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New cruise stop Harvest Caye captures beauty and bounty of Belize

Time:2016-11-18 10:57Shoes websites Click:

Cruise Belize Oceania Cruises Regent Seven Seas Cruises Norwegian Cruise Line

Harvest Caye - seven-acre beach, a Flighthouse for adrenaline jumps, 15,000-square-foot pool with swim-up bar, an aviary with toucans and scarlet macaws, and a butterfly garden (Photos: Anne Kalosh)

Harvest Caye - seven-acre beach, a Flighthouse for adrenaline jumps, 15,000-square-foot pool with swim-up bar, an aviary with toucans and scarlet macaws, and a butterfly garden (Photos: Anne Kalosh)

The Caribbean's newest cruise-line-created destination, Harvest Caye in southern Belize, offers a seven-acre, white sand beach, a water sports lagoon and an immense tropical pool. The lighthouse is actually a Flighthouse, the launch point for free-fall jumps and zip lines. Among the restaurants is a LandShark Bar & Grill, part of the Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville group.

Best of all, at Harvest Caye passengers will get immersed in Belize.

Garifuna drummers and dancers greet the ship. The landscaping is lush with frangipani, hibiscus and heliconia. There are toucans, scarlet macaws and blue morpho butterflies, local foods and artwork. The shops, bars and beach villas are dressed in mahogany and other native hardwoods. 

'I didn't want a typical cruise port with a shopping mall and a bus park. I wanted something unique, special, Belizean. I wanted this to have a real sense of place so you know you're in Belize,' said Colin Murphy, svp destination development, Norwegian Cruise Line, who led the development.

Unlike most 'out island' destinations, Harvest Caye has a dock so ships can come alongside, plus boat access to the mainland. From the marina large catamarans whisk passengers to nearby Malacate for excursions like river tubing, reef diving, Mayan ruins and estuary wildlife adventures.

'This is a quality stop. People are going to go on the cruise because of this,' predicted Jason O'Connell, founder of Oceana Tours in Montréal, which packages NCL cruises for Canadians. O'Connell was among a handful of trade partners and reporters who previewed Harvest Caye this week before the first ship arrives on Nov. 17.

'I think it's going to be the premier destination in the Western Caribbean,' Norwegian president and ceo Andy Stuart said. 'It's exceeded my expectations. The variety of experiences here really stands out. I feel like I've arrived in Belize, not just a cruise line destination.'

A lot of people will like the pool, Stuart added, and the beach 'goes forever.' The wildlife and conservation experience is unusual. Upscale passengers will enjoy the concierge-attended beach villas. Stuart also was impressed by the woodwork and the quality of the finishes.

'It feels like a very upscale destination,' he said.

Harvest Caye (pronounced 'key') is lapped by clear water and shaded by coconut palms. The trails are dotted with huge wood carvings of manatees, iguanas and a jaguar.

Passengers step from their ship onto a 1,200-foot pier shaded by a canvas canopy. They enter Harvest Caye through wrought-iron gates along a path lined with cooling misters. At a guest services building they can book excursions, get information from the Belize Tourism Board or check in for their beach villas and be transferred there by stretch golf carts.

In the village area colorful buildings house shops with Belizean wares, art, food, drinks and duty-free spirits, while kiosks feature smaller vendors. 'This will be a lively, upbeat area with music and a lot of life in it,' Murphy said.

'You won't see any high-end jewelry stores because you get that everywhere you turn. We didn't think it added. We made the decision to focus on local arts and crafts,' said Mike Reimers, Harvest Caye's director of destination development.

Passengers who booked mainland excursions embark a pair of 275-person catamarans or 60-seat motorboats for the 12-minute ride to Malacate, where buses are dispatched and large palapas shade the dock and waiting area.

On Harvest Caye itself, the beach awaits with cushioned lounge chairs and shells. The immense tropical pool—with 15,000 square feet of surface area and a volume of more than 300,000 gallons—has a waterfall, swim-up bar and curved edges to give more space for people to dangle their feet. Lifeguards watch over the beach and pool.

There are 11 luxurious air-conditioned beach villas, one of them ADA-compliant. They cater to six people each, and include a bathroom with shower, a deck, Bluetooth for music and concierge service. Ringing the pool are 15 rental cabanas.

Beside the pool, the LandShark Bar & Grill features a huge outdoor beer garden; seating for 244 in the air-conditioned lower level, where there are televisions over the bar and space for live music; and an open-air terrace above with about 60 seats. Burgers, ceviches and LandShark and the local Belikin beers are featured.

Additional bars and grills with different themes serve the beach, the pool and the marina.

Natural materials including mahogany and other native hardwoods and stones give a distinctive look to the buildings. The guest services building is made of local reddish granite, and a nature mural covers the wall. The LandShark Bar & Grill has coral stone walls and thick wood beams.

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