The Cruise in the Eastern Caribbean
89 Reasons to Stay Home
Nine Reasons to Go
I told my sister, “There’s a 50-50 chance this 89 year old body won’t be able to go.” She didn’t seem concerned. She knew the lure of the chain of nine eastern Caribbean islands would be cause to ignore any yelps from aching legs. The West Indies which has the Caribbean Sea with the Lesser Antilles on one side, the Leeward Islands and the Atlantic to the east . Michener’s tales and the Lonely Planet . . . . They called for me to come and explore.
December 19th, 2016. I had a Phoenix-Tampa nonstop, sister Nan and Mr. B. had a two day drive. Then we had a fun night staying with friends from long ago. On the next day I snuggled down into my nest in the back seat while we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. By early afternoon we were on board the Pacific Princess, the smallest ship in their fleet. After dropping off luggage in our staterooms, we headed for the 9th deck and began acclimating once more to cruise ship routine – eating. We quickly filled our plates, found a window side table and relaxed while the waiter brought us water and our choice of refreshing drinks.
The first two days of this itinerary turned into choppy waters and rolling seas. Swaying from side to side we progressed along the hall to various activities.
Despite the sway of the ship no one appeared to be bothered with seasickness. Six hundred passengers and there wasn’t a first-timer among them. These travelers used their retirement years to meander the globe, both on land and water. This two week trip served a purpose – to spend the Christmas holidays where it would be peaceful without a lot of whoop-de-la.
We were at sea the first two days and explored the ship. I tried the pool but the waves, even in this small area, were boldly swishing around from side to side, hitting me in the face. I retreated to the hot tub and refreshing warm sunshine. Evenings were taken up with the enjoyable shows and our continuing competition of Mexican train.
First stop: St. John Virgin Islands. We had booked a snorkeling tour, equipment included. This area is famous for its coral reef trail and, in my imagination; I pictured gently paddling, face down, looking at the little fishies swimming around.
After a crowded van ride to Trunk Bay, we listened while our tour guide explained that the coral reefs were in eight to twelve feet of water. My swimming is only where I can touch bottom, so instead we found a cove with gentle white sand, laid out our towels and I gingerly waded into the water. Whoops! It was not the reported 80 degrees, it was downright chilly. I retreated to my towel and watched others who were brave enough to try the equipment. So much for my being able to boast of snorkeling feats.
Saturday Dec. 24, 2016: St. Kitts. Our tour starts with the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the best preserved fort in the Caribbean, dating from 1690, built by the British to defend against the French. The winding narrow honk-before-you-turn-the-curve road takes us up 755 feet with a way-out view.
We had good rain pelting us by the time we reached Romney Manor, reputedly once the property of Thomas Jefferson. We ran inside and stopped in amazement. Rows of the colorful hand-printed Caribelle Batik, (the 2,500-year-old Indonesian wax-and-dye process,) were spread out in front of us. How beautiful! As the rain slowed we wandered around the grounds, among the beautiful crotons and other bright flowers, admiring the 350-year-old saman tree, the bell tower and other buildings.
Enough for one day. Instead of exploring the town, a nap took priority.
December 26: Our tour in Bequia (pronounced Beckway): “Open-air transportation . . . along the Atlantic Coast with alternating ocean views to the Turtle Sanctuary.”
Our ride in the open air tour van was a long one, with several spots for stopping and taking pictures of scenes pretty enough for a postcard.
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016: Our excursion today will be to an area designated as “Tobago’s national treasure,” a protected marine area.
At a sandy beach we climb aboard a glass-bottom boat and cruise off to Buccoo Reef. When we reach the coral reefs those with their snorkel tubing pile off the boat, grab on to a long rope and are slowly pulled around over the reefs.
For Wednesday in Barbados we have chosen a 4x4 Scenic Panoramic Drive, a leisurely guided safari through quaint villages and the forest. Our trip will include the island’s first settlement and the beauty of seaside rock formations.
I listened to our entertaining tour guide’s talk with interest, expecting to remember much of it without taking notes.
Today’s nap time continued right on through supper time. When hunger finally woke me up, I took the elevator to the 9th floor, selected choices from enticely-named dishes and enjoyed my variety. The amount of food wasted from each plate hurts my frugal nature, but it is such fun to select dishes different from usual. Even the deserts – custards and cakes and tarts – I try a couple and eat only part. I know that my penalty will be paid on the scales at home.
The last planned tour on December 29th is on Martinique, an overseas region of France.
When we reached the rum distillery, we wandered on our own, and found the place for the small free drink.
The best part of the tour turned out to be Elizabeth, our tour guide with a Paris and London education. Martinique, like many of these islands, no longer has banana or sugar or cotton based economy. The land has been sold and jobs have disappeared. Most of the income comes from tourism. We did not find “poor me” thoughts, but instead “use what we have to find prosperity.”
Again I slept through our evening meal and when I woke up the sun was setting. My absolute most pleasurable times were lying back in the lounge chair on the deck, rolling gently with the waves, following the clouds in their changing formations and smelling the breezes that come from a thousand miles away. These times, these days pass by too quickly and I hold on to as much of them as possible.
December 30th and our destination is Antigua. No tours are planned, and we wander around St. John’s.
December 31st, the last day of 2016, Virgin Gorda, the last island to visit. We took the tender in after a late breakfast, and returned after 15 minutes.
These Eastern Caribbean islands have been an experience that we enjoyed. We learned that hard-working people are trying their best to make a living with what they have – absolutely beautiful landscape – and are doing it with a multi-generation love for their land and a built in cheerfulness.
A New Year’s Eve party was held on the 9th floor. I went upstairs by myself. The dances were couple style so I watched until about 11:45 pm; then headed back to my cabin, out on the balcony, leaned against the rail and communed with the stars. The ship’s loud horn blared out at midnight. “Hello, Twenty Seventeen, what do you have in store for me this year?”
January 01, 2017. I stayed in bed late and enjoyed so much the gentle sway of the ship. Two more days at sea. My preference: deck and sun time. Reading then putting the book down to be one with the ocean.
Time to pack and put our suitcases out for pickup. A quick breakfast in the morning and say goodbye to the Pacific Princess.
After a drive to Tampa, another night with good friends, then flying back to Phoenix, home, and adjusting to life on land.