A 14-day adventure by Sarra
  • Day14

    Goodbye Barbados!

    December 31, 2017 in Barbados ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Our final day was a day at sea, before docking in Bridgetown, Barbados for our flight home. We holed up fairly early in the day on a couple of sunbeds under the glass good facing out to sea, and spent almost the entire day reading. A relaxing end to a cruise with a port a day for the last ten days! The sun was scorching, and so the day followed an easily repeatable pattern - reading until too hot, jump in the pool, dry off and get a drink (the latter being a notable benefit of an all-inclusive cruise!). Sadly, and very disappointingly, as it was the final day there was no trivia this evening.

    The day of our departure was not dissimilar, spent in the same loungers but with no swimming, both the to the faff but also due to the chill in the air from the rain in Bridgetown. We did sit and watch a man overboard drill run through the morning, elongated the to them hitting the 'casualty' with the boat on two of the four attempted rescues!

    Now, we await our flight home, during which we'll roll into 2018 somewhere over the Atlantic. Happy New Year all 😊 x
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  • Day12

    Palm Beach, Aruba

    December 29, 2017 in Aruba ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    As with Bonaire, we had no excursions booked in Aruba. After a brief wander around the town, a took a bus up the west coast of the island to Palm Beach, which Ben aptly nicknamed 'Little America'. Most of the other ship's passengers doing the same as is for off earlier at Eagle Beach, a typical Caribbean postcard beach, but with few facilities or shade. By contrast, Palm Beach was fronted by the Holiday Inn and Marriott, with acres of sand, sunloungers and hotel pools, as well as Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robins on the adjacent high street.

    We had hoped to book onto a snorkelling boat trip but sadly they had all sold out for that day, so we went for a swim in the sea instead. The clientele was distinctly American and the frantic pace and volume of services of offer contrasted hugely to the islands we visited in the first week. Certainly, the ABC's (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) of the Caribbean have quite a different character to the other islands, partly from their history and partly from the volume of tourist dollars that clearly flood into these islands from the USA.

    Getting the bus back to Oranjestad, we actually hopped on the bus going further north first, a cheap way to see as far north as Malmok Beach, before it turned and headed back down the same route.
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  • Day11

    Lac Bay, Bonaire

    December 28, 2017 in Bonaire ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Bonaire was the first place in a while we had no excursion booked, but a brief internet search the day before had said bike rental was available. So, we toddled off the ship to find it...and walked around the very small town fully twice before doing so! At $25 for two bikes however, and having fully sunscreened up, we set out into town.

    First stop was a turtle conservation store/company. We didn't really know what to expect and got the feeling they don't get many visitors but they were very knowledgable and it was an interesting stop if for no other reason than they gave us out next destination - Lac Bay.

    We cycled south-east across the width of this narrow island, passing mangroves to the left and stark cactus-laiden desert to the right - a stark contrast. Cycling around Lac Bay, full of kite surfers, we made a welcome drink stop out of the midday heat before looping back north-west towards the ship. We could have taken in the entirety of the tip of the southern island, but decided against it in the heat. Instead, we took something resembling a Roman road, cutting straight through the heart of the island back to Kralendijk.

    The evening was a glorious trivia victory, this time not hollowed by having had the questions the previous week!
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  • Day10

    Kayaking and Snorkelling, Curacao

    December 27, 2017 in Curacao ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    A long journey from Granada to Curacao, sailing for 22 hours and arriving at 1200 today. We had a snorkelling and kayaking booked and headed out across Curacao, an island far more developed and 'western' than any we'd been to as yet.

    We kayaked out of the bay (after a stupidly long 'safety' brief which had little safety information despite it's longevity, largely due to the guide believing he was a comedian) and into quite a strong swell. We were able to kayak right up to the oil refinery logistics in the sea as well as to more forts, before beaching up for some snorkelling amongst a small shipwreck. The fish here were equally as incredible and impressive as any we had yet seen and they certainly weren't shy.

    The trip was great fun, but we ended up speaking to Thomson about it as it appeared rather unsafe for a great portion of the trip, including kayaking all around mooring lines and rusted stantions with little direction - in the swell, some of the more inexperienced kayakers did seem to struggle. A shame, as it was a really excellent trip, but a little more thought needed, given that prior experience was not required to sign up.

    Back in Willemstad, we did a spot of shopping in the floating market, got caught in a Caribbean downpour and enjoyed the Queen Emma swing bridge before returning to the boat. We were victorious in this evening's trivia, helped by the fact the questions were a repeat of a set from last week! But the best entertainment of the evening was the fifteen minute faff watching the pilot boat try to collect the pilot from our ship - in the swell the pilot made a few attempts to get off our ship, before the pilot boat having to go around the other side of our ship to escape the swell and finally recover the pilot, to a great cheer from all the passengers and crew on deck!
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  • Day9

    Fort George, Grenada

    December 26, 2017 in Grenada ⋅ 🌙 27 °C

    Fort George in Granada, over 300 years old, was also the site of the execution of Maurice Bishop, a revolutionary leader whose actions resulted in the US invasion in 1983. In this diliapidated and decaying diet, a plaque to him still sits in the main courtyard. Part of this building is currently the police headquarters. Mostly however, it is a fascinating mix of crumbling buildings being reclaimed by nature, and providing for fantastic photos. The site is full of stairs and tunnels with no signage, so it really was like exploring ruins - far more fun than the more manicured and managed 'ruins' than we have visited!Read more

  • Day9

    Seven sisters, Grenada

    December 26, 2017 in Grenada ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    A half day in Grenada and we'd booked something different today - a rainforest hike to Seven Sisters waterfalls in the Grand Etang National Park. The island is volcanic, so the drive to the start felt like 50 minutes of vertical ascent! Our driver-guide was outstanding, stopping and showing all manner of local vegetation and crops, from bananas, to nutmeg, starfruit to cinnamon.

