Welcome again to another edition of the Ultimate World Cruise Itinerary blog series. For new readers, the itinerary is charted by our community on board MV Narrative, the world’s most eco-friendly luxury residential ship. We are featuring destinations requested by some of our future residents who will be living on board the vessel, which circumnavigates the globe every three years.
So far, we have covered:
- Eastern Mediterranean
- Middle East
- South East Asia
- Australia and New Zealand
- South Pacific
- North America
- South America
For this post, we will be exploring the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean Islands, including the requested destinations:
- Turks & Caicos
- Cape Verde
- Canary Islands
We will also randomly pick some off-the-beaten-path islands and bays to anchor in and explore by zodiac. There will also be options to represent the above request for scuba and the Caribbean Sea.
The Caribbean is one of the world’s most popular cruise and sailing destinations. That is hardly surprising due to the abundant natural beauty, warm equatorial climate, smooth sailing and diverse cultures.
Jamaica is the third largest island in the western Caribbean. It has a difficult history, with Spanish colonists all but exterminating the native Taino people, followed by England bringing enslaved Africans to work the sugar plantations. There is a lot more to Jamaica than beautiful beaches and there is a lot to learn when you get there. As a community of global citizens, our residents understand that it’s important to be culturally sensitive everywhere we travel.
The national language is English, but Jamaican Creole is also widely spoken. It’s a lot of fun communicating with the locals with this combination of dialects. You’ll find yourself asking them to ‘slow down’ a lot so you can understand everything. Kingston (Bob Marley’s hometown) is the capital, but we’re looking at Montego Bay as the place to dock.
Montego Bay Pier can accommodate up to four cruise ships. There’s a tourist information booth at the terminal.
Montego Bay must see:
- Doctor’s Cave Beach: Want a white sand beach with crystal clear waters with curative qualities? At least that’s what a famous British osteopath believed after discovering the water is fed by mineral springs.
- The Hip Strip: This ultra-cool and famous street near Doctor’s Cave Beach is packed with shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and entertainment. Don’t miss it.
- Martha Brae River Raft: Whoever requested ‘jungle destinations’, this one is for you! This romantic and peaceful journey on a bamboo raft takes you down the jungle-fringed river while being serenaded with reggae songs by your local guide.
- Rose Hall Great House Night Tour (pictured above): Known as one of the most haunted places on Earth, this restored plantation home from 1770 overlooks the sea and once housed the infamous Annie Palmer, AKA the White Witch of Rose Hall, who was, unfortunately, adept at black magic. There have been several reports of seeing the White Witch on these tours.
- Dunn’s Falls: These falls cascade down 180m of smooth limestone steps with pools for swimming in. About a 90 min drive from Montego Bay, the falls make for a great day trip.
- Nine Mile: In the same area as Dunn’s Falls, the birthplace of legendary reggae artist Bob Marley is Nine Mile. This Dunn’s Falls and Nine Mile combo tour gets excellent ratings.
- Jungle zip lining: This one is for kids and adults alike. Get your adrenalin rush by ziplining through the jungle canopy. One of the longest in the northern hemisphere!
- Ras Natango Gallery and Garden: This eco-tourism gem aligns perfectly with Storylines principles. The Wilson family recycles and repurposes everything on the beautiful property that overlooks Montego Bay, and they provide educational tours at their garden on environmental ethics.
There are countless incredible scuba diving spots in the Caribbean Sea, but here are three renowned locales.
Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
The second largest reef in the world, Belize Barrier Reef, is home to the famous Blue Hole, a seemingly bottomless pit with no ocean floor. There are also well-known dive sites such as Turneffe Atoll, Ambergris Caye, and the nine islands. We should be able to anchor outside the reef and zodiac in. Expect to see incredibly colorful corals, loggerhead turtles, and possibly whale sharks, depending on the season.
Cozumel dive sites are renowned for their excellent visibility, drift dives and diverse marine life, including dolphins, turtles, nurse sharks, moray eels and colorful tropical fish. We will seek out Playa Mia, where you can snorkel in the Underwater Mayan City. Non-divers can tender ashore and visit the above-water Mayan ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
Silver Bank is a humpback breeding spot off the coast of the Dominican Republic and one of only three places in the world where you can safely swim with humpback whales. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in 2015 that Silver Bank and its neighbor Navidad Bank has the most significant North Atlantic humpback whale population.
