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Friday, August 30, 2019

Cruising to Privacy

Headed for a cruise vacation? If you envision crowded beaches, long wait times, and scheduling hassles, consider a cruise that includes a stop at a private island. Over the past several years, cruise lines have ramped up private island excursions, which allow passengers to enjoy unique attractions, pristine private beaches, and top-notch service that is “just for them”.

Cruise lines’ private islands allow passengers to live the Caribbean dream. They can enjoy perfect white-sand beaches, clear water, colorful fish, coral reefs and lush fauna — and an invitation to have fun all day! Each island has something out of the ordinary to offer cruise passengers. Below are some of the cruise lines’ private destination offerings, and what makes each distinctive.

Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line

Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”), was developed by Disney, so it’s not surprising that it’s all about family fun! Guests can choose from a wide variety of private island activities, including a kids’ 2,400-square-foot water play area, a gaming pavilion, a sports beach, and of course, Disney character greetings! The pristine beach offers sparkling water, an “adults only” area, and boat rentals, including FunCat electric catamarans.

Castaway Cay also offers intriguing snorkeling.  Two submarines from the retired 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at the Magic Kingdom are submerged in the snorkeling area of the Family Beach. You’ll also discover statues of Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse underwater in this area, too!
Fun fact: Some Disney Cast Members actually live on the island year-round!

half moon cay bahamas

Half Moon Cay, Holland America Cruise Line

A slice of heaven, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas is a stunning paradise. Crystal blue water and powdery white sand await guests at this private sanctuary. Take a horseback ride on the beach, quench your thirst at the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” bar, kayak the lagoon, or let someone else drive while you enjoy a leisurely glass-bottom boat tour. There’s even a chapel for weddings and vow renewal ceremonies!

Fun fact: Half Moon Cay has won Porthole Cruise Magazine’s Best Private Island award for 17 consecutive years!

Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line

There’s so much to do at this stop in the Bahamas, that you might have trouble deciding! From peaceful, uncrowded, white sand beaches to heart-pounding parasailing, there’s fun for everyone. Don’t miss the stingray encounter, which garners a five-star rating from TripAdvisor. Guests can enjoy a speedboat ride to Stingray City, then enter the deep water, (an easy step from the large swim platform) and meet these fabulous critters. Even non-swimmers can enjoy the rays!

Fun fact: Great Stirrup Cay was the first cruise line private island, and was acquired way back in the 1970s!!

Princess Cays, Princess & Carnival Cruise Lines

Princess Cays, Princess & Carnival Cruise Lines

Actually, a single island located in the Bahamas, Princess Cays offers everything you’d expect from a private island with an additional layer of exclusivity- private, air-conditioned bungalows! These colorful, adults-only bungalows each feature a ceiling fan, table, and chairs inside, sun loungers outside, and an individual outdoor, open-air shower. The friendly, attentive staff is available to take drink orders.  Guests also enjoy the use of a motorized cart for transportation. When you are ready to take a dip or walk along the shoreline, just walk down the path to the beach. Not into extra privacy? Take a bike adventure along the beach to the rolling hills and see sparkling lagoons framed by mangroves, or hop on a clear-bottom kayak or dune buggy and create your own adventure!

Fun fact: Getting a chair in the shade is never an issue on Princess Cay. There are over 3,000 beach chairs on the island!

harvest cay belize cruise

Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line

It’s all about the location at Harvest Caye! The island is situated in Belize, which is known for its ecotourism. The island’s offerings include some unique experiences, such as exploring Mayan ruins, visiting a spice farm, or exploring incredible, saltwater estuaries teeming with wildlife. Guests can relax on white sands, enjoy exciting ziplining adventures, snorkel the world's second-largest barrier reef, or take an easy ride on a brand new SolarCat solar-electric catamaran!

Fun fact: The 400 staff members working on the island are locals. All the restaurants, amenities and shopping stores are also locally owned.

