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FLORIDA & CARIBBEAN WI N T E R 20 1 9

PERFECT PORTS Cruise stops offer exciting excursions

CARIBBEAN COMFORTS Enjoy awesome views & amenities

THEME PARKS Take in Hollywood’s movie magic

Urban Utopia Star Island, Miami Beach, Fla.


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CONTENTS

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FLORIDA & CARIBBEAN

AQUATIC ADVENTURES Make the most of your three-day vacation in Key West

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CONTENTS FLORIDA This is a product of

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ISOLATED ISLE

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GREEN GOALS

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Dry Tortugas National Park is hidden in plain sight

EDITORIAL

Visit these courses to view legendary golf landmarks

BUILDING CHARACTERS Legoland’s new attraction brings movie magic

DIRECTOR Jeanette Barrett-Stokes jbstokes@usatoday.com

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com

MANAGING EDITOR Michelle Washington mjwashington@usatoday.com

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LOTS OF SPACE Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands at Disney World

BRAKE TIME There’s more to Daytona Beach than just auto racing

ISSUE DESIGNER Gina Toole Saunders EDITORS Amy Sinatra Ayres Harry Lister Sara Schwartz Debbie Williams DESIGNERS Hayleigh Corkey Amira Martin Debra Moore Lisa M. Zilka

CARIBBEAN LEGOLAND FLORIDA RESORT; PROVIDED BY MAUI JIM

INTERN Amber Tucker

PRODUCTS

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ISSUE EDITOR Tracy Scott Forson

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SEA ESSENTIALS Prepare for a day at the beach with these finds

SANTA BARBARA BEACH & GOLF RESORT CURAÇAO

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FEATURES

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mary Helen Berg, Frances J. Folsom, Martin Kaufmann, Todd Kelly, Melanie Reffes, Robin Roenker, Sarah Sekula, Kristen Seymour, Gene Sloan, Michelle Spitzer, Adam Stone

PARADISE PORTS Don’t miss these sites when your ship docks

ADVERTISING VP, ADVERTISING Patrick Burke | (703) 854-5914

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38 ON THE COVER: STAR ISLAND, MIAMI BEACH, FLA.

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BEST OF BELIZE

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DIVE IN

STAY REFRESHED Caribbean resorts rebound, rebuild and reinvent CUISINART GOLF RESORT & SPA

Royal Caribbean’s updated private island offers new thrills

60 SUPER BOWL Miami preps to top record at 2020 game

COCOCAY DAY

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Experience the Caribbean paradise on land and sea

Discover some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean

BEST BET Baha Mar debuts as Bahamas’ largest gaming site

pburke@usatoday.com

ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Vanessa Salvo | (703) 854-6499 vsalvo@usatoday.com

FINANCE Billing Coordinator Julie Marco

ISSN#0734-7456 A USA TODAY Network publication, Gannett Co. Inc USA TODAY, its logo and associated graphics are the trademarks of Gannett Co. Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Copyright 2018, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Editorial and publication headquarters are at 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108, and at (703) 854-3400. For accuracy questions, call or send an e-mail to accuracy@usatoday.com.

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UP FRONT | TRAVEL

Sea Essentials Shore picks for sunny days By Kristen Seymour

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Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays (and look good doing it) with a pair of Maui Jim Shave Ice polarized sunglasses, available in three colors. $329.99, mauijim.com

Get tentlike coverage from the sun and weather with all the convenience and portability of an umbrella with the Sport-Brella. $59.99, sklz.implus.com

F THE SEA IS calling, you must answer —

but don’t show up unprepared! Stay safe in the sun and keep yourself cool, comfortable and happy as a clam with these beachworthy picks.

Tropical and on-trend, this Trina Turk Banana Leaf one-piece swimsuit features a plunging neckline and crossback detail along with a cheerful print, perfect for pairing with a little salt water and sun. $78, neimanmarcus.com

Sunscreen is a must, and, in addition to protecting your skin, this waterproof, sweatproof Kokua Sun Care SPF 50 Hawaiian natural zinc option is safe for coral reefs, too. $29.99, amazon.com


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UP FRONT | TRAVEL

Hydration is more important than ever in the heat of summer, and the 24-ounce Contigo Autoseal Cortland makes it simple with a spillproof lid and protective spout to keep the sand out. $11.99, available at Publix

A day of fun in the sun needn’t end with a sunburned face — at least not when you’re wearing this Brixton Joanna straw hat, which will keep your face shaded (and your look on-trend). $44, nordstrom.com

A beach day isn’t complete without a great beach read, and the waterproof Kindle Paperwhite has a glare-free display so you can see clearly, even in the brightest sunlight. $129.99, amazon.com

The waterproof JBL Clip 3 Portable Speaker offers 10 hours of play time and a handy clip, so your day at the beach will always have the perfect soundtrack. $59.95, jbl.com

Looking for a cover-up that can take you from the beach to brunch? This lightweight Bl-nk Steffi Cover-Up maxi dress will help you look chic in a snap. $120, anthropologie. com

Hot days call for cold drinks, and the Igloo MaxCold 40-quart cooler is up for the job, keeping contents chilled for up to five days. Durable wheels and a reinforced handle make transportation easy. $69.99, available at Publix

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UP FRONT | TRAVEL

Splashing in the surf is more fun when you have something comfortable like the portable and bright Swimways Spring Float to relax on. It features an oversized pillow and cooling mesh. $14.97, walmart.com

Put a little aloha in your step with the OluKai Ho‘ōpio women’s beach sandals, with an anatomical footbed and a water-resistant upper, available in a variety of colors, patterns and materials. $65, olukai.com

Pack yourself a picnic — and dine in grand fashion with this easy-to-assemble, foldable Table in a Bag, made from certified sustainable mahogany. $59.95, crateandbarrel.com

Bright stripes will make it easy to spot your Bay Isle Home Tropical Cabana cotton beach towel after a leisurely stroll on the beach or dip in the ocean. $17.99, wayfair.com

Just because you want your toes in the sand, doesn’t mean you want the rest of your body covered in it. Stay on top of that situation with the Matador pocket blanket. $29.95, uncommongoods.com

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FLORIDA | NATIONAL PARKS

Underwater Wonder Make a splash at remote Dry Tortugas National Park

Fort Jefferson GETTY IMAGES

By Sarah Sekula

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ITH JUST 60,000 VISITORS a year,

Dry Tortugas National Park (nps.gov/ drto) in Florida is one of the least-visited in the United States. It’s also one of the most isolated. About 70 miles from Key West, it’s accessible only by boat or seaplane. In other words, it’s a remote spot in the middle of nowhere. “It’s an effort to get there, but you will be rewarded with amazing views, compelling stories and the feeling of really escaping it all,” says Allyson

Gantt, a spokeswoman at Dry Tortugas, a group of tiny islands in the Gulf of Mexico. “To me, this place embodies all that our national parks preserve.” In an ironic twist on its name, nearly 99 percent of the park’s 100 square miles are beneath the picturesque waters. With an amazing coral reef system and loads of marine life like moray eels and Goliath grouper, it’s easy to spend hours flipper-kicking your way around. Not to mention, there’s a very good chance you’ll spot loggerhead, green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles. Along with the marine life, a piece of American history also lives on the Dry Tortugas.

Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era landmark built in the mid-1800s, is one of the largest 19th-century forts in the nation. Tours of the fort are available. “My first impression was that Fort Jefferson could easily be one of the modern wonders of the world,” says Miami resident Joseph Nunez. “It’s insane to think there is a huge fortress out in the middle of the ocean, especially considering that it’s been there since the 1800s.” “Nature and history are equally represented here,” says Gantt, “as well as the challenges of preserving and protecting that which we value.”

Dry Tortugas National Park

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FLORIDA | GOLF RESORTS

PETER CASEY/USA TODAY SPORTS; GETTY IMAGES

Legendary Links Swing by one of Florida’s golfing landmarks By Todd Kelly

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NE OF THE GREAT

things about the game of golf is the chance to experience history firsthand at famous courses you have only seen on TV.

For many fans, these historic landmarks may be inaccessible because they are located in far-off or exclusive locales (We’re looking at you, Scotland!). But for Floridians, a number of great landmarks in golf are within state lines. Here are four:

ISLAND GREEN Avoiding water traps is difficult enough when a pond stands between you and the desired hole. That challenge is amped up at the Island Green at TCP Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. The trees and bunker that surround the scenic hole that sits on a peninsula require skill and precision to avoid. According to legend, the design for the now-infamous area came about by accident when creators discovered a nearby crater that altered the original landscape plans. Also accidental: the estimated 120,000 balls the circling waters claim each year.


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FLORIDA | GOLF RESORTS

THE BEAR TRAP Comprised of holes 15, 16 and 17 at the PGA National (The Champion Course) in Palm Beach Gardens, this area is named in honor of golfer and course designer Jack “The Golden Bear” Nicklaus, and its moniker acknowledges the challenges it presents, including water hazards and sharp edges. “It’s not about length,” Nicklaus says, advising how to face the legendary holes. “It’s about precision. It’s about guts.” GETTY IMAGES; JASON GETZ/USA TODAY SPORTS

ARNOLD PALMER STATUE

SNAKE PIT For those who dare to take on the notorious final three holes at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, a copper-colored statue greets them. It’s a warning about hole No. 16, known as the Moccasin. That’s followed by the Rattler and the 18th hole, the Copperhead. In 2018, the Snake Pit ranked as the third-toughest finishing three holes on the PGA Tour.

It’s by design that this life-size statue, unveiled at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando in 2017, isn’t behind ropes or fencing. “We had some discussions about where (it should) go,” says Charlie Mechem, friend of Palmer, legendary winner of 62 U.S. PGA Tour championships. “If they are a nonmember coming here for dinner or (a guest), I wanted to have everyone see it whether they were here to play golf or not.” REINHOLD MATAY/USA TODAY SPORTS

ROB SCHUMACHER/USA TODAY SPORTS


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FLORIDA | THEME PARKS

Emmet, Benny and Lucy attend the Lego Movie World grand opening in March. CHIP LITHERLAND

More Legos to Love Everything is awesome in this new movie-themed attraction

By Michelle Spitzer

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ITH A FULL ROSTER

of films featuring characters based on the colorful building blocks, including this year’s The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, it only makes sense that Legoland Florida pay homage to the Hollywood industry with its new Lego Movie World. The 80,000-square-foot area, which opened in March in Winter Haven, Fla., transports guests into scenes from their favorite Lego movies. It’s difficult not to sing the

catchy song Everything Is Awesome from The Lego Movie while exploring the attractions. This is the largest expansion in Legoland Florida Resort history. It includes three rides, a quick-service restaurant, play area, retail store, indoor character meet-and-greet and more. “The Lego Movie World is a gamechanger for Legoland Florida Resort,” says Keith Carr, project director of Merlin Entertainments, the company that created the experience. “The immersion and theming that we’ve CONTI NUED


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FLORIDA | THEME PARKS incorporated into the area is unlike anything we’ve ever done. Our guests will have so much fun on all three rides, but the land’s marquee ride — The Lego Movie Masters of Flight — encompasses the only 180-degree turn on a flying theater in the world.” Masters of Flight allows guests to take a four-and-a-half-minute ride on Emmet’s Triple Decker Flying Couch. Guests ride in suspended gondolas inside a dome while watching a 65-foot screen. Be prepared to store belongings, including bags, hats “The and shoes in immersion cubbies on the ground and theming level near that we’ve your gondola before it incorporated takes flight. The land into the area also features is unlike Unikitty Disco Drop, anything where guests are raised we’ve ever 30 feet and done.” dropped while — KEITH CARR, Unikitty project director, goes through Merlin Entertainments an array of emotions. There’s also the Battle of Bricksburg, which is themed around Lego Duplo aliens. By spraying water at targets from their boats, riders are tasked with stopping Duplo aliens from invading and stealing Lego bricks. There’s even a knock-knock door that tells funny jokes when guests knock on it. “Our goal is to put a smile on every child who walks into Legoland Florida Resort,” says general manager Rex Jackson.

SHIVER ME TIMBERS! The Legoland Pirate Island Hotel — featuring 150 pirate-themed rooms, a pirate ship, mini-golf and a large pool — is scheduled to open in 2020. For more information, visit legoland.com/florida

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MORE WAYS TO PLAY The new Lego Movie Land isn’t the only reason to visit the Legoland Florida Resort. Here are other reasons to head there:

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The Dragon Ride is one of dozens of attractions to thrill guests of all ages.

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Miniland presents iconic landscapes from around the world, built out of millions of Lego bricks.

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Open seasonally, the water park features a wave pool and five waterslides.

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Even the lobby of the 152-room Lego Hotel offers Instagram-worthy scenes. 4

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Fireworks displays are part of the theatrics.

CHIP LITHERLAND (4); JAYNE CLARK


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FLORIDA | THEME PARKS

Cosmic Ride New Galaxy’s Edge helps mark Hollywood Studios’ 30th anniversary

TODD ANDERSON/DISNEY

Armed stormtroopers stand guard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The theme park celebrated its 30th anniversary in May.

By Michelle Spitzer

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OU DON’T HAVE TO go

to a galaxy far, far away to experience Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ latest attraction. The much-anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at the Florida park with celebratory fanfare in

August, a year after Toy Story Land debuted. “We want you to go discover this on your own terms,” says Scott Mallwitz, an executive creative director for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. “This land is immense. This land has many paths. It has many staircases, many ramps, many places to make decisions, many doors to open and

many creatures. … They are all in the heart of our village.” On the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride, guests can pilot the iconic vehicle. The Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction is scheduled to open in December and allows fans to join a battle between CONTI NUED


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FLORIDA | THEME PARKS the First Order and the Resistance. Rides at Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge aren’t the only new attractions at the park, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on May 1. Toy Story Land is getting its own table-service restaurant. Roundup Rodeo BBQ will be made to look like a rodeo arena created by Andy (the boy from the films) out of cardboard boxes cut and taped together. The décor will include an assortment of familiar characters. “We have tons of new offerings,” says Robert Adams, culinary director for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A new attraction is taking over the Chinese Theater, which was the home to The Great Movie Ride. Replacing it will be Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. It is Disney’s first ride-through attraction devoted to the two famous mice. Creators say the railway transports guests into an old-school animated short and even includes an original theme song they promise will get stuck in your head. While several rides and attractions have come and gone, one show has remained a fan favorite: Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! was originally supposed to be a limitedtime attraction, but continues to pack a 2,000-plus-seat theater multiple times a day. “Fans of our show, they love Indiana Jones,” says Kevin Brassard, one of the original cast members to play Indiana Jones in the show. “They love being able to follow an iconic character. This was only supposed to be a five-year show, maybe 10. At the 10-year mark rumors started flying, ‘We’re going down,’ but we never did. And then we hit the 15, 20, 25, and now we’re here at the 30-year mark, and we are still so strong. Our show just brings laughter, excitement. You name it; we have it in the park.” Brassard is still with the show working as a trainer and sometimes even filling in to play the star. “It’s amazing how this park has evolved,” he says. “That’s one of the things Disney does best. They try to keep current, and that’s what we’re doing now with Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge. Star Wars fans are in for such a treat. I’ve only gotten a glimpse, and it is amazing. This is an exciting time for Hollywood Studios.” Michelle Spitzer writes for Florida Today.

