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New Caribbean Port Coming in 2014

The first time we cruised to "Honduras" was about three years ago and the opportunity to do so was intriguing, since it was a country we had never visited…and it's always interesting to go somewhere new.

Then we looked at a map.

The ship — Norwegian's Epic — was visiting Roatan. Now technically, Roatan is part of Honduras. It's an island that sits in the Gulf of Honduras, the largest of three islands that make up one "department" or province of the 18 in this Central American country. Put it another way: the population of Honduras is about 8,000,000…the population of Roatan is just over 70,000.

Roatan has beaches and scuba diving and a tourist economy fueled by cruise ships. It is a long way from the country's capital, Tegucigalpa, ands not just geographically. The mainland has never really been a magnet for travelers, many of whom think it should stay that way. Honduras has been more of a hotspot for terrorism than tourism, with 300 wars or rebellions in its 200 years of independence. In a way, seeing Roatan as representative of its country is not unlike seeing Hawaii as representative of its country.

Anyway, things are changing.

There's a new cruise port on the Honduran mainland. It's called Banana Coast, it cost $30 million and it will be open for business next year. Holland America has committed to 11 port calls over the next two years, and Silversea's Silver Cloud will stop by in December 2014. And the pier is large enough to accommodate two "Oasis size" ships.

The port is called Trujillo, a Colonial city which once had Christopher Columbus as a visitor and which is, as the crow flies, is less than 50 miles across the Caribbean Sea from Roatan.

So it's still a long way from Tegucigalpa…and the "real" Honduras.

It's also a start.

Holland America Noordam
11 nights
August 15, 2013
Athens, Crete, Cairo, Rhodes, Ephesus, Mykonos, Istanbul
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $90

Dolphins in Honduras a Trip


ROATAN, Honduras — In anticipation of my upcoming "Dolphin Encounter" I wasn't sure who would be more scared, me or the dolphin. Since only one of us swims, it was logical that my fear factor would far exceed that of Mika, the 12-year-old mammal zipping around contained waters at Anthony's Key, on this popular Honduran island in the Caribbean.

This was a shore excursion from the Crown Princess, and I was looking forward to it just like I looked forward to the small-aircraft journey to a glacier on Alaska's Mount McKinley — my fear of heights is exceeded only by my fear of water.

Obviously, I lived to tell about both.

Mika and I both had company in the water. She had her trainer, Edgardo Farach, and her daughter, 18-month-old Polly. I had…where did he go, anyway?

Once I became accustomed to Mika's tail touching my legs, I was more or less able to relax. I did say more or less, right?

Even though she's a female, Mika and I don't have a lot in common. She consumes 40 pounds of food a day, or a little more than some people on cruise ships. She weighs 400 pounds. Please!

She likes to have her face in the water, makes noises through a hole on the top of her head and eats raw fish. None of those things apply to me. She's 12 years old, already has three kids and is nursing Polly while pregnant with child number three. Not so much.

Besides, Mika really puts on a show.

Those of you who have been on dolphin encounters probably already know what I learned this week. Training her and the other dolphins who perform takes two years — although I did forget to ask Edgardo why that didn't apply to 18-month-old Polly, who was doing tricks 50 feet away from her mother. Fast learner, I guess.

Dolphins live longer in captivity, where they're pampered, and for females "longer" can mean as much as 48 years. Well, at least I have her beaten in that department.

I also learned that by the time her latest child arrives, she'll have been pregnant for a year and for all but the last four months of it will continue to hunt stray fish, race through the water at speeds up to 25 miles an hour and "walk" on her tail with Polly by her side.

Mika and I do have one thing in common. They say if she was released into the wilds, she would probably die of starvation.

Me, too, Mika.

After 45 minutes in the water with her, I became quite fond of Mika. I miss having her around, though not as much as Princess Cruises and Edgardo are going to miss her when Mika's on maternity leave, because cruise ship passengers spend $135 to get to knew the dolphins at Anthony's Key.

On the other hand, Mika's just adding to a future pool of performers.

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
7 nights
May 18, 2013
Copenhagen (return): Alesund, Geiranger, Fiam, Bergen
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Cruising: A Chance to Escape

On Friday we happened to see our family physician, who has since left with his wife on a Caribbean cruise. Naturally, we were all ears.

This week they’re en route to Honduras, Grand Cayman and Mexico, from Fort Lauderdale, and since we’d been in all these places during the past six months we shared some experiences. As it turned out, they are not especially interested in Honduras, Grand Cayman and Mexico after all.

For them — his wife is also a doctor — it’s all about the ship, and even the ship doesn’t matter.

“Just so we don’t have to answer the phone,” he says.

It’s an escape. We hear about people who want to escape their climate at this time of year, and most of us can identify with that, and you don’t usually find cruise ships sailing in frigid waters.

Obviously, there’s also a cruise clientele that just wants to escape the busy world in which they work.

On a cruise ship. Any ship.

Cruisers like this can probably be found in the library, or sitting on a balcony, listening to the ocean go by.

It beats a ringing telephone.

Coral Princess
14 nights
April 10, 2012
Los Angeles, Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Fuerte Amador (Panama), Panama Canal, Cartagena (Colombia), Aruba, Fort Lauderdale
Inside $1,199

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