Antigua – 23rd November
Got the best birthday present ever. NO ONE WOKE ME. No deadlines for meals, no rushing to excursions, no announcements through the cabins, no ship noises, no banging of hammers, drills or gangplanks. Utter bliss. Woke completely naturally when I was good and ready. Met Dad for lunch and got my cards and pressies. A lovely, relaxing day off. We’ve been to Antigua before, anyway, so we were always planning for this to be a day off. We now refer to days off after busy days as Crash Days, as we both need recovery time these days!
St Kitts – 24th November
VERY hot and humid. And a blisteringly long walk from the gangplank to the buses. There was a little buggy service, but, as we were parked next to the Largest Cruise Ship In The World™, and their 5000 passengers were using it, there was no room for us. When we got to the bus area, we managed to persuade a member of staff to give Dad priority and our bus driver, Warner, got us on board first, with the air con on, whilst everyone else sorted themselves out. Part of the chaos was, apparently, because those off the Wonder of the Seas had set off late, so the train we were due to board had departed late and wasn’t back yet. So there were huge queues on the quayside. From both ships. All heading in small 12-seater minibuses to the same train station.
Once we had escaped the scrum, however, the trip was delightful. Warner gave us a little tour of the island while we waited for the train, and told us interesting facts about the history of the island. Then we went to the little train, which is next to an airport so small, I didn’t even see it. Although it was a diesel, it was a hydraulic diesel (whatever that means) – the upshot being that Dad did not seem to suffer a reaction to the diesel fumes, which was nice. The train had two levels – an open air top deck and an air-conditioned lower deck, with wicker armchairs, tables, drinks and proper toilets. Unsurprisingly, we chose the latter.
The train tootled us around the coast of the island at 18 miles per hour for two hours. Very clanky, with wooden carriages that swayed quite alarmingly. The alarm was mostly reserved for the terrifyingly narrow bridges, to be fair, but there were also a few cliff edges that loomed rather close for my personal comfort.
There were some local dancers who performed for us, in fabulous outfits, and all the free soft and alcoholic drinks you wanted. All in all, a very pleasant introduction to somewhere we had never been before. I now know WAY more about the St Kitts sugar cane industry than any one person should ever really need to know. Tl;dr: there isn’t one. The government nationalised it when sugar beet destroyed the market for cane sugar, and then shut it down completely, in favour of tourism.
Glorious weather, beautiful countryside, lots of goats and an absolute deluge of small, white butterflies. Absolutely charming.
Tl;dr: St Kitts is beautiful and friendly and perfectly at ease with its slavery past.
Guadeloupe – 25th November
We were SOOOOOOO excited to be here! We are both (as was Mum) MASSIVE fans of Death in Paradise, and knowing it was filmed here made it vital that we get here if we could. In fact, this was the primary reason we chose this particular cruise!
I had booked a tour before we left England. The official P&O tour did not give much information as to what their DiP tour would include, so I found a lady willing to tailor-make a tour to suit us. FWIW, the P&O excursion was initially to run twice – once in the morning and once in the afternoon. It was so popular, they ran it SIX times, with multiple busses each time. Our guide’s name was Taïna, and her company is Guadaloupe Explor. She was wonderful. In the early days of the cruise, we made some friends, called Margaret and Barry and Linda and Geoff – all travelling together – and we have been quizzing with them each evening. As Taïna was offering us an eight-seater bus, we invited them to join us (which happily also made it much cheaper for us!). She drove us from Pointe à Pitre to Deshaies, showing us various sites along the way. Pointe à Pitre is a city at the joining point of the two islands, and is just an ugly city, like many others. But 10 minutes out and you’re in beautiful, lush, green Caribbean countryside. Guadeloupe has an endless supply of beaches – not nearly so many rocks and cliffs as elsewhere (see Grenada). You can choose white, golden or black sand!
