0 comments on “THE UNIQUE BEAUTY OF VIRGIN GORDA”

THE UNIQUE BEAUTY OF VIRGIN GORDA

While I am Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I am not
currently “at large,” but rather home for the holidays. This is one of my
favorite times to blog about my Oceania Cruises adventures because, as the
winter chill sets in here in Missouri, I can fondly recall the warm sun shining
over lovely Virgin Gorda during my recent visit there. One of the best things
about a vacation with Oceania Cruises is that you take away memories that will
last a lifetime – and will sustain you during the winter doldrums as you dream
of your next Oceania Cruises voyage! As I write this, guests onboard Riviera are making memories of their own,
for they will call on Virgin Gorda later this week during their idyllic Island Holiday in the Caribbean.

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What draws most visitors to this uniquely beautiful island (aside
from the fact that it is in the Caribbean, of course) is a beach area known as
“The Baths,” located at the southern end of the island. At The Baths, volcanic activity
deposited large amounts of granite that eroded into gigantic boulders, creating
picturesque tunnels, arches, tidal pools and grottoes.

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A short bus or taxi ride from the ship takes you to the
trailhead that leads to The Baths. From there you can walk down a rocky path to
the beach. The path is a bit steep but easily navigable for the fairly nimble.

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Arriving at this beach is unlike arriving at any other beach
I’ve visited. After following the winding path enshrouded in exotic vegetation,
I emerged onto a sprawling white beach inexplicably adorned with enormous
boulders. Of course, the volcanic activity is the explanation, but the first
impression is almost mystical, as if some ancient god had deposited the stones
on the beach as monuments to his power.

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I was captivated by the unique beauty of the giant stones
and swirling tidal pools and couldn’t help but feel a little humbled by the
thousands of years of history represented in their formation. Several others
admired the view from their yachts in the tranquil harbor.

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After spending some time enjoying the beauty of The Baths, I
decided to navigate the path to Devil’s Bay where another idyllic beach awaited.
The path was quite an adventure, and I was glad I’d worn my water shoes. I
climbed over and through boulders and waded through tidal pools. Platforms and
stairs have been constructed along the way to help visitors navigate safely.

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Arrows mark the route to Devil’s Bay, although I was so busy
enjoying the beautiful scenery I ended up taking a few unintended detours. Not
to worry, though, it only meant more exploring amongst the enormous boulders
and sheltered pools.

I had read that these beaches get quite crowded. I was there
during high season, and while they weren’t deserted hideaways, the beaches
weren’t uncomfortably crowded either. There was plenty of space to relax on the
warm sand, and I had a wonderful time snorkeling and exploring the tidal pools.
The shade at Devil’s Bay beach was limited, so come prepared with sunscreen, a
hat and any other sun protection you may need.

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Also, gentlemen, be aware of where you keep your wallet. A
man snorkeling near me surfaced with a wallet in his hand. It had an ID so,
after calling out the owner’s name several times, the man was able to return
it. Moments later the same snorkeler began surfacing with $20 bills that he
also kindly returned!

Speaking of the water, it was absolutely perfect. Having
lived in L.A. for several years and experienced some strong ocean currents, I
was amazed at the tranquil coves I discovered on this island. The water was the
ideal temperature and indescribably blue, and while I usually spend most of my
time at beaches literally on the beach, here I found that I didn’t want to
leave the heavenly waters.

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After a truly wonderful day exploring these unique beaches,
I hiked a more leisurely trail to catch a ride back to the ship, enjoying the
scenic landscape of the island along the way.

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As winter descends here at home, I’ll be thinking about
Oceania Cruises’ guests celebrating their holiday with the sunny skies, golden sands
and azure waters of the Caribbean. We hope you will share stories of your
adventures here in the comments section, and we’d love to see your photos on
our Facebook page.

On behalf of the entire Oceania Cruises family, warmest
wishes for a joyous holiday season and many wonderful journeys in 2013!

0 comments on “RELAXING IN BEAUTIFUL GUSTAVIA, ST. BARTS”

RELAXING IN BEAUTIFUL GUSTAVIA, ST. BARTS

After bidding adieu to Europe, Riviera crossed the Atlantic and arrived in Miami today, where she will begin her winter season exploring the idyllic beaches and swaying palms of the Caribbean.

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As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I find that when I
travel to the Caribbean, I have to take it down a few notches. Shore excursions
tend to be about relaxing on a beach or a sailboat, snorkeling or gazing at the
beautiful scenery and less about touring ancient ruins and visiting world-class
museums as
DSCF1583I enjoy doing in Europe. Not that I am complaining! This is one of
the great things about seeing the world with Oceania Cruises: every region of
the world has new, different and equally wonderful experiences to offer.