Labadee Royal Caribbean

Labadee, Royal Caribbean

Coasting takes on a whole new meaning at this tropical locale in Haiti. If you’ve “been there, done that” with ziplining and you’re looking for something different, Labadee offers you Dragon’s Tail Coaster, which reaches 680 feet before whooshing down a hill at 30 MPH. With 360-degree turns, as well as dips, waves, and curves, this thrill ride is sure to keep you entertained. However, if you’re less than “thrilled” at the idea of flying down the side of a steep mountain, don’t worry. You can climb the only icebergs in the Caribbean, or just kick back and relax, with the island’s signature drink— the Labadoozie!

Fun fact: Labadee is actually NOT an island. It’s located on Haiti's northern coast

coco cay royal caribbean

CocoCay, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Want a “Perfect Day at CocoCay”? That might mean conquering the tallest waterslide in North America! CocoCay’s waterpark boasts 13 waterslides. If you prefer your thrills on the dry side, drift “up, up, and away” 450 feet above the ground in CocoCay’s helium balloon. If your interests lie more with relaxation and libations, you won’t be disappointed. CocoCay’s Oasis Lagoon, the Caribbean's largest freshwater pool, has a massive swim-up bar and a beautiful, beachfront infinity pool. When stomach growling commences, there’s a variety of dining venues, which are included at no additional cost. Five dining venues are located throughout the island.

Fun fact: It is not uncommon to see wild chickens roaming the grounds, along with iguanas that sometimes get close to the dining areas to see if any scraps of food rolled away.

Coming Soon: Lighthouse Point, Disney Cruise Line

On the horizon, the newest private island destination– Lighthouse Point! Disney recently announced this development, and revealed that the island experience will celebrate Bahamian folklore, local artists, culture, nature, and of course, special Disney touches.

Disney will also be directly involved in conservation efforts to preserve and protect the island’s natural environment.

Construction at Lighthouse Point has not started yet but will begin after an Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan are reviewed and accepted by the Government of The Bahamas. Stay tuned!

Have you visited a cruise line private island? Share your adventures below. Happy Cruising!
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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Carl's Travels Continue - to Cebu Ocean Park, The Philippines!

Sea TREKs Carl Hanson travels to Cebu Ocean Park

Sub Sea Systems’ favorite frequent flyer, Carl Hanson, was off to the friendly skies again last month, this time for the long journey to our newest Sea TREK helmet diving location in the Philippines! With an opening date set for August 21, we’re excited about this new location and Carl’s journey to ensure their success. Here’s what Carl shared about his latest adventure:

Cebu Ocean Park Philippines

Where is the new location?

Cebu Ocean Park, in the Philippines. It’s the first marine park in Visayas and Mindanao, and the largest and deepest Oceanarium in the Philippines. The park is home to around 200 different animal species, and as many at 3,000 people will be able to visit the park at any given time.

Tell us about your travel route.
I traveled from Sacramento, California to LA, LA to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong to Cebu. ✈️

Cebu Ocean Park Philippines

What makes this location and park unique?

The area itself is outside of Mactan, a major tourism hub, but it’s far enough away to give visitors a more “local” feel of the Philippines. Cebu is known worldwide for whale shark swimming, so travelers interested in sea life have an additional opportunity to learn more about our oceans and conservation efforts. Cebu Ocean Park is committed to promoting environmental awareness and offers educational displays and attractions to engage kids and adults alike.

What kind of work did you do while visiting Cebu?

I set up a brand new Sea TREK backpack system. I trained staff, met with marketing teams and management staff, and met the facility owner to educate him and help set expectations. Basically, everything from scratch! The facility is so new that while I was there, they were still working on the details such as laying flooring. I was amazed to see how fast things were being done.

Cebu Ocean Park Aquarium

What did you do when you had downtime?

I ate… a lot! The food there is so inexpensive- a buffet for $3!  Local food was plentiful and varied, due to the Philippine’s unique mix of many cultures. The food is only eaten with hands, though, no utensils!

