Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cruising to Cuba Q&A

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Can I sail to Cuba?

Yes, in fact, this may be the only way that you can travel to Cuba! Only group tours are permitted after recent changes in travel permissions by the United States.


For the last couple of months, Cubans have been renting out their houses “Airbnb-style” as “Paladars.” However, since Americans staying in these accommodations aren’t travelling with a certified group- this style of travel will no longer be permitted.


Cruises, on the other hand, provide people-to-people guided group tours that will still be permitted under the new rules. This means that as long as you book your group tour through the cruise line your tour will be in accordance with the law and you will be able to visit. This is very similar to the status of people cruising to Russia.


Which cruise lines are sailing to Cuba?

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Holland, Carnival, Oceania, and Azamara


What ports do the Cuba cruises sail from?

Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale


Where do I find out what forms I need, and the answers to other FAQ?



How does the visa work? Do I need to get the visa ahead of time?

The Cuban visa costs $75 and will be obtained and paid for onboard your cruise. You do not need to obtain this document ahead of time, however, you do need to fill out any pertinent forms, such as the affidavit, for your cruise ahead of time.

Will a passport be required as well?

Yes, a passport will be required for all guests sailing to Cuba. Guest passports must be valid for six months after their travel date to Cuba.


Why small ships?

Only small ships fit under the Sunshine Skyway bridge and into the port of Havana. Larger ships will not fit.


How does the president’s new travel decree affect cruises to Cuba?

Per statements from the cruise lines, cruises to Cuba will still proceed with no itinerary changes.


How does the money work?

Do not count on your credit card working in Cuba. You will need cash when visiting. There are two forms of currency, the CUC and CUP. Your dollars will be converted into CUCs which is the governmental currency used by foreigners. Luckily there is an exchange at the Havana terminal! A 13% transaction fee will be charged for American dollars being converted. If you bring Euros instead, the exchange rate is lower.

Can I buy Cigars and Rum in Cuba?

Yes! You can bring some home as souvenirs and gifts for friends as well!


What should I bring with me on my tour?

While the answer varies depending on your tour, I would recommend toilet paper, walking shoes, and sunscreen. The toilets may not have toilet paper and sunscreen is ALWAYS a good idea.


Do people speak English?

Your tour guide will!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Birthday Recognition

Let us know if you want to have your birthday recognized onboard! Many of the cruise lines will do something special!

Carnival

For your birthday Carnival will sing to you in the main dining room and put a candle in the dessert course. Tell us which date you would like to celebrate so we can request this ahead of time.

Honeymoon- they do nothing but wish guests a happy honeymoon. Guests can create cruise-based registries here though: https://carnival.honeymoonwishes.com

Celebrity

Celebrate with a toast or bring a cake, we specify the night ahead of time.

Costa

If you are a Costa club member already and it is your Anniversary (depends on which ship Neo no) advise us so that you can be invited to a cocktail party. If you are already a Costa club member and it is your let us know which date you want to celebrate and you will be given a cake and singing for costa club members. We cannot request this for non-costa club members. However, guests can sign up for costa club online before their first sailing.

Cunard

Celebrations aren’t celebrated on Cunard.

Disney

Let us know what date you want to celebrate and when your server brings cupcakes/ dessert they will sing happy birthday.

Holland

Celebrations on Holland occur during dinner 1st or last day at sea. Let us know to request it and they will bring a cake with a candle while wishing you happy birthday.

MSC

Let us know that your birth date will be on the sailing so that we can let MSC know. MSC does acknowledge in some way birthdays or anniversaries, though cake is not guaranteed.

Norwegian

Let us know which date you want to celebrate. You will receive card in your stateroom which you then give  to the maitre’d and then matire’d brings a cake.

Princess

Princess puts signs on the door for anniversaries and birthdays. Let us know which date you want to celebrate and in the dining room you will get a special dessert.

