RSSArchive for January, 2015

Carnaval festivities return to Puerto Plata

The Puerto Plata Carnaval will be held every Sunday in February (1, 8, 15, 22) with the final parade on Sunday, March 8.

CarnavalThe annual celebration features colorful taimascaros (elaborate costumes incorporating Spanish, African, Taíno and Dominican culture) amid parades, dancers, floats, music and art. It all combines for lively, joyous celebration. Each celebration runs approximately 3 to 11:30 p.m. along the Malecón in Puerto Plata.

With origins dating to 1520, Dominican Carnaval is a tradition inherited from Spanish settlers.

Celebrated every Sunday of February, Carnaval parades and entertainment vary by city. In addition to Puerto Plata, festivities are held in Punta Cana, Río San Juan, Constanza, La Vega, Montecristi, Samaná, Higuey, La Romana, Santiago and Santo Domingo. La Vega is home to the most popular celebration in Dominican Republic.

Amber Cove to welcome first cruise ship in October

Amber Cove, Carnival Corporation’s new port just west of Puerto Plata, will welcome its first cruise ship when the Carnival Victory arrives on Oct. 6 for a daylong call.

Master plan for Amber Cove Cruise Center. Image courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Master plan for Amber Cove Cruise Center. Image courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Victory (normal capacity 2,758 passengers) will be the first cruise ship to call at Puerto Plata in nearly 30 years. The visit will be the first of 37 calls by eight different Carnival ships that will take place at Amber Cove between October 2015 and April 2016, accounting for more than 100,000 guests during this period.

“Amber Cove is destined to become a cornerstone in creating new itineraries from several U.S. home ports,” Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice president of itinerary planning, said in a recent press release. “It will provide an unmatched combination of fun-in-the-sun activities and eco-tourism opportunities along with unique sightseeing, dining and cultural experiences to create a lifetime of wonderful vacation memories for our guests.”

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 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.

The $65 million development is a joint project between Miami-based Carnival Corp. & plc and the Rannik family of Grupo B&R.

Ungodly ordeal ends for mighty Neptune

NeptuneWith trident at his side, mighty Neptune rules the sea once again from his rocky perch just off the beach in Puerto Plata.

Installed in 1971 under the administration of longtime President Joaquín Balaguer, the 22-foot-tall bronze sculpture became known as the guardian of the harbor, the mascot of the community. Even so, the Roman god of the sea endured decades of indignities, including two falls and several amputations by metal thieves, before his recent return to grandeur.

Regional Tourism Ministry Director Lorenzo Sancassi and Ministry Architect Acalia Kunhardt provided a chronology:

Around 1979, Neptune fell but was soon righted, thanks to a generous expatriate (known only as Mr. Charlie) who footed the bill. It wasn’t long before he started a gradual tilt and in finally toppled again onto the jagged rocks.

The fire department hauled the fallen lord to its yard for storage, but metal thieves picked at the languishing sculpture like buzzards on road kill. Trident? Gone. Two fingers, amputated. The tail of the fish on which he rested a foot also vanished. Someone even lopped off Neptune’s manhood.

He found some respite after his transfer from the fire department to the more-secure police department headquarters. As his adoring public grew impatient for his return, Neptune was trucked up to the foot of Mount Isabel de Torres. There, at the base of the scenic Teleférico (cable lift), the long-awaited repairs began.

Neptune stands 22 feet tall atop his craggy islet off Puerto Plata's malecón. Photo by Matt Bokor

Neptune stands 22 feet tall atop his craggy islet off Puerto Plata’s malecón. Photo by Matt Bokor

Metallurgists from nearby Santiago, the country’s second-largest city, worked for five months to replicate Neptune’s missing parts, patch gouges, fix dents and install durable, spine-like supports (namely, three steel pipes filled with concrete). The Teleférico operators, Tourism Ministry and community donations covered the roughly $30,000 repair bill.

Restored and reinforced, Neptune rode down the mountain by truck to the sprawling seaside resort of Playa Dorada for his triumphal return. At five tons, however, Neptune was too heavy for the military helicopter that was enlisted to whisk him home. After being trucked to the city’s port, he traveled by barge to his craggy islet in September 2013.

Secured by four cables and bolted atop a sturdy mount, Neptune underwent another month of adjustments before a festive lighting ceremony formally ended his ungodly ordeal.