We visited the location of The Shak from the tv series, but it had already been dismantled for the year – if it was left in place, it would be destroyed during storm season. But we stood next to the tree that the bedroom is built around! Then we went into Deshaies itself, and had a drink at Catherine’s Bar (and used the loos!). Then we went around the corner and up the hill to the Police Station. Then we drove round to the harbour and to the jetty that the ferry leaves from in the show. Absolute bliss.
Tl;dr: today alone was both the reason for the cruise and the pinnacle of it.
Day off. Too hot. Slept.
This was the third place we had not visited before, so, despite the fact that it poured with rain all morning, we decided to make the effort and get off and look around after lunch. In honour of this, the sky decided to stop watering us, which was nice. I had emailed a place from England about gluten free afternoon tea, but never heard back. We haggled with a taxi driver – the weirdest haggling I’ve ever encountered. 40 dollars for a tour. No, we just want to go there and come back. Fifty dollars. Eh? Sixty dollars. Dude, I said 40 was too high! This is not how haggling works. Let’s just agree on 40 then. Anything for a quiet life. So we were taken up some hair-raising cliff bends and slopes to The Tower Estate. This is a former plantation house – very visibly Edwardian! – that is now a guest house. Although they were closed (which is why they hadn’t answered my email!), our driver, Philip, knew the owner, Isabel, and she made some blue tea for us, anyway. The tea is made with the Blue Butterfly Peaflower, and tastes very perfumey. Apparently, it is good for diabetes and anxiety – the latter of which was very useful for the return drive down those slopes and cliff edges! Grenada is the highest and steepest of all the Caribbean islands. Some of the hills were pretty vertiginous. I’ll add some pics, but I don’t think they do it justice!
Tl;dr: Very steep roads and high houses, so the blue tea reduced the anxiety they induced.
Woke up, opened the curtains to see a military frigate with an 8-inch gun. Not pointed directly at us, thank goodness. Welcome to Barbados. We chose not to get off here. We’ve been here many times – we’ve visited a good proportion of the island, including many of the beaches and shopping things. It’s a very pleasant island, but we aren’t really sand, alcohol and watersports-type people, so it’s not really our thing. I’ve had a painful back for a while now, and they have recently given me a better mattress, so a day of lying on it to let my spinal muscles unkink didn’t seem like a bad idea.
Tuesday 29th November
Sea Day 1 of lots.
Quite a restful day today. Although it is very difficult to get up and dressed after you have opened the curtains. The view of the ocean – perfect Royal Blue, as far as the eye can see (roughly 20-25 miles in every direction)– is very distracting and hypnotic. There were some white horses today, for a change, and they only add to the prettiness of it all. Not another vessel in sight. Nothing and no one. Just us and the wide blue ocean.
My back is much better, although still a little twingy now and then. I’ve heard others moaning about back pain, and there have been several injuries, including a woman who got hit on the head by a jetski, a couple of broken noses and black eyes, several trips and falls resulting in ankle strains and sprains and Linda has a broken toe, missing the bottom step on the stairs. Geoff is having to wheel her around in a wheelchair. I have also heard of at least one broken arm. This all seems quite a high total for a journey that hasn’t been in the least bit rough so far!
But the most common complaint at the moment is the Bitten to Buggery Brigade. This includes me. Turns out, in Grenada, I forgot to put my insect repellent on, and something(s) had a field day with my nice white legs. Whatever they were, they were quite sociable; all the bites are in groups of two or three, so they were dining with friends! Ladies who lunch.
Things that have disappeared (cont’d):
Officers no longer come to the loyalty lunch. Which rather defeats the purpose of going, frankly. Who wants to get togged up in the middle of the day, when it’s 80 in the shade, to go and eat food identical to what we get in the evenings in the restaurant, with a free glass of wine? The wine ain’t that good!
Hooks on the back of the cabin door for coats.
Sorbet course on formal night dinners.
Most surprising is that this past Sunday there was no church service on board! Granted, we were in port, in a place with A LOT of churches, but nothing on board seems odd. Maybe they were so offended at the collection total from the previous week that they decided not to bother!