Turks & Caicos
Not far from Silver Bank and the Dominican Republic are the twin island gems of Turks & Caicos. The British Overseas Territory archipelago consists of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Its luxury resorts, shopping, pristine white-sand beaches and clear aquamarine waters are well known. Also, a treat for scuba divers is a 14-mile barrier reef on the gateway island, Provo, and a massive 2,134m underwater wall off Grand Turk island.
MV Narrative will dock in the first-class facility of Grand Turk Cruise Center, which has direct beach access amid 14 acres of landscaped surrounds. It’s impressive, to say the least. You’ll also have a 45,000 sq. ft duty-free shopping center selling everything from luxe jewelry to hand-crafted local souvenirs, all within the cruise center. However, we suggest exploring some of the Caribbean’s best beaches, snorkeling and diving sites.
Turks & Caicos must-see:
- Little Water Cay: AKA Iguana Island, this gem is only accessible by boat charter...for regular tourists! But you’re no regular tourist; you’re living the dream and can take a quick 15-minute jaunt by zodiac from your ship’s marina to this most diverse nature reserve. It has some of the most pristine beaches and waters imaginable, as well as a population of approximately 5,000 endangered rock Iguanas.
- Grand Turk: Head down to the marina once again for scuba and snorkel gear because Grand Turk is an underwater wonderland and the third-largest barrier reef in the world. Pick from over 40 different dive sites with excellent visibility due to the crystal clear waters, including the Great Wall and Smith’s Reef.
- Cockburn Town: Stroll around this charming old town full of colorful British colonial architecture from the 17th century. Here, you will also find the Turks and Caicos National Museum.
- Pillory Beach: Also in Cockburn Town is one of the best beaches, Pillory Beach, with the whitest sand and clearest aquamarine waters.
- Governor’s Beach: Another immaculate beach in Cockburn Town, but this one has an old shipwreck just meters from the water’s edge that you can swim around.
- Paddle-board Chalk Sound National Park: time to break out the paddle boards from the marina as the calm shallow waters surrounded by rocky cliffs make for perfect conditions. The water is so clear, you will see abundant marine life, including sea turtles and nurse sharks.
- Hike Crossing Place Trail: This 4.6-mile trek takes you along the gorgeous coastline, secluded beaches and conch caves.
- Sunset at Grace Bay Beach: What better way to finish the day than watching one of the Caribbean’s best sunsets from what is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Grace Bay Beach.
Atlantic Ocean Islands
We’ve already explored the south Atlantic Ocean, including Brazil, the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Further north, we discovered the rugged and impossibly scenic Saint Helena. There are also some fantastic gems further north, which we will explore as we cross the mid-Atlantic ridge.
Crossing the South Atlantic Ocean, you’ll be happy to stretch your legs on a lesser-known island nation after a few sea days. Welcome to Cape Verde. Located off the west coast of Senegal in northern Africa, the Republic of Cape Verde is a former Portuguese colony. As such, Portuguese is the national language. It played a dark role in the Atlantic slave trade due to its convenient location. The archipelago consists of ten volcanic islands, making it a hiker’s paradise.
Mindelo’s deep water port is the main island used for cruise ships. It’s about a 15-minute walk into town or a $5 shuttle bus ride. Mindelo is the cultural capital and by far the most exciting city of the Cape Verde islands. It’s set amongst a picturesque bay with charming colonial buildings, cobbled streets and fantastic nightlife. But mainly, Cape Verde is all about the cultural sites and excellent hiking.
Cape Verde must-see:
- Palácio do Povo: The People’s Palace is a public building of beautiful colonial architecture, yet more of a style of India.
- Centro Nacional de Artesanato e Design: A cultural center, the National Centre for Art, Crafts, and Design, where you can view Cape Verdeans’ contemporary and traditional art.
- Santa Maria village: Take a stroll around this charming village on the island of Sal and try one of the many restaurants.
- Santa Maria Beach: This beach is located on the island of Sal and has excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities from the shore.
- Praia de Chaves on Boa Vista: One of the most beautiful beaches is surrounded by golden sand dunes and has crystal clear waters.
- Santa Monica on Boa Vista: More than 11 km long, this beautiful beach of brilliant colors is entirely surrounded by unspoiled nature, and you will find a section all to yourself.
- Hike a volcano: Cape Verde is renowned for hiking, with plentiful trails. A popular one is Cha das Caldeiras to the eerie remains of Pico do Fogo on the island of Fogo.
