As Princess Cruises ships begin to return to the Caribbean this month for the fall cruise season, they will also introduce 16 new shore excursion options for passengers, including a series of “Connoisseur” tours with smaller groups for a more personal experience. Options range from hiking mountains to exploring caves, and watching monkeys to discovering a cocoa plantation.
The new tours are part of the approximately 550 shore excursion options available in 38 Caribbean ports during the season. Among the new offerings are a selection of Connoisseur excursions, special tours with smaller groups and unique experiences, including visits to exclusive resorts, tours of private estates and even the experience of sailing in a yacht race. Family groups will also find new tours designed especially with kids in mind, including a pirate ship adventure and boogie boarding lessons.
“The local tour operators we work with continue to develop such wonderful ways for passengers to make the most of their time in the islands, and we’re happy to be able to offer these new options,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.
Some of the new excursion options include:
Tobago Cocoa Discovery (Tobago)
At its peak, Trinidad and Tobago produced 75 million pounds of cocoa annually, 20 percent of the world’s supply. This new agro-tourism heritage excursion takes passengers on a walking tour through the Tobago Cocoa Estate overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Participants can learn about the history of the cocoa industry plus visit a mud oven and a cocoa house where the cocoa is dried.
Harrison’s Cave & Scenic Drive (Barbados)
Considered one of the Caribbean’s top natural attractions, Harrison’s Cave was recently redeveloped for easier access. The magnificent crystallized limestone cavern surrounds visitors with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Passengers will see the 50-foot “Great Hall” chamber and the cave’s thunderous 40-foot waterfall that cascades into a blue-green lake.
Bonaire Exploration (Bonaire)
They look like mountains of snow … but they are actually mounds of salt. The Bonaire salt flats are one of the dramatic attractions on this new island tour. Passengers take an eye-opening trip along the south coast where they can enjoy the view. After a tour of the salt flats, the adventure continues as passengers explore the area of Washikemba with its giant cactus, wild donkeys, iguanas and birds.
Hiking Christoffel Mountain (Curacao)
Curacao’s largest national park and conservation area, Christoffel Park consists of three former plantations and is filled with flora and fauna … and numerous hiking trails. The park’s most challenging hike is a three-hour trek to the island’s highest point (1,239 feet) where hikers can enjoy dramatic views across the island.
Monkey Watch & Canal Nature Cruise (Fuerte Amador, Panama)
From the Panama Canal’s Gatun Lake passengers travel into a labyrinth of islands in search of monkeys and other native animals. In this protected area visitors will likely encounter capuchin monkeys, three-toed sloths, howler monkeys, various kinds of toucans, as well as caimans, crocodiles, turtles, and a wealth of butterflies. Trained naturalist guides ensure that participants see and understand all that they spot.
Fort San Lorenzo & Gatun Locks (Panama Canal)
Fort San Lorenzo is one of the most complete and largest of the forts built in Panama, full of pirate history and amazing views. The 16th-century fortress sits high on the cliff that overlooks both the Atlantic and the entrance to the Chagres River. Passengers will learn the history of the buccaneers and Captain Morgan’s attack. Passengers will also get to visit the Gatun Locks observation area where they have a close-up look at the operation of the Canal’s largest set of locks.
Playa El Coco Beach Break (San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua)
Secluded, unspoiled Coco Beach is one of Nicaragua’s best beaches. Passengers will enjoy a day of fun in the sun, plus get to taste the national drink – Macuá, made with white rum and fruit juices. Active passengers can rent boogie boards, surf boards and bicycles.
Jost Van Dyke Beach Adventure (Tortola, BVI)
Just four miles long, with fewer than 200 inhabitants, Jost Van Dyke is truly the "barefoot" island known for its laid-back lifestyle and white-sand beaches. Passengers will land on the glorious beach of White Bay just as the early settlers did – directly onto the sand. The beach is lined with bars but the most notable is the Soggy Dollar Bar, named for the condition of the money from sailors who swam ashore.
New Family Tours – Perfect for family groups, these tours include special activities just for young cruisers.
Family Fun, Beach & Nature Walk (St. Maarten)
This family-friendly outing visits unspoiled Guana Bay Beach, located on the Atlantic coast of St. Maarten. Wave action here is ideal for body surfing and boogie-boarding, and one of the guides will take charge of the young ones boogie board lessons. Adults can participate as well or watch the action. The whole family then sets off on a sightseeing nature walk along an old plantation trail offering panoramic views.
Pirate Schooner to Turtle Cove (St. Thomas, USVI)
Do pirates really say “Arrgghhhh?” Family members can find out when they step aboard the classic schooner “Bones” for some high seas fun. All swabbies are invited to take a nice long walk down the short plank for a “wee” dip in Turtle Cove. The friendly, motley crew provides snorkel equipment. On the fun sail back to St. Thomas kids can become an honorary captain and take a turn at the wheel. “Pirates” will come home with a tattoo, eye-patch and a souvenir photo.
New Connoisseur Tours – These special excursions offer intimate, exclusive experiences to groups no larger than 20 passengers. Each includes unique experiences not offered on other tours, with some also including an upscale dining experience.
“America’s Cup 12-Metre” Yacht Race (Cozumel)
Passengers can “compete” in an actual simulated race around a shortened “America’s Cup” course, and under the watchful eyes of the experienced crew, are invited to participate in the thrill of sailing these fabulous “greyhounds of the sea.” Each guest is offered a small task and is given instruction by the crewmembers.
A Hacienda Experience (Limon, Costa Rica)
This memorable cultural experience features a visit to a unique family-owned, century-old hacienda, nestled in the mountains near San Jose, Costa Rica. The hacienda serves as a home and boutique guest house capturing expansive views of the Central Valley and magnificent Reventazon River. Participants will learn about the colonial days and the processing of sugarcane, coffee, and macadamia nuts.
Carara National Park & Villa Caletas (Puntarenas, Costa Rica)
This tour combines a nature walk through a national park and lunch at a superb mountain retreat. Carara National Park, one of the most famous in Costa Rica, has one of the world’s largest populations of wild scarlet macaws. Naturalists lead passengers on a two-hour walk filled with a variety of bird life. Next is lunch at Villa Caletas, a one-of-a-kind mountain boutique resort nestled 1,150 feet above the Pacific.
The Magnificent Pitons at Ladera Resort (St. Lucia)
Views of the awe-inspiring Pitons are combined with an unforgettable lunch at the Caribbean's #1 resort hotel in this excursion option. Passengers will travel through the rolling countryside of St. Lucia's lush western coast, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site management area. Participants visit the famous Ladera Resort, where they’ll have lunch enjoying the commanding view of the twin Pitons mountains.
Six Princess ships will visit more than 25 ports throughout the idyllic Caribbean in 2010-11, with 14 itinerary choices. In addition three ships sail on Panama Canal routes, with a variety of itinerary options, including the two-day Canal Experience for more time to explore Panama.