Last updated: 10:30 AM ET, Wed November 11 2015

Carnival's New Port

Amber Cove is a new destination for Carnival Corp. brands

Vacation Agent | Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Theresa Norton

Carnival's New Port

PHOTO: The Amber Cove buildings feature local architectural styles. (All photos courtesy of Carnival Corp.)

A new cruise destination is making its official debut this month. Carnival Corp.’s $85 million Amber Cove, in the Dominican Republic near Puerto Plata, was scheduled on Oct. 6 to welcome its first cruise ship, the Carnival Victory.

Now the Dominican Republic isn’t totally new to cruising. Some ships occasionally call at ports such as La Romana, Santo Domingo, Samana and Punta Cana. But Puerto Plata hasn’t seen scheduled cruise calls in more than 30 years since the Boheme visited on a regular basis.

140 Ship Visits
That’s all about to change as Carnival Corp. has scheduled 140 ship calls by eight of its brands for an expected total of 350,000 cruise passengers in 2016.

“The idea for Amber Cove is to introduce a new destination to cruising,” said David Candib, vice president-development and operations for Carnival Corp.’s Global Port and Destination Development Group. He oversaw the development of Amber Cove in partnership with the Rannik family of Grupo B&R.

The 25-acre cruise destination also is expected to revitalize the tourism industry in Puerto Plata. “We’ve waited almost 30 years for a project like this,” says Julio Almonte, vice minister of tourism for Puerto Plata. “The future of Puerto Plata is here in Amber Cove.”

Amber Cove — so named because of the rich amber mines in the region — is located on a mountain-ringed bay on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. (In fact, part of the original “Jurassic Park” movie — which hinged on getting DNA from an insect trapped in amber — was filmed in the area.)

The Amber Cove dock can accommodate two of the largest cruise ships now operating at the same time. A smaller pier can be used to board boats used for snorkeling and other tours on the water. A 12-acre transportation hub will ease transfers onto motorcoaches and vans for shore excursions.

PHOTO: The $85 million Amber Cove cruise center was expected to officially open Oct. 6.

The waterfront welcome center will feature 40,000 square feet of retail offerings, including shops and kiosks operated by local vendors and craftspeople, as well as some well-known retailers such as Diamonds International.

The structures were built in accordance with local architecture, which comprises Victorian, colonial and styles unique to the Dominican Republic. The facility will feature several eateries, including one featuring Dominican cuisine, and bars, including one called 360, which is perched atop a granite hill.

Lots of Activities
Amber Cove boasts a large pool with a swim-up bar and two waterslides that start on the granite face. Two zip-lines swoop over the pool and are situated side by side so people can race each other.

PHOTO: Seven overwater cabanas are available to rent at Amber Cove.

Three kinds of cabanas are available for rent. Seven are built over the water, looking sort of like the overwater bungalows common in French Polynesia. Another four cabanas are built on the granite hill, and three are closer to the action at the swimming pool.

There is no beach at Amber Cove as there is at other Carnival-built destinations such as Grand Turk and Mahogany Bay in Honduras. Passengers who want a day in the sand and surf will have to buy a shore excursion to shuttle them to nearby hotel beaches.

42 Shore Excursions
So far, 42 shore excursions are offered, ranging from a typical motorcoach tour to beach days, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and horseback riding.

For example, Carnival Cruise Line offers the “Panoramic Tour of Puerto Plata,” a tour to the most important sites in Puerto Plata. Passengers will ride through the seaside boardwalk called the Malecón, observe the 1564-built San Felipe Fortress, visit Cathedral San Felipe and spend some time at Plaza Independencia. This 2½-hour tour is priced at $29.99 for adults and $19.99 per child.

The six-hour “Puerto Plata City & Cabarete Beach with Lunch” tour includes a sightseeing tour of Puerto Plata, a visit to the Brugal Rum Factory and then free time at the beach. The cost is $49.99 per adult and $39.99 per child.

The five-hour “Deluxe Catamaran Sail & Snorkel” excursion is described as a snorkeler’s dream ideal for beginners, children and the experienced. Inflatable snorkel vests are provided for added buoyancy. A guided tour will help snorkelers see the living coral and tropical fish to make the most out of the experience. The cost is $79.99 per adult and $59.99 per child.

The “Deep Sea Fishing Tour,” priced at $89.99 per person, is aboard the fishing charter boat Mahi Mahi. The five-hour outing might result in catching tuna, wahoo, king mackerel or barracuda. Boats are set up with down riggers and out riggers, and are rotated throughout the trip. This trip includes the gear, bait, snacks, soft drinks, beer and fresh fruit.

Not far from Amber Cove is Ocean World, a marine adventure park. Here, cruise passengers can take part in the five-hour “Dolphin Swim & Ocean World Day Pass,” which includes a 20-minute dolphin encounter. Guests then can wander the expansive facility to see other shows and wildlife. This excursion is priced at $139.99 per adult and $129.99 per child.

Paired with Cuba Calls
Amber Cove will act as a “refresher” for Carnival Corp. itineraries in the central Caribbean, says CEO Arnold Donald, and will pair nicely with the company’s Grand Turk Cruise Center, located 100 miles to the north. It also is an ideal port to pair with potential stops in Cuba, the company says.

Carnival executives say they expect almost all passengers to disembark in Amber Cove because it is a new destination and they’ll explore it out of curiosity if nothing more. In fact, Carnival expects 60 to 70 percent of passengers to book a shore excursion, almost double the participation level in typical ports of call, said Amilcar Cascais, vice president-tour operations for Carnival Cruise Line.

“The primary reason people don’t get off the ship is because they’ve been there,” Donald says. “We think they’ll at least take a step off and check it out.… We think it will be a spectacular experience for our guests.”

Schedule of Amber Cove Calls
After Carnival Victory’s inaugural visit on Oct. 6, five more Carnival Corp. brands are scheduled to make calls on Amber Cove over the next few months — Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 on Nov. 22, P&O Cruises’ Azura on Dec. 5, AIDA Cruises’ AIDAvita on Dec. 11, Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa on Dec. 31 and Holland America Line’s Eurodam on Jan. 19.

Through 2016, other ships that will visit include Carnival Cruise Line’s Fantasy, Splendor, Valor, Sunshine, Conquest and Breeze and Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam.

Amber Cove adds to the portfolio of cruise destinations that Carnival Corp. has developed in the Caribbean. These include Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Islands, Puerta Maya on Cozumel, Mexico, and Mahogany Bay on the island of Roatan, Honduras. It is one of roughly 60 ports that Carnival Corp.’s brands visit in the region.

For more information, visit or individual websites for Carnival Corp.’s brands.


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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the October 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.


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