When the U.S. Department of State restricted travel to Cuba earlier this year, it sent most cruise lines into a scramble. Rescheduling itineraries and dealing with unhappy customers now unable to sail to Cuba caused more than a few headaches across the industry, but it was a cruise line that hasn’t even sailed yet which perhaps took the biggest hit.
Virgin Voyages made Cuba a central part of their cruise identity for their upcoming ship Scarlet Lady, but when that destination was suddenly closed, the world’s newest cruise line had to pivot. The result? A private beach resort rivaling that of any cruise line.
A rendering of The Beach Club at Bimini | Photo: Virgin Voyages
The Beach Club at Bimini
In a video released today, Virgin Voyages highlights the Beach Club at Bimini, their new private resort exclusively for Virgin passengers (known by the brand as ‘sailors’). Designed by Miami-based architects EOA, Inc. and featuring natural materials and soft earth tones that organically blend into the seascape, the Beach Club at Bimini is going to be the cornerstone of every Virgin voyage aboard their new ship.
A rendering of The Beach Club at Bimini | Photo: Virgin Voyages
The Beach Club is set to appeal to a variety of cruisers, those looking for fun and those looking for relaxation. Health and wellness is a priority as each day at the club begins with yoga and meditation. As the day progresses, so does the energy level, as a mid-afternoon pool party is the high point of the day. Food options include fresh, local seafood and plenty of room at the bar for your favorite drink.
A rendering of The Beach Club at Bimini | Photo: Virgin Voyages
If you’re staying in a RockStar Suite on board the ship, you have even more exclusive access on the island, including a private bar, complimentary food service, an outdoor terrace lounge, sun loungers and beach cabanas.
A rendering of The Beach Club at Bimini | Photo: Virgin Voyages
Music is King
As Virgin got its start as a record label, it makes sense that music would be an important part of the Beach Club at Bimini. Seven-time Grammy-Award-winning artist and producer Mark Ronson was named founding DJ for the club. The British-born DJ, producer and songwriter has topped the charts and collaborated with artists like Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Adele, Miley Cyrus and Bruno Mars. Ronson will have four performances in 2020, with specific performance dates still to be announced.
A rendering of The Beach Club at Bimini | Photo: Virgin Voyages
What do you think about the Beach Club at Bimini? Let us know in the comments below!
Christina Vidal is living her best life. From being named one of Travel & Leisure’s top luxury travel Instagrams to making it onto our own list of influencers to watch, everybody is talking about this sun-kissed explorer. The blogger/influencer/swimsuit designer gives Porthole an insider’s look at her nautical beginnings, intercontinental move, and wining down around the world.
In your sophomore year of college you embarked on a semester at sea and visited 12 countries in 4 months! How did that change you as a person?
In endless ways! It was my first time seeing Asia, Africa, and South America. Over those four months, I became more appreciative and inquisitive. My semester abroad also shaped my entire career. It was the first time I tried blogging — really as a way to keep my family and friends in the loop with my travels. But that little blog turned into so much more. All of the sudden, random students were coming up to me saying, “Are you Christina? My mom told me I had to meet you! She’s been following your blog every day.” This was 2010. Blogs were rare and people loved being vicariously transported to a semester abroad from my stories, and I loved bringing everyone along for the journey. That Semester at Sea blog completely paved the path for me to start Jetset Christina.
What was the biggest culture shock when you decided to move to Bali?
I left my city life for a life on the beach, which sounds glamorous until you think about the fact that I quit my cushy corporate marketing job and immediately needed to turn my blog into a business. But, when I got to Bali, I was shocked to find out just how many expats were doing similar things. It turned out to be such a creative and inspiring hub of entrepreneurs and doers. It was the best possible place to build my business. These days I think the biggest culture shock is when I come back to the States!
With your swimsuit line, where do you draw inspiration from for all those colorful designs?
I recently launched Watercolors — my own line of one-piece swimsuits! They are all inspired by beautiful destinations around the world with names like “The Rio” (featuring the tropical emblem of a toucan) or “The Sahara” (a bold number in a feisty leopard print). I’ve always loved one-pieces, and was so excited to design the perfect one! I made most of the designs reversible, so you can rock a fun colorful design one day, and a beautiful solid the next. I worked hand-in-hand with the all-women-run factory in Colombia to design the suits, and we are so proud of them. The material is amazing — the softest, silkiest swim material ever, and the fit is even better!
We see you’re quite the wine enthusiast! What has been your favorite wine-themed destination/excursion?
I grew up just an hour away from Napa Valley, so I’m lucky that I got to learn about and appreciate wine from a young age. My fiancé has famously said before we dated he had never once been to Napa Valley, and in the first year we dated he went five times — or more times than most go in a lifetime. My favorite wine region (besides Napa) that I’ve been to is Stellenbosch, South Africa. It’s incredible. And my dream trip is a week wine tasting in France.
You’ve recently taken a trip aboard Windstar’s Star Legend. Tell us about your experience! Has cruising changed since your semester-at-sea days?