Royal Caribbean

Let us know which night you will want to celebrate ahead of time. Royal Caribbean will give you a cake at dining, and sing happy birthday to you.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Royal Caribbean's new ship: the Harmony of the Seas

“Are you going on the big one?” our hotel waitress asked.
 “Yes, we’re going on the BIG one.”

There was no mistaking what we were referring to. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas is the largest ship at sea. Here is a picture for comparison. It is the Harmony beside the Norwegian Breakaway. The Breakaway is also a very large and new ship; however, it is tiny compared to the massive Harmony of the Seas.



The size is necessary to fit the incredible number of activities available on this ship. There are 7 neighborhoods in total! You can go from the Boardwalk, to Central Park or to the Spa!


The percentage of ship activities that were kid-friendly amazed me. I have never seen so many things for kids to do in one place! There are so many that I am going to number them for you as I describe them all.


1.There is the Splashaway Bay water park for young kids. This area was very cute and age appropriate for younger travelers. It has a bucket pouring water down, sprinklers, and a few small slides.
2. There are two Perfect Storm waterslides for the older kids (and adults). These are multiple stories tall and not for the faint of heart. There are also multiple pools, hot tubs, and whirlpools.
3. Onboard is a 3D movie theater.
4. There is a dance floor for rocking out, with dance lessons, contests and more!
5.  Plus there is the TEN STORY slide, the Abyss. It has a giant anglerfish at the top with big teeth. Sliding down it was a breeze. I used it multiple times to get from a higher deck to a lower deck faster.


6. There is a classical carousel on the iconic boardwalk.
7. Arcades are scattered throughout the ship to the delight of both kids and adults. I took some time to wax nostalgic by playing skee-ball. That game will never not be fun.
8. The Adventure Ocean Youth program is a complimentary kid’s club that has its own movie theater, science lab, and art studio. There is also a teen lounge area and a disco. It looked like a lot of fun.


9. Kids can surf on the surf simulator which has an instructor on standby to help everyone learn how to Hang ten. I overcame my fear and tried it in my ungraceful way. Many of the kids that tried the surf simulator put adults like me to shame. They were natural pros.

10. There is also an onboard zip line that spans 82 feet across! Gliding over the ship this way is quite the rush, let me tell you!
11. There are ping pong tables!
12. There are basketball court!
13. Even in your stateroom, there are kid-friendly things to do. Dreamworks and Pixar movies are available on the tv in the stateroom. On my sailing, I took the opportunity to watch “Finding Dory” and the new “Ghostbusters.”

14. Kids can watch the holiday parade through the central shopping area.
15. They can stop at Sorrentos to eat the delicious pizza.


16. Plus, the can meet their favorite Dreamworks characters! These characters include Shrek, the Hippo from Madagascar, the Penguins from Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda!

17. The onboard shows are phenomenal and include the well known “Grease,” as well as an ice show, and an incredible water production in the Aqua Theater. Even though I have been a “Grease” fan for years, I liked the water show even more. The show combined high diving, slacklining, acrobats, dancers, intricate lighting and circus performers to create a show that was really unique and exciting.



18. There’s even an onboard ice skating rink that's open for free skate some of the time, and hosts the ice show at other times!
19. There are two 43 ft high rock walls. I didn't get a chance to climb during my quick cruise, but I encourage you to check it out during yours. I imagine the view is unparalleled.


20. Last but not least there is a very cute onboard mini golf course!




One spectacle for all, and server for adults-only, is robot bartender. Watch it mix your drinks while dancing to the music that is playing.



The spa provided a heavenly retreat for adults only. I hear that massages are lovely, and you can also get a manicure or haircut.

The best-kept secret on the ship may be the adults-only escape room onboard! It was highly technical with flashing lights and clever puzzles. I highly recommend it. This was the surprise easter egg of my trip and I thought that it was fantastic.