Magic Kingdom

JOHN RAOUX/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Visitors gather outside Cinderella Castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, the world’s most-visited theme park in 2018.

FAB FOUR Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Florida was the world’s most-visited theme park in 2018, with a whopping 20.8 million visitors, according to an annual report released in May by Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM, which tracks and ranks attendance at theme parks. The Disney brand is a stronghold, with more than 157 million people visiting a Disney theme park somewhere in the world last year, according to the report. So it’s no surprise the top five theme parks in the U.S. were all Disney properties.

Epcot

Of the top 10, four were Disney World parks in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.: ▶ Magic Kingdom Park ▶ Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park ▶ Epcot ▶ Disney’s Hollywood Studios — Adrienne Jordan

GENE DUNCAN/DISNEY; DISNEY

It’s not too late to celebrate. Catch special anniversary performances at Hollywood Studios through September.


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FLORIDA | DAYTONA

Slow Down for Daytona There’s more to this beach town than just auto racing

Marine Science Center stingray pool DAYTONA BEACH AREA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

By Frances J. Folsom

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AYTONA BEACH IS NOT only about the Daytona International Speedway, even though through the years it’s become known as the “World Center of Racing.” Instead, it is about 23 miles of sugar-sand beach and a vibrant downtown full of chic shops, art galleries, great restaurants and beautiful museums. “Daytona Beach is the perfect beach base camp,” says Kate Holcomb, director of communications for the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. CONTINUED

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FLORIDA | DAYTONA “Located on Florida’s east central coast, we are only about an hour’s drive from St. Augustine and the Kennedy Space Center — great day trips to make during your beach vacation.” Lay on the beach with a book, rent a kayak from Cracker Creek rentals (crackercreek.com) and paddle the Spruce Creek River alongside beautiful flora and fauna. Visit the Marine Science Center (marinesciencecenter.com), where you can touch stingrays and peek into the sea turtle rehabilitation unit, or take a walk through the seabird sanctuary. One of the most recognizable landmarks jutting over the Atlantic Ocean is the Daytona Beach Pier. It was originally built at the turn of the 20th century from old palm logs situated at the end of Main Street. In Daytona Beach and the surrounding towns of New Smyrna Beach and Ormond-by-the-Sea, there are numerous state parks for hiking, biking, fishing and swimming. The best for dolphin watching is Lighthouse Point Park, 52 acres of pristine land on the north side of Ponce de Leon Inlet. The lighthouse was built in the 1800s to reduce the number of shipwrecks caused by the treacherous offshore reef. Today, visitors can climb the 203-step lighthouse for a 360-degree view of the Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal Waterway and surrounding area. At Smyrna Dunes Park (volusia.org), you can see marine life from the wooden walkways that stretch over the dunes. When the sun and sand get too hot, head to the area’s cool museums. The CiCi and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art (moas. org) houses distinctive artwork depicting old Florida. Last but not least, spend time at the Daytona International Speedway (daytonainternationalspeedway.com) — all spiffied up from a $400 million renovation in 2016. The revamp includes two new hotels and One Daytona, a center for shops, restaurants and entertainment. Get the history and feel of the legendary Speedway on a guided tour ($19 per adult), during which you’re driven by tram on the track’s steepest turns. The All-Access tour ($26 per adult) includes a lap around the 2.5-mile track and a ride into the pit stalls, or spring for the VIP experience ($55 per person), where you not only get laps on the track, but also a visit to the Archives and Research Center. All of this and more make Daytona Beach a destination where you can do as little or as much as you want. Florida Today reporter Robin Draper contributed to this article.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Light

Local cuisine

Daytona International Speedway

Outdoor adventures in Daytona Beach DAYTONA BEACH AREA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU


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A SALTY ITINERARY PERFECT FOR THE WATER-LOVING CROWD By Sarah Sekula

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n Key West, everything centers around the star attraction: the lovely blue-green aquatic abyss. There are loads of ways to enjoy that inviting turquoise water. Here’s a first-timer’s guide to spending three days in, on and under the water in the southernmost part of the continental U.S.:

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Day 1 Begin your Key West adventure with a kayak tour led by Clearly Unique Ocean Adventures (clearlyuniquecharters.com). With see-through kayaks doubling as giant magnifying glasses, it’s quite the thrill when manatees and dolphins cruise below. Paddle through the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, where snorkeling among the coral reefs, sponge gardens and shipwrecks is difficult to beat. Next stop: Sunset at Harbour Place to get settled in to your two-bedroom condo in Old Town. Part of Vacasa (vacasa. com), a full-service vacation-rental management company, it has a gorgeous kitchen, pool access and dreamy views from the oceanside balcony. From this upscale, gated neighborhood, everything is a quick bike ride away. No rental car necessary. When you check into Harbour Place, you’ll likely spot bikes in the lobby for rent through Island Safari Rentals (islandsafarirentals. com). Bike to Fausto’s Food Palace (faustos.com) for sunscreen, snacks and cooking provisions. Lunch at Moondog Cafe & Bakery (moondogcafe.com) for an awesome selection of plantbased burgers, grilled pizzas and blackened Mahi tacos. Sit under the shade of the massive banyan tree nearby to chow down. Continue your aquatic endeavors with a peek underwater. Southpoint Divers (southpoint divers.com) takes scuba enthusiasts to a slew of cool wrecks, including the USS Vandenberg, a missile-tracking ship used in World War II. Another must-see spot? The world’s third-largest living barrier reef where lionfish and turtle sightings are plenty. Afterward, take a 15-minute

KEY WEST HARBOUR

ferry ride over to Sunset Key Cottages (sunsetkeycottages. com), an exclusive island paradise. If you happen to make it there by 3 p.m. on any given day, look for the Conch Cruiser ice cream cycle delivering tasty frozen snacks. Next, treat those weary muscles to a deep therapeutic massage and detoxifying mud treatment at the spa. Come sundown, continue in sloth mode by taking a dip in the ocean and watching the sky light up at dusk as floating tiki bars and sailboats pass by. It’s not called Sunset Key for nothing. Fill your belly at the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, Latitudes, with crowd pleasers like panseared salmon topped with grilled citrus and miso coconut sauces; mushroom ragu linguine; and Caribbean lobster tail with sweet potato risotto.