    The trail itself was steep both up and down, and muddy red clay and stone underfoot...a slippy and occasionally hair-raising experience amongst the 15 year-old forest (the previous vegetation having been completely destroyed in 2005 hurricane). The mosquitos were obviously out in full force, but I had my industrial strength Canadian repellent...we'll see

    At the end we enjoyed a freshwater waterfall swim in the two pools...with lots of GoPro photos! We trekked back, distinctly more uphill than down...exhausting when slippy underfoot! The final stop was the National Park visitors centre which sits atop a massive lake which is actually an extinct volcanic crater.

    Hoping we'll have time to visit Fort George at the harbour before our early departure at 2pm today.
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  • Day8

    Snorkelling in St Lucia on Christmas Day

    December 25, 2017 in Saint Lucia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    We left the boat early for a Christmas bimble aroind St Lucia...and got hassled continually for our trouble! Apparently walking is not the done thing and we should definitely take a taxi...We wrestled our way through to a predictably quiet, but nonetheless lacklustre town centre.

    After an hour back on the boat, we met our excursion on the quayside - a few hours swimming and snorkelling at Pigeon Island. The thirteen of us shared a whole catamaran up the St. Lucia coast, and Ben and I enjoyed laying on the netting over the front and falling the swell of the tide.

    Back in port, the 3 for $5 local beers made for a useful WiFi stop (and some video calling home for Christmas day!!) before boarding the cruise shop again. We did have a formal Christmas dinner sitting but that was at 8.30pm, so instead we had a Christmas dinner at the buffet before trying our hand once again at trivia...a hearty 13/15 today but beaten by the team of seven who got full marks 😕
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  • Day7

    Turtle watching in Barbados

    December 24, 2017 in Barbados ⋅ 🌬 29 °C

    We spent our morning swimming with turtles! Nice cruise up the Barbados coast past half-million dollar houses to a reef where we swam amongst turtles 😊 a great experience. The big ones got right up close, swimming around and underneath us if you stayed still. It was a little jarring with the number of people there, especially given some of the frentic activity when a turtle came by and some people even touching them 😕 The reef was also teeming with other aquatic life which made for fab viewing! After the swim, we returned on the boat before a wander into UNESCO protected Bridgetown.

    The town itself was a little underwhelming but the walk along the promenade was very pleasant.

    Unfortunately, by the time we returned that evening, I had become one of 'those' people - a beautifully punk western tourist, despite sunscreen. Lathered on the moisturiser and pledged to look for more sunscreen!!
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  • Day6

    Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

    December 23, 2017 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Our only tender port so far, Bequia is an island of just ten square miles and 5,000 people. From the port, we walked a kilometre down the coast to Princess Margaret beach - this was the most traditional 'postcard' Caribbean view we'd had so far. An array of yachts sorted the water in front of the white sandy beach, served only by one bar and no other facilities. We took the opportunity to enjoy some freetime swimming whilst deciding on our plan for the day.

    We had considered a scuba dive but ended up putting against it due to the timings. Instead, we enjoyed a brief jaunt around the beach and town before tendering back to the boat for lunch before an afternoon reading by the pool (and briefly on the adult-only veranda which quickly proved to hit g is with Ben burning his feet on the hot deck!!).

    The shore excursions for the firsy three of our days next week had become available so we booked into some more kayaking, snorkelling and hiking - all quite reasonably priced and we certainly struggled to find lower independently (which is very unusual!).
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  • Day5

    Snorkelling, St John's, Antigua

    December 22, 2017 in Antigua and Barbuda ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    On arriving at St John's, there seemed a little for us to do independently than other stops so far. Maybe not. We initially walked up to the cathedral, which seemed to be entirely locked up and quite dilapidated. Just a block over though was the National Museum, housed in the former courthouse. Some of the same contents as the museum in Bassaterre but a little more on geology and anthropology which was interesting. Final stop was St James' fort.

    We walked through ramshackle housing estates with buildings made from wood and aluminium and windows an ad hoc feature - some missing, some plastic, some glass, some boarded up. As we rounded the road into the fort it became apparent it'd be quite tricky to get to as it was seemingly in a container port...alas, we were in fact headed to the wrong ruins! Nonetheless, an interesting jaunt.

    In the afternoon, we'd a kayak and snorkel excursion planned. We took a bus ride with our local guide Darie who talked about sugar plantation history, education and healthcare on Antigua, and national heroes.

    From the centre, we took a speedboat to a kayak station amongst the mangroves. The guide spoke about the four kinds of mangroves, of which there we red ones. Apparently, they act as a nursery for all the sea young, provide wind protection and prevent sold from being washed out over the coral reef which would suffocate it. The speedboat retrieved us, and went onwards to the snorkelling site - AMAZING. From the surface it was not apparently different to any of the water over which we had travelled, but the moment you want underwater, the life was astonishing. Teems of fish, varied in size and colour, feeding off a great variety of coral, including 'brain coral'. We took loads of photos on the GoPro. The swell of the ride was quite large and we had to be really aware of the tide essentially dropping us into the coral and breaking it.

    All too soon, we were summoned back and headed to a nearby shore for swimming, birdwatching and rum punch, before speedboating back to the centre to get out taxi back to the ship.

    The taxi was about a 45 minute journey, made much longer by the crazy traffic around St John's - our guide had informed us on the way out that 'every hour is rush hour in Antigua'!

    On board, we tried out hand rather more triumphantly at the trivia quiz, winning a phone fan for our trouble!
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