RSSArchive for October, 2014

JetBlue starts Boston-Puerto Plata nonstop service

Already serving three Dominican cities, JetBlue Airways launched a new, weekly nonstop flight from Boston to Puerto Plata on Nov. 1.

The new, seasonal route runs once a week on Saturdays from Logan International to Gregorio Luperón International Airport, a flight of about 3.5 hours.

Puerto Plata becomes the 4th Dominican city JetBlue serves. Photo: JetBlue website

Puerto Plata becomes the 4th Dominican city JetBlue serves. Photo: JetBlue website

In addition to Puerto Plata, JetBlue also offers nonstops from Boston to Punta Cana, Santiago and Santo Domingo among dozens of Caribbean destinations.

“We now offer customers 69 nonstop routes from the U.S. to the Caribbean and more than 200 daily flights to, from and within the Caribbean, which is more than any other airline,” said JetBlue President Robin Hayes. “We will continue to expand our presence in this region to better connect families and friends, create international business opportunities and bring Americans to the wonderful leisure destinations across the Caribbean.”

Professional lifeguards from Canada train young Dominicans

In an unprecedented effort, several nonprofit, private and diplomatic organizations joined forces recently to train young men and women from the Puerto Plata region in an intensive life saving and first aid course.

Canadian lifeguards oversee a rescue exercise

Canadian lifeguards oversee a rescue exercise at Cabarete Beach. Photo by Adan de Miguel

Participants were the Canadian Embassy in the Dominican Republic; Asociación de Hoteles, Restaurantes y Empresas Turísticas del Norte (ASHONORTE); the Tourism Ministry; Happy Dolphins Project; Dove Mission; and Mariposa Foundation. The program was coordinated by the Caribbean Lifesaving Society, under Kristian Thomas.

During the four-day program, nearly 20 young men and women, all from the North Shore of the Dominican Republic, were trained extensively by expert instructors Scott Keeling, Andrea Gaudet and Kristian Thomas, all from the Royal Lifesaving Society Canada. The Royal Lifesaving Society Canada works to prevent drowning and water-related injury through its training programs, water smart public education, drowning prevention research, safety management and lifesaving sport. The joint work between the Caribbean and Canadian associations has led to the creation of the Caribbean Lifesaving Society.

The training program took place at the pool and beach of Hotel Viva Wyndham Tangerine Cabarete, which offered its premises for this outstanding initiative.

Out of the original group of students, seven were selected for an advanced training session. Members of the Happy Dolphin team, as they were named, met the required standards and were certified in advanced life saving and first aid. This will allow them later to attend the life saving instructor course, as well as the professional lifeguard programs.

All young students received lifesaving certificates in an award ceremony, where several representatives of the participating organizations were present. These included Lorenzo Sancassani, regional tourism director; Ambra Attus, executive director of ASHONORTE; Tim Hall, Honorary Consul of Canada for the North Shore; José Luis Mejía, Viva Wyndham Tangerine manager; Patricia Hiraldo, director of Happy Dolphins Project; and Thomas, president of the Caribbean Lifesaving Association.

“We have established this organization in order to train Dominican youth to become life savers and first responders. This will give them in turn the opportunity to train others,” Thomas said. “We are seeking the support and sponsorship of the International Life Saving Federation. Once we have reached this goal, our joint efforts will have international recognition. We hope to continue with these training courses so that more young instructors will spread the program and keep our coasts and rivers safe.”

Hiraldo said there are well over 300 drowning deaths reported each year at beaches and rivers (other estimates place the number at closer to 1,000). An estimated 70 percent of Dominicans do not know how to swim, even though the country is mostly surrounded by water. Also, these training programs are a powerful platform to turn these young underprivileged women and men into proud community leaders for future generations.

Finally, the initiative seeks to create new job opportunities in hotels and beaches of this beautiful Caribbean naation, which is already one of the top tourist destinations on the planet, especially when it comes to watersports and beach lovers. It is therefore crucial to maintain high safety levels in accordance with international standards.

Student lifesavers celebrate with their Canadian instructors. Photo by Adan de Miguel

Student lifesavers celebrate with their Canadian instructors. Photo by Adan de Miguel

Spring completion expected for new cruise port

Construction of Carnival Corporation’s new port near Puerto Plata is expected to be complete sometime in the spring of 2015, a Carnival Cruise Lines representative said recently.

Under construction since May 2012, the two-berth Amber Cove Cruise Center will be able to accommodate up to 8,000 cruise passengers and 2,000 crew members daily. The facility is expected to host more than 250,000 cruise passengers in its first year of operation.

