A Travellerspoint blog

Cruising the Caribbean

Life aboard Star Pride

sunny 28 °C

We have always said that we wouldn’t start cruising until we were too old or infirm to travel independently. So, what were we thinking when we booked a two-week cruise aboard this ship – the Star Pride?...
O.K. You can stop worrying. We are just fine and hopefully have many independent adventures ahead of us. But, when planning to visit the Caribbean Islands, we discovered that island hopping by ferries and small planes the length and breadth of the archipelago would have been both exhausting and expensive. So, we joined Captain Mark Symonds and his crew of 192 to cruise a wide variety of islands…
While many of the cruise liners carry four to five thousand passengers, we began the voyage with just 260 other guests all with spacious staterooms like ours…
With a small swimming pool and a couple of hot tubs we always had somewhere to take a dip…
But we were surrounded by crystal clear warm seas and sandy beaches, so who really needs a pool?...
With four restaurants serving gourmet meals all day long there was never a moment’s hunger…
This is Kannika, just one of the dozens of friendly waitresses, waiters, and stewards, who always served us with a smile…
And if ever we got peckish, we could always call 24-hour room service or retire to the onboard Yacht Club for cakes, sandwiches, and snacks.
We had fourteen fabulous sun-filled days aboard the Star Pride as we sailed the Caribbean Islands. Here are the maps of our voyage…
Now, we have no wish to make you seasick, but if you would like to discover how James ended up working in the galley, and would like to follow our cruise through the Caribbean just keep reading. The following ten blogs will take you on a journey to a storied world of pirates and hidden treasures. (There will be no individual notifications for these blog entries)
First stop - Grenada. See below.

Posted by Hawkson 19:28 Archived in Puerto Rico Comments (4)


sunny 31 °C

The advantage of being on a cruise is that we wake each day to a new adventure without having to pack our bags, take a flight or train, and find our hotel. And so, after two nights at sea, we sailed into St. George’s harbour, Grenada, at dawn, fully refreshed and ready to explore…
While Columbus ‘discovered’ Grenada in 1498, for some reason the indigenous Caribs weren’t happy about their island being invaded and could be quite nasty to anyone who tried. The French finally persuaded the Caribs to hand over the island in 1674 by killing them all and replacing them with thousands of African slaves. This is the main square where there was once a slave market...
Grenada went back and forth between the British and French and, in the end, the British stuck. Traffic drives on the left, everything is in English and all the schoolkids wear traditional uniforms and take English ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels.
The island was twice devastated by hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, but it has risen from the ashes in spectacular fashion. There isn’t a flat piece of land on the island, but the lush hillsides are dotted with fancy new villas all struggling for a better view of the superyachts moored in the small port of St. George’s…
Many of the villas belong to Grenadians who fled to England in search of a better life in the 1950s and 60s and are now returning with their riches to retire in their home country.
There was a time when a banana boat left Grenada every week bound for Southampton and we grew up in England on Geest bananas from Grenada, but all the bananas grown here today are eaten locally. However, new industries are springing up where the old failed. While sugar cane is no longer grown on the island, the sugar factory from 1937 has re-opened, (with seemingly little change in the equipment), and now distills imported raw molasses into award-winning rum using antiquated boilers in a scene of Dickensian industrial squalor…
However, the rum tasted pretty good.
Grenada is known as the Spice Island and we took a ‘Spice Tour’ though gardens filled with cocoa, nutmeg, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, tamarind, ginger and numerous familiar herbs. Nutmegs, sugar and bananas drove the island’s economy until sugar became unprofitable, disease wiped out the bananas and the hurricanes destroyed the nutmeg trees. These pear-shaped fruits are actually nutmegs…
And this is a nut which will turn brown when it is dried in the hot Grenadian sun…
And this is a cocoa pod before its beans are turned into chocolate...
Like most of the Caribbean islands, tourism is Grenada’s main industry today and it seems that every visitor leaves with a bag of spices. We bought ours from Esmerelda in St. George’s small market…

Posted by Hawkson 19:12 Archived in Grenada Comments (0)

