PUERTO PLATA AND AMBER COVE

The last time I was in the Dominican Republic was the summer of 1977 when I was fifteen years old and getting ready to enter the 11th grade of high school.  It still boggles my mind to think that was forty(!) years ago.  How can that be?  I don’t even feel forty years old!

That summer of 1977, my parents took us four kids on a cruise aboard NCL’s MS Skyward.  It was our first (and only) cruise as a family, and it was my first time out of the country.

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That’s me with our tour guide in Puerto Plata, 40 years ago at the age of 15 (with a little more hair, and a few more pounds on my frame).

I was curious to see if I would remember any of Puerto Plata, and Bruce had never been there before.  Not knowing what to spend our Vacations to Go shipboard credit on, we decided to take a Fathom excursion, “Best of Puerto Plata,” on our free afternoon in the DR.

The great thing about historical sites is they don’t change.  I was sure to recognize Fort San Felipe since it was built 1564-1577!  I did (sort of) remember it.  Here is what it looked like from the eyes of a fifty-five-year-old:

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We also visited the Brugal Rum Factory.  Unfortunately, the factory was closed for the day, so we didn’t get to see it in action.

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Here are more scenes from Puerto Plata:

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Plaza Independencia

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Back at the port, Amber Cove was bustling when Carnival or Holland America shared the pier with Fathom’s Adonia and increased the tourist population by thousands.  A well-designed port with a variety of recreational activities covering 25 acres, Carnival Cruises sunk $90 million dollars into the facility and opened it for their ten cruises lines’ ships in 2015.

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Amber Cove features a gorgeous meandering pool that is free to use, and other activities for a charge, including:  zipline, kayak and other watersport rentals, and cabana rentals.  There is also a restaurant, bars, and a shopping village.

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I had my eye on the pool, so I spent one late afternoon swimming while Bruce kicked back on a lounger.

Shopping options included a mercado with local handicrafts, so I picked up this purse made from coconut palms for Melody back in Vero Beach.  For me, I added to my chocolate label collection by picking up a couple of chocolate bars produced by one of Chocal’s competitors.  Shhh!

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We were impressed with Amber Cove.  It was a beautiful place to relax and enjoy during our free time in Puerto Plata!

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Next up:  It’s a Wrap:  Fathom’s Impact on the Dominican Republic

 

 

 

 

 

FATHOM- A UNIQUE WAY TO GIVE BACK

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There are so many different ways to open your heart, and give back to society.  Whether it’s through volunteering in your own community, joining an overseas mission with a church, or opening up your wallet; it all helps make our world a better place.

Carnival Cruises presented a unique opportunity to give back by launching Fathom, their one-ship (“Adonia”) cruise line and presenting the concept of “Impact Travel,” Carnival’s trademarked name for cruising with a purpose.

Taking the focus off the “it’s all about me” attitude of passengers that cruise companies cater to, most people who book a Fathom cruise do so with the purpose of participating in several of the Impact Travel volunteer opportunities available on shore in the Dominican Republic.  Although volunteering is not required, typically 95% of the passengers on most of the cruises have done so, since Fathom launched in April 2016.  (Unfortunately, though, as I explained in my previous post, Fathom will cease to exist at the end of May this year.  More details will follow in a later post.)

Once aboard ship, we discovered a “feel” among the passengers unlike anything we had previously experienced during our years as guest lecturers/ craft instructors.  Instead of an attitude of entitlement (“What’s in it for me?”), many of the passengers we talked to were eager to arrive in Puerto Plata, in the Dominican Republic (“the DR”) and volunteer during each of our 3-1/2 days in port.  For those who didn’t sign up online ahead of time for the available volunteer activities, they were disappointed to learn many of them were booked full.  (All opportunities were located a bus ride away from the port, requiring buses to transport volunteers to their activities.)

Wait lists were started for the various activities, but the lists grew longer as passengers came back after the first day of volunteering and shared their excitement about the impact they had made through their efforts.

In addition, passengers were only permitted to sign up online in advance for three activities– one for each full day; however, groups were dispatched in the morning and afternoon allowing for doubling up each day in some cases.  As enthusiasm grew for volunteering, several passengers added to their three activities; so, they could make more of a positive impact on this impoverished country.

This is the attitude of the typical Fathom passenger.  Most didn’t care about the lack of over-the-top amenities and entertainment now standard on the newest mega-ships.  Instead, passengers lingered over coffee in the dining room after dinner and shared their experiences of the day.  The most common question asked was, “What ‘Impact’ activity did you do today?”  That was often followed by asking, “How was it?”  Passengers eagerly spoke proudly of the impact their group made that day.  For those who worked at Chocal, we shared the all-important numbers:  pounds of cacao beans sorted, pounds of cacao nibs sorted from shell fragments, quantity of chocolate bars wrapped or packaged; and, at the nursery, the quantity of bags filled with dirt and seedlings planted.  (When those numbers were revealed during the bus ride back to ship, the passengers broke out in applause and cheers.)

Think back on the last cruise you took, if you have taken an ocean cruise.  Does any of this sound familiar to you?  I didn’t think so…

Next up:  PREPARING TO MAKE AND IMPACT

Adonia, as we depart Miami:

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The Adonia was a former Renaissance cruise ship and has a capacity of 704 passengers.

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The Ocean Grill was an alternative dining room with a $25pp charge.

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This very cool huge photo of a diver was on the stairway landing wall on the way to the gym and spa.

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We were given a free upgrade to an outside cabin.  The large window was nice to have!  Behind me are the closets and bathroom.

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Miami

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Notice the backed-up traffic heading towards the beach.  Ugh!

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This bridge leads to homes of the 1%-ers.

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It takes a 1%-er to own a house and yacht like that!

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Ditto!