SUNSET KEY COTTAGES

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Day 2 For an adventurous start to the day, book a parasailing session with Fury Water Adventures (furycat.com). You’ll soar high above the dreamy waters of the Atlantic, coming down occasionally to dip your toes in the water. Continue the fun with a 90-minute Jet Ski tour with Barefoot Billy’s (barefootbillys. com), which operates out of the Casa Marina resort. You’ll circle the entire island, snorkel above coral reefs and visit a jellyfish garden. When hunger strikes, head to Sun Sun at Casa Marina (casa marinaresort.com), a Waldorf Astoria resort on the National Register of Historic Places. Huge appetites will appreciate the Gulf shrimp and scallop fettucine. Major bonus: You can dine while your toes are buried in the sand on Key West’s largest private beach. Top it off with pistachio graham-crusted key lime pie. Stop by The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory (keywestbutterfly.com) to meet more than 50 butterfly species from around the world and more than 20 exotic bird species. Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden (keywest.garden), an arboretum, botanical garden, museum and wildlife refuge, is another must for nature lovers. Afterward, make a beeline to Blue Heaven and dine in the whimsical courtyard. Once a pool hall with a boxing ring where Ernest Hemingway served as referee, the eclectic eatery serves Jamaican jerk chicken sandwiches and shrimp and grits that hit the spot. Dine outside under the tree where chickens roam by your feet and stay late for creative cocktails and live music.

KEY WEST BUTTERFLY & NATURE CONSERVATORY

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Day 3 No Key West vacation is complete without a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park (nps. gov/drto), which is nearly 99 percent underwater and great for aquatic adventures. Fort Jefferson, which was built in the 1800s, is made up of 16 million bricks and served as a prison during the Civil War. Tip: Take a morning half-day flight with Key West Seaplane Adventures (seaplaneadventures.com). You’ll have the place almost to yourself for a few hours until the ferry boat arrives. Every seat is a window seat, so you can snap photos to your heart’s content. Back in Key West, when you’ve had your fill of vitamin

D, pop in to the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum (hemingwayhome.com). At this National Historic Landmark, you can sign up for the tour, take photos next to the author’s typewriter and say hello to the famous six-toed cats. End your trip with a bucket-list adventure by launching yourself out of a plane with Skydive Key West (skydivekeywest.com). At 10,000 feet, the views of the ocean are absolutely insane. It’s no surprise it’s considered one of the most scenic drop zones in the U.S. Search for nurse sharks, stingrays, dolphins and large schools of fish as you glide back to the ground. To wind down your day, squeeze in some sun salutations at Key West Yoga Sanctuary (keywestyogasanctuary.com) and start planning your next dose of island bliss.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY HOME & MUSEUM

DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK

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MIAMI PREPS FOR FUN, FESTIVITIES AND FOOTBALL By Adam Stone

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HEN MIAMI HOSTS SUPER Bowl LIV in

February, the city will set the record for most times hosting the NFL’s biggest game of the year. This will be Miami’s 11th Super Bowl, but the city

isn’t resting on its laurels. “We treat every one as if it were the first,” says William Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. The city expects 150,000 visitors in the week leading up to kickoff, and those who come should prepare to be

delighted, says Talbert. “We know how to be a welcoming destination.” With an average February temperature in the mid-70s, Talbert says, “The weather will be warm, and there will be a warm reception by the community.” Here’s the game plan:

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Hard Rock Stadium BEN DICKMANN/MIAMI DOLPHINS; GETTY IMAGES

SUPER CELEBRATIONS The city is set to add to the Super

East hotel MICHAEL WEBER PHOTOGRAPHY

ROOKIE ROOMS Miami has seen a hotel boom in recent years, giving Super Bowl fans plenty of options when it comes to accommodations. New or refreshed hotels include the Cadillac Hotel & Beach Club, which opened this year; SLS LUX Brickell and the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club. Swire has opened the first East hotel outside of Asia. A recent expansion at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa added not just new rooms, but also a water theme park complete with slides, a raft ride and a lazy river. Hotel development is happening daily all over Miami and at all price points, Talbert says.

Bowl festivities with a weeklong celebration at Bayfront Park. Free and open to the public, the waterfront fun will include music, food trucks, football drills and kids’ activities. The city will become a living canvas for those attending the game, as images projected onto buildings tell amazing football stories in larger-than-life size. In addition to the waterfront activities, Biscayne Boulevard will be transformed via virtual imagery into a giant football field, surrounded by logos of all the NFL teams that have played during the last 100 years and flanked by goal post-shaped hot air balloons. A zip line experience, the Hail Mary, will carry fans the length of this virtual field, from one goal post to another. At night, fans will be treated to a lighted hot air balloon sporting the NFL’s 100th anniversary logo, along with a lineup of oversized sculptured footballs, each one a multimedia salute to a decade of gridiron action. Fan photos shot throughout the day will serve as the backdrop, projected

12 stories high on buildings. For those looking to shop their way to the big game, a “retail row” will deliver a range of interactive stores, along with an NFL Hall of Fame. Nearby, the NFL Superstage will deliver music and comedy performances right in the middle of all the excitement. For tech-oriented fans, the Verizon Virtual Village will offer 3D augmented-reality experiences to bring the game to life. Visitors are also encouraged to get out and explore the city’s historic neighborhoods including Little Havana, Little Haiti and Overtown. “We are highlighting these multicultural neighborhoods along with their rich histories,” says Talbert. “This is where our community started, and we’re proud to focus on these places.”

NFL EXPERIENCE A ticketed event that runs for a week leading up to the big game, the NFL Super Bowl Experience features family-friendly activities including autograph-signing sessions, youth football clinics and a Super Bowl Memorabilia Show.


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Game-related events and attractions are only a small part of what Miami has to offer.

Gulfstream Park Racetrack GETTY IMAGES

Ancient Spanish Monastery GETTY IMAGES

Art Deco Historic District GETTY IMAGES

GAMING Gulfstream Park Racetrack & Casino in Aventura is one of the nation’s premier thoroughbred racetracks. In the Everglades, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians owns the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming. At Magic City Casino, players can roll the roulette dice, shoot craps or try their luck on some 800 slot machines. For those who want to stay close to the heart of the football action, Miami Gardens hosts Calder Casino. HISTORY Located in North Miami Beach, the Ancient Spanish Monastery gives visitors a glimpse into the distant past. Construction began on the monastery in 1133 A.D. in Spain. In 1925, William Randolph Hearst bought the Cloisters and outbuildings, and had them dismantled and shipped to the U.S. in 11,000 wooden crates. The pieces were purchased and reassembled, creating an oasis of peace and reflection. ARCHITECTURE Miami is home to a famous Art Deco Historic District, where you’ll discover the largest concentration of art deco architecture in the nation. Some 900 historic buildings highlight a distinct design style that flourished in the early part of the 20th century, with many buildings sporting the whimsical flora, fauna and oceanliner designs that helped brand Miami Beach as a seaside resort.

GREATER MIAMI CVB

ATTRACTIONS For those seeking more adventurous experiences, Miami has plenty. There’s the Vice City Rollers, Miami’s only all-female roller derby league. It’s fierce, fast and full-contact. You might also consider Jungle Island, a private zoo that offers zip lining and bungee jumping. Want even more action? At the Miami Skydiving Center, at Kendall-Tamiami Airport, you can jump from 2 miles high and freefall at 120 mph.

