Experience the world's first totally non-smoking cruise on Carnival's Paradise
On this episode of GREAT CRUISES we board the world's first non-smoking cruise ship, one of the "Fun Ships" of Carnival Cruise Lines, the PARADISE, as she sets sail from Miami to the ports of Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, in the Western Caribbean.
We'll enjoy many of the side trips, including a visit to the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Later, we'll visit a turtle farm, snorkel with giant stingrays and dive a hundred feet below the sea on a submarine in the Cayman Islands. And finally, we'll visit Ocho Rios, Jamaica where we'll tour lush botanical gardens and climb 600 feet up spectacular Dunn's River Falls.
Our first port of call is Cozumel, an island off the eastern shores of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Here we board a high-speed catamaran to take us to the port of Playa Del Carmen back on the mainland. After a short bus ride, we reach the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum.
Our second port-of-call is Grand Cayman, a relatively small island renowned as one of the world's largest financial centers, being home to over 580 banks and trust companies holding almost a trillion dollars in assets! A favorite tourist haunt is Hell's Post Office, so named after the amazing limestone rock formations. You can pick up a tee shirt that, well, says it all! We jumped at the chance to visit "Stingray City" where each day dozens of gigantic stingrays, some as large as six feet in diameter, congregate to be fed pieces of squid by hand, from eager tourists.
Our final port of call is Ocho Rios in Jamaica. Yah Mon! Christopher Columbus declared the Blue Mountains of Jamaica to be "the fairest land eyes ever beheld, where the mountains touch the sky". We head up through the rain forests of Fern Gully, a 3-mile road built on an old riverbed that winds through a lush tropical canyon, home to over 2,000 different species of ferns, and a few local characters. A pleasant surprise as we toured Ocho Rios was the Taj Mahal duty-free plaza, an architectural parody of India's matchless tomb strategically placed opposite the exit from the pier.
High on a hill overlooking the town is Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, a beautiful and relaxing experience, created in the 19th century as a private gentleman's estate. Acres of lawns and terraces tumble down the hillside and are enhanced by an interesting variety of native and imported trees, decorative shrubs and roses. Dunn's River Falls is Jamaica's premier attraction, visited by almost a million persons annually. It is a place of unique beauty where the river dances down a giant limestone staircase to a white sand beach and the warm blue Caribbean sea. Climbing the falls with a guide is easier than it looks but there are steps with handrails and wooden observation decks for the non-athletic. In the river, there are pools to swim in, caves behind falls, and mini-whirlpools.