On most golf vacations, water is usually something to be avoided unless it’s shimmering off in the distance on a Caribbean or Hawaiian island and doesn’t involve the ‘plunk’ that accompanies a lost ball.
There’s no guarantee that you won’t suffer the same fate on a Carnival Cruise Line voyage that offers a multitude of options for golfers, but there’s a positive side to water, which offers a desirable path to courses in exotic locales in ports of call around the globe.
Carnival has forged a partnership with Elite Golf Cruises LLC to offer guests aboard the company’s Fun Ships an opportunity to play and receive instruction both on the ship and during its many golf excursions.
“Golf has always been a popular activity with Carnival guests and we are pleased to team up with Elite Golf to offer this program, which features not only some of the most beautiful and challenging courses in North America, but also professional instruction,” said Carnival president and chief executive officer Gerry Cahill.
The golf program is available on all of Carnival’s Fun Ships and includes courses in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Bermuda, Europe, as well as some Canadian layouts.
On-board lessons, ranging from half an hour to an hour, are available in covered and lighted practice ranges to protect golfers from the elements and include teaching computers that feature side-by-side comparisons with tour players as well as video analysis.
Golf excursions include a golf pro escort, priority tee times, round-trip transportation between ship and course, cart and green fees. Equipment rental, including Nike clubs and golf shoes, is also available and golf balls, gloves and apparel are also for sale.
Canadian golf courses available within the Carnival program include Glen Arbour in Halifax, a Graham Cooke design, Rockwood Park in Saint John, N.B., and Bell Bay, a Cape Breton jewel in Baddeck, N.S.
Those three Canadian layouts are among about 60 nine and 18-hole courses offered by Carnival in countries such as Portugal, Denmark, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, including such well-known offerings such as Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic and White Witch in Jamaica.
Getting to the golf course can be as much fun as playing when your transportation is a Fun Ship such as the Carnival Splendor, which last summer made its maiden voyage across the English Channel from Dover, England, to Amsterdam and back.
The Splendor has since crossed the ocean and is now departing Los Angeles weekly, tempting golfers to stay up late the night before a round, perhaps singing karaoke in the El Morocco Room. According to ship architect Joe Farcus, the Spendor is all about giving the gregarious person a home during a voyage.
“It’s popular culture in a way. I call it entertainment architecture, what I do,” said Farcus.
Being whimsical is serious business, according to Farcus, who says he uses elements of what he’s learned as a student of art history and architectural history in trying to establish a giddy feel for passengers from the get-go as they enter the ship into the Splendor Atrium.
Gold leaf beams and arches are the first impressions for passengers in the atrium, which is highlighted by stainless steel and wood as elevators and stairwells rise from the main floor.
“I think people suffer, as I do, from a sort of natural claustrophobia. You’re coming into something new that you’ve never been on before, you don’t know where anything is and I see that door when you walk down the gangway as sort of a barrier, a psychological barrier,” said Farcus.
“What I want, when they come into that atrium, is that it becomes a magnet – that barrier just shatters and the cruise begins. The wonder, the getting away from it all is part of it. You come in, you see it and you want to go ‘Wow.’ For me, that’s the greatest compliment.
“That’s how you want to start a cruise. You don’t want to start off saying ‘Where’s my luggage? Where am I? What am I going to do?’” he added.
One thing passengers will surely do once they get settled is make a visit to the central, two-level Lido pool, which can be covered by a retractable roof in cooler weather, which we got on the English Channel last summer. The Lido pool also features a 270-square-foot outdoor screen to watch concerts and other events.
It was at the Lido pool that the Splendor’s godmother — classical musician, singer and personality Myleene Klass – performed during the naming ceremony last summer in Dover.
Other features of the Splendor include a two-level, 5,500-square-foot children’s play area, including a water spray park, a spa and unique touches throughout the restaurants, public rooms and nightclubs that give each a separate flavour, but they all add up to one thing in Farcus’ mind.
“I look at a ship as one artistic creation and each part is an integral part of it,” he said. “If you were looking at a Picasso painting, you wouldn’t say, ‘Well, I like the orange colour better,’ or ‘I like the green colour better.’ I see it as one thing.
“Obviously, there are details that are personally more fun for me,” he said, looking around the El Morocco, inspired by the famous New York club of the same name, complete with zebra patterns, palm trees and murals of Moroccan scenes on the walls.
“I can look at these palm trees and they make me chuckle,” said Farcus, adding that the Royal Flush Casino on board, with the characters on the cards taking on a three-dimensional quality, also stand out for him.
“I love the playing cards in the casino,” said Farcus. “I had the vision, then creating it was a very special thing. I’ve never seen anything like that, taking this card and bending it and then having the faces come alive off of it as three-dimensional form. It’s very Alice in Wonderland and I like that.”
Carnival packages that include professional instruction begin at $45 per person for nine holes and $95 per person for 18 holes. On-board lessons with a professional start at $25 for a swing check to $80 for a one-hour video analysis with an instructor. All prices are quoted in U.S. funds.
For more information, see the website www.carnivalgolf.com, or call 1-800-324-1106.
Photos courtesy of Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines