Second Half of Caribbean Cruise Explored the Eastern Caribbean Islands
This would be the second half of our 26 day Caribbean cruise. We were heading off to a bunch of the eastern Caribbean islands we had never visited – a taste test to see where we may want to re-visit to escape the cold Canadian winter.
On the first half of our cruise we had a couple of bad sea days so I was not looking forward to the first 2 days of the cruise down the Atlantic Ocean. I needn’t have worried. The “newbies” may not have agreed but the seas were relatively calm and given I already had 2 weeks of sea legs, I did just fine.
Lots To Do Onboard The Cruise Ship
We used the 2 days at sea to enjoy the vast facilities on board the ship but mostly we used it to catch up on our digital image editing and blog drafts. We were familiar with the staff so we never had a problem finding a quiet place to work.
There was a changeover of entertainment staff between the cruises. While the ship’s core entertainment team continued to keep the nights lively, we certainly missed our favourite eclectic Pudra String Quartet playing in various venues around the ship after they departed. Greg Moreland the magician stayed on, offering David an opportunity to continue to perfect his own magic skills.
The food remained awesome in all venues with Chef Mario in charge, although we did get a new pastry chef Renee from Belgium. David was drooling at the thought of what chocolate things this new pastry chef might tempt him with. The cooking demonstrations remained one of our favourite things to do when the boat was at sea.
We continued to be spoiled with great customer service for this last half of our cruise. There had been little staff turnover on the Miami stop and we were welcomed as returning guests with smiles from our favourite staff members and our preferences well known.
St John’s, Antigua
After the relatively sedate tours we did on the first half of our cruise, our first excursion in the eastern Caribbean islands in Antigua was going to be much more active. A short bus ride took us to where we boarded our boat to get to the kayaks.
After kayaking around the mangrove trees we boarded the boat again to see Great Bird Island and then to go to the beach and do some snorkelling. We were on a tiny island and could stand and look between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. I managed to avoid getting badly sunburned but by the time we returned to the boat I was waterlogged and sun drenched. A great way to spend a day in the Caribbean!
Castries, St Lucia
We had booked a 4×4 tour of the colourful island of St. Lucia. While I had thought the jeep would be something we would drive ourselves, it turned out to be a large 4×4 open aired jeep holding about 14 people.
We headed off for a great tour up the hills and down to the beach. It was quite exciting but not nearly as jaw dropping as one passenger worried at almost every new hill. We had 90 minutes on a beach (beside Sandals) to lie on the sand or swim. We of course headed straight for the rocks with our goggles in hand in search of the sea life.
St. George’s, Grenada
I was dreading our planned 8 hour bus tour of Grenada. We never imagined there was so much to see in this tiny island in the eastern Caribbean islands! When we exited the dock to see the little bus my worry increased even more. I think the only thing that saved me was snagging a seat right up front beside the driver. Luckily I did not get motion sickness since we would spend our day going up and down steep narrow mountain roads.
Our driver Lewis put on his headset and did a great job of narrating our way through much of the island of Grenada. He was great about stopping when he saw something we should see – especially if it was edible. We got a good introduction to the spices of the island, cacao production, a factory that still made rum the same way it was done 200 years ago and a few other panoramic sites for photos.
It was a great comprehensive tour even if I did leave the bus a bit rattled! There was no way to leave Grenada and not know that the colours of Grenada were red, yellow and green.
When we planned our excursions we didn’t really think about the fact that we had booked two days back to back with bus tours. This day we got a big well air conditioned bus but a much shorter tour of key highlights in Barbados with a good running narrative. On our tour, we learned about Barbados but also more broadly about the eastern Caribbean islands.
We didn’t really get to enjoy the beach life although our guide did point out many of the very high end resorts and spots where you may catch glimpses of celebrities. We now understood a bit better why this seemed to be such an expensive vacation from Toronto.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
As we pulled into the bay in front of St. Maarten we were amazed at the shades of blue and aqua we continued to see in the waters of the eastern Caribbean islands. The winds were high but our captain had no problem pivoting the boat even in the high winds to put us beside the port with nose pointed out for a quick getaway. Our excitement for the day was to crew on one of the America’s Cup 12m racing sailboats. Everyone was assigned a position and quickly trained on what to do when our name was called. We raced hard against the other boat, losing by a nose. It was an amazing adventure.
We stayed in port until midnight that night and had fun dancing under the stars to the ships band. A great way to end a full day.
Gustavia, St. Barts
It was a very short hop from St. Maarten to St. Barts but the captain did a big loop out in the sea to get from one to the other. We wondered if this was because of high port costs but learned that it was more related to the 12 mile exclusion zone in which there were restrictions about what could be released from the ship (e.g. food waste) and what activities could be done (e.g. desalination). We arrived in the beautiful port of Gustavia on the Sunday after a big regatta had finished. This probably partly explained the large number of sailboats in the harbour.
We were picked up in a cab and taken to the ATV shop for our next adventure. Boarding our ATV we took off at a fast pace for a 2 hour ATV tour of the island. When we looked at a map later, we were amazed at how much of the island we covered. We wandered back to the dock a little shaken from our ATV ride. It was probably good that most of the shopping was closed in St. Barts on Sunday so we were not tempted to stay out in port.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
David had been to San Juan when he was in the navy. He teased me about taking me to his old sailor bar haunts. But he kept his list of “things to see” to himself. So I was not really sure what he had planned for the day. It turned out that his long list was coffee shops. But we lucked out on our first stop at the place recommended by the port expert from Puerto Rico we talked to on board.
A short walk from the pier we found the free trolley stop. We hopped on for a trip around the old town. Our destination for the day was Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. We were so glad we got off a stop early and found the awesome cemetery just below the fort. It offered an amazing display of statuary on the grave sites – sorta like an art gallery for the dead!
We had been in Nassau for all of February. So we would not be doing an excursion with the ship on this short port stop. Nassau is a busy cruise ship port and when we arrived the docks were already packed with ships.
Our friend picked us up from the cruise terminal and whisked us to tea at the Ocean Club. We had been to the Ocean Club on previous visits but this was the first time we had tried tea.
The tea service was not as extensive as we had been enjoying onboard the cruise ship. But the butter scones may have been the best that I have ever tried. Our friend Derrick was welcomed as a regular as staff passed through the lounge where tea was served. We spent some time walking around the grounds and the beach. We were amazed to find this spot quiet and serene. This stretch of Paradise Island was only just minutes from the massive Atlantis resort.
It was time to finally pack for home. We would not be extending our cruise another time. The ship headed back through the Panama Canal to re-position for Alaska cruises for the summer. We toyed with the thought of picking the ship back up in Vancouver to head to Alaska. But we left the ship without booking any future cruises.
A Great Tour of the Eastern Caribbean Islands
The ship arrived back in Miami as the sun rose. We had enjoyed our back to back cruises – first the Western Caribbean down to Cartagena and this final tour of the eastern Caribbean islands. After 26 days cruising, while we were sad to have our vacation come to an end, I was ready to head home. As a hard core introvert, spending 26 days with people around me most of the time strained me. I needed quiet! The food had been awesome. But I was worried about stepping on the scales. I certainly hoped I had not gained the one pound per day that the ship doctor warned about in his welcome comments!
But we were already planning for our quick trip to the Nova Scotia in a few weeks. We were just not sure how much extra travel we would do enroute. We also had to start planning for our fall in Europe.
Did you enjoy the eastern Caribbean islands? Have you ever done back to back cruises? What did we miss on this extensive 26 day cruise of the Caribbean?