Windstar is such a gem of a cruise line. Their ships are small — only about 200 people total — and feel more like a yacht than a cruise ship. Aside from the beauty and personal feel of their ships, Windstar’s service is what stands out the most. The staff is the best in the cruising business — each person you come into contact with knows your name from day one, and is ultra-personable and helpful. The food and wine were amazing, and the rooms were huge compared to other cruise lines. While it was easily the nicest cruise I have been on, cruising doesn’t feel all that different from my Semester at Sea days. I’m still my absolute happiest on a boat, and I treasure the days when I wake up and open my window to the ocean racing by.
Follow @JetsetChristina on Instagram or on her blog jetsetchristina.com to stay up to date with her latest adventures.
Could it really be only one day since my butt was crammed into an airline seat aboard a trans-Atlantic flight with a temperature that had to be hovering at the freezing mark? Between shivers and trying to ignore the screaming baby that was two rows back, I was still feeling the effects of the past week — the broken tooth and emergency dental visit, jury duty (that, thankfully ended after 3 1/2 hours), and the pre-vacation office crises that nearly killed me. But as the aircraft’s wheels touched down in Lisbon, all those stresses melted away and Viking River Cruises took over.
Through baggage claim, I saw my greeters front and center, their scarlet Viking shirts like beacons. In minutes, I found myself relieved of my burdensome luggage and whisked away to our luxury digs.
I’ve traveled to Lisbon for Viking River Cruises´ River of Gold, a week-long sailing of Portugal’s Douro River. The line is kicking the adventure off with a splash: a 2-night stay at the five-star Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, located on the chi-chi Lisbon equivalent of Fifth Avenue, designer shops dotting the tree-lined street and a charming market sitting just across from where the uniformed doorman welcomes us.
The effects of jet lag cut short our exploration of the elegant surroundings. The hotel´s sparkling circular swimming pool beckons, its lush shrubbery, flowering trees, and decorative wall of signature blue and white Portuguese tiles the perfect remedy for our foggy brains.
A bowl of açorda, a bread-and-garlic soup | Photo: Judi Cuervo
Refreshed and even a bit bronzed thanks to the stint beneath Portugal´s intense sunshine, we spruce up a bit and head to Seen, one of Lisbon´s hottest rooftop bars, conveniently located a short elevator commute away on the 9th floor of our lovely hotel. The view is spectacular — a riot of red-tiled rooves and the hilltop St. George Castle dazzle in the distance as we sip our mint-garnished port & tonics — a signature Portuguese concoction that combines tonic water and a crystal-clear dry port … something I never knew existed!
Already, I suspect Portugal holds surprises beyond its crystal-clear dry port. Dinner at our hotel’s lobby restaurant Cerejana Liberdade, one of two elegant dining spots on the property, confirms it. We devour delectable appetizers of prosciutto and a rich and buttery sheep’s-milk cheese served with pumpkin jam as we peruse a menu rich with seafood from the nearby waters, and a variety of “pots,” stew-like dishes served in brass … well … pots. Surprisingly, my favorite is açorda, an iconic Portuguese soup, a heady mixture of seafood in a sauce made from stale bread, eggs, garlic and olive oil — heavenly! The meal concludes with port — what else in this land of more than 50 port distilleries? — and a crispy apple galette garnished with a scoop of decadent cinnamon ice cream.
Lisbon | Photo: Judi Cuervo
With that last bite, that last sip, exhaustion overtakes me. I return to the beautiful room at the magnificent property that Viking River Cruises has chosen to kick off our journey. I step into to the glorious marble bathroom to remove traces of the makeup applied 12 hours ago on a different continent before I slip into bed between luxury high-thread-count sheets. My last thought before surrendering to blissful sleep is: “Could it really be only one day since my butt was crammed into an airline seat aboard a trans-Atlantic flight with a temperature that had to be hovering at the freezing mark?”
— Judi Cuervo
Next Month: Sailing the Douro aboard Viking Helgrim
Whether visiting a nude beach is a spontaneous whim or a long-planned rite of passage, that thrill of disrobing can be every bit as addictive as the feeling of the wind, sun, and water on your unclothed body. Fortunately for thrill-seekers, there are clothing-optional or fully nude beaches all around the world, many of which are surprisingly near where your ship has anchored.
But what do you need to know before committing? For starters, you should know whether the nude beach is legal or official; as Philip Carr-Gomm warns in his 2010 book, A Brief History of Nakedness, “If you take off your clothes in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can be fined, deported, or thrown into jail.”
Nude Beaches Around the World
Depending on the country you are visiting, you may see signs or words that could be unfamiliar. FKK (from the German, Freikörperkultur, meaning “free body culture”) denotes a nude beach or area of the beach. “Clothing optional” is self-explanatory, and the word naturist or naturism is often used outside the United States to refer to a nudist and nudism. In the U.K., you’ll hear of nude and “textile” beaches, where swimsuits are worn.
