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Cruise port excursions have come a long way since the olden days of basic motor coach tours to local sites. Today, they’re exciting and adventurous, and designed to immerse cruise guests into local culture.
The newest excursions focus on “wow factor,” and are aimed at luring first-time cruisers while also holding the interest of repeat travelers who’ve done it all. Moreover, all cruise lines are now courting younger travelers who seek more dynamic vacations than their parents and grandparents did. Also, the demand for cultural experiences has increased, and cruise lines are obliging.
If you’re planning a trip to Belize, chances are you’ve already pulled up images of tucans perched in the jungle, the laid-back shores of Ambergris Caye, or maybe the view from top resorts like Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn and the luxury El Secreto, so named for its sense of deep seclusion and privacy. But what is it about this Central American tropical retreat, equipped with 240 miles of rugged coastline, that places it one step ahead of the pack from neighboring countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras?
A new tourism video released this week attempts to answer that question with a series of vivid snapshots (local villagers erupting into laughter, palm trees rustling in the breeze, white sailboats bobbing atop translucent blue-green waters) all edited into a two-and-a-half-minute sizzle reel. The campaign, captioned “Collect Memories Not Things,” is enough to make you want to book a flight and go. As in, tomorrow.
But what to do when you arrive? We’ve put together a mini guide of all things Belize, whether you’re planning a week-long stay in a seaside villa, or just a few days to catch the sights: Read more
Just an hour’s water taxi ride from Belize City, Ambergris Caye serves as the gateway to snorkeling at the world’s second largest barrier reef and diving at the infamous Blue Hole. While on the island, enjoy delicious seafood in the fishing village of San Pedro, incredible wildlife, and more. Here’s a guide to where to eat, what to do, and where to stay on “La Isla Bonita.” Read more
Belize has its share of trendy resorts and exclusive retreats, but you don’t have to spend a small fortune to enjoy its lush jungles, Mayan ruins, and Caribbean coastline. With a little planning, you can afford to snorkel, dive, and explore this exotic locale on any budget. Read more
If you’re an avid scuba diver or adventure junkie, you’ve probably heard of, or maybe even experienced the Great Blue Hole in the Belize Barrier Reef (an UNESCO World Heritage Site). Around 10,000 years ago, the hole’s roof collapsed to reveal the previously concealed cave below. Measuring at around 1,000 feet in diameter (and around 412 feet deep), the cave sits in the Lighthouse Reef and it is close to a perfect circle. Read more
The date – which marks the end of the Maya long-term calendar and, so say doomsday theorists, the end of the world – is expected to bring a surge of visitors to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador, the countries of the Mundo Maya. But even if you’re not headed there, you’ll surely be hearing about the hype of 12/21/12: the good, the bad, and the completely unfounded.
Enter Shannon Kring Buset, a world traveler, director, and tour guide to Maya lands who spent 18 months researching her award-winning documentary, 2012: The Beginning. In the film, Kring Buset dispels various doomsday myths through interviews with the world’s leading Maya archeologists, scholars, astronomers, shamans, and living Maya. “The people, places, stories, rituals, and even animals of the Maya world, both past and present, have enriched my life and the world in ways those of us in Western cultures are just beginning to understand,” she says. “I believe we owe it to them to enter their lands with respect and reverence, and to bring home the truth about this still great culture.”
Here are five of the most persistent myths, debunked. Fascinating stuff, no matter where you’ll be on the big day. Read more
Head south for an exotic getaway in Belize at a beachfront villa resort for $216 per night. This offer from Pelican Reef Villas Resort — ranked by TripAdvisor readers as the second best resort in Ambergris Caye – saves you 30 percent on rates earlier in the season.
Travel is available at this rate through December 21. For $14 more book a villa with an ocean view. For $42 more book a beachfront villa. All rates include daily complimentary breakfast.
Make yourself at home in a two-bedroom villa with a pool or garden view that includes a master bedroom with a queen bed and a private terrace, a master bath with a double vanity and Jacuzzi tub, a second bedroom with a queen bed and private bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen with granite counter tops, and a spacious living and dining area.
The boutique Pelican Reef Villas Resort is located on a secluded strip of white-sand beach in Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island. Amenities include a pool with a swim-up bar, an onsite restaurant, and numerous watersports. The resort’s friendly, attentive waitstaff earned recognition from the 2012 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for Best Service. Read more
Belize, one of the countries that’s part of the Mundo Maya, has been enjoying a spike in tourism this year, with travelers flocking to experience firsthand the activities leading up to the end of the Maya long count calendar. Not surprisingly, prices for hotels and airfare have surged to meet the higher demand.
