San Juan as a Port of Call
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San Juan

The Caribbean cruise season is about to commence with many cruise lines making a port of call at San Juan. On average, nearly two million passengers arrive at this port every year. The San Juan Harbour is the fourth busiest in the Western Hemisphere with many ships stopping here on their Caribbean cruise itineraries whilst others actually start and finish at the port.

The allure of San Juan is quite multi-faceted with the contrast from the modern portion of the resort area to the antiquity of the old town.

The capital of Puerto Rico has no problem accommodating this many passengers as there are two modern terminals with a total docking capacity for nine cruise ships on any given day.

The two ports (Old San Juan Pier and Pan American Pier) are strategically located in the harbour.

OLD SAN JUAN PIER

If arriving at this pier, you are placed in the heart of Old San Juan. From here you can visit most of the main points of interest of this colonial city that was Columbus’s second discovery. For passengers with limited mobility it is possible to take advantage of exploring the city with the use of a free trolley.

PAN AMERICAN PIER

The Pan American Pier is located one mile away from Old San Juan. It is managed by Royal Caribbean and is a much needed and more recent pier. These docks were built to serve larger Mega-Ships. To reach the city centre, the ship may provide a shuttle service. However, if it doesn’t you’ll need a taxi which you can find by heading to the “Ground Transportation” booth when leaving the pier.

Ships in San Juan Port

GETTING AROUND

Many of the attractions of Old San Juan can easily be seen and appreciated on foot. If you wish to save your energy, one of the best ways of getting around in the old town and historic areas is by trolley which will even take you to El Morro for free.

You could also rent an electric bicycle and explore on your own which gives you an opportunity to expand to other areas near to San Juan.

All cruise lines offer excursions for many of the island’s attractions. Check at the ships excursion desk or book online before you travel.

WHAT TO SEE

San Juan has been a top winter beach destination since the 1960’s. The long stretch of Atlantic coast to where it meets the Caribbean is home to a staggering variety of beaches. Noticing its potential, in the late 70s ships such as Costa Carla C, Cunard’s Countess and several Princess ships made stops in San Juan.

Feel the distinction of the city’s Spanish influence with its Colonial architecture harmoniously blending in with a touch of Havana Latino flavour. Steeped in history, San Juan has two notable forts, El Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal. Actively used (most recently in World War II), El Morro has been named a World Heritage Site. It is the largest fortification in the Caribbean.

San Juan - El Morro

The “Plaza del Mercado” allows visitors to catch a glimpse of real life in Puerto Rico.

Housed in the old Spanish barracks, The Museum of the Americas introduces visitors to Caribbean civilisation and history including the arrivals of slaves in the new world.

Many visitors confirm you won’t be disappointed with the beaches in Puerto Rico. Many of the fine sandy beaches have loungers and umbrellas for rent and a vast array of water sports. The nearest beaches to the cruise ports are in Condado area and Isla Verde.

Listed as the only rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service, El Yunque National Park (aka Caribbean National Forest) envelops the island of Puerto Rico and its rainforest covering over 25,000 impressive acres of wildlife and lush tropical vegetation. Bike tours with a guide are a popular choice to cover much of the park.

Outdoor enthusiasts should also visit the Rio Camuy Caves and its 10 miles of caverns.

For the active and adventurous types, go zip lining or mountain climbing on an eco-tour or play golf on one of the beautiful golf courses that have been used for the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open.

If you want to find out about special offers that include San Juan please request more details here.

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A Day in Martinique
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Martinique

A most unique port in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean that has a dual personality and is often overlooked is Martinique. It sits between two bodies of water; the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Once departing the ship, at first glance, it appears that it is a part of France that has been deposited on a tropical island. Christopher Columbus discovered Martinique, as he did so with many other Caribbean islands, in the late 15th Century. The island’s inhabitants at the time, the Carib Indians, called the island Madinina, or “island of flowers.” Even Great Britain ruled the mountainous island in the past.

The area is filled with lush beauty and natural sights unseen in other parts. From a vibrant rainforest to a series of rolling hills, there’s always something to see here. Although the official language of the island is French, the locals speak the dialect of creole. The Euro is the choice of currency thus reflecting their European influence and culture.

PORT OF FORT DE FRANCE

The main port of Martinique is located in Fort de France. The Terminal is a mere five minutes away from the capital. Some ships dock away from the port but will tender passengers to the shore.

The port is small and there are number of duty-free shops scattered about. There are several ways to explore the diverse geography of this Caribbean gem. Taxis are pricey although convenient but you must agree a price with the driver before entering as they aren’t metered.

Buses are another good option and travel all through the city.

Bicycles and motor scooters can be rented by the hour and are another popular way to get around Martinique for cruise passengers.

Of course, the cruise ship tour desk can make all the arrangements for a visit to the places of interest.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The standout of Martinique is the Salines Beach. This beach seems as though it has come out of a postcard with its white sand and crystal clear water. Scuba diving is also available whilst in port to experience the under-the-sea habitat of gorgeous tropical fish and other marine life.

For those with a historical thirst, head to the St. Louis Cathedral. The Cathedral has been a fixture of the location for many years, although it has had to go through six renovations. This is due to the wooden structure of the church falling apart; today, it is made out of iron. The governors of Martinique are buried here and you should visit the inordinate headstones.

