Holland America Line is always working to spice up its cruise itineraries and bring guests new ports. Though the Caribbean has been a longtime cruise destination, there are still new places to discover. Here is one ports new to cruisers, one port new to Holland America Line and once port that’s still not fully on the radar of travelers but should be.
Banana Coast, Honduras
Banana Coast recently opened as mainland Honduras’ first cruise port, and Holland America Line is one of the first cruise lines to call there. Located in the deepwater bay of Trujillo, Honduras, surrounded by mountains, rainforest, and pristine beaches, the port offers a new window into the historic city of Trujillo, Campo del Mar Park, and the outlying region.
Once the Banana export capital of the world — shipping more than 8 million stems annually – Banana Coast and Trujillo have a rich history. Christopher Columbus landed at Trujillo in 1502 and it was established as a Spanish colony in 1524. Through the course of its history the city has been inhabited by the Honduran Garifuna tribe, Dutch, French – and pirates.
If when you arrive at Banana Coast you feel like adventure is calling, the Jungle ATV tour is the answer. Head to Camp del Mar to begin an off-road trip through the jungle of Honduras. You’ll ride your own 4-wheel all-terrain ATV along winding, narrow jungle paths and through tropical vegetation. You’ll take in the sights and sounds of the jungle as your guide accompanies you through rivers and swamplands.
If a trolley tour is more your style, you’ll love the Historical Trujillo tour. Here you’ll learn about Christopher Columbus’ landing and see the Santa Barbara Fort. You’ll also visit the town square that features the Cathedral of St. John the Baptists, a central plaza and buildings of early Spanish and French colonial origin.
The Starfish Bay Snorkel & Beach Break is one of the most popular tours at Banana Coast. It is designed to give everyone a fun and relaxed experience, even if they have never snorkeled before. From the pier you will board a boat and enjoy the spectacular views as you head out to Starfish Bay. After a short snorkel lesson you’ll hop into the water to look at the starfish and other underwater creatures. Afterwards, you’ll head to Casa Kiwi for a beach break and have the chance to enjoy some typical Honduran food.
The Campo del Mar Nature Park and Beach Break tour features 22 acres filled with flora, fauna, and resident wildlife. You can hop on or off the trolley that runs through the park during the day and explore the park’s Botanic Gardens and Orchard areas. Afterward, you can enjoy a beach break at Campo del Mar’s pristine, private beach. MidwestCruiser gave the tour five stars on the Holland America website.
“The Nature Park is beautiful and clean. On the beach, the music was great and the service staff was very friendly. We had a wonderful time. The food was also good. The ideal thing was with HAL being the only ship in port there were no lines and you had plenty of space and had a good opportunity to relax in a beautiful setting on this private beach. The bus ride to the park gives you insight into the true culture of the area. Highly recommend!”
There is also a Behind the Scenes tour offered at Camp del Mar Nature Park where you can enjoy a tour with your guide through the fruit orchard, vegetable garden, and learn about how it all grows. A biologist will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the Animal Rescue Center where you will have an opportunity to meet some of the the animals up close. You’ll also enjoy a delicious lunch under the mango tree canopy and marvel at the artisan displays.
Falmouth is not a new Caribbean destination per say, but it is definitely new to Holland America Line. It is the capital of Trelawny, Jamaica, and located not far from popular Montego Bay. It was one of Jamaica’s busiest ports in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with a booming export business. Today, Falmouth is home to plenty of great sights including St. Peter’s Anglican Church and the Greenwood Great House. Whether you like to experience a new place by getting an authentic meal or having a thrilling adventure … there’s something for everyone here.
If you are looking for a delicious Jamaican meal, opt for the Taste of Jamaica tour that takes you to the Good Hope Great House. With a menu put together by Al Pacino’s personal chef of old, this experience includes a tasty buffet lunch. Enjoy crisp salad, herb rice and true Jamaican dishes that feature distinctive spices like curried chicken with mango chutney, escovietch fish made with a fresh local catch, and fried plantains — a true Jamaican favorite. For dessert, enjoy the sweet tastes of coconut drops and muffins made with fruits from around the Good Hope Estate. You’ll also have a chance to tour the Great House, built in the 1700s and restored to its original grandeur, and take in some of the 2,000 acres that once featured a working plantation.
Experience three exciting activities on one excursion with the Tranopy tour. First, on the Sky Explorer chairlift, you’ll enjoy a fun ride up 700 feet through the tropical forest canopy. Next, you’ll enjoy a thrilling time on Bobsled Jamaica — the signature ride that features a gravity-driven plunge through 3,280 feet of twists and turns on a specially designed sled, evoking the glory of the infamous 1988 and 1992 Jamaican Bobsled team. Lastly, you’ll receive a harness for your zip line flight. You’ll take off through the canopy on a series of cables and pulleys interconnected on tree- and land-based platforms. Afterwards you can admire the panoramic views, swim in the infinity pool or enjoy lunch at the restaurant.