A day in Gustavia, St. Barts, is the
perfect example of the nice relaxed pace I enjoy when sailing the Caribbean.
Though Gustavia is very popular for duty-free shopping and high-end designer
fashion boutiques, mostly it is geared toward enjoying the weather, the
beautiful scenery and the iridescent blue waters.

St. Barts was discovered by Columbus in 1493 and named after
his brother Bartolomeo. However, it was not until 1763 that the French
successfully settled on the island. Ultimately, St. Barts fell into the hands
of the Swedes, and as a free port, it became important for trade and supply during
the colonial wars in the 18th century. Unlike many of the surrounding islands,
St. Barts is inhospitable to sugar farming, so it has served primarily as a
center for trade.

Today it is an idyllic island resort, serving tourists from
all over the world in search of warm weather and beautiful beaches.

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Just a short walk from the harbor where the ship docked, I
found Shell Beach, a remarkably uncrowded, tranquil cove with a wonderful little
Brazilian café where I sat and enjoyed the views and the gorgeous day.

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Like most Caribbean islands, the deep blue waters and the
lush green foliage are stunning, but what I find especially captivating about Gustavia
are the coral-colored roofs and multi-hued flowers. It is truly a colorful town
and has one of the most picturesque harbors in the Caribbean.

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On my leisurely stroll through town, I came across a couple
of lovely little churches. The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption is a Catholic
Church surrounded by a lovely courtyard. St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church sits
right off the harbor.

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There are shore excursions that take visitors on tours of
the island or on fabulous snorkeling adventures. I’ve also read about wonderful
hiking in the area. But on this day, I chose to relax and enjoy this little
town at a slow Caribbean pace. Regardless of what you choose to do when you
visit Gustavia, I can promise that you’ll have no regrets!

1 comment on “ZIP LINING IN THE CARIBBEAN”

ZIP LINING IN THE CARIBBEAN

If you follow us on Facebook, you saw the photos we posted yesterday of Barcelona, our Destination of the Week. Our new ship Riviera sails on her christening cruise just one month from today, and the christening ceremony will take place in beautiful Barcelona. Marina also arrived in Barcelona this week after her Atlantic crossing, leaving the lovely islands of the Caribbean and preparing to explore the historic shores of Europe.

As Blogger-at-Large, I was able to enjoy Marina’s final Caribbean sailing of the season, and everyone onboard came home with fond memories and fantastic photos. As Marina bids farewell to the Caribbean seas, I wanted to share one of my favorite adventures from that cruise.

We saw so many beautiful islands on that sailing that I couldn’t possibly choose my favorite. And while I savored every minute on the pristine beaches next to impossibly blue waters, one particular excursion on this cruise offered something a little different – zip lining in the rainforest of St. Lucia.

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Our shore excursion took us to the Treetop Adventure Park where we were welcomed by friendly guides who helped us don the proper gear for our zip lining experience. Everyone was fitted with a harness, gloves and a helmet. We had to wear hairnets under our helmets, and while the look was not especially becoming, I appreciated the focus on sanitation and safety.

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Ziplining04Next we were given a demonstration on how to zip line. I had never done this before, so I had no idea what to expect. Grace and coordination are not my greatest assets, so I was hoping that neither would be required. Based on the demonstration, the process seemed pretty simple and straightforward. Sit in the harness, cross your legs, grip the harness with your left hand and loosely cup the wire behind you with your right hand. We were encouraged to reach as far back as possible with our right hand to prevent spinning. Spinning sounded kind of fun to me, but I was told this should not be attempted by amateurs. I decided it would be best to follow instructions, especially considering my aforementioned lack of coordination.

Having received a thorough orientation, off we went to the first platform. Zip lining obviously involves being high above the ground, and unfortunately the only way to get there is by climbing a combination of hills and stairs. But considering my most rigorous activity of late was devouring the delicious food onboard and lounging on the beaches ashore, my body thanked me for finally burning a few calories.

 

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Our guide throughout the excursion was Damascus Dostalie of Cox and Company. We affectionately referred to him as John-John, the nickname by which he introduced himself. The affection was genuine because he was one of the most friendly and helpful guides I’ve ever met. This obviously was not his first zip line tour, as he not only accompanied us throughout the course, but also volunteered to take photos of us with our cameras. Several of us took him up on the offer, so he zipped ahead of us with three or four cameras strapped to his body, and then got photos of each of us (with the appropriate camera no less) as we came down after him.

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While a few in the group had been zip lining before, most of us were novices. We were very excited about this new experience, but at the same time just a tad apprehensive about careening through the rainforest hanging from a cable. We were happy to see there were actually two cables for added safety, and the guides stationed on each platform were very regimented in their procedure for hooking us up. We were clearly in good hands.

We all watched as the first brave soul took off from the platform.