Crandon Park Beach

NATURE When it’s time to wind down from all that activity, you can head to nearby Key Biscayne for some quality time on the beach. Crandon Park Beach offers sandy strands and peaceful promenades. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park does too, along with stunning views from atop a historic lighthouse.

Jungle Island

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The fun comes easy at Hard Rock Stadium Although it will be the 11th year the iconic NFL spectacle hits Magic City — breaking a tie with New Orleans and taking the title for hosting the most Super Bowl games — it will be the first time kickoff happens at the newly renovated Hard Rock Stadium, which underwent a $550 million facelift and gained its eighth name in 2016. The renovations bring luxury and sophistication to the stadium, making it more than just a place to watch the game. It’s a destination. Whether you’re in the mood DID YOU for fast food or fine dining, KNOW? there’s a menu for you, including tenderloin at Los Ranchos uHard Rock Steakhouse, seafood at OB Stadium has House or baby back ribs from more than Shorty’s BBQ. Find pizza, hot 60,000 seats dogs, ice cream, sushi and more to satisfy any craving. uThe venue The stadium also has become offers a home to one of the world’s secluded nurslargest indoor street art galleries ing room and through the #artunexpected sensory room project. In collaboration with for guests with Goldman Global art company, special needs 18 artists from 10 countries created 19 different murals and uThere are 17 fine art pieces — turning the several clubs, arena into a vibrant, colorful luxury suites public art exhibit. and lounges for For Miami Dolphins fans, VIP visitors there are nods to the team, including three key statues uA world-class located on the perimeter of the tennis court stadium. The Perfect Moment in was added to Time sculpture commemorates the facility in former coach Don Shula, who 2019 led the team to a perfect 17-0 season in 1972, including a Super Bowl victory. A statue of Dolphins founder Joe Robbie takes its place in the middle of the team’s Walk of Fame, where plaques etched with the names of legendary players are part of the pavement. The stadium is also home to a likeness of iconic quarterback Dan Marino, often called one of the best quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl. After a day of art appreciation, dining and the main event — be it the Super Bowl, a tennis match or Taylor Swift concert — Hard Rock offers visitors a chance to party. Have a South Beach experience at the LIV nightclub inside the stadium, with two bars, private cabanas, tables, a dance floor, DJ booth and extraordinary views that overlook the west end zone. — Amber Tucker

— Adam Stone


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Refreshed R E S O R T S

Caribbean hotels  renovate and renew

GETTY IMAGES

By Melanie Reffes WHETHER YOU PREFER LAVISH or laid-back, there is no shortage of options for those escaping the stresses of home, looking for quiet time or celebrating a special occasion. From Antigua to St. Maarten, check out and check into these elegant hotels. Here are refurbished resorts and rebranded bargains on the beach:


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ANGUILLA

Did you know?

CuisinArt offers a Splash Pad wet play area.

Belmond Cap RICHARD JAMES TAYLOR; GETTY IMAGES

On Maundays Bay, Belmond Cap Juluca offers a new beachfront infinity-edge pool, new restaurants and the Arawak Spa. Dining options include seaside at Pimms, Italian fare at CIP’s by Cipriani, Peruvian tapas at Maundays Club and seafood at The Cap Shack. An island mainstay since 1984, the rebuilt Malliouhana features elegant rooms and suites, artisanal fare at The Restaurant at Malliouhana and rum and wine tastings at The Sunset Bar. Visit the Auberge Spa while you’re there. On the small British isle across the sea from St. Martin, CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa is one of a slew of swanky seaside resorts that have recently renovated. Its Greek-inspired design has been restored to its prehurricane glory. For golfers, it’s home to the only course on the island — a par 72 with dramatic vistas from all 18 holes.

ENVISIONWORKS INC.

CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa Overlooking Meads Bay at Malliouhana resort MALLIOUHANA


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&

S T. M A A R T E N  S T.  M A R T I N 

Did you know?

Sonesta Ocean Point Resort overlooks picturesque Maho Bay. Sonesta Ocean Point Resort SONESTA; GETTY IMAGES

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC  After a $30 million makeover, the all-inclusive Grand Sirenis Punta Cana on Uvero Alto Beach has an enormous waterpark, numerous restaurants offering options from Japanese hibachi to American diner food, nearly a dozen bars, a spa and a casino. Formerly the Sirenis Punta Cana Resort, the rebranded beachfront property is family-friendly with a children’s club, two pools and plenty of water sports. Grand Case Beach Club pool GRAND CASE BEACH CLUB

Belmond La Samanna SIRENIS HOTELS & RESORTS

BELMOND LA SAMANNA

On the Dutch side of the dual-nation island, the upscale adults-only, all-inclusive Sonesta Ocean Point Resort has been renovated and refined after experiencing extensive damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017. Along with a redesigned lobby, new features include Casa Blue Tapas Restaurant and Lounge, offering a 360-degree view atop a cliff; and the new Candlelit Island Grill. The resort is so close to Princess Juliana International Airport that the ritual of watching takeoffs and landings is as much a part of a vacation as a tropical cocktail on the beach. In French St. Martin, the Grand Case Beach Club is steps from Petite Plage, one of the prettiest sandy swaths on the island. The hotel’s high-top infinity pool and Sunset Café and Bar remain perennial crowdpleasers. Complimentary water sports equipment is available. Enjoy the resort’s boardwalk, where you can relax while sipping cocktails and watching fish. Belmond La Samanna, which recently experienced a top-to-toe restyle, is on a mile-long stretch of Baie Longue Beach. Marrying a West Indian vibe with European flair, the resort serves French fare at Trellis, vintage bottles at La Cave Wine Cellar and a sparkling wine menu at the new glam Beach Bar. There are two pools, tennis courts and the hilltop and candlelit La Samanna Spa.


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GRENADA

Did you know?

Silversands Grenada is the first major resort to open on Grand Anse Beach in 25 years. Catering to luxury-seekers, the tony resort is a newly minted member of Leading Hotels of the World. Anchored by an infinity pool billed as the “longest in the Caribbean,” the resort’s dining options include the poolside Grenadian Grill, Asiatique fusing Thai with local spices and Puro for small-batch rums from Caribbean distilleries.

Silversands Grenada offers a 100-meter infinity pool.

SILVERSANDS; GETTY IMAGES

PUERTO RICO 

NEVIS

El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a city landmark. Between the city and the shore on a stretch of Isla Verde Beach, a renovation after 2017’s Hurricane Maria gussied up the rooms, four pools, villas and public spaces. First opened in 1958, the revamped hotel added the Well & Being Fitness Center with punching bags for workouts on the open-air rooftop. Rooms and suites offer floor-to-ceiling windows and sensor-activated air conditioning.

After a multimillion-dollar facelift, Four Seasons Resort Nevis unveiled its new look in December — a fresh take on an island landmark that opened more than a quarter-century ago. The revamp includes EsQuilina, open for bountiful breakfasts and dinners, and the Crowned Monkey Rum Bar, which takes its name from the mischievous primates that roam the hills. FOUR SEASONS HOTELS LIMITED

JAMAICA

CURIO COLLECTION BY HILTON

Close to the airport and walking distance to clubs, restaurants and shopping, the S Hotel Jamaica is away from the bustle of the resort-packed beaches on the northwest coast. The hotel, which opened in January, overlooks the less-traveled Doctor’s Cave Beach on Montego Bay’s Hip Strip, recently rechristened Jimmy Cliff Boulevard. Enjoy the beachfront pool, Irie Baths and Spa and the Sky Deck Bar.