But there are still deals to be had, including this one that recently hit my inbox: an impressive 45 percent off a fishing trip by Frontiers Travel at the Turneffe Flats Lodge, located on the Turneffe Atoll, the Caribbean’s largest and most diverse coral atoll. The reduced rate is $1,950 per person, which includes six nights’ accommodation, guided fishing and diving excursions, all meals (though not alcohol or, surprisingly, even soft drinks), Belize taxes, and transport to and from Belize City. Read more
If you’re thinking of visiting Belize for a reef-meets-rainforest romantic getaway or honeymoon, there are still a few months left to make it happen before the rainy season ups the humidity (from July through October). One of Belize’s top destinations, especially for divers and snorkelers who want to explore Hol Chan Marine Reserve (I have never seen more varieties of fish in one spot!) and the Blue Hole (a very cool landmark that’s a 400-foot-deep sinkhole in the reef), is Ambergris Caye. A long, slender barrier island, Ambergris is home to a wide array of beach resorts and the whimsically ramshackle town of San Pedro, where there seem to be more golf carts zipping by than on a public course on a busy holiday weekend. On a recent visit, I discovered that each of the island’s resorts has a distinctly different personality (that’s the sexy and eclectic ambiance of Matachica Resort & Spa shown at left), so read on for details on four top properties to see which is right for you:
March 20, the spring equinox, marks the first major date of 2012 for the Maya Long Count calendar. The hype has already caused a bump in tourism at many already-popular sites throughout the Mundo Maya, but with a little advance planning, you can carve out some solitude (and preserve your sanity) while contemplating the enduring mysteries of the Maya civilization at their remarkable ruins.
While visiting the sites of Chichén Itza, Cobá and Tulum in the Riviera Maya, I was fortunate enough to have access to Dr. Julia Miller, an archeologist specializing in Maya culture and architecture and tour guide for the Mérida-based operator Catherwood Travels. Below, a rundown of some of Miller’s input from my incessant questions, as well as some practical tips on how to maximize your visit to the Mundo Maya. Read more
For the past decade, fans of the ABC reality series “The Bachelor” have followed a revolving door of love-seeking (and in some cases, fame-seeking) Bachelors and Bachelorettes to sexy and romantic destinations around the world. Some of these forays showcase these places to their fullest (Ali in Tahiti, Brad in South Africa). In others, the drama and rivalry (which are really on display this season) can draw viewer attention away from the destination’s beauty and charm. Still, sun, fun, and lots of lip locks have made all three beach destinations featured in the 16th season of “The Bachelor” – Vieques (shown above at left), Panama, and Belize – look pretty appealing. Here’s what you saw as Bachelor Ben and his Bachelorettes frolicked, as well as a few things the cameras missed: Read more
Just a few days into 2012, tour operators and travel companies in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras – the four countries also known as the Mundo Maya – have ramped up their promotions for the coming year, which marks the end of the Maya Long Count calendar on December 21.
More on the significance of the date below (hint: It has very little to do with the movie 2012), but it also means the coming months will see a surge in Maya-themed packages, trips, and offerings, with varying degrees of value and quality. One that recently hit my inbox appears to exceed the mark in terms of authenticity and adventure, while being supremely affordable: the Maya 2012 Passport, launched by the Belize Tourism Board. Read more
Hotels and hideaways have long provided a great base and an idyllic backdrop for romance, illicit or otherwise. Once in your own private oasis, away from the demands of everyday life, romance is on the rise, and senses are easily aroused. Whether it’s a romantic rendezvous, a destination wedding and honeymoon, or an anniversary, we found six top notch properties – one for each of the senses (the sixth included).
SIGHT: Aman at Summer Palace; Beijing, China
If you were in search of a palatial Asian estate to call your own, look no further than Aman at Summer Palace. This picturesque property away from Beijing’s bustling city center is adjacent to the 250-year-old World Heritage site, The Summer Palace. The stunning aesthetics and design are a mix of original dwellings used for guests of the Summer Palace at the turn of the 20th century with Ming Dynasty-inspired design, recreated to seamless perfection.
After a week of touring in China’s must-see cities (Beijing and Shanghai), retreat for a few days to an exclusive deluxe or imperial suite with private spa treatment rooms, enclosed internal courtyards, spacious bathrooms with island bathtubs, private dining areas, and bedrooms with a four poster bed and a Ming-style armoire.
The Luxury Located just outside the town of San Ignacio in western Belize and set amidst lush tropical fauna, the 15-room Ka’ana Boutique Resort focuses on a commitment to the environment and local culture. The Adopt-a-School Summer Package gives guests a chance to share that commitment – on four-night stays, guests pay for only three nights while on the fourth night donate a nominal $18 for a local school’s scholarship program. There’s also the option to visit the school while staying at the resort.
The Value With the “free” night taken into account, rates for the four-night package drop to $594/night, close to a 25 percent savings. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your donation really makes a difference in the local community. The offer is available through November 15.
The Catch Ka’ana is about an hour from the main international airport in Belize City; the resort provides airport transfers for $150 each way.
If lobster is one of the your favorite foods (and you enjoy sharing it with someone special) mark your summer travel calendars for these four very different opportunities – from romantic to rowdy – to indulge in all the tender, buttery crustaceans you can eat.
Lobster Lovers Itinerary from Absolute Belize: Belize, a friendly, sunny Central American country, marks the beginning of its annual lobster season each June (Belize lobsters are shown above at left) with the weeklong San Pedro Lobsterfest (www.sanpedrolobsterfest.com) on Ambergris Caye.
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