Carr-Gomm’s book delves into the wide range of activities one can enjoy today now that nude events and participation are more accepted as liberating and fun, including such extreme ones as nude skydiving and nude bungee jumping. If that level of thrill seems a bit much, perhaps a more relaxed day at one of these beaches might be of interest:
ANTIGUA & BARBUDA
A long-established resort, Hawksbill by rex resorts is five miles from the cruise ship terminal in St. John’s. One of its beaches, Eden, is naturist. Take a taxi to the main building and ask for walking directions. There are few amenities; do bring your own towels as well as drinks and food. (The front desk staff at the hotel may offer an all-day meal plan, although the beach is at least a 10-minute jaunt from the main hotel buildings.)
SAINT BARTHÉLEMY (AKA ST. BART’S)
From the port of Gustavia, both Gouveneur and Saline beaches are for nude use. Inquire at the dock from a local; taxis can be expensive and there are few amenities (if any) at either beach. Ensure you have a pick-up time from the same taxi driver.
ST MARTIN/SINT MAARTEN
This dually owned Caribbean nation was badly damaged in the hurricanes of 2017, and its most well-known naturist resort, Club Orient, was decimated. However, a large portion of Orient Beach remains very popular with land nudists and day-trippers from the cruise ships that dock on the Dutch side in Philipsburg. Umbrellas, chaises longue, washrooms, and food and drink are available.
If you are spending time in either Acapulco or Huatulco before or after your cruise, the little town of Zipolite in Oaxaca boasts the country’s only legal nude beach. It is approximately 36 miles from the cruise port in Huatulco, and is…
Everyone has vices. Whether it’s a piece of chocolate cake, a glass of fine Scotch or lighting up a cigarette or a cigar, how you treat yourself is your business. However, one of the most popular questions we get asked is: where can I smoke on a cruise ship?
Here’s our guide to lighting up on a cruise ship: where, when and how to do it safely and responsibly!
Cruise Ship Smoking Rules
Gone are the days when airplanes, restaurants, workplaces and more were filled with pungent tobacco smoke all day long. In our modern era, smoking bans in public places are not only the norm, but widely accepted as smart practice. Cruise ships have similar rules when it comes to smoking inside (save perhaps the casino), but knowing which line and ships have a complete ban on the practice is important. Silversea, for example, doesn’t allow smoking at all on their ships. Crystal Cruises is another line practicing the same.
However, not all cruise lines ban smoking entirely. Some ships have designated smoking areas in certain parts of the ship. Royal Caribbean, for example, allows for smoking on any open deck so long as it’s on the port side of the ship. Plenty of ships have cigar lounges where you’re free to light up as you please. Checking with your cruise line before you embark is the smartest way to learn the smoking policy. Cruise lines do have the authority to remove you from the ship for breaking the rules, so be smart!
Be Smart with Fire
The reason your candlelit dinner on board a cruise ship isn’t lit with real candles? Fire is just about the worst thing that can happen on board a ship. The crew on board Star Princess found out firsthand in 2006 when a lit cigarette started a fire on a balcony that took 90 minutes to extinguish. Make sure when you do smoke, you do so smartly and safely to avoid a serious danger. Always make sure the lit end is fully extinguished before flicking it away, or you could be putting yourself and your fellow cruisers in jeopardy.
What happens when you get 2,400 women together on a cruise ship for a Girls’ Getaway with Oprah Winfrey?
Tons of laughter, loads of camaraderie, and hugs and tears resulting from both. Even Oprah herself was moved by the experience.
At the end of the cruise, as she was about to christen Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam, she professed: “I’ve had the most blessed life of anyone I know … I’ve never seen anything like these past three days. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
By most standards, this was a very short cruise — just three days and three nights — but for many of those aboard it was their introduction to cruising, and the fact that Oprah was actually on board too, with her own best friend Gayle King, made it a chance not to be missed.
The power of Oprah as a lifestyle and brand permeated the entire cruise, from the food on the Lido (featuring Oprah’s favorite salad) to onboard activities like O’s Reading Room book discussions, to a fashion show with O, The Oprah Magazine’s creative director Adam Glassman, who after the show led the audience in a parade to the retail shop where he personally helped women style themselves with the clothes featured in the show. Like virtually everyone else on the cruise, Glassman was the perfect host, sticking around until everyone got individual attention and help.
Having just celebrated her 65th birthday, Oprah’s “Conversation with Oprah,” in the main theater every day was personal and inspirational. “I don’t do anything I don’t want to do anymore,” she explained. “This [cruise] is a gift back to yourself … Nobody can find us!” she said to laughter from the audience. It was classic Oprah, and most of the audience knew the story already: how she grew up poor and got her first big break in the movie The Color Purple. But she interspersed that story with lessons learned along the way. “You become what you believe,” she urged the rapt audience. “Pay attention to what you actually want.”