I got to participate in a boodle fight, which is a Filipino tradition! A boodle fight is a culinary experience where a big pile of food is placed in the middle of a table that is lined with banana leaves. Water jugs are placed on the side, used for hand washing, just before the “fight” starts. No utensils are used…just hands. The boodle “fight” originated with the Philippine's military, and symbolizes camaraderie and brotherhood. Definitely not a fine dining experience, but an experience just the same!

I also had the incredible experience of swimming with whale sharks in Oslob. Whale sharks can reach up to 40 feet (12 m) in length, and their mouths are over 5 feet (1.5 m) wide! However, they do not have teeth, and their throats are only the size of a quarter. I saw 5 of these all at once!

Cebu Ocean Park Philippines Sea TREK

What are some of the challenges the operator faces and how he is overcoming them? 

Currently, their biggest challenge is completing the facility. The owner of the facility is actually now living there, to ensure things are being done perfectly and in a timely manner. He’s there 24/7 and really cares about the facility being done correctly. I was there for approximately 1 week and I was impressed by how much they got done in such a short period of time.

Talk about the staff:

The staff is motivated and hard-working. They really want to do things right. They’re definitely a “no challenge is too big” group!

Cebu Ocean Park Philippines Sea TREK

What surprised you the most about this location?

I didn’t realize that the area is considered “up and coming” and thought it would be more tourist-y.

When will this new location open?

The target date is August 21st for both the aquarium and for Sea TREK!

We can’t wait to celebrate the success of Cebu Ocean Park. Stay tuned into our Facebook and Instagram pages, where we will be sharing images and updates!

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Leading the Way

At Sub Sea Systems, we provide the tourism industry with fun, interactive products that allow guests to explore the underwater world, learn more about our precious oceans, and discover incredible sea life.

With over 50 Sea TREK locations (and counting), we rely on hard-working representatives to get the word out about our helmet diving system as well as our other products. Our dedicated global representatives are paramount to the success of our products and our company.

We asked some of these amazing regional reps. to take a few minutes out of their action-packed days and share their interesting backgrounds and incredible stories with you. A big thank-you to Javi, Ad, Fili, and Takeshi, for giving us a peek into their busy lives!

Fili and Friends!
Q: How long have you worked with Sub Sea Systems?

Javi: I've been working for SSS since March 2014, but have been in contact with the company since 2002 when I was in charge of the Sea TREK, SNUBA and snorkel tour at Xel-Ha Park. I'd like to say that I've been around for a long time!

Fili: It's been 6 years since I started working with the Sea TREK experience as a licensee of Sub Sea Systems. I soon realized that it would be very interesting to represent the company for Spain, and I now represent Europe, too!

Ad: Since May 2014

Takeshi: It has been about one month!

Q What is your title?

Javi: I'm Regional Coordinator for the Mexican Caribbean and Belize regions… and wherever my boss sends me.

Fili: I am Sub Sea Systems’ Sea TREK Operator, Fun CAT Operator and Representative for Europe.

Ad: I am the Regional Director of the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East & Africa), Russia, & Turkey.

Takeshi: I am Sub Sea Systems’ Representative in Japan.


Q: When people ask you what you do for a living, what do you tell them?

Javi: I say: “Have you seen activities that allow participants to walk underwater while wearing a helmet? Well, I do that!”

Fili: I usually say, “I develop unique and innovative experiences focused on tourism. You have to try them!”

Ad: I hunt for potential prospects and projects for Sub Sea Systems in my region. Once found, I help my clients to purchase our products. I combine my knowledge about our products and possibilities, and advise them which product and programs will work for them. I support them during the complete process of purchase, engineering, installation, startup and even in the years after.

Takeshi: Marine activity production and construction sales, and diving business in general.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?

Javi:  I really like to train the new divers/Guides.

Fili: When I finish the day, knowing that I have managed to make at least one person happier.