The 30-acre development on the Bay of Maimon includes a welcome center with a variety of retail outlets, themed restaurants and bars and a transportation hub allowing visitors easy access by land and sea to nearby destinations. A 2014 completion was originally forecast.

A joint project between Carnival Corp. & plc and the Rannik family of Grupo B&R, the $65 million project is designed to re-establish the Dominican Republic’s North Shore as a popular cruise destination. The last cruise ship to call at Puerto Plata was nearly 30 years ago.

Columbus’ cursed colony 500+ years later

By Matt Bokor

Located on the northwest coast of the Dominican Republic, remnants of the first European town in the Americas tell the story of how Christopher Columbus and his large entourage lived—or tried to—after the Spaniards’ second arrival in 1493.

Cemetery at La Isabela

Cemetery at La Isabela. Photo by Matt Bokor

The admiral named the settlement La Isabela, after his benefactor, Queen Isabela of Spain. However, the seaside spot about 30 miles west of modern-day Puerto Plata didn’t last long.

Visitors to sun-baked La Española National Park, which encompasses the settlement’s relics, will find excavated foundations of homes, a church, storage buildings and several other structures, including Columbus’ citadel and portions of the wall that surrounded the roughly five-acre outpost overlooking the Bay of Isabela.

Perhaps most striking for tourists today are the many gravesites, including one with the skeleton fully exposed.

The informative La Isabela Museum onsite exhibits numerous artifacts and narratives about the settlement’s turbulent, five-year history, which goes like this:

With goals of establishing a Spanish base in the Americas and finding gold and other precious metals, Columbus arrived with a fleet at 17 ships and some 1,500 men, along with horses, pigs, seeds, tools and other materials for carving out a community.

The explorers also introduced rats and diseases—smallpox, measles and typhus—which with warfare and enslavement doomed the native Taino population.

The Spaniards grew increasingly hungry, sick, disillusioned and even mutinous as their crops failed and their gold expeditions proved fruitless; hurricanes in 1494 and 1495 sunk several ships.

By 1498 the settlement had been abandoned in favor of a new location on the south coast—Santo Domingo.

Historical archaeologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History collaborated with the Dirección Nacional de Parques de la República Dominicana and the Universidad Nacional e Experimental Francisco de Miranda in Venezuela to excavate and study La Isabela between 1989 and 1999.

The results of that work can be seen onsite at the La Isabela museum and online at flmnh.ufl.edu … just type La Isabela in the search field.

National Geographic Television produced the documentary “Columbus’ Cursed Colony” about the debacle at La Isabela in late 2011.

La Española National Park is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; admission is 100 pesos (about $2.50 USD). Guided tours (in Spanish) are available for an additional fee.

Although La Isabela is relatively close to Puerto Plata, the drive takes about 1.5 hours.

18th Dominican Republic Jazz Festival coming to North Shore

The Dominican Republic Jazz Festival will celebrate its 18th year with four nights of free concerts Nov. 6-9 in the touristic towns of Puerto Plata, Sosua and Cabarete on the Dominican North Shore.

Abraham Laboriel performs at Dominican Republic Jazz Festival 2013

Abraham Laboriel performs at Dominican Republic Jazz Festival 2013. Photo by Olivier Moro

Presented by the Dominican Ministry of Tourism, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival is a renowned, annual cultural event. Bringing Jazz to a diverse crowd of music lovers, comprised of local residents and tourists alike, the 2013 event enjoyed record-breaking attendance with a combined audience of over 10,000 people.

The festival also brings music education to the region through its affiliation with FEDUJAZZ, a non-profit organization that conducts musical workshops for youth. Motivating and developing young artistic talent, FEDUJAZZ has partnered with local organizations such as Sosua City Council to further assist in the education of Dominican children, using Jazz as the teaching platform.

The Dominican Republic Jazz Festival is known for its legendary performers and seaside locale with its mix of tropical climate, Caribbean culture and a Latin take on the international jazz scene. The festival is free, but VIP tickets are available, enabling priority seating, complimentary beverages and other festival perks with proceeds benefiting the music foundation FEDUJAZZ.

