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3 New Cruise Line Private Islands
It used to be that private islands were the playgrounds of the ridiculously rich and fabulously famous. Then cruise lines got into the game. Now, cruise lines are competing with each other to build exclusive tropical enclaves in the Caribbean for their guests to experience not just a day on the beach, but create travel memories they can't get anywhere else.

Most of the actual private cruise line islands are small, uninhabited islands ('cays', pronounced 'keys') among the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas, like the very first cruise line private island in the Caribbean, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, Holland America's Half Moon Cay (WATCH VIDEO OF HALF MOON CAY HERE), and Disney's Castaway Cay.



Harvest Caye is a private island off coast of Belize. It's for guests of sister cruise lines Norwegian, Oceania and Regent.


But the term 'private islands' has also expanded to include private cruise line day resorts developed on larger, inhabited islands, like Labadee on Haiti for guests of Royal Caribbean, and Princess Cay on Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

And cruise lines continue to acquire real estate to up the ante on the ultimate resort experience for a day ashore on the beach.

Whether you've never stepped foot on a cruise line private island, or you've got a favorite you cruise to over and over again… check out these new private island destinations you can only reach by cruise ship.

They're all in the Bahamas, but designed by three very different cruise lines, and offer three very different private island experiences. Find your cruise line private island match!


 
The Cruise Line: Virgin Voyages
The Destination: The Beach Club at Bimini, the Bahamas
The Experience: High-Style Island Beach Club/ Music Festival on the Beach

As Sir Richard Branson launches his new, adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and its first flagship, the Scarlet Lady, he also launches a private island destination just for Virgin Voyages guests.


No, not HIS private island. But The Beach Club on the Bahamian island of Bimini takes its cues from Sir Richard's famously high-living, party-loving, music industry persona. Along with exquisite beach and turquoise water, The Beach Club provides an atmosphere like beach party destinations Ibiza and St. Tropez.


A detox/retox formula starts with beach yoga and meditation to the sounds of the sea earlier in the day, chilling in hammock groves and cabanas, snacking on complimentary, locally-sourced island cuisine and sipping cocktails from 6 bars, playing on the beach and taking part in watersports, leading up to in-demand DJ-led pool and flotilla parties in the evening, and finally winding down late at night with a beach bonfire and acoustic music before a very late night ship departure.

The Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
The Destination: Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, the Bahamas
The Experience: Soft Adventure Meets Nature on the Beach


Only 65 miles off Miami, MSC will also be able to offer late night departures from its new private island (pictured, top).

7 beaches, each with its own atmosphere and experiences, ranging from shallow paddling for small children to water sports. Dining includes food trucks that incorporate local flavors, and multiple bars including one inspired by Hemmingway's famous taste for rum cocktails overlooking the ocean. MSC's Aurea Spa treatments are available on shore at Ocean Cay. And shopping includes vendors of local arts and crafts as well as branded items.


In addition to the usual beach-side water sports, Ocean Cay offers eco-friendly soft adventure experiences like kayak tours and snorkel safaris highlighting the natural beauty of the island and its seas.

Ocean Cay is surrounded by dozens of square miles of protected seas, and that's the point. The development protects the local wildlife and ecosystem, and there are plans for a coral nursery to actively contribute to the region's environment.
 
The Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
The Destination: Cococay, the Bahamas
The Experience: 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay' / Over-the-top Theme Park on a Beach

Royal Caribbean ships are whirlwind experiences of ice skating rinks, climbing walls, theme park type rides, restaurants and shopping… more than you could hope to ever do in a single week of cruising. Its new concept, 'Perfect Day', is a collection of private islands around the world that take 'thrill and chill' to a new level, beginning in the Bahamas with 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay'.


Perfect Day at CocoCay is a shopping list of record-breaking builds, adrenaline-charged activities, and unexpected firsts: The tallest waterslide in North America. The largest wave pool in the Caribbean. The first overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. The Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride that takes you 450 feet up to the highest viewpoint in the Bahamas. A soaking by 30 water cannons on a shipwrecked galleon, and an 82-foot geyser. A 1,600-foot zip line – ending with the only splash water landing in the region. A freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning a whopping 2,600-plus feet. And a whole host of other dining, drinking, and shopping activities to pack a full day even fuller.