Ad: Meeting new people with all kinds of different needs, then finding the best solution to create a win-win situation for them and us. Once a product has been sold, I enjoy assisting during the engineering, construction and installing phase, and training the staff.

Takeshi: There are a lot! First of all, going beyond the norm and trying something new. Working on a project that combines creativity with marine activities.

Ad, Hard at Work

Q: Prior to working with Sub Sea, what was your primary career? 

Javi: I was (and still am) a Diving Instructor.

Fili: For many years I worked in the world of advertising and marketing while preparing as a financial advisor. But all my life has been linked to the sea- surfing, underwater fishing, diving, etc.

Ad: I was the director of a company and worked as an advisor/consultant in International Business Improvement for multiple international companies/clients.

Takeshi: I have been a diving instructor for about 30 years. I also worked as a scuba gear repairer at US Kadena Air Force base in Okinawa for about 4 years.

Q: What do you do when you are not working? Do you have any hobbies?

Javi: I love spending time with my family, going to the beach or doing fun activities.

Fili: My favorite hobby is to think about being more productive and creating new opportunities – it is a very enriching experience

Ad: Spending time with my family and friends. Diving, and in wintertime, snowboarding.

Takeshi: Recently, I started to learn 3D CAD, so I design various things myself and enjoy making prototypes with 3D printers.

Javi and Family

Q: Tell us about your family.

Javi: My son Luca and my wife Romi are the lights of my life. I also have my parents and brother, who live in Argentina.

Fili: My greatest treasures are my two daughters, and of course my mother. They are for me the most important pillars. Every day, I strive to do my best to keep moving forward for them.

Ad: I have a fantastic and lovely wife named Evelien, who supports me in everything I do. Since I was 16 years old, she has been the love of my life. We are celebrating our 35th anniversary in August. We have 2 beautiful and lovely children. The oldest is our son Stefano, who lives in Spain. He is the owner of a company named Oasis Europe. Which offers rental management, property optimization to property owners.  Our daughter Naomi is an assistant broker for a real estate company and lives near us.

Takeshi: My daughter will enter University in Tokyo next year, so she will leave the small island of Okinawa. My daughter's character is very similar to mine, so we often disagree with each other! When I think about being separated next year, I feel a little sad. I have a son in high school. He wears a headset every day and plays only online games. However, he’s very good at snorkeling, so I think that I will teach him scuba diving. My wife is a person who is busy and moving around, who cannot take a break at all. She is a wonderful woman.

Q: What is your favorite work memory / funniest thing that has happened to you at work / craziest thing that has happened at work?

Javi: My favorite memories are the good moments spent with my co-workers, Calin and Josue. I also have a wonderful time with visitors or potential new operators. When I show them “my operations” and they see how many helmets we have in only one location (Xcaret, for example, utilizes 50 helmets every 30 minutes in just one of their two locations!) I love to show them how many safety divers are there taking care of the people and they see how well organized we are and they finally ask me: “and you trained them all?” And I say: “Yes!”, proudly. Bottom line: I LOVE MY JOB!

Ad: Too many to write about! My former and current colleagues all know I am a little crazy and I always try to bring fun in anything I do. I like to surprise people with my “magic dice” and doing that, they all will remember me with a smile.

Fili: One of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced happened during a Sea TREK, with a grandfather and his grandson. Developing an experience that is able to unite generations at 5 meters deep is wonderful. Neither of them knew how to swim and they could never imagine, that they could be together feeding the fish underwater. The grandfather was crying with emotion, seeing his grandson at his side.

Takeshi: There are so many, I’m not sure how to answer! I was attacked and bitten by a Hammerhead Shark. Humped by a Humpback whale in the chest. I have a lot of episodes in the sea! Things that were fun, scary, and dangerous!

We hope this interview made you smile as much as it made us smile! We’re grateful for these fine individuals and proud to have them represent Sub Sea Systems. A big thank you to Javi, Ad, Fili and Takeshi!

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