All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2017 unless otherwise noted.
Monday, February 20, 2017
As MARINA continued along the Cuban coast to Belize for a full sea day, we had the chance to inspect some of the ship’s other stateroom categories. All of the sumptuous top grade suites (see Decked! feature) were occupied but we did get to hone in on one of the 420-square-foot Penthouse Suites on Deck 11. They boast longer than standard balconies and a nice sitting area with a large window to peer out of.
The layout and decor of the 282-square-foot standard Veranda Staterooms was basically identical to my Concierge Level Veranda Stateroom, minus some of the perks, like cashmere lap blankets, Concierge Lounge access and shoe shining. For the photo’s sake, I was happy that the duvet runner was in place.
Seventeen 242-square-foot Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms are pretty much identical to Standard Veranda Staterooms, minus the veranda.
After the stateroom tour, there was a set menu “tasting lunch” in the spectacular Red Ginger Asian fusion restaurant. We enjoyed it so much, we immediately made reservations to return for dinner that night. For the rest of the afternoon, we took in a fantastic enrichment lecture on Mayan civilization by Sandy Cares, tea in Horizons and time in the gym.
We were rewarded with a dramatic sunset between our workouts and dinner.
No bones about it, Red Ginger is one of the finest dining experiences afloat. Like most of MARINA’s specialty restaurants, there is no cover fee but reservations are required. We lucked out in securing our 8:30 slot in the otherwise fully booked venue.
Both decoratively and experience-wise, the detailing is remarkable, from custom chargers that would make Jackson Pollack proud to…
…the selection of chopsticks and….
…a tea menu featuring actual leaves and not bags.
In the far aft section of the restaurant, a window peers into Red Ginger’s “open kitchen” style galley.
And the courses were varied and spectacular, beginning with a crispy vegetable tempura.
The miso soup may not just be the best I’ve ever had at sea but the best anywhere.
It was difficult to hone in on one entrée but I eventually settled on the coconut curried chicken, which was very tender and had a nice little “bite”. Just the right amount of “spicy” and a perfect complement to a frosty glass of Tsing Tao beer.
My traveling companion Rob ordered the Miso Glazed Sea Bass and was on the verge of ecstatic. We practically closed the restaurant and by the time our dessert was polished off, so was the mainstage show in the Marina Lounge. So, after lime-enhanced Pellegrino waters (no charge, thanks to Oceania’s recently implemented beverage program that includes soft drinks, espresso drinks and bottled waters) in Horizons, we called it a night.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
I have read quite a bit about Norwegian Cruise Line Holding’s (Oceania’s parent company) new Harvest Caye (pronounced “key”) private island attraction in Belize, so was happy to see what all the fuss is about. When we awoke, MARINA was already secured alongside its long, canvas-covered jetty.
I hailed a cappuccino-to-go from Baristas before joining our press group on a quick, private tour of the $70 million, 55-acre site, located on a 78-acre island a mile off the coast of Belize.
The awning on the jetty was much appreciated on what might best be described as a steamy morning in Belize.
Once guests cross the Harvest Caye portals, they are “misted”.
Of the myriad attractions in Harvest Caye, a morpho butterfly sanctuary is shared by a troupe of lethargic, (thankfully) vegetarian iguanas.
Double doors help ensure that the delicate creatures remain safely within their confines. These stunning butterflies, which were almost poached to extinction so that their iridescent wings could adorn ashtrays and baubles, have a lifespan of 115 days. As adults, they feast on rotting fruit.
Few species are more beguiling in the animal kingdom than the brilliant blue morpho menelaus, native to the rainforests of Central and South America. Along with the morphos, Harvest Caye is home to an aviary with toucans and macaws. It also has a boa constrictor showcase and the adjacent salt water lagoon is often visited by manatees.
What appears to be a lighthouse is actually a 130-foot tall Flighthouse, a structure that serves as a zip-lining and free fall platform. On the latter, guests can choose between a 100-, 60- or 40-foot drop that will land them gently into the sand below. The charge to use the full round of zip lines and free falls is $79 per person that can, along with any of the other available amusements, food and souvenirs, be levied to the guest’s stateroom account.
At the center of Harvest Caye, there is a 15,000-square-foot pool area lined with lagoons, islands and a wet bar. And the air conditioned Land Shark Bar and Grill is only steps away.
For those seeking a dip in the salty brine, there is a 2,000-foot long beach lined with deck chairs and cabanas.
At the far end of the Caye, there are 11 air conditioned Villas that can accommodate up to 10 guests each.
For $249.00, they offer an interior living room, a deck with loungers, hammock, concierge service, chilled water, soft drinks and complimentary access to the Flighthouse zip lines and free falls as well as the “villa section” of the beach. If shared by a full complement, they actually offer a great value.
When we returned to Harvest Caye later that morning, we mustered a bit of foolhardy courage to give the zip lines a try. In the base of the Flighthouse, there is a place to don harnesses and get a quick lesson on what not to do once “on line”.
Just getting to the line required baby steps. Once hooked up, I tried to keep the rampant acrophobia in check by not looking down.
Even that couldn’t stop a steady stream of epithets from echoing over the lagoon. At the other end, there were two more short runs, which required more-than-somewhat unnerving canopy walks to complete.
After the Lagoon Run, it was back to the tower to gear up for the Superman Run.
It’s one thing to go over feet first and quite another to get strung up like a side of beef and fly face first over a 1,300-foot-long line, coming to an abrupt stop a few feet above the lagoon!
We had earned our time in the Villa and on the beach.
Hours later, as MARINA began her short voyage segment to Roatan, we gathered in the Culinary Arts center for a cooking class with Chef Kathryn Kelly.
At each station, the ingredients were handily laid out for our lesson on cooking with lemon, Italian style.
In the next 90 minutes, we would be preparing a lemon chicken scallopini, a savory risotto, a lemon-soaked cake and even get a quick Limoncello-making lesson.
By the end, we had cooked and consumed an entire meal and dessert with a dollop of homemade lemon ice cream. And to think that all of this was followed with a dinner under the stars at the Terrace Cafe.
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."