Each talk ended with a Q&A with best friend Gayle asking questions submitted in advance from audience members, whom she called to stand up or even join them onstage. You couldn’t help but be moved by the stories of women who shared personal struggles and how Oprah had inspired them.
The association between Holland America and O, The Oprah Magazine started in 2017 when Oprah let it be known that she had never been to Alaska. Oprah’s July 2017 Alaska cruise on Holland America’s MS Eurodam was an enormous success and was featured in the January 2018 issue of the magazine. In 2018, several Adventure of Your Life cruises included members of the editorial team and special guest speakers. But a cruise just for girlfriends, and to a warm destination like the Bahamas, was a new idea, one that even Oprah needed to be convinced about. Like most of us, though, after only three days, she was anxious to come back.
Discovering the Ship
The design of Koningsdam three years ago was a game-changer for Holland America Line and ushered in a new modern era in this beloved cruise line’s 145-year history. Nieuw Statendam, built on that same Pinnacle-class platform, has improved what was already great and made adjustments where it wasn’t. Many of these new features are already being incorporated on other Holland America ships.
The biggest and best change is to Music Walk at the heart of the ship. This concentrates the nightly live entertainment along one main corridor, meaning you no longer have to walk from one end of the ship to the other from the top deck to the bottom looking for the party. The party is always here and it’s almost always lively.
On Nieuw Statendam, Music Walk now features the Rolling Stone Rock Room (a change that was also made on Koningsdam). This has created a seamless entertainment experience each night as cruise guests can dance between B.B. King’s Blues Club and the Rolling Stone Rock Room without missing a beat. Lincoln Center Live performances are now held earlier in the afternoon and evening and share space with the much larger blues club.
The restaurants on Nieuw Statendam are identical to Koningsdam (including the popular Rudi’s Sel de Mer) but Club Orange is a new feature — a private dining venue for Neptune and Pinnacle suites. A limited number of guests on each cruise can upgrade to Club Orange status for a $50 daily charge.
The Holland America ships have a well-deserved reputation as floating art galleries and Nieuw Statendam is no exception. The art on this new ship is modern and avant-garde, playful and sometimes puzzling. Many new cruise ships think bigger is better and invest in big gestures and massive spaces. The individual art pieces on Nieuw Statendam (and the other Holland America ships) are hundreds of small unique gestures. It’s the icing on a big beautiful cake that brings joy and delight around every corner.
“When are we going to do it again Orlando? Where are we going next?” Oprah shouted to the President of Holland America Line, Orlando Ashford, at the conclusion of her speech before she officially became the new ship’s godmother.
There are no details yet, but the cruise executives aboard, including those from other Carnival Corporation brands, talked openly about how to replicate the experience and especially some of the unique activities.
Sailing Made Special
I often say to people who have never experienced a cruise that it’s kind of like being a kid again, except you’re of legal age to drink alcohol. You don’t have to worry about transportation or where to eat, you can visit interesting places during the day, and you’re entertained every night. If you like watching movies, go up on deck for the movie under the stars; if you like live theater, go to the show or the comedy club; or if you want to dance, get on the dance floor and dance your heart out. For the entire time, you can give up responsibility for all the mundane things and just have fun. The captain and his crew are driving, the staff on board are going out of their way to make sure you’re happy. What could be better?
On the Girls’ Getaway however, it was better. For many, there was the added relief from the stress of kids, a spouse, or taking care of parents — always being the one to make sure everyone else was happy. No one was married, or divorced, or single, or anything other than here with a girlfriend.
If there was one feeling shared by all aboard, it was that we were the lucky ones who actually got on a cruise of a lifetime which sold out in less than 24 hours.
That spirit of freedom and camaraderie culminated on the last official night of the cruise in a raucous, ship-wide pajama party. I’ll admit when I saw this party on the agenda I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I haven’t been to a pajama party since I was in middle school, when we mostly played with a Ouija board and danced to our favorite records. Well, Oprah’s pajama party was kind of like that too, except the only spirits on board were the tequila shots Oprah was handing around! About half of the women were wearing the same Oprah-branded pajamas that Oprah was wearing herself (which you could buy in advance or in the onboard shop) or relaxed pj’s from home and fuzzy slippers. Even a few of the 57 men who had somehow found themselves on this Girls’ Getaway ventured out onto the dance floor that night in their pajamas.
As a frequent traveler and cruiser I’ve had some amazing trips in my life. How could a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas be maybe my favorite cruise ever?
It was the community that was created on board. I always feel cruise ships create a community of people; it’s why when you run into someone from your ship on shore, you feel an immediate connection. But this Oprah Girls’ Getaway was unlike any other. No one came on this cruise for a romantic time alone with their spouse or for family time. We were all here with a girlfriend to have fun. I could see my girlfriend and I reflected in the other women aboard with their girlfriends. Maybe that best friend also happened to be their daughter or their mother, but it was a commonality that transcended culture, education, or age.