I sampled the Voom internet while at sea and the speed allowed me to stay completely connected. However, if you would prefer an electronics break- this ship is a great place to do it. There is so much stimuli for adults and kids to experience. The Harmony of the Seas provides a truly unique and incredible vacation. Check it out!




Friday, February 17, 2017

Why should you book your next cruise while on board? BOOKING BONUSES!

Read all about them ...

For past cruisers, you’ve likely waltzed by the onboard sales office on your way to all the fun.

Being too busy enjoying your current vacation, you really don’t want to spend your time meeting with a Future Cruise Counselor discussing your next cruise when you only have about a week onboard to spend sunbathing at the pool, exploring your ports of call, or trying to hit big in the casino.

But, the thing is, if you’re going to go on another cruise (let’s face it -- we all know you are!) then, you’ll really want to check out the onboard sales office to see what all they’re offering.

The cruise line is likely to be offering reduced deposits, onboard spending credit, and other freebies if you reserve onboard. Sometimes, there is even onboard spending credit applied to the cruise you are already on AND your future cruise! 

Most cruise lines offer this convenience.  You can check your cruise’s daily newsletter for desk location and hours.

The best news of all is that you can snag one of these future cruise “credits” and have it transferred to our agency for an ADDITIONAL DISCOUNT!

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Carnival

Unfortunately, the Imagination, Inspiration, Sensation, Spirit, Valor, and Legend do not have Future Cruise Counselors onboard the ship but the remaining, unmentioned vessels do.

Cruisers may select ships and sail dates and also receive an onboard credit of up to $200 per stateroom. 

The reservation can be combined with other promotions, except interline discounts, and you get two vouchers for the same onboard credit that you can give to friends or family who will be joining the sailing. 

There is no deposit discount. 

You can cancel for no charge up to 90 days before the scheduled sailing. 

I would strongly recommend this program. You are afforded a lot of freedom and few restrictions with Carnival’s no charge cancellation policy of up to 90 days before sailing. 

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Celebrity

Celebrity’s Future Cruise Vacations program offers discounted deposits of $100 per guest.  

Additionally, you can book up to three future cruises at one time and the offer is combinable with Celebrity’s promotions such as their “Go Big, Go Better, Go Best!” sale.  

You can choose either the “Cruise Now” or “Cruise Later” option when making your reservation.

The “Cruise Now” plan offers up to $500 onboard spending credit which is based upon the sailing you choose.

You can cancel your booking up until 90 days before the cruise departs without penalty.

You also can change your cruise date or ship, and, if the price drops for your cruise, you can get the better deal. 

The Cruise Later option is best if you know that you want to cruise but haven't yet picked a ship or date. 

There is no expiration date on your reservation and you're eligible for up to $200 in onboard credit. 

I would strongly recommend this program. You are afforded a lot of freedom and few restrictions with Celebrity’s no charge cancellation policy of up to 90 days before sailing without penalty, allowances of refaring if the price drops, and Cruise Later program. The Cruise Later program, in particular, allows you to take advantage of the bonuses without the bind of being locked into a specific cruise. 

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Costa

If you reserve a cruise with Costa while on board, you get a 5 percent discount that becomes guaranteed once you finalize the booking through your travel agent. 

The line also runs promotions on top of the 5 percent discount, such as a 100 euro voucher to use toward that future cruise.  

This amount may vary based upon ship and sail date.

You also would get a voucher to give to a family member or friend in such a case. 

The discount may vary depending on the ship and sail date you are interested in.

The deposit cannot be redeemed for cash. 

I would cautiously recommend this program. Rules and restrictions are provided onboard, and may be more binding than other cruise line’s programs. 

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Disney 

One important thing to note for Disney’s Future Cruise Credit program is that there are blackout dates (typically Christmas sailings). If there is a specific sailing you are interested in, be sure to ask the counselor onboard the ship if you can use it for that cruise prior to purchasing. 