S HOTEL JAMAICA


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CARIBBEAN | PORTS

Ports of Paradise Local tours offer exceptional excursions in the Caribbean

Soufrière seafront SAINT LUCIA TOURISM AUTHORITY

By Robin Roenker

T

HERE’S VISITING A PLACE — and then there’s

experiencing it. At island ports across the Caribbean, local tour guides specialize in providing authentic tastes of life and culture in the region — offering the types of encounters that elevate daylong cruise excursions into memories that last a lifetime. When your ship pulls into these ports, prepare for paradise.

ST. LUCIA Cosol Tours (cosol-tours.com) manages to pack something for everyone into its six-hour tour of St. Lucia — from local food samples and breathtaking vistas of Marigot Bay and the picturesque town of Soufrière to the bucket-list experience of luxuriating in a natural mud bath. There’s even time to relax on Jalousie Beach, situated near the iconic Piton Mountains, where the beauty of tropical fish swimming in crystal clear waters offshore is matched only by the breathtaking scenery nearby.


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CARIBBEAN | PORTS

ST. KITTS Greg’s Safaris (gregsafaris. com) in Basseterre, St. Kitts, takes tourists “off the beaten path, where very few ever get a chance to go — essentially through the mountains from coast to coast,” says owner Greg Pereira. The company’s 4x4 Island Safari and Beach Tour includes a narrated trip through the island’s lush interior, a stop at a former sugar cane plantation — where guests taste local fruits in season — and a visit to stunning Friar’s Bay. For those wanting a more adventurous trek, the company also offers two rainforest hike itineraries. Whether exploring by Jeep or foot, guests come away with an appreciation for the beauty and friendliness of the island. “There’s a laid-back, friendly charm here that people are looking for in the Caribbean,” Pereira says.

ST. THOMAS

Make time to enjoy these adventures the next time your ship visits these ports.

H iking t he rai nf orest  in St. Kitts

Snorkeling with sea urchins  S inSt. Thomas

JAMAICA Just 20 minutes from the port at Ocho Rios, Jamaica’s Blue Hole — though lesser known than nearby Dunn’s River Falls — is nonetheless the type of swimming spot that tends to bring out the joy in everyone. Lush jungle vegetation surrounds the natural pool’s stunning turquoise hue, and adventurous visitors can dive in from cascading waterfalls nearby. “You can do flips. You can jump. You can channel your inner child there,” says Marvyn Gayle, owner of Marvyn’s Paradise Tours (marvynsparadisetours. com). Treks that combine a visit to the Blue Hole with a tubing adventure on the nearby White River are also available, for a full day of fun.

Tubing down the rapidss in Jamaica

Swimming wit h sea  t urt les  in Bar bado s

“People often don’t realize that St. Thomas is home to a 680-acre wildlife sanctuary and marine preserve,” says Sybille Sorrentino, whose company, Virgin Islands Ecotours (viecotours.com) offers kayaking, hiking and snorkeling adventures in St. Thomas’ Mangrove Lagoon. Guests kayak along narrow waterways that surround the lagoon’s many mangrovecovered islets — favorite nesting spots for blue herons, brown pelicans, egrets and more — on their way to hike on, and snorkel near, Cas Cay, a larger, undeveloped island where tide pools are filled with starfish and sea urchins as well as “hundreds upon hundreds of hermit crabs,” Sorrentino says. The company also offers eco-adventure itineraries on nearby St. John, many including time at the island’s famous Honeymoon Beach.

BARBADOS It’s not uncommon for visitors aboard Calabaza Sailing Cruises (sailcalabaza.com), based in Bridgetown, to strike up lasting friendships after spending a day together along the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, says manager Gina Parravicino. “Our motto is, come as a stranger, leave as a friend,” she says. The intimate, five-hour catamaran excursions are limited to just 12 guests, who are treated to a lunch of local Barbadian favorites — including fish cakes, spiced sweet potatoes and rum punch — as well as the chance to snorkel with sea turtles and among tropical fish near a shipwreck just off the coast.

MICHAEL STAVARIDIS; VIRGIN ISLANDS ECOTOURS; MARVYN’S PARADISE TOURS; CALABAZA SAILING CRUISES; GETTY IMAGES


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CARIBBEAN | PORTS

Fantasy Island Royal Caribbean’s updated CocoCay offers the ‘perfect day’ By Gene Sloan

P

ART OF THE ALLURE of a Caribbean cruise is visiting islands and getting a taste of tropical life; however, Royal Caribbean’s newly renovated private getaway, Perfect Day at CocoCay, might become as big a draw as Barbados or St. Thomas with its new features and adventurous activities. CONTINUED

Aerial view of CocoCay Island ROYAL CARIBBEAN


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CARIBBEAN | PORTS

Daredevil’s Peak waterslide

Oasis Lagoon freshwater pool

ROYAL CARIBBEAN

CocoCay is the first in the cruise line’s the installation of a pier that is able Perfect Day Island collection. The $250 to accommodate even the biggest of million transformation includes Thrill Royal Caribbean’s fleet of ships. PreviWater Park where the Daredevil Tower ously, vessels visiting the island had to offers North America’s anchor offshore and tallest waterslide, Dareferry passengers to land, “It’s really about devil’s Peak, at 135 feet. making it off limits to There are a dozen other Royal Caribbean’s largest bringing the kind waterslides of various vessels. of innovation and sizes around to suit your “It’s a big change,” level of derring-do. Bayley says. “It’s going creativity that If the peak of the slide to allow our Oasis Class doesn’t offer spectacular we’ve brought the ships to visit.” enough views, try a ride Royal Caribbean’s past few years to in the Up, Up and Away Oasis Class ships are helium balloon, which more than 30 percent our ships and rises to 450 feet. larger than the world’s “Our guests truly are in next-biggest cruise creating the kind for an experience unlike vessels. They are so big of experience any other,” says Michael they only can visit a Bayley, president and limited number of ports ashore that we CEO of Royal Caribbean in the Caribbean and International. “We’ve Bahamas. think (will) deliver been working on it for The project has its the perfect day.” about three years. It’s roots in recent research really about bringing that shows Royal Carib— MICHAEL BAYLEY, the kind of innovation bean customers want a president and CEO, and creativity that we’ve private island experience Royal Caribbean International brought the past few that combined the years to our ships and ability to “chill” on lovely creating the kind of experience ashore beaches and around elaborate pool areas that we think (will) deliver the perfect with the “thrill” of adventurous activities, day.” says Bayley. The overhaul of CocoCay includes According to a 2018 Cruise Travel

ROYAL CARIBBEAN

PRIVATE PARTIES Cruise lines have made their mark in the Caribbean, claiming island oases that only their passengers can enjoy. Here’s a tropical trio of islands to add to your bucket list:

On Disney’s Castaway Cay, travelers can feed and snorkel with stingrays, enjoy bike and hike trails, try parasailing or take a glass-bottom boat ride.

