For the Per­fect Voy­age: Pri­vate Isles and Ports

Travel ▶ Cruise lines spend big to avoid the dirt and beg­gars of real ports ▶ Va­ca­tion­ers “want the Caribbean as they imag­ine it to be”

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The Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic is re­plete with nat­u­ral beauty and is­land cul­ture. But pas­sen­gers dis­em­bark­ing from Car­ni­val’s ships at the cruise line’s mas­sive Am­ber Cove com­plex on the na­tion’s north­ern coast can ride zip lines, shop for lo­cally grown coffee in a replica Vic­to­rian vil­lage, or chill out in a thatched-roof hut on the wa­ter— with­out leav­ing the fenced-in prop­erty. Rather than ex­plor­ing the coun­try, Pierre Maloka, a soft­ware en­gi­neer from Wee­hawken, N. J., whose voy­age on the Queen Mary 2 last Novem­ber in­cluded a stop there, spent the day by Am­ber Cove’s pool, en­ter­tained by a merengue band and Do­mini­can dancers. Ex­plains Maloka: “You’re ly­ing in the sun, get­ting drinks and food. What’s not to like?”

Am­ber Cove, which opened in Oc­to­ber, is the lat­est of sev­eral pri­vate ports be­ing built in the Caribbean by cruise oper­a­tors. The lines like the fa­cil­i­ties, be­cause they can mar­ket them as ex­clu­sive des­ti­na­tions and keep much of the rev­enue from sou­venirs, piña co­ladas, and pad­dle board rentals. Car­ni­val ex­pects more than 350,000 guests to dis­em­bark this year at Am­ber Cove, one of its six sim­i­lar fa­cil­i­ties in the Caribbean. Guests can still leave the com­pounds, ei­ther on pre­ar­ranged ex­cur­sions—many sold by Car­ni­val—or in taxis that wait just be­yond the gates.

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