays and swim or snorkel among them; you’ll also get to see many colorful tropical fish that share a home with the rays.  Although they may look a bit frightening, the stingrays are gentle, and an experienced guide will show you how to best approach them.

Antigua Paddles: Part of this eco-adventure brings you to an uninhabited island full of tropical birds.  In addition to hiking, you’ll get the opportunity to snorkel, spotting turtles and starfish.  Kayaking is also available, along with a journey through a maze of mangroves and small islands.

Adventure Antigua: They offer multiple tour options, including an eco-tour that introduces you to various oceanic habitats and a wide variety of wildlife.  Whenever you want to take a break from exploration, you’ll get the chance to luxuriate in the sun with a cold drink.

Treasure Island Cruises: Choose one of their available tours and enjoy hours of sailing, snorkeling, feasting, and dancing.  Onboard their catamarans, you’ll find a festive atmosphere.  One of the tours even offers an exciting treasure hunt.

Whatever tour you choose, you’ll enjoy some of the best experiences available off-shore from this beautiful island.  What you’ll find is unique to this corner of the world, so try not to pass up your chance to marvel at it first hand.

5 Great Activities in St. Lucia!

St Lucia is a destination loved by those seeking adventure or simply wanting to relax on a romantic getaway. Located in the Eastern Caribbean, this Windward Island of the Lesser Antilles is nestled between the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea and The Atlantic Ocean. If you’re planning a visit this tropical paradise, here are 5 things to do in St Lucia that you’ll enjoy.
  1. Snorkeling. Located at the Windjammer Landing Beach Resort & Spa and the Bay Gardens Beach Resorts, you’ll explore the underwater beauty of the St. Lucian Marine Reserves with Eastern Caribbean Snorkeling. Both daily dive and snorkel trips are available with equipment rental that includes video cameras, computers and underwater cameras so you can capture your moments and share them with your friends and family. Enjoy dive walls, reefs and wrecks on this adventure where professional instructors guide you.
  2. Jungle Tours. Available for both beginners and experts, three trails are offered where you can enjoy a nature hike or even visit secluded waterfalls in the rainforest with Jungle Tours. Located at Cas-en-bas, Gros Islet, you may get to see the rare St Lucian Parrot, visit a restored 18th century sugar mill, and even have time for swimming or snorkeling. A buffet is offered at the end of the hiking tour that features local cuisine. Private beach tours and off-road tours are also available at this venue.
  3. Sportsfishing Tours. If deep sea fishing is what you love to do or have always wanted to experience, Captain Mike’s Sportsfishing Tours is the oldest boating company in St Lucia that is family owned and operated. Depending on the time of the season you can expect to catch Blue Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, Big Eye Tuna, Dorado, Wahoo, Blackfin Tuna and Skipjack Tuna. Half-days and full-days are offered where insurance, fishing gear and safety equipment are all on-board.
  4. Scuba DivingScuba St. Lucia is in one of the most scenic settings the Caribbean has to offer, with the top St. Lucia dive and snorkeling sites right off shore. Scuba St. Lucia is the longest established St. Lucia dive center, a Padi 5* St. Lucia dive resort, the perfect destination for your St.Lucia diving vacation. Scuba St. Lucia is part of the 600 acre estate of the well known Anse Chastanet Resort, voted to be one of the Top 5 Caribbean Resorts by both Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler magazines.
  5. Eco Adventure. Perfect for those that like to see the beauty of nature, Mystic Man Tours offers whale and dolphin watching. You’re almost guaranteed to spot a whale or watch the dolphins play during this tour. In fact, there is a 90% chance for dolphins and 80% chance for seeing a whale make an appearance. The 3-hour tour offers refreshments on-board and Mystic Man Tours also offers sunset cruises, snorkeling, sailing, deep sea fishing, catamaran charters and glass bottom boats for those that want to see the underwater beauty of the marine reserves.

No matter what your skill level or what you like to do, St Lucia offers something for everyone.

10 Great Beaches to Visit While You are in Puerto Rico

Did you know that there are over 300 miles of beaches in Puerto Rico? That alone can make it difficult to decide where to go. Add to that the fact that all natural beaches on the island are considered open to the public, up to the high tide line, and you’ve got literally hundreds of beaches to choose from. How, then, can you choose? Let us help. Here are 10 great beaches in Puerto Rico that we think you will love.

10 – The best beach for families is Luquillo, which is 30 miles east of San Juan. Famed and photographed for its scenic white sands, Luquillo is huge, and coral reefs protect the crescent-shaped beach and lagoon, making it a great place for kids to swim.

9 – For active families who love to snorkel we suggest going to the Island of Culebra, and taking a short hike to Playa Tamarindo and Playa Carlos Rosario.  These beaches are enveloped by a barrier reef. Nearby is “the wall,” which is a 40-foot drop-off with incredible marine life to discover.

8 – If you prefer to be on top of the water, go windsurfing or kitesurfing at Punta Las Marías, between Ocean Park and Isla Verde in San Juan.

7 – Serious surfers usually plan to visit Puerto Rico in the winter time, because the best waves for surfing are at Rincon, which hosted the 1968 world surfing championships.

6 – For those who prefer to relax in quiet solitude at the beach, head for stunning El Convento Beach, found along the undeveloped northern coastline stretching between Fajardo and Luquillo.

5 – On the other hand, if you’re going to the beach to meet people, head for Ocean Park, along San Juan’s coast. Here is where the adults tend to gather, and both tourists and locals easily mingle.

4 – If you’re coming to Puerto Rico for the scenery, don’t miss Boqueron, on the southern coast. In addition to the beautiful views and tranquil waters, you will enjoy the town and its open-air restaurants filling the air with tantalizing smells.