Bequia – St. Vincent and the Grenadines

sunny 28 °C

Throughout our two-week voyage on board Star Pride we will be travelling overnight and arriving in port just as the rising sun brings the islands into focus…
Bequia is one of the smaller islands on our itinerary and is revered for its crystalline turquoise waters…
And its beautiful beaches...
Bequia and neighbouring Mustique are renowned as the playgrounds of the super rich and famous, and this beach with its coconut palms and soft white sand was named in honour of Princess Margaret, whom, it is said, loved to swim here…
While there are a few thousand residents on Bequia, we soon discovered that many of its inhabitants at this time of the year are Canadians escaping the harsh northern weather. With perpetually warm seas, almost guaranteed winter sunshine, and a 5-hour direct flight from Toronto to the neighbouring island of St Vincent, it’s understandable that so many Canucks would want to while away winter here.
There are some pretty fancy watering holes in the Bequia’s small harbour of Port Elizabeth…
There is also a cheeky little Pizza Hut...
But, with a sky-high cost of living, it doesn’t look as though everyone enjoys la vie en rose
One thing that Bequians, and Caribbean islanders in general, enjoy are the ubiquitous breadfruits which are cooked and eaten much like potatoes. The main difference is the size. Breadfruits grow on trees and are as big as bowling-balls…
Bequians are known for their boatbuilding skills and, according to legend, the infamous Caribbean pirate, Edward Teach known as Blackbeard in the early 1700s, had his ship outfitted here. Today, some Bequians make model ships, (accompanied by a good yarn of hidden treasures), to sell to the tourists, while others still engage in the culturally protected whale hunt. There was great excitement onboard at breakfast when a large whale breached several times in the distance. None of the locals took to sea to pursue the leviathan and the excitement soon faded as the whale slipped out of camera range with just an occasional spout of water.

Posted by Hawkson 18:59 Archived in St Vincent/The Grenadines Comments (0)

Pigeon Island, St. Lucia

sunny 28 °C

Pigeon Island is not an island anymore. In the 1970s a causeway was built to link the islet to St.Lucia and the wide sandy beaches on the causeway became the home of some fancy resorts.
But there is still plenty of room for us to enjoy some time on the shore under the palm trees…
With a bit of beach lounging and some kayaking out of the way we took off into the highlands to explore the rainforest by aerial tram...
We were accompanied by Christine Von Blockland, the award winning travel writer and host of the American PBS travel show – Curious Traveler - who just happened to be a fellow guest aboard Star Pride…
We had some great views of St. Lucia from the top of the mountain...
The flowers were exotic but, like much of the vegetation, they are not indigenous.
With their perpetually warm tropical climate, the Caribbean islands have been used for the commercial production of many exotic fruits and spices. Sugar seems to have been the main crop on many of the islands until the Europeans discovered that sugar could be more economically produced from sugar beets in the 1970s and 80s. While some sugar production was switched to making rum, many farmers simply gave up and became tour guides.
The islands of the Caribbean are the tops of an undersea mountain chain, and some are still volcanic, so there is not a lot of flat land. That’s particularly true of St. Lucia where two volcanoes, The Pitons, can be seen for many miles.
Before St. Lucia became independent in 1979 it had changed hands 14 times between the British and the French. However, it remained in British hands until independence and the lifestyle and education of the residents is still very much in the British tradition.
Cricket is the national sport of the West Indies and it is difficult to believe that these few small islands have produced some of the finest cricketers of all time. The West Indies cricket team won the world cup twice and have won many other trophies.

Posted by Hawkson 18:41 Archived in Saint Lucia Comments (1)

Les Saintes, Guadaloupe

sunny 29 °C

Le plus belle petite ile Les Saintes demande une histoire en francais, but English will have to be our poetic meter.
Sea and sky meld into fifty shades of blue
Transporting us to a centuries old Provençal scene.
Long before Louis Vuitton and Yves St. Laurent
stacked the boulevards and promenades of the French Riviera with their boutiques.
Aeons before the world’s mega-stars
gambled away their lives in the casinos and bars of Nice and St. Tropez.
Decades before the red carpet rolled out in Cannes
This is how it les cotes d’azur may have looked…
This is the prettiest of French restaurants...
Today, French aristos fly in from Paris for le weekend in their villas and on their superyachts, while others with cash to spare hitch a ride on board a majestic five master…
We, mere mortals, sneak into port aboard our little cruiser in the early hours and pinch the prime spot before the big boys arrive…
Guadaloupe and its accompanying islets may fly an independent flag, but it is as French as a baguette and a grumpy waiter. So, despite the fact that the tiny village is sinking under the weight of tourists, the stores all close at noon and will re-open just after the last stragglers have left to made it back to their boats by 3.30pm– so very French…
Ç'est la vie français en Les Saintes where all the locals speak French, eat French, drive French registered cars on the right, and have re-created a bygone gallic era.

Posted by Hawkson 18:11 Archived in Guadeloupe Comments (0)

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