The highlight for me? Definitely the early morning yoga and meditation on the beach at Holland America’s private island, Half Moon Cay. An estimated 800 women laid on purple yoga mats stretching along the beach as far as the eye could see, and with the Nieuw Statendam shining just off shore, only the sound of the waves broke the silence of the gathering for an hour-long guided yoga and meditation. It was truly magical. Whether you’re a fan of Oprah or not, being part of that community in that beautiful setting epitomized for us the Oprah mantra of living your best life.
And sitting on our balcony each night, my girlfriend and I, who have known each other for almost 30 years, looked out at the sea and the stars while we reminisced about the day, laughed at how exhausted we were, and marveled at how lucky we were to have been here.
Royal Caribbean’s newly updated private island, aptly named Perfect Day at CocoCay, has been officially open since May. Garnering a great deal of attention from cruisers “loyal to Royal”, we too were very interested to see if the island lived up to this rather lofty title.
Unable to resist any longer, we booked a last-minute three-day cruise on Navigator of the Seas stopping at this resort. We have just returned from this quick weekend getaway and share our initial impressions of Perfect Day at CocoCay.
First Impressions of Perfect Day at CocoCay
It is Very Easy to Get around the Island
With CocoCay now divided into several distinct areas, the cruise line has ensured that passengers can easily get from point A to point B with several new pathways. Clearly marked paths, some even paved, encircle much of the new resort areas, including the children’s Splashaway Bay, the Thrill Waterpark, Oasis Lagoon Pool, and the entrance to Chill Island.
Friendly staff are also strategically located throughout the island to ensure your time ashore is as stress free as possible. There is even a tram available to assist in transporting passengers to various designated stops along the island.
Getting around the island is easy | Photo: EatSleepCruise
There is Plenty of Space
While we were not sailing on one of Royal Caribbean’s largest cruise ships afloat, our vessel, Navigator of the Seas, still accommodates well over 3,000 guests. Although, you would not believe it given that Perfect Day at CocoCay had several areas that were largely uninhabited during our visit.
Yes, there were modest wait times for popular slides at the waterpark, and the Oasis Lagoon had a sizeable crowd. However, there were large sections of the beach that were relatively empty and there were more than enough lounge chairs and umbrellas for everyone. The usually busy spots like the bars and the new Chill Grill island buffet had virtually no crowds.
Perfect Day at CocoCay currently provides cruisers with a remote and exclusive feel with only one ship in port on many days of the week. Of course, this private island feeling would be considerably altered if Royal Caribbean decides to have two of the line’s largest ships dock at the same time, unloading 10,000+ passengers onto the island.
While Royal Caribbean did add plenty of up-charge activities to CocoCay, there are still many complimentary options to have a perfect day on the island.
The beaches are gorgeous | Photo: EatSleepCruise
Chill Island offers the ultimate beach escape, complete with an array of complimentary loungers and umbrellas, sandy beaches, and palm trees. Additional activities are also available on South Beach like lawn games and a sports court to enjoy at no cost.
The Oasis Lagoon, the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, provides the ultimate island pool party including in-water loungers, a swim up bar, and a DJ spinning top hits. This expansive pool is also complimentary for all cruisers visiting the island.
For cruisers with kids, Captain Jill’s Galleon and the Splashaway Bay aqua park provide hours of fun for those less than 42”. Your little ones can enjoy a waterpark all to themselves, without costing you a cent.
Some other nice touches on the island include the use of free lockers and a towel exchange. Though, you do still need to bring a towel off the ship with you.
Yes, your burning question has been answered. The Royal Caribbean Deluxe Drink Package is honored on Perfect Day at CocoCay, so most beverages at the island’s bars will be no additional cost if you have already purchased a beverage package on the ship.
Ship drink packages are honored on the island | Photo: EatSleepCruise
The island even has WiFi! You can now use your ship board internet account while on the island for no additional charges to share all of the day’s adventures with the hashtag #PerfectDayatCocoCay.
You will still need to pay for use of extras such as floating mats, kayaks, jet skis, and cabanas on the island.
We appreciate that there is not as much “nickel and diming” while ashore when compared to some other private islands. You can still have a hassle-free beach day without spending any extra money.
The Thrill Waterpark Lives Up to Its Name
Then again, there are also new attractions on Perfect Day at CocoCay that are worth the cover charges!
As part of our full day on the island, we purchased a combo ticket to the waterpark and zip line adventure. The zip line course offered a series of 3 lines allowing you to soar over the island in the 45-minute tour. Having completed the course one time, we see no need to return on a future visit.
The Thrill Waterpark delivered on it’s promise of exhilaration | Photo: EatSleepCruise
On the other hand, the Thrill Waterpark delivered on its promise of an exhilarating day experiencing one-of-a-kind rides. The namesake Daredevil’s Peak is the tallest slide in North America. Splashing down this ride a few times, I can attest that it is quite the adrenaline rush. The additional slides in the Daredevil’s Tower provide equally impressive experiences, including the Dueling Demons 75’ launch slide and the 50’ Screeching Serpent that sends cruisers straight down a vertical slide.