Further historical sites can be found at the Schoelcher Library. It was originally constructed in Paris for the 1889 exposition. After the exposition, it was shipped to Martinique to serve as their library. Containing an enormous amount of books, the library was named after Victor Schoelcher, a slavery abolisher.

Work those legs amongst lush vistas at an elevation of 4,656 feet on Mount Pelée. Even the island’s “smaller” hills check in at around 1,500 feet. Whether it’s making a valiant attempt at scaling this volcano or gazing at the banana plantations of the base, there’s always something to get you moving.

The base also offers many different sporting activities such as canoeing and hiking through the trails. For those that are truly daring, rappel through beautiful waterfalls and vibrant forests.

Balata's Garden

Finally, finish the day off by witnessing the Balata Gardens. The gardens contain a collection of many different types of flora, including over 300 species of palm tree. Although you can’t bring a flower home or back on board the cruise ship, the pictures taken alone will be worth the visit and a memory maker of your day in port.

CRUISE LINES CALLING AT FORT DE FRANCE

The season for cruise holiday makers to see Martinique reaches into late spring and then begins again in late October. The following lines have ships calling at Fort de France in 2015:

Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Pullmantur and Royal Caribbean.

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Escape the Cold – the Caribbean Season is Here
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The fun in the sun season is just getting underway in the Caribbean. All of the major cruise lines are preparing for their yearly jaunts to this area. However, since there are so many locations in the Caribbean to visit, some areas are not as travelled to on a cruise itinerary as others.

Recently, Disney Cruise Lines announced that it is adding two new Caribbean destinations. Tortola and Martinique have been placed on its scheduled Caribbean sailings for 2016.

However you don’t have to wait until 2016, next year many cruise lines are scheduled to visit the less popular ports below.

DOMINICA

Movie fans may recognise Dominica as it was used in many scenes in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. However, this location has much more to offer than set pieces. The entire island is covered in lush green flora, flanked by jagged mountains and large mango trees.

There are over 172 different species of birds that live there and the island is also famous for its whale watching opportunities. Royal Caribbean, Lindblad Expeditions and SilverSea include Dominica in their itineraries.

Dominica Caribbean

GRENADA

Grenada has a very colourful history and offers plenty for passengers stopping by for the day. The capital St. George is the main draw and contains many sites such as the picturesque white sanded beauty of the Grand Anse Beach. There is also the Grand Etang National Park which has a large amount of Mona monkeys, perfect for photo opportunities.

The local cuisine is filled with exotic spices, a fitting name for the Isle of Spice. Grenada is visited by Princess, Royal Caribbean and P&O amongst others.

MARTINIQUE

Martinique has seen a significant increase in cruise arrivals in the last year. The island retains both a French and Caribbean culture. The highlight in this port of call will be Gorges de la Falaise. This river is situated between two huge cliffs amongst a dense forest. “Habitation Chalvet” or “Habitation la Capot” was a sugar plantation in the 18th century and the crisis of sugar forced the structure to find a new direction.

Previously, it was a farm where cocoa was grown. This season, the Costa Magica will be stopping there every week.

Saint François Martinique

ST. BARTS

Presenting 20 beaches sprinkled along the island’s coasts makes St. Barts a perfect retreat for swimming all year round. Named after Columbus’s brother, Bartolomeo, St. Barts is an excellent place for sunbathing and water activities. Famous for its sophisticated yet casual restaurant scene, the regional cuisine is where the French influence shines the most, with local Caribbean spices mixed in.

Cruise lines that will be visiting St. Barts in 2015 include Seabourn, Star Clippers, Oceania Cruises and SilverSea.

ST. KITTS

Formerly known as St. Christopher, it got its current name from British sailors who shortened the lengthy name. St. Kitts is well known for its lush scenery and is perfect for eco-touring. The enormous rainforests are teeming with unique wildlife and the dormant volcano Mount Liamuiga is well worth seeing. Several cruise lines are heading here next year including Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian and Star Clippers.

ST. VINCENT

Although not visited that often, one destination that cruise lines are taking notice of is St. Vincent. The landscape here is perfectly preserved and untouched. Dive into the glistening waters here to see some of the most stunning coral reefs imaginable and plunging waterfalls too. However, there is also cultural activity.

The nearby Fort Charlotte has a museum detailing the history of the area. Cruise lines that visit St. Vincent include Holland America, P&O Cruises and Star Clippers.

The Royal Clipper

The Royal Clipper. Image courtesy of Star Clippers

TORTOLA

The largest island of the British Virgin Islands group, Tortola, just happens to be the least populated. The white sandy beaches of Tortola are beaming with palm trees and azure pristine water. Rent a kayak or sailboard or try some of the scuba diving, water skiing, and windsurfing opportunities.

Besides leisurely moments on the beach, hike the rugged mountains within Sage Mountain National Park. Its summit stands at 1751 feet and offers a spectacular 360-degree view of Tortola and its neighbouring islands. Besides Disney in 2016, upcoming sailings this season to Tortola include those with Windstar and Seabourn.

Many passengers obviously choose a cruise holiday in the Caribbean because they want destinations away from the cold weather. Go one step further, and select a cruise that visits a few islands that contain a tropical environment without the crowds.

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