Sail with Norwegian Cruise Lines to visit Great Stirrup Cay. Snorkel with sea turtles or take a short boat ride to Treasure Island to swim with pigs.

Between Florida and St. Thomas, there’s Holland America’s Half Moon Cay where passengers can experience lagoon tours, kayak adventures, horseback riding and more.

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Report by the Cruise Lines International Association, trying and seeing new things is the No. 1 reason guests decide to cruise, with relaxation and stress relief a close second. The new 125-acre beach hideaway also will feature a 1,600-foot-long zip line that ends with a splash water landing — a first for the Caribbean or Bahamas. Visitors

can also enjoy new eateries, wave runner excursions, boat tours, snorkeling and the only over-water cabanas in the Bahamas. “With Perfect Day at CocoCay, we are so proud to bring our 50-year legacy of innovation ashore to transform an incredible island that now completely revolutionizes private destinations in the vacation industry,” Bayley says.


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CARIBBEAN | BELIZE

The Best of Belize Experience this Caribbean paradise on land and sea By Mary Helen Berg

R

AINFORESTS PACKED WITH WILDLIFE, abun-

dant archaeological sites and a coast that boasts the world’s secondlargest barrier reef make Belize a

tropical destination rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage. Much of the country’s land is protected, a bonus for visitors who come to explore its prehistoric ruins, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and marine and forest reserves.

There’s only one drawback to this paradise, says Katie Valk, owner of Belize Trips travel agency: “There’s more to do than most people have time for.” Valk first visited Belize in 1985 and decided to make the country her home. Here are a few things not to miss:

CARIBBEAN CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE


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CARIBBEAN | BELIZE

Great Blue Hole CARIBBEAN CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE

FOR ADVENTURERS

FOR NATURE LOVERS

THE GREAT BLUE HOLE AND SHARK-RAY ALLEY

ROEMING BELIZE

Swim. Snorkel. Dive. Repeat. The warm turquoise waters of Belize teem with sea turtles, manatees, hammerhead sharks and 500 types of fish. The Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to the Great Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole and bucket list destination for scuba divers. For snorkeling, don’t miss the Hol Chan Marine Reserve’s Shark-Ray Alley where you’ll hang out with nurse sharks and stingrays.

MAYAN SITES

ROEMING BELIZE

The three pyramids of Lamanai and the city of Caracol, a partially excavated site considered to be the largest Mayan center in Belize, are among many archaeological destinations throughout the country that illuminate the ancient civilization. Perhaps the most spine-tingling site is Actun Tunichil Muknal, a watery cave containing the skeletal remains of human sacrifices. For adventurers only — you’ll need to wade, swim and climb with a tour guide and a headlamp to reach the cave’s secrets.

FOR FOODIES MAYAN CUISINE

TASTE BELIZE FOOD AND CULTURE TOUR

Test traditional Mayan dishes and create a meal of handmade corn tortillas with palm heart in the Toledo district of Southern Belize. Check out local chocolate factories to try chocolatemaking classes and learn about the history of cacao in the region.

FOOD AND CULTURE TOUR Learn to cook hudut — a traditional Garifuna dish made of fish, plantains, herbs and coconut milk — on a Taste Belize Food and Culture Tour. Discover Belize’s Afro-indigenous roots in the village of Hopkins.

CARIBBEAN CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE

CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL Meet native creatures at the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. All 175-plus animal residents were born at the zoo or have been rescued, rehabilitated or donated. Visit Green Hills Butterfly Ranch to observe endangered species like the iridescent blue Morpho, with a wingspan up to 8 inches. Cruise mangrove swamps for crocodiles with the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary. And Belize is a bird-watchers’ paradise with 587 species of birds. See more than 200 of them on a guided tour of Mayflower Bocawina National Park.

CARIBBEAN CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE

BIG, BEAUTIFUL CATS The 128,000-acre Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is known as the world’s first jaguar preserve, home to about 200, but it has other large feline residents as well, including ocelots and cougars. During the day, hike to waterfalls or float the river on an innertube. But take a guided tour after dark for the best chance of spotting the park’s most famous predator, the nocturnal jaguar, says Benedicto Choc, who provides tours for the Belize Audubon Society. Later, sleep amid sounds of the jungle as you camp on-site or spend the night in one of the sanctuary’s rustic cabins.


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CARIBBEAN | SNORKELING

BRENDAL’S DIVE CENTER

Sea to See Explore some of the best snorkeling spots in the Caribbean By Melanie Reffes

U

NLIKE SCUBA DIVING, WHICH requires more gear and more

courage, snorkeling is a breeze for most underwater sightseers. All it takes is a mask and a tube, a pair of fins, an inflatable life vest and a sense of adventure. Add snorkeling to sun, sand and sea, and you’ll hear a whole lot of oohs and aahs courtesy of spectacular submerged landscapes, the occasional shipwreck and schools of crayon-colored tropical fish cavorting in clear, calm water. Easy to master and too much fun not to try, floating near the surface of the water is so mesmerizing that it may become the focus of your island vacation. These prime Caribbean locales offer some of the best views:

THE BAHAMAS With 700 islands and cays fanning 100,000 square miles, snorkeling is sublime virtually anywhere in the Bahamas. Visibility is as deep as 100 feet, and with water temperatures hovering near the 80-degree mark year-round, snorkeling is full of surprises. One mile off the southern shore of Grand Bahama Island, the shallow bars and coral reefs at Peterson Cay National Park, one of the smallest national parks in the Bahamas, are among the best

for catching a glimpse of sea fans, barracuda and manta rays that flit among the purple and yellow coral. Also on Grand Bahama Island, Paradise Cove and Deadman’s Reef are home to an assortment of angelfish, parrotfish and squirrelfish, those small red fish with white stripes. Off Great Exuma Island, the waters along the long narrow sliver called Stocking Island is where you’ll see starfish resting in the aquamarine water. A tour such as the Stocking Island

Sea Escape offered by Island Routes is ideal for beachcombers and fans of perusing beneath the waves. After snorkeling, the beach beckons with collectible seashells that carpet the sand. A short hop by water taxi from the Treasure Cay Airport, Green Turtle Cay in the Abaco Islands is a sparkling barrier reef where dolphins live in the open water. Snorkel tours organized by Brendal’s Dive Center are a good bet for beginners and the more experienced.


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CARIBBEAN | SNORKELING

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Trunk Bay in St. John — the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands — is a self-guided snorkel trail with underwater signs noting the various species of coral and critters that live no deeper than

ANTIGUA

BONAIRE

Its capital city of St. John’s is on one side of the island, and about 11 miles south off the coast is Cades Reef, a 2-milelong barrier reef teeming with undersea marvels like pink-hued coral and brilliant blue and yellow fish that nuzzle the ocean floor. Reef sharks make periodic appearances; nurse sharks take shelter under the coral overhangs; and spiny lobsters, slippery moray eels and agile barracuda also call the reef home. There is little or no current. Water temperatures average 80 degrees, and underwater visibility ranges from 50 to 140 feet. Explore on your own or book excursions like Tropical Adventures’ Mystic Cades Reef Sail and Snorkel, or the Cades Reef Tour with Treasure Island Cruises that adds a beachside barbecue to the mix.

