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A lot of buzz has surrounded the development and unveiling of Amber Cove, Carnival Corporation & Plc’s newest port facility in the Caribbean. Set on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic in Puerto Plata, the project — involving a hefty investment to the tune of $85 million — began in 2010. Approximately five years later, it welcomed its first ship, Carnival Victory, on Oct. 6. By April of next year, Amber Cove plans to welcome at least 37 calls by eight different Carnival ships.
The 25-acre and two-berth port facility is the first new destination for Carnival in nearly 10 years and will expand current itineraries as well as be incorporated into fresh ones. We spoke to David Candib, vice president of development and operations for the global port and destination development group at Carnival Corporation & plc, who offers further insights on Amber Cove and explains how it will entice repeat cruisers to visit again and attract those who haven’t cruised before.
Puerto Plata hasn’t seen regular ship calls in at least three decades. Why was it chosen as the location to house Amber Cove?We know our guests love the Caribbean, and we are always looking for new ways to add variety to our destinations in the region. Puerto Plata is one of the most unique, beautiful and historic regions in the Caribbean — tucked between the warm Caribbean waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the 2,600-foot-high Mount Isabel de Torres, it features 60 miles of coastline, lush hills, mountain ranges, rivers and waterfalls, so we knew the area would have plenty of exciting options for our cruise guests.
How will the port affect current and future Carnival itineraries? The strategic location of Puerto Plata was also a key deciding factor for us, as it opens expanded itinerary options in the Caribbean and pairs with our other nearby ports of Half Moon Cay, Princess Cay and the Grand Turk Cruise Center, which is only 100 miles to the north, to anchor new central Caribbean itineraries for our 10 global brands.
In looking to the future, the port is strategically located to be incorporated into itineraries featuring potential stops in Cuba.
What do you consider to be the highlights of Amber Cove?We have fallen in love with this part of the Dominican, and we have also fallen in love with the people who live and work in Puerto Plata. They have welcomed us with wide-open arms, and they are very much looking forward to making our guests feel right at home in their beautiful part of the island. In fact, in just the first few calls, guest response has been very positive.
The Amber Cove port features a waterfront welcome center with many retail offerings, including a marketplace for Dominican crafts and souvenirs sold by local artisans. There’s also a wide range of unique food and beverage establishments featuring a variety of specialty dishes of the north coast, as well as an artisanal coffee shop that brews and sells locally grown coffee.
At the Sky Bar, perched atop a 60-foot hill, guests can enjoy panoramic views of the port and cove. And those looking to be more active while at the port can ride a zipline or enjoy the complimentary pool area with a swim-up bar, children’s splash pad and waterslides. Guests can also rent private cabanas, some built over the water and some built on a hill.
Amber Cove is Carnival Corporation & Plc’s newest destination in the Caribbean. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
The 25-acre port facility, located in the Dominican Republic’s Puerto Plata, welcomed its first ship on Oct. 6. // © 2015 Carnival Corporation & plc
Through the port destination, Carnival invites travelers to experience the vibrant culture of Puerto Plata. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Amber Cove has a multitude of facilities, including private cabanas available for rent. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Passengers can choose from 40-plus shore excursions, including the Outback Dominican Adventure tour. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Manny, our enthusiastic tour guide, pointing out the fruit and vegetables grown at a local Puerto Plata home // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Try fresh handmade chocolate and coffee — or, even better, mix both together. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
There’s also an opportunity to visit a local school and meet students. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Fort San Felipe is a stop on the Puerto Plata highlights tour, another shore excursion. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
On the tour, passengers can also tour Brugal Rum Factory. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
The rum distillery and bottling facility produces approximately 1.5 million liters of rum each year. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
What are some of the shore excursions that Amber Cove offers?Amber Cove features one of the most extensive shore excursion programs available in the Caribbean. There are more than 40 different sea and land experiences, including several beach getaways; kayak, paddleboard and snorkeling tours; ATV-like terracross buggy expeditions; museum tours to see the region’s famous amber stone; and more.
Can you help us narrow down the list by sharing some of your favorites excursions?For those who want to see Puerto Plata culture firsthand, the Outback Dominican Adventure takes guests on a tour through the area to see a Puerto Plata home, try handmade coffee and chocolate and see the highlights of the city. For those who want to relax by the water, our beach excursions offer some of the most pristine beaches in the country.
I also enjoy the Puerto Plata highlights tour that takes guests to see some of the highlights of the city, including Brugal Rum Factory and Fort San Felipe — a remnant of Puerto Plata’s early colonial days.
As you already know, all tourism holds a responsibility to the local community. In the case of Amber Cove, how will the project work with and positively impact Puerto Plata?From start to finish, the Amber Cove project was a true collaboration among Carnival Corporation; the Rannik family of Grupo B&R, a Dominican-based port development firm; the Dominican Republic government; and business and community leaders in Puerto Plata.
When we develop new destinations, we look to make long-term partnerships with the local governments and communities to provide a win-win opportunity in building demand for both cruising and tourism in that area.
What are the long-term goals for positive impact on the community? In looking to the future, we will continue to collaborate with our business partners in the Dominican and Puerto Plata in a number of ways, including employing people in the port, bringing in local vendors and artisans to sell goods and crafts in the port and fueling demand for shore excursions throughout the region.
As part of our commitment to the Dominican Republic and the people of Puerto Plata, we are excited that Fathom, our newest cruise brand, will make trips every other week to Amber Cove, starting in April 2016. Fathom and its 700 travelers will participate in educational, environmental and economic development activities, working alongside local people to have a positive impact on their lives.