The Splash Summit is home to some of the more family friendly slides. Among our favorites was the Slingshot, boomerang slide, which offers moments of weightlessness.
This waterpark is also home to the Caribbean’s largest wave pool that certainly serves up some impressive white caps. The adventure pool is designed for your little American Ninja Warrior and challenges your balance and coordination with lily pads, rock climbing, and other water-based obstacles.
The Wave Pool | Photo: EatSleepCruise
In our opinion, the Thrill Waterpark is one up-charge activity that is certainly worthy of a repeat visit.
Food and Dining Has Been Greatly Improved
The “barbecue lunch” previously offered on CocoCay was only open for a short window of time and the selections sometimes left us leaving the island early to grab a bite to eat back on the ship. Royal Caribbean must have heard our pleas, as the new dining options added to Perfect Day at CocoCay have added some much-needed diversity and convenience while ashore.
Lunchtime at CocoCay | Photo: EatSleepCruise
Two new buffet areas, Chill Grill and Skipper’s Grill, are well positioned on the island so you are never far from grabbing a snack.
Yes, there are still hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken, but there is now so much more available. A custom taco stand lets you choose from fillings and toppings for an easy handheld meal. The new panini station now serves hot sandwiches including Cuban sandwiches and steak sandwiches. There is also a fairly large salad bar and other lite fare like fruit and cookies.
These venues are open for a good majority of the day now as well. Needless to say, there is no need to return to the ship for some food!
Adding the new and expanded dining venues to the island would have been enough, but Royal Caribbean went one step further by adding a few Snack Shacks. If you do not want to serve yourself at the buffet, you can order select items from these quick service counters. We tested out some of the options including the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, the Shack Burger, Mozzarella Sticks, and even a Funnel Cake, and we found them all to be quite tasty.
There’s no need to return to the ship for some food! | Photo: EatSleepCruise
Virtually all of the food on the island is included, except for a few snacks at Captain Jack’s bar.
Final Verdict on Perfect Day at CocoCay
It is hard to think of another word to describe the newly updated CocoCay. While it might be rather bold to call the island “Perfect”, we are struggling to think of a different term to describe our visit to the island.
Royal Caribbean has found a way to add new attractions to CocoCay that will lure families and adventure seekers, but without losing the charm of the island.
Cruisers wanting to enjoy a relaxing day ashore still have that option. The enhanced coastline delivers a quiet and peaceful beach day, whether you stake claim at Chill Beach or South Beach. Yet, you are only a walk from the lively Oasis Lagoon pool, which has a resort-style party vibe.
You can choose how you want to spend your Perfect Day at CocoCay | Photo: EatSleepCruise
The new up-charge attractions, dining options, and bars provide a means of spreading out the crowds. It was easy to find an ideal spot to bask in the Bahamian sun with a cocktail in hand.
Essentially, you can choose how you want to spend your Perfect Day at CocoCay. For us, that is a pretty ideal situation. Perhaps that is why we already have plans to return to the island. This time, we are bringing some friends along so they too can see if the island lives up to its new name!
Don and Heidi Bucolo are the husband and wife team behind EatSleepCruise. Fellow travelers have come to know and love their cruise reviews, cruise tips and planning advice, and social media posts for the latest updates in the world of cruising.
You know what your summer is missing? An adventure! Plenty of cruise lines offer a fun and relaxing time on board the ship, but some cruise lines are geared towards getting guests closer to nature and adventure. UnCruise is one such cruise line with tons of small-ship itineraries to exotic locations and a new deal is saving cruisers hundreds on their perfect adventure cruise vacation.
Special Offer from UnCruise
Those who book by July 31 can save a ton of money on cruises to places like Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Thinking about checking out Costa Rica? Save $500 per person on select 10-night voyages when you use the promo code MACAW614 and book by July 31.
How about adventuring through the islands of Hawaii? Save $350 per person on itineraries leaving between November 2019 through January 2020 when you use the promo code HAWAII700.
Lusting for the call of the wild? Save $1,200 per couple when you book a 2020 sailing to Alaska aboard the fantastic S.S. Legacy.
All the deals can be found on the special offer page of the UnCruise website. Which cruise would you like to book most? Let us know in the comments below!
Travel influencers are a dime a dozen these days, but the tides have turned in favor of engagement and content, rather than followers. Porthole Cruise Magazine has dived into the depths of cruise influencers, reading their blogs, examining their posts and searching for the most authentic personalities with a passion for cruising.
We are proud to announce our list of the TOP 10 CRUISE INFLUENCERS OF 2019!
1) The Five Foot Traveler
When’s she’s not behind the camera capturing some of the world’s most exotic places, you can find Sarah Gallo (aka The Five Foot Traveler) on the deck of today’s newest and most popular cruise ships. Having already visited over 100 countries and all seven continents for her luxury and adventure travel blog, Sarah broke into the cruise industry as an influencer and hasn’t looked back. She’s worked with multiple cruise brands to highlight everything from the overall experience to shooting on-location shore excursion videos. Still just in her 20’s, we expect cruising to bring her country count much higher in the future!