Disney deposits are reduced to 10% for 7 night or longer sailings, come with a 10% discount on your future cruise, and come with up to $200 onboard spending credit as well (amount depends on the ship and sail date).

Blackout dates receive the onboard credit as well as the reduced deposit if it is a 7+ night sailing, but will not get the 10% discount off of prevailing rates. 

You can select a specific cruise at the time of purchase or you can save it and have it applied at a later date.

Guests must sail within 18 months after the date of the original booking was made onboard. 
It is also limited to two staterooms on one future cruise date per household, any additional staterooms may be booked at current prevailing rates

This offer is valid for Categories 4-11 only and is not valid for concierge level categories, 1 or 2 night sailings or IGT, OGT, and VG Restricted Categories.

Name changes to the reservation may be made as long as one adult on the original booking remains on the reservation.

Certificates are non-refundable for cash.

I would cautiously recommend this program. Disney has black out dates that this program cannot be applied to, and they may apply to the date that you had wanted to sail on. There are also restrictive name change rules and only an 18 month time frame to use the future cruise credit. These restrictions may be too limiting for some and could cause problems. 

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Holland

The Future Cruise Consultant desk on Holland offers up to $200 per cabin in onboard credit (based on length of sailing and stateroom category) with a deposit of $100 per person for a 3 to 10 day cruise.

You can choose an itinerary on your current sailing or make a future cruise deposit and take up to four years to pick your cruise before the deposit expires.

You can cancel or change your reservation up to 90 days before the departure without penalty. 

Here are the typical onboard credit amounts:

3-10 Days: 
  • $25 for Inside/Oceanview
  • $50 Balcony and Suites

11-21 Days: 
  • $50 for Inside/Oceanview
  • $75 Balcony and $100 Suite

22-50 Days: 
  • $100 for Inside/Oceanview
  • $150 Balcony and Suites

51+ Days: 
  • $150 for Inside/Oceanview
  • $200 Balcony and Suites

Holland’s Future Cruise Deposits are not valid on Grand World Voyages, Grand Voyages, or segments of Grand Voyages. 

Certificates are non-refundable for cash.

I would strongly recommend this program. You are afforded a lot of freedom and few restrictions with Holland’s no charge cancellation policy of up to 90 days before sailing, and relaxed 4 years to choose a sailing to get the future cruise credit applied. 

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MSC

MSC’s Future Cruise Credit program is only offered on the MSC Divina in the Caribbean.

This program allows passengers who book onboard to receive up to $200 per cabin in onboard credit, based on ship, sail date and cabin category. 

Deposits are $100 per person. 

Cruisers can book specific cruises while onboard or decide up to four years later before the deposit expires.

You can combine the reservation with certain other promotions including the military discount.

Certificates are non-refundable for cash.

I would strongly recommend this program. You are afforded a lot of freedom and few restrictions with MSC’s relaxed time-frame of 4 years to choose a sailing to apply the future cruise credit to. 

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Norwegian

With NCL, guests may purchase a $250 Freestyle Cruise Rewards deposit to reserve a sailing of 6 days or longer.

Additionally, guests get an instant $100 onboard spending credit for the sailing that they are currently on. 

Guests have the option to apply the $250 deposit to a sailing they have already picked out or they can simply save it until they have one.

The Freestyle Cruise Rewards is valid for four years from the purchase date before it will expire.

Guests may charge the $250 Freestyle Cruise Reward to their onboard account and it is refundable within 30 days of purchase (less the $100 instant onboard credit if refunded).


I would cautiously recommend this program. You only have 30 days to decide to cancel the program which is a very short time frame, and you will be penalized for the instant onboard credit portion of the purchase. 

However, this is a great option if you are certain you are going to cruise again and will not cancel your or return your future cruise credit. 

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Princess

Princess offers future cruise sales consultants on each of its ships. 

You pay $100 per person to reserve a future sailing and you can claim onboard credit of up to $150 per passenger (based on cruise length and cabin class). 

