I received a media release this week from Carnival this week (on behalf of its eight cruise lines) proudly touting the official opening of Amber Cove, a purpose-built port at Puerto Plata, on the Northern coast of the Dominican Republic.
And my immediate thought was to wonder how ‘real’ the experience would be, at a purpose-built port, in the middle of a resort region .. compared to the time we spent in the heart of Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial before sailing from La Romana.
After all, ‘Private Island’ ports are notorious for being all sizzle, no steak – or all facade, and no substance.
And at first glance, Amber Cove looks just the same … but Carnival has, apparently, gone to some effort to at least try to enrich the experience.
It’s promising that eventually, it will offer “more than 40 different sea and landside experiences from the port, including several beach getaways, kayak, paddle board and snorkeling tours, zip line adventures, ATV-like terracross buggy expeditions, Puerto Plata tours, helicopter rides, fishing trips, horseback riding, deep sea fishing tours and catamaran sailings” for passengers sailing on AIDA, Costa, Cunard, Fathom, Holland America, Princess and P&O cruise ships.
The company also goes to great pains to promote the fact that passengers “can explore Fort San Felipe, one of the oldest military colonial period fortresses in the region, or enjoy museum tours to see the region’s famous amber.”
But it still all seems a bit ‘sanitised’ – without a real opportunity to interact with locals.
Still, there IS an option if that’s what you want – Amber Cove will also be host to the company’s new ‘Fathom’ brand – which offers cruises from Miami to Dominican Republic (and Cuba) where passengers disembark each day – and go do volunteer work with the community.
It’s an interesting concept but I suspect most pax will stick to the more traditional cruises.
And with 23 ships making 140 calls to Amber Cove in the next year, for most people, the experience of the Dominican Republic will be what they see in and around Puerto Plata – which looks interesting enough, I suppose.