It can sometimes be hard to find REAL reviews when it comes to your cruise vacation. From ships to ports and everything in between, Don and Heidi, the cruising couple behind the popular blog EatSleepCruise, offer up honest reviews (the good and the bad) for real cruisers thinking about booking a cruise of their own. Follow the pair as they sip specialty cocktails, dine at the most exclusive restaurants at sea and enjoy all the fun and excitement found on a cruise ship today. Don and Heidi regularly update their social media accounts with images and videos of their adventures and you HAVE to check out their YouTube Channel which features ship tours and more.
When it comes to planning the best cruise vacation, there’s no better follow than Sheri Griffiths. As the host of the YouTube series CruiseTips TV, Sheri is in the know when it comes to all things cruise related. Learn the best packing tips before you go or check out what the various shore excursions have to offer before you even set foot on the ship. Sheri is a wonderful resource for great information including reviews, ship tours, and more presented in a fun and entertaining way. Anyone cruising with their family should check out Sheri’s content and learn more about how to make the most of their vacation.
When it comes to traveling, Dana Freeman is always look for her next great trip . A New Englander at heart, Dana discovered her love for travel and blogging after launching a successful marketing career. Now her website and social media accounts are full of interesting anecdotes and stunning photographs of her travels the world over. A member of the Travel Bloggers Influence Network, Dana highlights her experiences using the hashtag #TBIN. She is also a frequent contributor to Porthole Cruise magazine, where she documents her cruises all over the world.
The first time Bill Panoff cruised around the world, he was entertaining guests aboard the ship with some pretty slick magic tricks. These days, he’s a top name in the cruise industry, hosting his own YouTube show called “Cruise Control,” a unique look at the latest innovations, ships, menus and itineraries across all major and minor cruise lines. The series is a must watch for anyone looking for the best cruise experience possible. As Editor-in-Chief of Porthole Cruise Magazine, Bill loves to share his love for travel with others who share his passion for the open ocean!
Imagine taking a trip and never coming back! That’s what happened to Scott Eddy after visiting Thailand for the first time. Now a full-time luxury travel influencer, Scott travels the world in search of the the most photogenic places and the top hospitality brands available to travelers. A veteran of countless cruises, Scott blends his passion for photography with his insider knowledge of the industry to create travel content that’s as informative as it is engaging. His social media channels are a must follow for anyone looking for a new place to visit!
Traveling is about curating experiences, according to the dynamic duo behind Find Us Lost. What started with a move from Los Angeles to Europe has grown into a full time job traveling the world and developing travel guides for those also sick with wanderlust. Selena and Jacob have guides for some of the world’s most popular locations and plenty that are off the beaten path. Their Find Us Lost Blog is packed with information and spectacular photography any travel lover will appreciate.
The best cruise influencers aren’t just great picture takers and storytellers, but they actually LOVE to cruise! Alyssa Griffin and her husband Griff run a YouTube Channel with tons of awesome cruise content from packing tips to shore excursion reviews. Alyssa’s Instagram account is a must follow for those who love cruising with some health and wellness mixed in. Their website, Trapped in Paradise, is another incredible resource for cruisers!
Most people think of social media and they assume it’s a young person’s game. However, Alternative Aging is changing how people travel as they age. Suzi Grant, who operates the Instagram account, started off in 2014 writing about health, fitness, fashion, travel and more on her blog. Her Instagram account is full of fun places, colorful outfits and authentic travel content geared for those who want to fully enjoy their later years.
When Matt Hochberg started Royal Caribbean Blog way back in 2010, he probably had no idea he would soon become a leading voice in the cruise industry. His work has been recognized by major publications like USA Today for his news, reviews and all things Royal Caribbean. Matt doesn’t just tell his readers about his adventures, he documents them with images and videos so people get an authentic look at what cruising with Royal Caribbean is all about. His content is perfect for cruise veterans and new cruisers alike who are looking for reliable information about their next Royal Caribbean cruise.
Cruising is infectious. Once people get a taste of what a true cruise vacation can be like, they’re always looking for the next great destination to explore. There are tons of great cruise itineraries out there, but which ones should you be booking? Do you go with the flow and cruise where everyone else goes, or should you look for a cruise vacation that’s well outside the ordinary?
Here’s our list of the top 8 cruises you shouldn’t be booking, and the 8 you should be booking instead!
Perhaps the most iconic cruise destination, the Caribbean offers a number of fantastic itinerary options across the many islands which dot the region. However, not all Caribbean itineraries are created equal. Three or four day cruises from Florida (Port of Palm Beach, Port Canaveral etc) which head to the Bahamas are fun and affordable, but those looking for a real Caribbean experience should try a cruise that ventures further into the many unique Caribbean islands, not just one.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s 7-day itinerary to the Western Caribbean offers stops at three unique central American countries; Belize, Honduras and Mexico. Each country has a unique culture to explore This Western Caribbean itinerary features days at sea as well as in port so you can fully enjoy everything the ship has to offer.
The Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise destinations
Not every cruise has to involve sunscreen and the beach. Cruising the Baltics is a popular itinerary for those looking for a little adventure. Check out polar bears, the Northern Lights and all the herring you can eat when you cruise to northern European countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland or Russia.
Most don’t think of the Baltics as a very “kid-friendly” cruise destination, but that’s where Disney Cruise Line’s 7 Day Baltic/Russia itinerary comes in handy. Disney ships are chock full of fun and excitement for kids of all ages and the natural beauty and serenity of Northern Europe is something parents will enjoy as well. Explore great northern cities like Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Helsinki or Stockholm all while enjoying the comfort and excitement that Disney Cruise Line has to offer.
Those cruising to Alaska are all about adventure. Plenty of major cruise lines sail the coastline of America’s most wild state, but do you really get to experience Alaska’s wilderness on a ship with thousands of other people. Cruising to Skagway, Ketchikan, Juneau and other touristy ports is a fun and unique experience, but there are cruises that get you closer to nature and the true beauty of the region.
A 7-day Inside Passage cruise from Lindblad Special Expeditions takes guests through parts of Alaska which remain untouched by human hand. Starting from Juneau, explore Tracy Arm, Frederick Sound, Chatham Strait, Icy Strait, the Inian Islands, Glacier Bay and more. Lindblad’s ships are built for adventure and have everything needed to make the wilderness of Alaska more attainable than ever before.
A bush plane performs landing in Alaska with Chugach Mountains in the Background
South of the Caribbean lies a whole new region for cruisers to explore. South America cruises are popular thanks to unique ports of call like Cartagena, Lima or Santiago, but there’s more adventure to be had on your next South American cruise. There’s plenty to love about cruising on a large ship to these fun and exciting ports, but there’s one particular location in South America that every cruise lover needs to explore; the Galapagos.
Those looking for a true adventure need to book their next South American cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Many cruise lines offer Galapagos itineraries, including Celebrity Cruises on board their new adventure ship, Celebrity Flora. Left almost entirely untouched by humans, the Galapagos Islands are ripe for exploration and offer a trip of a lifetime for those looking for a truly special South American cruise vacation.
Galapagos sea lion
The Meditteranean is one of the most beautiful regions in all the world and it’s wildly popular with cruise ship passengers. Famous ports like Genoa, Marseille, Ibiza, Naples, Barcelona and more offer unique history and traditional Southern European culture for those who sail to their shores. Itineraries on larger ships stop at these ports and more, but for those who want an intimate experience cruising places like the Greek islands of Mykonos, booking a smaller cruise line is the way to go.
Celestyal Cruises offers small ship luxury with port-driven itineraries which give passengers more time to explore more off the beaten path islands such as Patmos, Thira, Milos, Rhodes and more. These islands are rich with culture and history and aren’t always available when you cruise on larger ships.
Greek Island of Paros
The Far East is a place Westerners absolutely need to visit more. Countries like Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam and more offer unique culture and history not found anywhere else in the world. Plenty of ocean cruise lines sail from country to country in Asia with stops along the way, but time in port is sometimes limited and most don’t get the kind of immersion into each culture as they’d like.
The solution is to ditch the ocean ships and focus instead on one of the many rivers which snake their way through the countryside and offer a glimpse into live beyond the touristy ports. Cruise lines like Avalon Waterways offer immersion itineraries touring the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia. The river played a huge role in the development in the region over time and is a vital part of life for many along its banks.
Everyone cruises the Caribbean, but did you know there’s a region in Southeast Asia that rivals the famous cruise destination in terms of beauty and culture? There’s a reason that famous French artist Paul Gauguin spent so much time in French Polynesia and it starts with the incredible scenery. Large ships certainly cruise to the region via Australia, but to truly experience all the Tahiti and more have to offer, smaller ship cruising is the way to go.
Windstar Cruises is one such small ship cruise line offering a cruise experience in French Polynesia unlike any you’ll find. Starting in Papeete, cruisers visit off the beaten path islands like Fakarava, Rangiroa and Tahaa. Get up close and personal to these incredible islands without the crowds from a large ship getting in the way.
Windstar Cruises Wind Spirit in Tahiti | Photo: Windstar Cruises
Those who really want to cruise in style usually book something like a European river cruise complete with wine, great cuisine, historical excursions and more. It’s a marriage of culture and adventure only found along the banks of such historic rivers like the Danube, the Duoro, the Rhone and more.
You can cruise to iconic European cities like Paris on the Seine or Cologne on the Rhine, or you could explore parts of Europe that aren’t tourist meccas. Viking River Cruises offers itineraries thousands of years old before enjoying a gourmet cuisine lunch complete with wine pairings. There’s no shortage of things to see and explore with a European river cruise to lesser-known European cities full of charm and culture.