Royal Caribbean believes Perfect Day at CocoCay will live up to its name – and set the scene for more Perfect Day Island Collection destinations in the Caribbean as well as Asia and Australia.
 
These 3 wildly diverse new cruise line private islands prove: there's a perfect new cruise – and a new cruise line private island - just waiting for you to discover.

Start your Trip!


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8 Facts About the Panama Canal

Panama is one of the fastest-growing destinations in Central America, and the Panama Canal is the country's star attraction. Although it's on everyone's list of things to experience, the canal is more important as a global shipping transit than tourist experience. 

Whether you sail the canal on your next cruise or watch in action from land, here are 8 things you need to know about this wonder of the modern world.

1. It's a short cut between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Panama Canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama in a narrow land bridge between North and South America. Prior, ships had to sail around the tip of South America. It takes about 8 hours to cross the Canal's 50 miles (77km). That saves days. If a ship had to navigate down and around Cape Horn at the tip of South America and back up the other side, it would have to travel nearly 12,500 miles (20,000 km).

2. It's over 100 years old.

2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.  Columbia, France, then later, the United States controlled the land surrounding the canal. In 1881, the French started building the canal, but progress halted due to engineering problems and high worker mortality. The US took it over in 1904 and completed the project with newly available technology ten years later at a cost of $400 million USD. In 1999, control passed back to Panama.

3. Construction cost over 25,000 lives.

At times, more than 43,000 people were working on the Panama Canal at once. Workers had to deal with heat, jungles, swamps - and all the creatures in them, including rats that carried bubonic plague. Plus mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria. Over 20,000 workers died during French building efforts.

After the scientific links between the insects and disease had been discovered, Americans undertook intensive and successful anti-mosquito initiatives. Even so, another more than 5000 workers perished during the American building phase.

4. It's considered one of the Man-Made Wonders of the World

The American Society of Civil Engineers has also dubbed the Panama Canal one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. It's one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.
 
A system of locks at each end of the Canal lifts ships up 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level to an artificial lake. Ships traverse the artificial lake, as well as a series of improved and artificial channels, and then are lowered again in more locks to sea level at the other side.  
 
The locks are 110 feet (33 meters) feet wide and 1000 feet (300 meters) long. About 30-MILLION pounds (1,400,000 kilos) of explosives were used to help clear the land for the canal.

 (That's a view! The Norwegian Bliss is the largest passenger cruise ship to have ever transited the Panama Canal)

5. Over 1 Million Vessels have transited the canal since it opened.

In 1914, the year it opened, about 1000 ships used the canal. Today, nearly 15,000 ships pass through the Isthmus of Panama via the Canal annually. The 1 Millionth ship crossed the canal in 2010, 96 years after it opened.
In 1934 it was estimated that the maximum traffic of the canal would be around 80 million tons of shipping a year, but by 2015, canal traffic exceeded 340 million tons of shipping – over 4 times the original maximum estimate.
 

6. $2 Billion in Tolls are Collected Annually

Every ship that passes through the canal pays a toll based on its size, type and volume of cargo. Tolls are set by the Panama Canal Authority. Tolls for the largest cargo ships can run about $450,000. Cruise ships pay by berths (number of passengers in beds). The per-berth fee set in 2016 was $138; a large cruise ship can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to sail through the Canal. 

The smallest toll recorded was paid by American Richard Halliburton in 1928, who paid 36 cents to swim the Canal.

 

7. The Panama Canal was expanded for bigger ships in 2016

The original canal locks are 110 feet (33 meters) wide and ten times as long. For a century, they accommodated shipping, and the term 'Panamax' ships was used to describe ships built to fit through the canal. But ships kept getting bigger, and in 2007, work began on a multi-billion dollar expansion of the Canal. In 2016, a third, wider lane of locks opened for commercial shipping, capable of handling 'Post-Panamax' ships that can carry 14,000 20-foot shipping containers (nearly 3 times Panamax ship capacity).