The internationally acclaimed musicians participating in the 2014 Dominican Republic Jazz Festival include Colin Hunter & Joe Sealy ‘s Quartet (Canada), Ignacio Berroa Group (USA) with Giovanni Hidalgo (Puerto Rico), Berklee Global Jazz Institute (USA), Joe Lovano’s Quartet (USA), Ramón Vázquez Trío with Edmar Colón and Danny Díaz (Puerto Rico), Big Band Conservatory of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic ), Patricia Pereyra and Band with musical direction by Rafelito Mirabal and Guy Frometa (Dominican Republic) with special guest Alex Jacquemin (France), and Edgar Molina (Dominican Republic).

Dominican Republic Jazz Festival dates and locations include:

• Nov. 6 – Puerto Plata, Independence Park

• Nov. 7 – Sosúa, Hotel Casa Marina Amphitheater

• Nov. 8-9 – Cabarete, Cabarete Beach

The Caribbean jazz ensemble BwaKoré of Martinique will perform a special concert at Parque Mirador in Sosua on Saturday, Oct. 11 as an opening event for the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, sponsored in part by the French Embassy of the Dominican Republic and Alianza Francesa. In addition to the concert, BwaKoré will offer free music workshops at the Casa de Arte in Sosua for children in the Strings program, in conjunction with FEDUJAZZ and Sosua City Council.

Since the beginning, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival has presented internationally renowned Latin Grammy and Grammy Award winning musicians such as Chuck Mangione, David Sánchez, Ray Baretto, Néstor Torres, Chucho Valdés, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Arturo Sandoval. Additional jazz greats have included Stanley Jordan, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Danilo Pérez, El Canario, Ismael Miranda, Cuco Valoy among many other talents.

Sponsors for the 18th Dominican Republic Jazz Festival include Ron Macorix, JetBlue, United States Embassy, Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Sea Horse Ranch Luxury Resort, Ultravioleta, Millennium Resort & Spa, Casa Linda, the Municipality of Sosua and Cibao Recycling.

For more info visit drjazzfestival.com.

Master of the Ocean competition returns Feb. 23-28, 2015

After a successful global mission to recruit world-class competitors, Master of the Ocean organizers announced commitments from nine international teams and an impressive roster of corporate support for their unique watersports competition on the North Shore of the Dominican Republic.

A kite lifts off at the 12th annual Master of the Ocean competition in February 2014.

A kite lifts off at the 12th annual Master of the Ocean competition in February 2014.

Master of the Ocean is an elite professional competition that showcases the best athletes in four watersports disciplines: surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddlesurfing (SUP). Founded by German waterman Marcus Bohm, Master of the Ocean will celebrate its 13th edition in Cabarete and nearby beaches from Feb. 23-28, 2015.

“We will have the participation of teams from Germany, Italy, Nordic countries, USA, Israel, Puerto Rico and Canada, among others,” Bohm announced recently at the third annual Discover Puerto Plata Marketplace 2014.

“Master of the Ocean is proud to have the support of the Dominican Ministries of Tourism, Sports, and Environment. The Ministry of Tourism has provided special assistance in the promotion of the event by including it in its GoDominicanRepublic Calendar and through its 28 offices worldwide in eight languages,” Bohm said.

This year the event was sponsored by Delta Air Lines, Powerade, CCN|Orgullo de mi Tierra, Dakine, among others.

Five days of competition, free-style expression sessions and music will all take place in and around Cabarete. Formerly a farming village, the bohemian town has morphed into an international Mecca for extreme watersports because of its ideal, year-round conditions. The festivities culminate on Feb. 27—Dominican Independence Day—with an awards ceremony and IndepenDance for athletes, sponsors, media and guests.

The Master of the Ocean competition, which Bohm launched in 2003 as the Ironman of Watersports, features 12 teams of four athletes per team (one for every discipline). The 16 overall athletes who master all four disciplines then compete for the Master of the Ocean title.

“This is the only competition in the world that incorporates all four surf-related disciplines in search of the most complete watersports athlete, who is crowned the Master of the Ocean,” Bohm said.

Star athletes expected to return include the defending MOTO titleholder (men’s) and winner of European for SUP, Zane Schweitzer from Hawaii; defending MOTO titleholder (women’s) Fiona Wylde from Oregon, Stand Up World Tour, second place; and Dominican Luciano Gonzalez, four-time Master of the Ocean title holder and third place, Red Bull King of the Air.

Over the summer Bohm and colleagues visited Canada, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and the USA as part of the MOTO|Global Team Quest to recruit top athletes. Once again, transportation was provided by Delta, which accommodated athletes and international media attending the 2014 Master of the Ocean competition. During this Quest, Bohm promoted the Dominican Republic as one of the top watersports destinations in the world.