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Friday File: Beaches With A Difference

So many places visited by cruise ships have beaches, or beaches nearby, because — let’s face it — everybody’s thinking about finding somewhere warm with the coming months of winter. But beaches are more than just silk sand and warm water, as you will see from a few that we’ve discovered from cruising…

St. Maarten

Perhaps the only beach in the world where you get this close to an airplane in flight, and a regular tourist attraction when cruisers visit Philipsburg, St. Martin​.

Juno

This beach is often empty, like this, but 70 years ago on the northern coast of France Juno Beach was populated with thousands of soldiers in World War II.

Progreso

When Carnival sends its Fantasy to sail out of Mobile next year, one of its three ports of call will be a pretty place called Progeso on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Grand Turk

At Grand Turk, there’s an uncommon shady spot close to the water for cruisers who like going to the beach without being obsessed with getting a suntan..

Ambleside

Cruisers going to Alaska from Vancouver, like the ones this Holland America ship, always pass Ambleside Beach after crossing under the Lions Gate Bridge.

Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen heads the growing popularity of Riviera Maya's beach properties on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, a short ferry ride from Cozumel.

In the news…

• Cunard offering free balcony upgrade on Transatlantic crossings starting October 29
• P&O's first alcholic beverage package on Pacific Pearl may extend to fleet of five ships

Today at portsandbows.com: The return of Carnival to Mobile, Alabama


Caribbean Princess
7 nights
January 17, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Roatan, Belize
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.princess.com

A Mark Spitz Experience For Windstar

Mark SpitzBefore Michael Phelps, there was Mark Spitz.

Seven swimming gold medals at an Olympics the world almost wished had never happened…Munich, 1972. At the Games where 11 men of his faith perished at the hands of terrorists, Spitz set world records in all his events, an achievement which surely would have dominated Munich.

Spitz parlayed his fame into becoming a motivational speaker. An actor on TV and in the movies. An ongoing spokesman for any number of products. A real-estate tycoon of sorts.

And now, an exclusive host with an exclusive cruise line.

Spitz is the first celebrity host Windstar Cruises has signed up for its “Private Event” program. In two weeks, shortly before his 65th birthday, he’ll be in the Caribbean on a Windstar ship, entertaining and educating the Wind Surf’s 310 guests. It’s the launch of an itinerary called Yachtsman’s Caribbean.

The 7-day cruise begins, and ends, at Philipsburg, St. Maarten. It takes in ports none of the world’s big ships can get close to, such as Prickly Pear Beach in the British Virgin Islands and the site of his signature event. He’ll conduct swimming classes for guests who want to improve their (you name it) stroke. He’ll do a lecture on the Wind Surf. He’llWind Surfdine with some guests. And he’ll just be there, being Mark Spitz, for passengers who want to rub shoulders with a great Olympian.

Michael Phelps, not long retired and still dabbling with the idea of a comeback, might take note.

Forty years down the road…

Today at portsandbows.com: Greatest of all luxury ships?

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
February 28, 2015
San Juan (return): St. Croix, St. Kitts, Roseau, Grenada, St. Thomas
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.celebritycruises.com

Philipsburg Flying Unforgettable For All

In a travel conversation this weekend with two family members who recently visited the Eastern Caribbean, the question was asked:

“What was the most memorable thing about St. Maarten?”

The answer was unanimous.

The planes.

On the outskirts of Philipsburg is Princess Juliana International Airport. At one end of the runway is a beach called Maho Bay. That’s literally at the end of the runway. People go Philipsburgthere to watch planes land.

For us, it was last year, so we passed the recommendation on to our son and daughter-in-law. We’d arrived on the Explorer of the Seas. They’d arrived by plane, which meant flying over the heads of people they would soon join.

Hundreds of cruise passengers regularly gather on the beach (or in the bar on the beach) to wait for the next plane to arrive. Nobody bothers to check a flight schedule. It’s the Caribbean way.

Sure enough, here comes a jet and…whoosh…just like that, it has flown over your head faster than the shutter speed of your camera, which inevitably misses the mark. No problem. Wait for the next jet. Whoosh again…empty air again.

This is billed as “the closest you’ll ever come to a plane in flight without being on the plane” and it is hard to imagine being any closer. Big and small, the planes look like they’re going to land on the beach or, worse yet, on you. The jets are especially low because they have to be…touch down is  right there on the other side of the road.

Maho Bay is about a half hour from Philipsburg, capital of the Dutch half of the island known as St. Maarten in the south and Saint-Martin in the north, where it is governed by the French. The half-hour bus ride costs $2. Lunch in the beach bar is about ten times that, just for the food.

Whatever the costs, it’s worthwhile. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be writing — and you wouldn’t be reading — about the subject of a weekend family discussion.

Today at portsandbows.com: Oceania ramps up for 2015-16

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
September 28, 2014
New York (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68
www.ncl.com

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