In a world where just about every coast, inlet, and river has been thoroughly explored, it’s rare to find a cruise itinerary that makes you think, “Now, that’s something unusual!” That’s exactly the reaction, however, that AdventureSmith Explorations is garnering in response to its Ancient Sites, Rain Forests & Coral Reefs 7-night round-trip voyages out of Belize City starting in late December 2012.
Passage is booked aboard Travel Dynamics’ 138-passenger expedition ship, Yorktown (formerly Cruise West’s Spirit of Yorktown). Small ship cruising is a perfect match for Belize and the Yorktown—at 257-feet long and 43-feet wide with a draft of 8 feet—is small and agile enough to access remote cays and beaches that mainstream cruise lines only dream about.
Well-versed naturalists, archaeologists, and scientists lecture onboard and lead the charge as passengers explore under the sea and on land. (Excursions are included in the cruise fare.) Trip highlights include extensive exploration of Belize’s Barrier Reef Reserve System, including a visit to the Great Blue Hole, a 1,000-foot coral rim made famous by Jacques Cousteau’s studies here in the late 1960s. At the time, he deemed it one of the top scuba dive sites on the planet.
Also on the agenda is Half Moon Caye, the place to see endangered red-footed boobies breeding. For snorkeling with “world’s best” status, Yorktown calls on Laughing Bird Caye, a partially submerged atoll that supports a vibrant coral reef, and South Water Caye for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing on its exquisite beach.
On land, expeditions focus on wildlife and Mayan ruins. Not-to-be-missed is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary that is home to jaguars, anteaters, and hundreds of rare bird species like the scarlet macaw and keel-billed toucan. For those intrigued by ancient cultures, two rarely visited Mayan sites that date back to 700 AD are on the docket: Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit.
This cruise itinerary also includes one day in Guatemala at the port of Santo Tomas de Castilla, gateway to Quirigua, an ancient Mayan center and UNESCO World Heritage site, and the San Felipe Fortress. (AdventureSmith also offers a pre-cruise stay in Guatemala.)
Time spent on the ship is enhanced by guest lectures, swimming off the ship’s aft marina, or relaxing in the lounge. Meals are taken in the main dining room during a single, unassigned seating. House wines, beer, and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner. The recently refurbished Yorktown has 69 oceanview cabins making this ship a comfortable home-away-from home and ideal base from which to explore Belize.