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Everyone ahead of me survived, so by the time it was my turn, I was ready to go.

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Despite my attempt to follow instructions, my body had a tendency to spin. Nevertheless, I landed safely at the end of the first line after a thrilling ride. I was having so much fun I forgot to take in all the stunning scenery surrounding me.

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On the next line, I realized I was leaning back instead of reaching back with my right hand. I straightened up and my body straightened out. And again, I reminded myself to look around as I soared over the beautiful, verdant rainforest. The longest line was 1,600 feet so I had plenty of time to admire the gorgeous surroundings.

Soon I was confidently zipping from platform to platform, enjoying the exhilarating ride and the fabulous view. John-John told me I was ready for prime time, and on the next line he took video of me!

We were all feeling pretty proud of our zip lining skills at this point, so John-John took great pleasure in introducing the fastest, most challenging line of the course. I guess all the confidence must have drained from my face, because John-John smiled and turned on my video camera again. “Now in case you don’t survive,” he teased, “what will be your final words to your family?”

As you can see in the video below, “I went out happy!” And as a final favor, John-John took video for me as he ran the zip line. Amazing!

Of course, we all not only survived but had a fantastic time. (On the way out, I saw kids no older than eight preparing to zip line, and I felt a little silly for ever having been apprehensive.) It was the most fun I’ve had in years, as is obvious in the final photos I’ll share with you below.

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If you ever find yourself on an Oceania Cruise that offers a zip lining excursion, don’t miss the chance!

1 comment on “MARINA BIDS THE CARIBBEAN ADIEU”

MARINA BIDS THE CARIBBEAN ADIEU

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Grand Cayman Panarama

Tomorrow Marina will spend the day in Grand Turk before bidding adieu to South America and the islands of the Caribbean. Having transited the Panama Canal, ventured as far north as San Francisco, and then returned through the Canal again, guests onboard have experienced stunning natural beauty, impressive architecture, and a vast array of local culture and cuisine. Marina will now sail briefly up the eastern seaboard of the U.S., stopping into Savannah, Charleston and New York City before crossing the Atlantic once again to begin her inaugural season in Europe.

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Before Marina leaves the Americas, we wanted to share some photos from her amazing journey. Curtis Hustace has been offering classes in photography in the Artist Loft onboard and has found no end of outlets for his artistic expression during his travels. Earlier this month, just before her second transit of the Panama Canal, Marina was in Costa Rica, home to a spectacular diversity of wildlife.

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After passing through the Panama Canal, Marina arrived in Cartagena, Colombia and lingered late into the evening to allow her guests time to see all of its beautiful people, places, and parrots!

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Colombia Church
Colombia Parrot

Next it was on to Grand Cayman, which provided a stunning backdrop for Marina‘s portrait.

Grand Cayman Bay

 

Marina in Grand Cayman

Magnificent views were captured in the British Virgin Islands.

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Meandering through the charming town or fishing from the pier are popular pastimes in lovely St. Barts.

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St. Barts Fishing

More natural beauty awaited discovery in Roseau, Dominica.

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Roseau was a spectacular vision of all that one would imagine a beautiful Caribbean island to be. Whether guests joined Marina for her final Caribbean itinerary of the season or traveled with her all along the coasts of the Americas, they have been sure to find amazing experiences awaiting them on every day of their journeys.

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If you’re interested in a DVD of Curtis Hustace’s photos from his 90 days onboard Marina, you can email him at sales@chphoto-video.com.

 

1 comment on “MARINA’S INAUGURAL PASSAGE THROUGH THE PANAMA CANAL”

MARINA’S INAUGURAL PASSAGE THROUGH THE PANAMA CANAL

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Bob at Panama Canal

Yesterday Marina made her Inaugural Passage through the Panama Canal. I’ve heard that some of you watched the transit live via the Panama Canal webcam, so I’m happy to hear that some of our guests ashore were able to share in the exciting journey. It was amazing to experience this feat of engineering and overwhelming to imagine the work that went into its construction over an entire decade.

Below is a shot of Panama City, which is larger than I imagined.

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We are lucky enough to have onboard with us photographer Curtis Hustace, who is teaching photography classes in the Artist Loft. If you haven’t already heard, Marina features talented artists-in-residence who teach classes in various media in the Artist Loft enrichment center. You can learn everything from photography to water color painting to needlepoint.

Curtis was kind enough to share some of his photos of Marina‘s Inaugural Passage through the Panama Canal. I hesitate to share Curtis’s stunning photos right next to my amateur ones, but this will certainly highlight his talent and provide an example of techniques you could learn in the Artist Loft. I hope to take a class soon!

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Marina Canal Transit 1 Bow

Marina Canal Transit 1 Aft Suspension Bridge

The adventures onboard Marina continue. Thank you again for following the blog and sharing your comments!