Written by 12:41 pm Caribbean, Carnival

Cruise Guide: Carnival takes swing at Caribbean

By Michael Coleman

How does the world’s most popular cruise line, and its latest mega-ship, improve the Caribbean vacation experience? It offers golf. Golf. And, more golf. 

Those who love to tee it up can book either six- or eight-day voyages from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean and the Bahamas aboard Carnival Liberty, the same ship which ushered in an impressive European golf program last year. 

The ship departs Sundays from Port Everglades, on six-day cruises to Freeport, Bahamas; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico, and Saturdays on eight-day voyages to the eastern and western Caribbean and the Bahamas. 

The eight-day eastern Caribbean voyages feature San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas/St. John, U.S.V.I.; Antigua, Lesser Antilles; Tortola/Virgin Gorda, B.V.I.; and Nassau, the Bahamas, while the western route includes Limon, Costa Rica; Colon, Panama and Cozumel, Mexico. 

While the destinations would put a smile on most faces, the golf enthusiast among us could be excused for beaming. Some of the most challenging courses in the Caribbean and the Bahamas are being offered as part of the line’s Golf Academy Program. Among them are: 

Lucayan Golf Club (Bahamas, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  Perched on the shores of Grand Bahama Island, this par-72, 6,824-yard course is known for its tight fairways, elevated greens and sharp doglegs. Designed by Dick Wilson, whose course offerings include Doral’s legendary “Blue Monster” in Miami and Orlando’s Bay Hill, the course will not disappoint, offering a test of precision and strength. 

Hyatt Britannia Golf Club,(Grand Cayman, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  the Caribbean’s first signature golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, features a nine-hole championship course and an 18-hole par-57 executive course. Combining features of classic layouts such as Royal Troon and Turnberry with magnificent sea vistas, these links-style courses reward players who keep the ball in play. 

Wyndham el Conquistador (San Juan, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Designed by renowned course architect Arthur Hills, this 6,662-yard layout is known for its rugged contours, with 12 of 18 holes offering Atlantic and Caribbean vistas. The final few holes feature 200 feet of dramatic elevation changes, adding to the day’s challenge. 

Mahogany Run (St. Thomas, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Highlighting this Tom and George Fazio-designed course is the aptly named “Devil’s Triangle” featuring three of the most challenging holes in the Caribbean. Recent renovations, including expanded fairways and refurbished greens, make this 6,022-yard, par-70 course one of the most popular in the Caribbean. 

Cable Beach Golf Course (Nassau, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Recently redesigned, this 6,500-yard course offers spacious fairways surrounded by lakes. This challenging yet “resort-friendly” course appeals to golfers of all skill levels. Greens are surrounded by a series of mounds, protecting those who hit the occasional stray shot. 

Cozumel Country Club (Cozumel, eight-day western Caribbean, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  Cozumel’s first and only world-class golf course, this Jack Nicklaus-designed gem incorporates the island’s habitat, with native trees, red mangroves, and natural wetlands. Famous for its peaceful and tranquil setting, this 6,724-yard, par 72-course appeals to novice and experienced golfers alike. 

Summit Golf & Resort (Panama, eight-day western Caribbean)  This course offers 18 holes of world-championship golf. Designed by talented course architect Jeffrey Myers and built by Gregori International, it features a challenging layout, wide-open fairways and well-placed hazards and sand traps. 

Can’t wait to take up Carnival on its golf offer but can’t stand lugging your clubs with you? Feel free to leave your gear at home and take advantage of the line’s Nike Golf products and apparel available for rent, demonstration or purchase. 

Carnival Liberty will operate a series of 12-day Mediterranean voyages beginning May 7, through Oct. 22, 2006. And, yes, European golf packages will be offered.

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