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New and Unusual Shore excursionsJanuary 7, 2008 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
Cruise lines expand the variety of activities offered in ports
WHEN YOU'RE PITCHING A CARIBBEAN OR SOUTH AMERICAN CRUISE and your clients say "been there, done that," roll out the plethora of new shore excursions that cruise lines are offering. These excursions eschew passive sightseeing from a van and instead immerse travelers in uncommon activities, some of them unique to the destination. Clients could go helmet diving in Aruba, dogsledding in Jamaica or cooking in Curacao.
In the spirit of Jules Verne, Crystal Cruises has added "Sea Trek: Helmet Diving off De Palm Island" as a shore excursion during calls in Aruba. Clients get to walk "under" the Caribbean and view colorful marine life during this 31/2-hour outing. They take the ferry to De Palm Island, where they're divided into small groups, given a briefing and fitted with helmet diving equipment.
Between the diving apparatus and a 375-foot, custom-made walkway, the 25-minute underwater walk is described by Crystal as "easy." Passengers can stroll, feed fish and even view an underwater airplane wreck. After the underwater trek, there is time for beach relaxation, volleyball or snorkeling. This new trip is available on multiple Caribbean voyages in January and February. Cost is $114 per person. Go to www.crystalcruises.com.
Clients who've always wanted to ride on a dogsled in Alaska may be surprised to learn that such an activity is available to Princess Cruises guests in, of all places, Jamaica. Yes, passengers on Grand Princess cruises calling at Ochos Rios, Jamaica, may sign up for the "Chukka-Jamaica Dog Sled Ride."
The sled dogs are not purebred huskies—they're lovable mongrels that were rescued from local animal shelters. They'll eagerly pull your wheeled sled around a Jamaican farm. They also enjoy socializing with cruise guests (see photo, right). The cost of this 21/2-hour mushing excursion is $159. Visit www.princess.com.
Clients on the South America voyage of Seven Seas Mariner that departs February 4 who want to soak up some local culture can attend a "Brazilian Celebration in Dance" during the call in Fortaleza. This complimentary event shore trip is offered by Regent Seven Seas Cruises on the Buenos Aires–Manaus cruise. Guests go to Teatro José de Alencar for a cocktail reception and a performance by Edisca, an all-ages dance company, of "Bale Jangurussu," a ballet based on life on the streets of Brazilian cities. Visit www.regentexperience.com.
If culinary arts entice, Celebrity Cruises satisfies passengers' appetites with a new four-hour "Culinary Delights of Curacao" excursion for port calls in Willemstad. After coffee or tea and a pastry at a 100-year-old mansion, guests will be wowed by a local chef who demonstrates Caribbean cooking. Then they try their hands at these Caribbean recipes and dine on their self-prepared, three-course lunch with wine. Priced at $95, this shore trip is available on sailings of the Galaxy between January 4 to April 7 as well as the January 5 sailing of the Summit. Visit www.cruisingpower.com.
Another destination's cuisine, and how to make it, is featured on Cozumel port calls this winter by Holland America Line's Veendam and Westerdam. The new "Mexican Cuisine Workshop and Tasting" program at Playa Mia Grand Beach Park costs $99 per person. See www.hollandamerica.com.
A sporting option is the three-hour "America's Cup Racing Experience" offered by Carnival Cruise Lines on cruises to Nassau, Bahamas, aboard Celebration, Fascination and Sensation. Passengers who take this $125 excursion get to sail on a former Team New Zealand racing yacht. Check it out at www.bookccl.com.
For a different type of waterborne excur-sion, there's Silversea Cruises' new "Best of St. Lucia." The luxury that clients enjoy aboard the Silver Shadow continues on land with this trip to the pampering Ladera Resort. Lunch with wine and a motorboat journey are included. Cost is $136 per person. Visit www.silversea.com.
Families whose eastern Caribbean itinerary on Norwegian Cruise Line includes a call at St. Thomas might opt for the new 75-minute "Duckaneer Adventure"—a fun and spirited journey on an "amphibious bus." The Duckaneer travels by road along the island's western side for island sights. Then, presto, in Frenchtown's bay it turns into a "boat." On this tour, kids will relish tales of pirates and see towers named after two of the Caribbean's most notorious, Bluebeard and Blackbeard. The cost is $49 per person. Go to www.ncl.com.