Cape Verde contribution opportunity - adopt a hatchling
Project Biodiversity is a Cape Verdean non-profit organization that aims to save the loggerhead turtle from extinction. The loggerhead turtle nests on the island of Sal from June to October, one of the most critical nesting sites in the world. If you happen to be there during this time, you can do a guided night tour to witness the incredible natural phenomenon. If you donate and ‘adopt a hatchling’ you can also name one.
Canary Islands, Spain
We’re heading north now up the coast of the western Sahara to the Canary Islands, a Spanish territory. They are an archipelago comprised of Tenerife, La Gomera La Palma, Gran Canaria and Ferro islands. The original inhabitants of the Canary Islands were the Guanches, but, like many places we visit, they were conquered by Europeans: in this case, the Spanish. The islands are known for their historical significance, national parks and diverse cultures. They have been a popular tourism destination for Europeans since the 1950s.
Santa Cruise de Tenerife is the leading cruise port and most likely where we will dock. It’s also relatively new, pleasant and modern. The Port Authority kindly provides free shuttle buses to take you to Plaza de Espana, the town center. However, it is a lovely walk into town. Tenerife is the largest of the Canaries and has a reputation as one of the most scenically breathtaking islands in the world. But every island has its own appeal and attractions, so we might as well explore the other islands as well.
Canary Islands must-see:
- The Museum of Nature and Man: This significant establishment houses the most essential archeological findings on the island.
- Los Gigantes Cliffs: Hopefully, you’ll cruise alongside these cliffs (on Teneriffe) because they are, well, gigantic!
- Hike Teide National Park: One of four stunning national parks in the Canaries; Teide is on Teneriffe and features Teide Volcano.
- Taburiente National Park: On La Palma Island is another incredible national park. Hike to La Cumbrecita Viewpoint for some awe-inspiring views.
- The historic town of Arucas: Church of San Juan Bautista is the island’s most iconic cathedral. The town also features charming little restaurants serving authentic cuisine.
- The gorgeous town of Teror: Wander around the cobbled lanes and admire the colorful homes and the historic basilica.
- Sunset at Mirador De La Peña: Take a bottle of Spanish vino up to this lookout for sundowners.
- Swim in Charco Azul: These are volcanic creations of gorgeous turquoise waters, perfect for taking a dip.
- La Gomera Island: This impossibly beautiful island has many must-see nature sites, such as Roque Agando, Hermigua and the imposing El Monumento Natural de Los Roques.
Crossing the Atlantic now to the autonomous region of Portugal, the Azores. Situated in the remote north Atlantic Ocean, west of Portugal, the Azores are an archipelago of nine spectacular volcanic islands created over a million years ago. Ships often cruise into Ponta Delgada port on Sao Miguel Island, the region’s capital city, but there is so much more to explore.
Let’s hope to arrive in spring or summer as the Azores can get harsh, rainy winters. Plus, we could experience Noites de Verao (Nights of Summer), a summer festival held in Campo do Sao Francisco square. Attracting locals and tourists alike, vendors sell refreshments, food, and miniature goods, and there are nightly musical events, including famous singers, and folklore bands featuring national and international stars. But the main attractions require day tours to discover the natural beauty of the island’s diverse landscape.
- Lagoa do Fogo: You can hike to a crater lake in the center of the Água de Pau Massif stratovolcano on the island of São Miguel.
- Mount Pico: You can hire a guide to hike to the top of this quiescent stratovolcano located on Pico Island, the highest point in all of Portugal. Note: must be fit.
- Parque Terra Nostra: This 200-year-old garden in the Furnas Valley is a unique, enchanting and special place where they provide different walking itineraries depending on what season you visit.
- Furnas Volcano: Looking over Parque Terra Nostra is an active volcano that you cannot climb, but it makes for a great photo from afar.
- Furnas Thermal Baths: You must swim in these mineral-rich geothermal waters and steaming calderas surrounded by beautiful nature. A bucket-list experience.
- Sete Cidades: This lake inside a crater is a famous postcard image of the Azores and one of the seven wonders of Portugal.
- Terceira Island: Another volcanic island, Terceira is known for its eccentric street parties and religious-cultural festivals. The Portuguese say the Azores comprises eight islands and an amusement park. Terceira is the amusement park.
- Canyoning at Ribeira dos Caldeirões: A must for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies.
Thank you for joining us on our tour of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Islands. Be sure to join us for the next leg as we venture up and explore the U.K. and Ireland.
Storylines is a luxury lifestyle ship with a like-minded community of globally-conscious citizens traveling the world. We seek unique experiences, cultural events and community participation while practicing and promoting sustainable travel. To learn more, visit our website.