Cruise lines have been creating their own private ports of call around the Caribbean for many years now. What better way to capture the most possible revenue from their cruise passengers than to provide (corral them at) a secluded beach or resort facility at a spot the cruise line fully controls?
Cruise lines own private beaches and port facilities in the Bahamas, Haiti and Dominican Republic.
And Norwegian Cruise Line is due to open Harvest Caye in Belize in November 2016. What makes this project different is the importance that Norwegian Cruise Line and Belizean developers have placed on creating a destination focused on eco-tourism designed to reduce the impact on the pristine environment. Harvest Caye sits on a pair of adjoining islands offshore from the former fishing village of Placencia. Passengers also can venture to the mainland for excursions instead of being restricted to the private beach area as is the case in many other of these developments.
Environmentalists have raised questions about the project and its impact on the region. But Norwegian Cruise Line has taken steps to ensure that the experience embraces the importance of sustainable tourism. Visitors can relax on a seven-acre white-sand beach or jump in to enjoy a range of sports in the clear waters. But no jet-skis are allowed! (That is fantastic news.)
Or explore the rich biodiversity of the region with a tour that shows you the exotic plant and animal life, such as observing manatees in the lagoon or checking out the aviary, which is home to toucans and endangered scarlet macaws. (The aviary hosts a breed-and-release program aiming to boost the bird's numbers.) An educational center offers looks at indigenous reptiles like boa constrictors, and you can swing by the Butterfly Garden to view interesting insects.
A chief naturalist is employed to lead tours, discuss conservation efforts and talk about the wide range of wildlife native to Belize. As part of the port project, more than 10,000 new mangroves are being planted to boost the estuary system that serves as critical habitat for fish and birds.
Fun activities for the adventurous cruiser include a 3,000-foot-long zipline course, free-fall jumps, suspension bridges and a "Superman" tandem zipline jump. All this aerial action takes place at the 130-foot-tall Flighthouse structure.
Harvest Caye also features a 15,000 square-foot pool area with a swimup bar, shopping, restaurants and private cabanas for rent.
The facility will have the only cruise pier in Belize -- cruisers who visit other ports in Belize must take a tender boat ashore -- and Norwegian Cruise Line passengers who stop at Harvest Caye can take excursions, such as exploring Mayan ruins or river rafting, on the mainland.
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