3 – Swimmers on the north coast love Pine Grove Beach, at the end of Isla Verde near the airport. In addition to a coral-reef protected beach, there is a long sandbar of shallow water for excellent family swimming.

2 – Swimmers staying on the southern coast flock to Ponce beach, with its calm tides and clearer waters.

1 – For those romantically inclined, the best remote escape on Puerto Rico is Rosado beach, east of Cabo Rojo. Accessed by a tricky dirt road, Rosado rewards the adventure with warm water and long, uncrowded stretches of sand, towering king palms and an idyllic tropical backdrop for a romantic interlude.

Four of the Best St Barts Restaurants

St. Barts is a European island set in the Caribbean; though currently belonging to France, it was in Swedish hands for a little over a century, so that many of the people who live there look distinctly Scandinavian, with blonde hair and blue eyes.  The island balances an unspoiled natural beauty with a culture of European luxury and indulgence.  And one of the best ways to indulge yourself in St. Barts is to enjoy its diverse restaurant scene.

Restaurants in St. Barts offer a range of cuisines, including French, Creole, Italian, and Asian.  Beyond the delicious food, many of these restaurants are set in beautiful locations.  The following are four of the best St Barts restaurants, featured here because they reflect unique dining experiences distinct to the island:

Le Gaïac.  If there’s one restaurant you shouldn’t miss in St. Barts, it’s this one.  It offers high-class French cuisine with a wide variety of dishes that draw heavily on freshly grown local ingredients; the wine list is also extensive.  Most notably, if you book your visit in advance, you’ll get a seat at one of their themed meals: the delightful seafood dishes of the Tuesday Fish Market dinner, and Sunday’s grand Brunch du Toiny, a world-famous feast.

Le Ti St Barth.  This is where you go when you want to party.  Live music, cabaret and fashion shows, disco dancing…  the energy is boundless.  Though you’ll also find a variety of delicious, colorful dishes and drinks, the main draw is the entertainment and the chance to participate in the fun.

On the Rocks.  In this luxurious restaurant, you’ll be seated on a multi-tiered covered deck overlooking St. Jean’s Bay and its shimmering waters and coral reefs.  The view alone would be worth the visit, but beyond the ambiance is the food, a mix of high-quality dishes, many of them inspired by Asian street food.

Maya’s Restaurant.  Founded and run by a husband and wife who spent eight years living on a sailboat, Maya’s Restaurant is set in Gustavia, the island’s capital.  Its uniqueness stems in large part from the way the menu changes every day so that only the freshest ingredients are used; fish and vegetables are the focus of the menu, but there’s a wide array of dishes to choose from.  In the evening, diners can catch a magnificent sunset over the water.

May Events in the Caribbean! It’s Time to Plan!

It’s likely the general consensus that most of us living in the Northern Hemisphere are quite fed up with this lingering winter weather. With spring just arriving, it’s time to start thinking of tropical heat on white, sandy beaches. There is no better time than the present to start planning for a much-deserved spring getaway. May is my absolute favorite month to be in the Caribbean.  The rates are down, the winter crowds are no more, and rainy season has not yet begun.  Fortunately, there is still an almost-endless supply of fun times waiting to be discovered in the Caribbean.

The happenings in May begin with the West Indies Regatta on the French West Indies island of St. Barthelemy, also known as St. Barts, on May 1-4, 2014. As if the excitement of the regatta itself isn’t already enough, the event will also feature an arts & crafts market, as well as an abundance of local, organic produce.

The first week or so of the month of May may find you at the St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival that runs from April 30th through May 11th. The 12-day event will offer attendees a plethora of experiences provided by more than 50 artists and entertainers, including Alison Hinds, Barrington Levy, DeeDee Bridgewater, Kem, and many more. When you decide to take a break from all of that wonderful art and jazz, you may want to visit one (or should I say ‘two’) of St. Lucia’s most popular attractions – the twin peaks of Petit Piton and Gros Piton. If hiking the peaks isn’t your forte, there are exquisite beaches for relaxing, banana plantations for exploring, and a wide range of restaurants to enjoy.

Save some energy for the Captain Morgan Ironman 70.3 St. Croix Race on May 4th, unless you’d rather cheer from the sidelines or soak up the sun on one of the many beautiful beaches of St. Croix, the US Virgin Islands’ largest island.

One of the hottest destinations in the Caribbean, Aruba, welcomes the Soul Beach Music Festival on May 21-26. Various events such as live radio broadcasts, beach parties, comedy concerts, nightclub events, and performances by Robin Thicke and Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmunds, make Aruba the place to be for Memorial Day Weekend.

For the comic, manga, and anime geeks (that’s a compliment, trust me), the best event in the Caribbean takes place on May 24-25 at the Puerto Rico Comic Con, which is the largest Comic Con event in the Caribbean. This year’s special guests include stars from The Walking Dead, Batman, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and many more. If the PRCC isn’t you’re cup of rum punch and you’re really only going to support your geeky loved ones, you can slip away for a break at one of Puerto Rico’s numerous beaches or restaurants.

Another Memorial Day Weekend event is the Leverick Bay Poker Run 2014. Over the past 13 years, the event has steadily grown to what is estimated to be more than 300 participants this year. The event takes place May 25th on the BVI island of Virgin Gorda. Proceeds from the entrants’ fees will be donated to local charities and animal rescues.  Congratulations to my friend Nick Willis who has made this event one of the premier boating events in all the Caribbean!

Rounding out the month of May is the Sol Rally Barbados 2014 motorsports event on May 31-June 1. Racers from all over the world will gather for the event in Barbados, bringing along their families and friends and a major boost to the local economy.

Regardless of the island destination, if you’re headed to the Caribbean, you’re bound to find an abundance of sunshine, relaxing beaches, authentic culture, delicious food, and unique events.