In spite of that giant leap forward in 2016, the world's largest container ships - that can carry 18,000 shipping containers – can't pass through the Panama Canal.

(A Celebrity Cruise ship transiting the Panama Canal)

8. How you can visit the Panama Canal. 

Many ocean cruise lines offer increasingly popular Panama Canal itineraries that sail through the canal in the approximately 8 hour passage to their next destination in the opposite ocean. 

But you don't have to sail through the canal. If you're visiting Panama City, or taking a resort / beach vacation in Panama, you can take a land trip to see the canal in action.
 
The Miraflores Visitor Center is on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, which are close to the Pacific end of the Canal and Panama City. Like the canal, the Visitor Center is open daily. The Visitor Center has large balconies designed for you to get a great view as the lock gates are opened and closed for ships to start or complete their journey through the Panama Canal. 

Engineering buffs and even children will be thrilled at the up-close-to-the-action perspective on this man-made Wonder of the World. 
 

Start your Trip!


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Think only the super rich and celebrities get the privileges of private islands?

Guests aboard Holland America Line cruises in the Eastern Caribbean can get a taste of private island lifestyle too.

HAL's private island is Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, and it's the featured port of call on the Oprah Winfrey Girls' Getaway cruise.

BestTrip.TV has already been to this fantasy private island port of call, to share some of its highlights with you.

Can you picture yourself there, too?


Is a World Cruise Right for You?

Cruising is a storied way of travel, full of unique traditions and experiences you'll never enjoy any other way than on a cruise ship.  The World Cruise is one of those time-honored cruising traditions, dating back to the Golden Age of steam ships and a new approach to travel by the most stylish people on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first World Cruise sailed a century ago, pioneered by British luxury line Cunard, who still sets the standard of world cruising.   There are still 'world cruises' that actually circumnavigate the globe, setting sail from Southampton (London), Los Angeles or south Florida in the New Year, cruising around the world, and making a triumphant return to your port of embarkation a few months later with a lifetime of memories. (Photo Credit: BestTrip.TV)

That is a traditional World Cruise.  But not every world cruise circles the planet. Some explore a hemisphere or a couple of continents, sailing into ports not normally accessible by shorter cruise itineraries.  

January departures are not the only choice; some world cruises sail twice a year or from regions where the seasons dictate different timing.

World Cruises often have extended stays in some of the best ports of call: overnights as well as extended periods off-ship for a land extension then a return to the ship so you really feel you have an in-depth travel experience.

You probably imagine all your fellow guests will be quite senior  - and they are the likeliest travelers to have the time and money to commit to the most epic of cruise itineraries.  But cruise lines are changing with the times to appeal to new generations – and multi-generations – of travelers, and world cruises may have families with children taking a term or more off school to explore the world, as well as younger couples on 'sabbatical' breaks.

So… is a world cruise right for you? 

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have 3 months or more to devote to travel? 90 days is an entry-level commitment to a world cruise. Some are 180 days or more, especially cruises that actually circle the world.
  2. Do you 'collect' ports, looking for ways to visit cruise destinations in far-flung corners of the world other itineraries don't reach?Cruising around the world is going to take you to oceans and seas and continents shorter cruises simply can't reach.
  3. Do you love days at sea?Between these off-the-beaten-track ports of call, ships cross bodies of water and that can take days.If what you love about a Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise is that there's another port every day, a world cruise will be a big change of pace.
  4. Is ship-board life appealing to you? Over that period of time, the ship becomes your home, not an entertaining 'floating hotel'. Strolling on deck, enjoying a sunset from your veranda, or the camaraderie of your fellow guests in the ship's restaurants, bars, lounges and fitness centers, and activities like onboard enrichment programs will be your lifestyle for weeks and months.

If you answered 'yes' to these questions, you might want to consider a world cruise. 

What if you answered 'no'?

If you don't have 3 months or want to cruise for so many weeks, you can often book segments of a world cruise on your favorite cruise line that give you the opportunity to see a unique part of the world at sea.