At Falmouth, you’ll also have the opportunity to saddle up for a Horseback Riding Adventure. After a drive along the scenic coastline you will head to where your riding adventure begins. During your ride, experienced guides will educate you on Jamaica’s rich history, culture, flora and fauna. You’ll love the feel of the refreshing breeze of the Caribbean sea as your companion takes you along the charming coastline overlooking the ocean to Chukka Beach. Robertti gave the tour five stars. Here’s how he described his “unbelievable experience.”
Once we arrived to the ranch, the horses were quickly prepared and we saddled up. We rode for 30-45 minutes through what I (as a first-time rider) thought was exciting terrain. The views of the mountains and jungle were beautiful. The ride took us to a second staging area where the saddles were taken off the horses and we changed into swimwear to remount. We rode the horses into a beautiful cove of the ocean and rode while they ran and swam underwater. It was truly exhilarating! After the swim, the saddles were put back on the horses and we rode 20-30 minutes back to the main ranch. All of the men on the farm were friendly and helpful. One even carried our camera for the first 10 minutes and snapped action shots along the way.
Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s most popular attractions, believed to be the site of the famous Battle of Las Chorreras in 1657 between the Spaniards and English for possession of this beautiful island. Today, Dunns River Falls is the perfect place to experience the thrill of climbing a waterfall and enjoying lush tropical foliage of ferns, bamboos, ginger lilies, orchids, a variety of palms and breadfruit trees. You can also take advantage of the soothing effects of the water as it cascades over the rocks and down to the sea to the ‘massage parlor!’
Grand Turk, Turks Islands
Grand Turk is the capital island of the famous Turks & Caicos and features the perfect mix of excitement on land and by sea. While it’s not new to Holland America Line, it’s relatively new to the cruise industry and among the most beautiful of all the Caribbean ports. Cockburn Town is the islands’ center piece and features plenty of Colonial-style historical buildings. Here, you can visit the Turks and Caicos National Museum or enjoy shopping. You can also visit nearby Gibb’s Cay, an uninhabited island that is the perfect spot for a day of sun, sand and relaxation. But for one of Grand Turks’ greatest attractions, you’ll have to be ready to get wet!
If you love to SCUBA, you probably already know what you will be doing during a call at Grand Turk: the Certified SCUBA tour. About a quarter mile from the western beaches at Grand Turk, the sea floor drops 7,000 feet. Just at the edge, divers will find the Grand Turk Wall, a world-famous reef that is teeming with incredible saline. Turks & Caicos boasts the third-largest barrier reef in the world, and SCUBA divers can take at least some of it in with the Certified Scuba tour. Guests are outfitted at a dive shop near the port and receive a safety briefing before departing by boat to the dive site. Guests will have the opportunity to dive two different sites on the tour and take advantage of great visibility in the Caribbean’s clear waters. JMWDVM posted a review of the tour on the Holland America website and described it as a “totally terrific two tank dive.”
After a short walk down the beach from the pier, we board a powered catamaran and headed to the first dive site, Fin Bar Reef. The dive was a follow-the-divemaster with two groups of six buddied up. Down to 75 ft for 40 minutes on the wall we saw nurse sharks, plenty of reef fish and even a turtle. The second dive was to 55 ft for about 45 minutes with appropriate surface interval. Coral Gardens has beautiful open coral heads, fish and another turtle who followed us up to the surface.
If you don’t dive but still want to experience what divers from all over the world go to Grand Turk to see, take advantage of the Semi-Sub Exploration tour. You will cruise up the west coast of Grand Turk along the famous wall in the Oasis Yellow Semi-Submarine. Large windows provide full views of marine life along the way and the crew will point out different species of marine life. You will see a variety of stingrays, grouper, sharks, and schools of Caribbean fish, all while staying dry aboard your semi-sub.
If you want to see what Grand Turk has to offer shoreside, the Historic Grand Turk by Trolley Train tour is a great experience. The trolley departs the pier toward the historic town where your guide provides geographical and historical information about Turks & Caicos. You’ll pass the John Glen memorial and salt salinas as you learn about the island’s arid climate and the plant and wildlife it supports. Your tour continues along historic Duke Street to Front Street where you will have free time to snap photos or browse the local gift shops.
In February, March and April of this year, ms Ryndam will call at Banana Coast on a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise, roundtrip Tampa, Fla. The ship also calls at Key West, Fla.; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala; and Costa Maya, Mexico.
ms Westerdam will sail a seven-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary roundtrip Fort Lauderdale in October and November that features a call at Grand Turk, as well as Half Moon Key — another Holland America fan favorite; San Juan, Puerto, Rico; and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
With a 14-day Eastern/Western Collector cruise on ms Eurodam in October or November you can enjoy Falmouth; Grand Turk; and other excellent Caribbean ports including Georgetown, Cayman Islands; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten, among others.
If you’re taking a cruise that visits these ports, don’t forget that the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.
Have you visited any of these ports? Tell us what you did in the comments below.