The recent announcement of the selection of the new Seven Wonders of the World has generated much controversy and commentary. But there’s little doubt that Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Seven Wonders of the Caribbean” capture the very best of the region’s unique historical, natural and cultural offerings.
Carnival is the industry leader in Caribbean cruising carrying approximately 3 million guests annually to this spectacular region of the world. Carnival’s commitment to the Caribbean includes the deployment of 18 ships, including 15 vessels that offer year-round Caribbean departures. Carnival offers the widest variety of Caribbean itineraries and features more visits to the Seven Wonders of the Caribbean than any other cruise line.
“While seeing the Seven Wonders of the World may be out of reach for many vacationers, Carnival provides fantastic and affordable journeys to the Seven Wonders of the Caribbean, which is the world’s most popular cruise destination,” said Terry Thornton, Carnival’s vice president of marketing planning.
The Seven Wonders of the Caribbean featured on Carnival’s shore excursions include Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, El Morro Castle in San Juan, the Mayan ruins of Tulum, Trunk Bay Beach in St. John, the Panama Canal and The Baths in Virgin Gorda.
Not only is Chichen-Itza one of Carnival’s Seven Wonders of the Caribbean, it also made the official list of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Chichen-Itza was a sacred city of the Itza, and the archaeological site is rated among the most important of the Maya culture. Chichen-Itza covers an area of approximately six square miles, and hundreds of buildings once stood on the sacred grounds. Possibly the best known structure on the site is Kukulkan’s Pyramid — a square-based, stepped pyramid that is 75 feet tall. The tour to Chichen-Itza is offered on all of Carnival’s cruises that visit Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico.
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System
The longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System stretches from the southern half of the Yucatan Peninsula to the Bay Islands of Honduras. A diver’s paradise, it is known for fascinating coral formations, abundant sea life and extraordinary water clarity. Guests have the opportunity to dive and snorkel on the reef on Carnival’s cruises that call at Roatan, Honduras, and Belize.
El Morro Castle
Fort San Felipe del Morro — or El Morro Castle — is a 16th-century citadel that lies on the northwestern-most point of the islet of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Construction at El Morro started in 1539, and many additional new structures were added over the next 400 years. The fort was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan Bay and defend the city from enemies. In 1983, the fort was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. Guests can visit El Morro Castle on Carnival cruises that depart from or visit San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Tulum is the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city serving as a major port for CobÃ¡, and it appears to have been an important site for the worship of the Descending God. While an inscription dated 564 has been found at the site, most of the structures now visible were built between 1200 and 1450. The city remained occupied through the early years of the Spanish conquest of Yucatan, but was abandoned by the end of the 16th century. Tulum can be visited on Carnival’s calls to Calica and Cozumel, Mexico.
Trunk Bay Beach
With powdery white sand and a border of coconut palm trees, Trunk Bay Beach on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands is renowned as one of the most beautiful and photogenic beaches in the world. A highlight for Trunk Bay visitors is the 650 feet of underwater snorkel trails through the turquoise waters that exhibit a variety of marine life. Guests on cruises that call at St. Thomas have an opportunity to visit St. John’s Trunk Bay.
Cutting through the heart of Central America, the man-made Panama Canal opened in 1914, shaving some 9,000 miles from the trip around Cape Horn. Today, the engineering marvel continues to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. A series of locks raise and lower each ship, making the transit possible. On cruises that call at Colon, Panama, guests can fish in Gatun Lake, go kayaking or take a ferry transit of the canal.
For snorkelers, sunbathers and explorers alike, The Baths in Virgin Gorda represent the perfect natural attraction. The Baths is a small beach framed by giant boulders that visitors climb through to get to a boulder-harbor. With hidden rooms filled with streams of light, coral ledges and caves, white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water, many say it’s the best reason to visit Virgin Gorda. Cruises that call at Tortola, B.V.I., offer the opportunity to see The Baths.
And while they didn’t make the short list of the Seven Wonders of the Caribbean, there are several more destinations and attractions in the region included on Carnival’s cruise itineraries that deserve honorable mentions:
El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the United States. The intrigue of visiting the El Yunque Rainforest is only partly in the observation of the varieties of plants that have managed to grow and adapt to the abundant amounts of year-round rainfall. El Yunque can be visited from the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Basilica at Higuey
The Higuey Basilica located near La Romana, Dominican Republic is the center of religious activity in the area and one of the Caribbean’s finest examples of modern religious architecture. The Basilica was named a national monument by the Dominican government and declared a minor basilica by Pope Paul IV. To highlight the architecture, a lighting scheme was completed in September 2002 that bathes the gray concrete in bright color from sunset to midnight.
Chacchoben Mayan Ruins
The first human inhabitants of the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins date back as far as 1000 B.C., though evidence found during excavation show that most of the ruins there now date back to around 360 A.D. The city remained continuously inhabited until its decline around 700 B.C. Eventually it was abandoned and reclaimed by the lush jungle, keeping its mysteries a secret. Guests can visit the ruins on cruises that call at Costa Maya, Mexico.
For additional information on Carnival’s “Fun Ship” itineraries that feature the Seven Wonders of Caribbean, call 1-800-327-9501 (individual) or 1-800-327-5782 (groups) or visit the line’s travel agent Internet portal, bookccl.com.