'Grand Voyages', itineraries of less than 3 months but with much of the lavishness and off-the-beaten path ports of full 'World Cruises' are increasingly popular.

Consider the cruise line that would make a dream World Cruise the best experience for you.  Small luxury ships, mid-size contemporary ships, British style cruising… the onboard lifestyle you would enjoy for a quarter of a year or more at sea should help you focus on what cruise line would be the best fit for your World Cruise.  Smaller ships can also sail into smaller, more boutique ports as well, so if truly unique destinations are important to you, smaller ships will have itineraries to match those cruise travel dreams.

Cruise lines that offer World Cruises or their younger sisters, Grand Voyages, include:

  • Cunard
  • Holland America Line
  • Silversea
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Azamara Club Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises,
  • Princess Cruises
  • Seabourn
  • Viking Ocean Cruises
  • Costa Cruises

Start your Trip!

 

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What Ship Has a $4 Million Art Collection?

Holland America Line's ships are famous for their museum-quality art.  Fans of cruising on Holland America Line ships are familiar with the pleasure of rounding a corner to encounter another stimulating piece or installation of art.  Art tours are among the most unique on board experiences on HAL ships.

On Holland America Line's newest ship, the MS Konigsdam, 4.1 million dollars' of art translates into 1920 pieces ranging from classic to contemporary, traditional to avant-garde, enhancing the decks, public spaces and even private staterooms. 

Much more than traditional framed two-dimensional art, Konigsdam art encompasses photography, painting, mixed media, illustration, prints and sculpture. 

Koningsdam features artworks in many media, including photography, painting, mixed media, illustration, prints and sculpture. Classical or whimsical or a thought-provoking combination of both, artworks are created from expected materials as well as remarkable paint-injected bubble wrap, computer disks on wood, toy cars cast in resin, aluminum wire, cast paper, bamboo and other materials you might not associate with works of art you might have encountered in traditional museums.

Many pieces change depending on where you stand in relation to the piece, engaging you to start conversations with your fellow guests.  There are a number of apparent themes, including Holland America Line's association with the Netherlands, as well as Koningsdam’s focus on entertainment, with various pieces showcasing themes of performers and music, dance and movement.

More than 21 nationalities are represented by Koningsdam’s artists, including the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland.

Some of the artists are established and well known, others are up-and-coming, with prices for pieces ranging in value from $500 to well over half a million dollars.

The largest and most expensive work is the stunning $600,000 Atrium sculpture titled 'Harps'.  It's based on a concept by celebrity hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, who was the mastermind behind the Konigsdam's design. The 7.5-ton stainless steel sculpture spans three decks and is the focal point of the ship's Atrium.

The large-scale tulip images behind the Guest Services desk are by a Netherlands-based artist who was commissioned to photograph Holland America Line’s Signature Tulip. This unique flower only blooms for a couple of weeks every year, so the team traveled to the Netherlands to collect the blooms directly from the only grower in the world to capture this visual art.

Dutch design group Studio Job created the $100,000 custom-designed Swarovski crystal globe in one of the ship's stair lobbies; a $54,000 'Rabbit' in the Retreat is one of the most talked-about works, and the light sculpture 'Quad Helix' by Jason Krugman spans multiple decks.


Look for the charming pieces nestled inside special tables at the Grand Dutch Café; Royal Goedewaagen created handmade and hand-painted ceramic buildings that showcase a little bit of Dutch history with canal houses, mills, palaces and regional Dutch buildings.


 
Dutch artist Peter Gentenaar recently exhibited his work at Paris’ famed Louvre, and now Holland America Line guests can enjoy his captivating, two-story sculpture in The Dining Room. 'Wings of the Pharao', is made from handmade cast paper, Belgian linen and bamboo.

Even if you don't consider yourself an art expert or even an art lover, the artistic eye candy on board the Konigsdam will be one of your favourite memories of your cruise.

Start your Trip!

 

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New Cruise Ships Arriving this Fall in the Caribbean

If you like 'new ship smell', you won't want to miss the opportunity to experience some of your favorite Caribbean ports of call this winter – in a shiny new cruise ship.