The coast of Bonaire has received more awards for superb snorkeling than you can shake a fin at. From friendly angelfish and feisty sergeant majors to grunts, gobies and groupers, it’s a field day for snorkelers. On one of the most eco-astute islands in the Caribbean, Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) is a nonprofit volunteer group that builds and restores elkhorn and staghorn coral that have been damaged. Since CRF Bonaire was founded in 2012, an impressive 9,000-plus coral fragments are growing in nurseries and more than 8,000 have been transplanted. Snorkelers can wade into the reef from the shoreline in front of many of the hotels to see a display of underwater color. Compass Bonaire and Woodwind Snorkeling take fans on daytrips and sunset cruises.

TROPICAL ADVENTURES ANTIGUA

BONAIRE TOURISM

20 feet below the surface. Less touristy, Haulover North, on the east end of the small island, borders Virgin Islands National Park and is the top pick of snorkel-savvy locals. In St. Thomas, colorful fish and distinctly shaped coral take a back seat to snorkeling

in search of bottles of rum. At the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, the Snorkel Booze Hunt has been a wildly popular tradition every Thursday for three decades. Snorkelers comb the waters for hidden bottles of Cruzan Rum distilled next door in St. Croix.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS TOURISM

CAYMAN ISLANDS In Grand Cayman’s capital city of George Town, the wreck of the Cali is eye candy for those who like to explore old freighters and gaze at the fish that live there. In the 1940s, the hull sprung a leak while carrying 30,000 bags of rice, which caused the rice inside to expand, blowing the boat in half. Today, the freighter rests in shallow water close to shore where sea urchins, eels and octopus romp among the rusty ruins. Cheeseburger Reef — 150 yards offshore from the north edge of George Town — is teeming with sea turtles, snapper and butterfly fish swimming in 10 feet of water. With a sandy walk-in, it’s easy for snorkelers of all ages to frolic with the undersea critters. Busy but worth a visit, Stingray City in Grand Cayman is easy snorkeling along a shallow sandbar. Stingrays glide through the warm waters foraging for food. A 15-minute walk from the cruise ship terminal and adjacent to Devil’s Grotto where marine creatures hide in underwater tunnels, Don Foster’s Dive Cayman often operates a boat to Stingray City on Sundays.

CAYMAN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM


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CARIBBEAN | BAHA MAR

Baha Mar resort on Cable Beach BAHA MAR

Bet Big on Baha Mar Bahamas welcomes the largest Caribbean casino and golf complex

By Martin Kaufmann

E

VERY RESORT DEVELOPMENT STARTS with a vision and a

dream, and few ever dreamed bigger than the original developers of Baha Mar, the Bahamas’ largest vacation destination. They envisioned a flashy, $4 billion megaresort that would transform historic Cable Beach into the Bahamas’ next must-visit destination. The scope of the project was breathtaking: three hotels offer a total of 2,300 rooms; a 100,000-square-foot casino and sportsbook, the largest in the region; more than two dozen restaurants and

bars; a 30,000-square-foot spa with 24 treatment rooms; and a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. The Grand Hyatt opened in spring 2017, followed by the swanky SLS hotel later that year and the uber-refined Rosewood in mid-2018. The three hotels have their own vibe. Guests simply have to choose what suits their mood.

TAKE YOUR PICK At the Rosewood, soothing music lilts across the courtyard as guests lounge around the pool, the dense greenery CONTI NUED


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CARIBBEAN | BAHA MAR enhancing the sense of privacy. The Rosewood is a short walk and a world away from the South Beach-meets-theBahamas scene at the SLS, offering just a hint at the champagne-soaked weekend pool parties that have become a staple at SLS properties. At Dean’s Blue Hole, accessible at the Grand Hyatt, children jump off the rocks into the pool, then wade into the grotto to gawk at nurse sharks and green turtles in the adjacent marine sanctuary. The casino floor forms the Baha Mar’s interior hub. It’s bracketed by the sportsbook on one end and, on the other end, by the high-stakes, private gaming parlors tucked behind the Grand Hyatt’s Lynden, a bar honoring Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, who spearheaded the Bahamas’ independence movement in the early 1970s. If gaming isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other options just a few steps away. Walk past the sportsbook, through a corridor, and suddenly it’s all low lighting and muted tones as couples gather at the whimsical Monkey Bar in the SLS lobby. Back in the Grand Hyatt, The Jazz Bar entertains patrons with a local trio who serves up everything from Barbra Streisand to Bill Withers. Across the casino floor is The Swimming Pig, which seems to attract a rowdier crowd, lining the bar and surrounding booths to watch the latest sporting event on TV. Walk around the corner, past Shuang Ba — which serves Chinese cuisine so authentic that visitors might think they’re in Hong Kong — cross through a passageway, and you’ll arrive at the Rosewood’s Manor Bar. It’s all dark paneling and hushed tones with young professionals in business-casual attire gathered in small groups. The Bahamas’ calling card always has been its natural beauty, but “there’s also sunset and scenery in a lot of other places,” says John Cox, the resort’s creative art director who curated the thousands of pieces of Bahamian art spread throughout the property. He’s hopeful visitors to Baha Mar will just enjoy the resort and get a greater sense of all things Bahamian. Guests might never leave the resort to experience the local culture, so it’s his mission to offer them a sense of place — of what separates the Bahamas from other island destinations. They can do that passively by taking note of the art around the resort, or actively, by participating in the resort’s arts program. “I hope they take away a broader definition of what Bahamian-ess is,” Cox

Royal Blue golf course BAHA MAR; GETTY IMAGES

says. “I think there’s a lot of rich history and irony and humor, all kinds of things in Bahamian culture, and I think the art can present it in different ways. If you can be exposed to an element of the country and its history or an individual through the artwork, that’s my goal.”

PUTTING PARADISE At Royal Blue, Baha Mar’s Nicklaus Signature golf course, you’ll find a fair number of spectacular views throughout the 18 holes and a staff that takes creative measures to ensure you have a great time. Sean Cracraft, director of golf at Royal Blue, says the goal, as is simply that the golfers who visit have a great time. Royal Blue has generous width to accommodate the winds and two distinct nines. The front nine is a relatively flat dunescape similar to what one might find in South Florida. The tone changes at the turn; players will encounter limestone

THERE ARE

2,300 GUEST ROOMS IN BAHA MAR’S THREE HOTELS

outcroppings, dense jungle and heaving terrain that rises and falls over the final nine holes. They also have golf butlers to take care of foursomes, much like a butler would be assigned a block of rooms at a five-star

hotel. The course’s most intriguing experiment has been putting out just one set of tee markers per hole each day, with a cumulative 6,400 yards. (Forward, conch-shell tee markers in the fairways can be played from around 4,500 yards.) Cracraft will vary the tee positions from day to day, constantly altering the playing experience based on wind conditions. The single-tee setup, ironically, “gives us a lot of flexibility for the wind, the weather, the players,” Cracraft says. Those tees are merely a suggestion; golfers can peg it wherever they choose. It’s the Bahamas, and you’re on vacation, so you can do whatever you want. In practice, most players will likely choose Cracraft’s tees rather than march back to the tips and take a beating. This serves Cracraft’s objective. “We don’t want anyone to walk off the course and say, ‘Man, that beat me up,’” he says. “I want people to say, ‘Man, that was fun.’”


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