Bush Tea tour featured in MSC Martha Stewart Caribbean Excursions
The MSC Martha Stewart Caribbean Excursion will give passengers a curated authentic experience at the ports they visit. Photo credit: Douglas Friedman
A bush tea tour is among the authentic experiences MSC Cruises will be offering its passengers aboard the Martha Stewart Caribbean Excursion which launched on June 1.
Speaking at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Caribbean Week in New York, Maria Atanasov, Brand Director for MSC, said the Martha Stewart branded excursions are targeting explorers who love to learn, travel like a local and discover hidden gems.
The cities to be visited are: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, Virgin Islands; Phillipsburg, Saint Maarten; Nassau, Bahamas; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Boatan Island, Honduras. Cuba has been removed from the itinerary following the ban on travel to that island by American President Donald Trump.
The Martha Stewart and MSC Cruises Excursions focus on some of the internationally acclaimed home and lifestyle expert’s passion points and feature a variety of activities, including hands-on culinary classes and tastings of local delights, horseback riding in the ocean, hiking to hidden coves, visits to craft markets, lessons from local fisherman and tours of beautiful gardens.
In addition to highlighting key landmarks at a destination, these specially crafted tours embody the locals' favourite spots and tell the story of the local culture.
In the Bahamas, the tour includes a Bush Medicine Garden Tour which involves a guided medicinal plant walk in Retreat Gardens run by the Bahamas National Trust, afternoon tea with a herbal bush selection at the historic Graycliff Hotel and shopping for herbal teas.
In St Thomas, the excursion includes dining on West Indian dishes such as stewed oxtail and an open-air safari bus through the Virgin Islands National Park.
In Puerto Rico, the excursion will take passengers on a food and culture walking tour which includes a hands on cocktail making class, rum and pina colada lessons and the sampling of artisanal gelato and sorbet popsicles.
Atanasov told Loop that she curated the experiences in collaboration with the tourist boards.
“It’s not often the tourist boards get asked what is your opinion, what is your favourite restaurant, what are the hidden gems places on the islands. I started with a list of that, started watching videos on the Internet, calling and interviewing tourist boards and working with our tour operators,” she said.
Atanasov said initially she was given experiences people thought tourists would be interested in but they weren’t authentic to the islands.
“I did have to reprogramme them a little because they were so set in the thought that this is a mass tour but this isn’t a mass tour, this is smaller, VIP experiences,” she said, noting that Caribbean people should be proud about what they have.
“Take pride in your heritage, take pride in your roots. So it is reprogramming them a little bit to say be proud, be loud and showcase your real gems which you might think is a hidden gem,” she said.
Citing the Bush Tea tour as an example of something Caribbean people might take for granted, she said it is in high demand among their travelers.
Future rollout of MSC Caribbean cruises will also include an excursion on MSC Cruises' new private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, on the island of Bimini which will welcome its first guests in November 2019.
Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, MSC Cruises is the world's largest privately-owned cruise company. The MSC Cruises fleet currently comprises 16 ships and the fleet is expected to expand to 29 cruise ships by 2027.