A number of new cruise ships made their entrance on the cruising scene this spring and summer in Europe. But as temperatures cool, they start their migrations, repositioning to the Caribbean for a sunny tropical winter cruise season.

No matter your cruising style, there's a new ship to enjoy the islands this winter.

Seven Seas Explorer - Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas Explorer made a glamorous debut in Monte Carlo mid summer. She was christened by royalty, (Princess Charlene of Monaco) and explored the Mediterranean through the summer and fall, heading for Miami in November for its inaugural Caribbean season.

Highlights:

You'll be joined by only 750 privileged guests in a glittering, all-suite, all-balcony environment on a ship that's been called 'the most luxurious cruise ship ever built'. (Its Regent Suite is as spacious as any resort on shore, nearly 3900 square feet of exquisite design, with two bedrooms and even an in-room spa!) Guests may choose to dine in six fine dining venues, and enjoy the ship's two-story theatre and Culinary Arts Kitchen cooking school. Like other top end luxury cruise lines, the fare is all-inclusive, with packages that may include air, wine and spirits, shore excursions, wi-fi, gratuities and more.

Harmony of the Seas - Royal Caribbean

Have you been keeping track? Royal Caribbean's latest Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas, is now the largest ship in the world, at an amazing nearly 1187 feet in length. This wonder of maritime engineering has been cruising in the Mediterranean since her launch in June, and repositions in November to her new permanent homeport of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From there, she'll take nearly 5500 guests at a time on Caribbean itineraries.

Photo: BestTrip.TV

Highlights:

Hard to list in just one paragraph. Guests flow through the ship's immense space in seven distinct neighorhoods, where you have the opportunity to experience some of Royal Caribbean's favorite experiences and some new ones: 20 restaurants; FlowRider surfing simulators; a zipline and jungle gym, an AquaTheater for diving shows; a waterslide; a water park if you can picture your kids or your inner child having a blast with water cannons; a drench bucket; two climbing walls; and an ice-skating rink. The question is whether a 7-day itinerary gives you enough time to begin to explore the whole ship, let alone experience it all. You might want to consider back-to-back Eastern and Western week-long itineraries to spread out this much excitement over two weeks!

Koningsdam – Holland America Line

The first of HAL's new Pinnacle-class ships is the largest Holland America Line ship to date. When it debuted in May, christened (as is the tradition for the line) by Dutch royalty, the Koningsdam was praised as a new era for HAL. After a season sailing in the Mediterranean, in November, she arrives in her new homeport of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for winter and spring Caribbean cruises.

Highlights:

The Koningsdam ushers in a new era of fresh, celebrity design for the quietly elegant cruise line. Design innovations include new, upscale suites, including family units, and a top deck with a stunning pool with fountains and whirlpools. You'll be among 2650 guests enjoying some acclaimed dining experiences (always a HAL strong point): an intimate new seafood brasserie, exquisite garden-to-table cuisine (thanks to its glass-enclosed growing space), even a wine-making venue, BLEND, and new entertainment venues. The Koningsdam's 'Music Walk', features different nightly performances in three venues: Lincoln Center Stage (featuring world class performers as a result of the partnership with the famed Lincoln Center), Billboard Onboard, and World Stage.

Viking Star - Viking Cruises

The Viking Star is an honorary member of this group, since it launched as the first of Viking's ocean cruise ships in the spring of 2015. So technically, she's over a year old now, unlike the other ships on this list that launched this year. But she is crossing the Atlantic for the first time when she makes her way to Montreal this fall, then on via the Eastern Seaboard to New York, finally repositioning to San Juan to spend the winter in the West Indies before returning to Europe in the spring.

Highlights:

If you're a fan of Viking's river cruise ships, you won't want to miss the opportunity to experience its first foray into ocean cruising while the Viking Star is this close to home. The 930-guest Viking Star features the same, unique, Scandinavian modern design you've come to expect from all of this Norwegian company's ships, but in a larger ocean cruising format; all veranda staterooms; a LivNordic Spa, which includes a Snow Grotto; The Wintergarden for afternoon tea; multiple dining venues; and Viking’s Culture Curriculum for onboard learning.

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