You can book a specific cruise onboard or get an open reservation to sail that's good for up to four years. 

Your deposit is refundable if you choose not to use your deposit towards a future sailing. 

I would strongly recommend this program. Your deposit is automatically refundable if it’s not applied to a specific sailing. The benefits are great, and there is no risk of losing your deposit if you do not find a sailing to apply it to.
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Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean's NextCruise program allows guests to get up to $200 per cabin in onboard credit (based on length of sailing) and pay a reduced deposit of $100 per person for their reservation. 

Cruisers don't have to pick their ships or sailing dates at the time of the reservation as there is no expiration date. 

Guests get two NextCruise certificates for friends or family who can sail with you and also receive onboard credit. 

These certificates are valid for 5 years and are non-refundable after purchase.

Royal Caribbean's standard cancellation policies apply to onboard bookings. 

Certificates are non-refundable for cash.

Shareholder onboard credits and other onboard credit or dollars-off promotions are not combinable with the onboard credit for booking a NextCruise onboard. 

I would strongly recommend this program. You are afforded a lot of freedom and few restrictions with Royal Caribbean’s relaxed time-frame of 5 years to choose a sailing to apply the future cruise credit to. 
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******* Please note that this information is subject to change at any moment and may vary based upon the current promotions.  This article serves to inform our clients of the potential benefits to booking onboard. ********

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Where do cruises go? How much does one cost?

Here is an example map from Norwegian of the many options available to cruisers!

Most cruises in the U.S. go to islands in the Caribbean Sea, or other islands like the Bahamas which are technically in the Atlantic. 

Cruises to the Caribbean usually go to either the Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean, or Southern Caribbean.

To see map of where cruises depart from in the U.S., and go to in the Caribbean, click here! 

There are also cruises departing from California which go to Mexican ports like Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. 

Cruises from Seattle and Vancouver go to Alaska. 

There are a few 15-day cruises which go from the West Coast of the U.S. to Hawaii, but most Hawaiian cruises begin and end in Hawaii. 

There are many cruises departing from southern Europe which cruise to other ports in the Mediterranean Sea, usually either on the Western side of Italy toward Spain, or on the Eastern side toward the Greek Isles. 

Cruises depart from Northern Europe cruise the North Sea to the Norwegian Fjords and cities in the Baltics and Russia. 

Cruises go everywhere in the world, including all over Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. 

There are also TransAtlantic and Repositioning cruises which cross the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.

Want to cruise through the Panama Canal?  You can do that! 
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 How Much Do Cruises Cost? 

The price of a cruise could be anywhere between $200 and $20,000 per person! 

Plus, the cruise lines change the price almost daily! 

So there is no ONE price that we can tell you. 

To determine the price we need to identify one specific ship and departure date.  But then, we need to know what type of cabin you prefer (least expensive, ocean view, balcony, etc), the number of people in the cabin, and your state of residence, military status, senior and past guest status.

Whew - you see how getting a price on a cruise can be kind of complicated!  But don't worry, we're experts and we can help.

There are over 300 cruise ships in the world cruising to hundreds of destinations. 

Use cruise search tool to select when you want to go, where to and where from.

It's the blue box in the right column on most pages of our website. 

It will reveal a list of all cruises which fit your criteria and give you live pricing and cabin availability. 

We can tell you generally that holiday weeks and summer months are the most expensive time to cruise.

And some cruise lines are definitely more affordable than others. 

But, you can use our search tool to list all cruises in order of least expensive to most, so you can easily see what your best deals are.

Or contact us and we'll create a customized list of your best options for you.

We're open 7 days a week and we'd love to help.  


Hope
Military Cruise Deals

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Disney isn't the only one with a private island!



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As the daily temperature drops, I catch myself daydreaming about sunny islands. I’m sipping on a Mai Tai, while dipping my toes in the bathwater-warm water so clear that I can see the sea stars below. Palm trees sway in the periphery as the sun reflects off the water. It is time to make this dream a reality!

