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Port Canaveral, a departure port of an MSC Caribbean and Antilles Cruise, is located just 45 miles east of Orlando and is known for its Space Coast.
On the Merritt Island peninsula you can discover the phenomenal Kennedy Space Center. Here the NASA’s space vehicles are developed, tested and blasted into orbit. Set up a bit like an Orlando theme park, the vast Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will enthrall anyone with the slightest interest in space exploration, with everything from enormous rockets and the history of the moon landings, to IMAX movies and a space shuttle launch simulation on offer.
Many of the visitors who flock here are surprised to find that the land from which rockets are launched is also the home of sizeable Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge framed by several miles of rough coastline.
Proclaimed a pirate republic by the early 1700s, Nassau once sheltered more than 1,000 pirates, outnumbering the hundred inhabitants of the town.
While its pirate history runs deep, today Nassau, located on the island of New Providence, is the capital and commercial centre of the Bahamas and the archipelago’s largest city. AS you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise, take in Nassau’s charming colonial-style buildings and pastel-coloured wooden shops that alternate with Georgian-style structures. Founded by the British in 1670, Nassau stretches from the harbour to Bay Street, the main drag through town that is replete with shops, souvenirs, restaurants and entertainment. At Straw Market, where typical Bahamian souvenirs are sold, be prepared to bargain – it’s a tradition that is almost a duty.
A popular tourist area is Cable Beach, a 4-mile stretch of beach and resorts on the north central coast of New Providence, 3 miles from Nassau. Paradise Beach, on Paradise Island, is one of the best beaches in the area.
For a nearly private beach experience, take an MSC excursion to Blue Lagoon Island, a private island with one of the most secluded beaches in the Bahamas, or opt for a VIP beach cabana experience at the offshore picture-perfect oasis of Balmoral Island.
Book an MSC excursion to Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, where you can enjoy a diverse choice of attractions. These range from Aquaventure, an exhilarating 141-acre waterpark where you can ride swells of rapids and fly down 7-story slides, to the Dig, a faux archaeological site that recreates the ruins of ancient Atlantis, or Predator Lagoon, home to sharks, rays, barracudas and sawfish.
For something special, take a bush medicine gardens and tea tour, an exclusive Martha Stewart & MSC Cruises excursion, to learn about local traditions and botany. Then sip afternoon tea and dine on scones and dainty finger sandwiches at the lavish Graycliff Hotel, a landmark property that since 1740 has housed pirates, privateers and prisoners alike.
Don’t miss the magnificent views of Nassau, Paradise Island and a good portion of the Bahamas from the top of Queen’s Staircase at Fort Fincastle. Watch as water cascades alongside the his-torical staircase, comprising 65 steps hand-carved out of solid limestone rock by 600 slaves between 1793 and 1794.
While the name Ocho Rios means eight rivers in Spanish, a truer reflection of its name (considering the city has four rivers) may stem from its earlier Spanish name of Las Chorreras, referring to its waterfalls. In either case, it’s precisely its existing rivers, beautiful waterfalls and crystalline sea that promise to awe visitors to Jamaica who have a passion for the lush outdoors.
For an unforgettable experience on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise, try one of the many outdoor MSC excursions offered on the city’s rivers, such as kayaking, bamboo rafting and tubing, or try climbing one of its famous waterfalls.
A must-see attraction is Dunn’s River Falls, where a guide will lead you up along an almost 600-foot stretch of naturally terraced river bed as part of a human chain. Once up on top, enjoy a breath-taking panorama worthy of photos, and explore a craft market and numerous shops.
Or ascend Konoko Falls to admire the tropical gardens with sinuously shaped flowers and a mini zoo of exotic birds and reptiles, before embarking on a gastronomic farm-to-table experience and traditional Jamaican buffet lunch in the hills of Claremont at the organic Murphy Hill Farm, on an exclusive Martha Stewart excursion for MSC.
Music lovers can’t help but pay tribute to reggae legend Bob Marley. Journey to Bob Marley’s Nine Mile, a nearby mountaintop village, to see the birthplace and final resting place of the star. The MSC excursion includes a visit to a small Ethiopian-style church housing the marble mausoleum in which Marley’s remains have been entombed along with his guitar.
And James Bond fans can take heart in the fact that it was here in Jamaica in the 1950s and 1960s that author Ian Fleming created 007 and wrote every one of the 14 books featuring the stealth secret agent from his villa at nearby Oracabessa Bay. Scenes for the 1962 movie “Dr. No” and the 1973 film “Live and Let Die” were filmed in and around Ocho Rios.
Located in the southern Caribbean, Aruba stands out with its desert-like vistas, wind-shaped trees, natural rock formations and breath-taking beaches. Its terrain offers plenty of opportunity for exploration and off-road trekking.
As you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise in Oranjestad, the tax-free capital named after William I (the Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands), admire the city’s charming Dutch Colonial architecture with its antique buildings and houses that blend in with today’s modern architecture.
Not much grows on Aruba. However, its hot dry climate is ideal for aloe farming. Book an MSC excursion to the Aruba Aloe Museum & Factory, and learn about the 160-year history of aloe farming on the island.
