If you're lucky enough to be visiting Roatan's Mahogany Bay on your next Caribbean cruise, you're in for a treat. This expansive cruise terminal is a gem - complete with retail stores, bars, restaurants, and its own 10-acre private island called Mahogany Beach. Although the Honduran Bay Island of Roatan offers many attractions, cruise passengers might find it hard to tear themselves away from spending their entire day at Mahogany Bay.
Opened at the end of 2009, the $62 million Mahogany Bay has space for two cruise ships and can accommodate 8,000 passengers. The 20-acre waterfront port facility is located in a relatively undeveloped area of Roatan previously known as Dixon Bay, right near the ferry terminal serving the Honduran mainland - just 37 miles away. There is no town right outside the terminal's security gates, so there's nothing to visit there. Guests need to take a shore excursion, private tour or taxi to visit places like West End Village, West Bay Beach and Coxen Hole.
Designed to be a self-enclosed, stand-alone facility, Mahogany Bay gives cruise passengers the opportunity to take advantage of a wide variety of diversions without ever leaving the complex. Guests exit their ship and enter a large open air welcome center, complete with shopping and bars/dining outlets such as Fat Tuesday's. A wide variety of duty-free shopping and store options are available here, including Dufry's, several jewelry stores, Del Sol, Tribal Fusion, and more. There's also a craft market for those who would like to purchase souvenirs from Honduras and other parts of Central America, such as wood carvings, pine needle baskets, coffee and Lenca pottery.
From the welcome center, cruisers can choose to head over to the sandy strands of Mahogany Bay's 10-acre private island. Mahogany Beach features an 825-foot long white sand beach with complimentary beach loungers and mats, a 17,000 square-foot Food & Beverage Center, tons of watersports activities, a massage area, private cabanas and more. Plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and kayaking are available right off the beach. The private air-conditioned cabanas available for rent here are equipped with comfortable furniture, iPod stations, outdoor showers, hammock resting areas, and a private beach exclusively reserved for cabana guests.
Getting to Mahogany Beach is definitely half the fun. Cruise passengers can ride the "Magical Flying Beach Chair," a cool ski-type chairlift attraction that takes guests directly from the welcome center to Mahogany Beach. It's a fun ride with excellent opportunities for outstanding ship and beach photos. Guests of all ages who are at least 32 inches tall can purchase an all day pass to access the chairlift. There's also a shaded walking path for those who would prefer to stroll to the beach.
For those who would like to explore the island of Roatan, a wide variety of ship-sponsored shore excursions are available. Roatan is known for its coral reefs, so snorkeling and diving are outstanding here. There's even an opportunity to snorkel or dive with dolphins at Anthony's Key Resort, where other types of dolphin encounters take place. Adventure seekers will want to try out the canopy tours, parasailing and 4WD options, while nature lovers should make sure to visit the monkeys at Gumbalimba Park. West Bay Beach (often called Tabyana Beach) is famous for its white sands and turquoise blue waters. Great snorkeling is available right off the beach here.
It's fun to take a tour of Roatan and learn a bit about the lives of those who live on this lovely Honduran Bay Island. Cruise passengers can become familiar with the history of Roatan's Garifuna inhabitants, tour the Carambola Botanical Gardens, visit a cameo factory, and head over to West End Village for a little shopping. Families might enjoy a cruise aboard a replica of the Black Pearl for a swashbuckling pirate adventure.
Those who wish to take an independent tour from the Mahogany Bay complex will need to take a short walk out of the security gates and up the entry road. If you have arranged a tour prior to arriving at Mahogany Bay, your independent operator will likely send you instructions beforehand on where to meet. Taxis are also available at the ship terminal and around the island. If you decide to take a taxi, make sure to confirm the per person price before you go and ascertain whether the quoted rate is in Lempiras (Honduran currency) or U.S. dollars.
Popular independent tour options include island tours, trips to Sherman Arch's Iguana Farm or a privately-owned monkey & wildlife park, visits to the Santé Wellness Center and other day spas, excursions to West Bay Beach and West End Village, offshore fishing or snorkeling, East End jungle safaris, and other activities. It's also possible to arrange voluntourism opportunities in Roatan. See Together for Good (http://www.togetherforgood.org) for more details.
The Mahogany Bay cruise port receives high marks from its guests. If you're interested in visiting this port, check the itineraries of Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Costa, Seaborn and P&O ships. They're likely to call at Mahogany Bay if Roatan is part of the ship's cruise itinerary.