Here are the private islands and beach resorts owned by the various cruise lines. Most of them are located in the Bahamas, but there are also locations in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Belize, and the United Arab Emirates! Check them out!
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Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

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This Carnival Run port is known for having the clearest amber in the world, a wall originally built to ward off pirates, and an Ocean center where you can swim with dolphins! The beach towns of Sosua and Cabarete are only a half hour away. Plus there is Puerto Plata which was founded by Christopher Columbus.

This island is included in many Carnival and Costa itineraries!



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Enjoy the beautiful palm trees on this private island owned by Disney Cruises. They have a water play area, game pavilion with ping pong, bicycle rentals, character greetings, and snorkeling. The Disney beach is just a short tram ride from the cruise terminal.


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This Royal Caribbean private island makes for a PERFECT beach day! You can walk right off of the ship and find a chair to lounge in for the day while enjoying a delicious frozen beverage!

However, in case you are up for adventure, there is plenty to do! You can dive around a sunken replica of Blackbeard’s pirate ship, kayak, or barbecue! We recommend the guided tour via jet ski excursion to ‘Starfish Alley’ where you will hop off your ski and stand in knee deep waters only to find that the entire sea floor is covered in starfish and sand dollars! This is a little pricey, but guaranteed fun if you are willing to splurge!

This island is included in many Royal Caribbean and Celebrity itineraries!
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Find your endless summer on this 250 acre Norwegian private island which includes a waverunner adventure on jetskis, parasailing, paddleboarding, cabanas, and an eco-boat wildlife encounter. All you have to do is take a 10 tender ride from your boat and then it’s an easy walk to the beach.

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This Holland America (Carnival) island has won “Best Private Island’ 11 years in a row! With white sand beaches. waterfront bars, biking, kayaks, and snorkeling gear there is plenty to do in this paradise. Double decked tenders will take you the 10 minute ride to shore and welcome center. Head northwest, and just beyond the welcome center is the beach.

This island is included in many Holland America and Carnival itineraries!

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Harvest Cay, Belize

Norwegian will be debuting a new island in the Western Caribbean! “This new 75-acre island will have a swim-up bar, a lagoon with water sports, ziplining, and snorkeling in the world’s second largest barrier reef!” There will also be Belizean crafts, excursions to a local Mayan temple, Rainforest tubing excursions and parasailing!

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Princess Cay
Enjoy the white sand shoreline of this private island owned by Princess Cruises.They have paddle wheelers, kayaks, and bungalows on hand for your enjoyment. Plus there are complimentary beach barbecues! To protect the coral reefs surrounding the cay you will be tethered to the island. At Princess Cay, the pristine beach is all around for you to enjoy!

This island is included in many Princess and Carnival itineraries!

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Labadee, Haiti

This resort on the north side of Haiti is run by Royal Caribbean. They’ve set up lots to do there including the Dragon’s Breath Flight line, the local water park, and rentable cabanas on the beach. The 5 beaches are all very accessible from the centrally located pier where your ship will dock.

This island is included in many Royal Caribbean and Celebrity itineraries!

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MSC will be building this private island to function not only as a special tourist destination but as a Marine Reserve intent on preserving local ecosystems! With 95 acres this will be the biggest island development by any cruise line in the area. The island will feature a zip line, wedding pavilion, tranquil inland lagoon, and a family beach with play areas.




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* Honorable Mention* Sir-Bani-Yas-Island in the UAE

SirBaniYasCheetahs.jpgMSC even has a private island in the Persian Gulf off the coast of the UAE!Home to an enormous nature reserve, you can see protected cheetahs, giraffes, and flamingos! There is an inflatable water park and kid’s play area, as well as six bars for adults. Whether you relax near the barbecue or view the wildlife via safari- this island will be a great stop on your trip.