If adventure is on your agenda, get on a UTV on an MSC excursion that will take you through Aruba’s outback, skirting along the coastline with visits to the Alto Vista Chapel, the Bushiribana Gold Mill ruins that remind us of Aruba’s 19th-century gold rush, and to the early 20th-century California Lighthouse, which bears the name of an unfortunate ship that sank nearby in 1891. An on-road driving MSC excursion will visit those sites as well, along with the amazing Casibari Rock Formation, or huge diorite boulders found in the centre of the island.
Take a “Natural Aruba” MSC excursion to tour the Butterfly Farm, then pass countless divi divi trees and cacti before arriving at Aruba’s Natural Bridge, a wonder carved out of solid coral by the relentlessly pounding surf.
Or relax in the calm waters lapping Arashi Beach and Palm Beach, while snorkelers will enjoy our catamaran sailing excursion that explores Boca Cathalina and the “Antilla” World War II shipwreck, considered to be one of the top dive and snorkel sites of the Caribbean.
A beauty to behold, Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island just off the coast of Venezuela, offers dramatic coastlines, hidden beaches tucked into coves, expansive coral reefs, wondrous caves and two different climates: one wet and tropical, the other dry.
Abuzz with European flair, Willemstad, the capital, boasts a thriving art and culinary scene, pretty pastel-coloured colonial architecture, museums and a go-go attitude, thanks in part to its booming economy.
As you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise in Willemstad, you’ll have options for MSC excursions at your fingertips as diverse as its climate: Cultural tours or nature tours? Beach or hiking? A blend of both? The choice is yours.
Start by exploring the narrow alleys and gaze at the curious houses in bright colours in the picturesque old town of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dutch colonial-style houses with sloping roofs, and alternating pink, light green, blue and yellow colours contrast with the monochrome blue of the sky and sea, a panorama worthy of Instagram. MSC excursions let you hop on a trolley tour or join a guided walking tour to marvel at the city’s best known sites.
At the mouth of the bay of Sint Annabaai, between the two districts of Willemstad, lies Fort Amsterdam, one of the most important forts on the island. Built in 1635, the fort is now the seat of the governor, and houses a Protestant church and a museum. The church, built in 1769, was fired upon by a British warship in 1804, and you can still find a cannonball embedded in the southwestern wall of the church. Another fort worth seeing is Fort Beekenburg, overlooking Caracas Bay. Constructed in 1703, it was actively used in the 19th century to defend against the French, British and pirates, and is one of the best-preserved fortifications in the Caribbean.
A Curaçao cruise lets you tour the factory where the world-famous Curaçao liqueur is made. At the sunshine yellow Chobolo Mansion, visit the old distillery to learn how the distillation process works and, of course, you get to sample the Blue Curaçao liqueur.
For an otherworldly experience, opt for a short drive to the north of Willemstad, passing salt flats and flamingos, to explore the Hato Caves on a guided tour. At this natural wonder, you’ll learn about stalagmites, stalactites, limestone formations and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot long-nosed fruit bats.
Or to observe the stunning coastline, another MSC excursion takes you on a country drive, past old plantation homes, to Boka Tabla, part of Shete Boka National Park, on the north coast. Admire the phenomenon of how the pounding surf has over time formed beautiful coves and interesting rock shapes stretching over seven miles of unspoiled shoreline.
San Felipe de Puerto Plata is the capital of the Puerto Plata province on the Dominican Republic’s Atlantic north coast. The city is best known for its beaches. Playa Dorada’s lengthy beachfront is backed by resorts and an 18-hole golf course. The city’s old colonial-era center is dominated by the 16th-century Fortaleza San Felipe, a Spanish fortress that now houses historical and military artifacts.
New York is a wonderful port of call for MSC cruise liners on Grand Voyages cruise itineraries. Hidden gardens next to postmodern skyscrapers; priceless art tucked away in medieval-style cloisters; a revamped waterfront you can stroll along to take in the view.
Wandering through the patchwork of neighbourhoods is as great a thrill as any single sight. Frantic Chinatown edges stylish Soho , which is but a stone’s throw from the quiet, angled lanes of the once-bohemian West Village . A perfect espresso in a shabby-chic Williamsburg café, a rooftop view from Chelsea’s High Line or a ride on the “A” to Far Rockaway is worth much more than an “I Love New York” handbag. Cheaper, too, and the memory will last longer.
New York City officially comprises the central island of Manhattan and four outer boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. For many, Manhattan simply is New York; indeed, when your MSC cruise takes you to New York, you’ll probably spend most of your time here. Understanding the intricacies of Manhattan’s layout, especially beyond its grid pattern , and getting a grasp of its transport network should be top priorities during your MSC excursion.
New York is very much a city of neighbourhoods, most compact enough to be explored on foot (at least below 59th Street). On your Grand Voyages cruises to New York, of all America’s symbols, none is more enduring than the Statue of Liberty, looming over the harbour from its pedestal on tiny Liberty Island.
Indeed, there is probably no more immediately recognizable profile in existence than that of Lady Liberty , who stands with torch in hand, clutching a stone tablet. Measuring some 305ft from her pedestal base, she has acted as the figurehead of the American Dream for more than a century.
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