As I wrote about in previous posts (here & here), we left Puerto Rico for a week long cruise through the Southwestern Caribbean. Five islands, each unique and interesting. At each island, we had booked an excursion in order to see some aspect of the local life.
We started at Grenada, aka Spice Island. The least commercialized of the islands we stopped at, it was also one of the most lush and beautiful. Christopher, our driver, took us out into the mountains. It was like something out of a movie, with narrow roads, high cliffs, and greener than green plants. We visited several locations involved in the harvesting, processing, and distribution of various spices, and got to sample some of the local specialties. Rebecca asked Christopher where he would eat in the neighborhood of the cruise port, and he directed us to the Creole Shack Restaurant. It was down the street and up some stairs above a grocery store. Great stuff.
The next island we visited was St. Lucia. Here, we visited some warm springs in a botanical garden. I could see floating around in some mineral water as being a nice way to relax after a tough day at work. Then we went further around the island and saw the Pitons, which were impressive. We also ate at Beacon Restaurant, which was a heck of a beautiful spot, and gave us an even better view of the Pitons. It rained pretty much the whole day, but didn’t dampen the spirits at all.
The third island was Dominica. Here we visited Trafalgar Falls, which were quite beautiful. We also went to the ocean for some snorkeling above the Champagne Reef. That was…an experience. The waves were pretty rough and the rocky beach was difficult to traverse. Not ideal for a neophyte snorkeler, unsure of his swimming abilities. It was a beastly workout, and if I’m honest, the ‘champagne’ wasn’t quite as sparkly as I’d expected. Still, chalk it up there for a memorable experience that’s already inspired a short story.
Then it was on to Antigua, which was relaxing child’s play after the first three stops. A nice drive up well maintained roads to a beautiful vista at Shirley’s Heights, then a stroll around Nelson’s Dockyard (good pastry at the bakery there). And then we went to a beach party, where we got our first chance to swim in the kind of water you think of when you think of the Caribbean. Blue and clear and beautiful. At a little bar by the cruise dock, I had the best rum punch of the trip (and believe me, I had some rum punch). It was very flavorful, with quite a kick of spice. But it also had quite a kick of alcohol, making my walk back to the ship just a touch more challenging than expected.
Our last island landing was at Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. We hopped a catamaran, and a very friendly group of dudes took us to the Virgin Gorda Baths, a series of large stones on a beach that you snorkel over to, walk through, and then snorkel around some more. This again was that kind of water you see in the photos. Almost unreal blue. The waves, while still present, were not as punishing as those we’d faced at Dominica, and the swimming much more relaxing. I’m still no expert at snorkeling, and I want to get better. But it was nice to look around and see the beautiful fish. (Check out this video). Sadly, I missed the stingray everyone else (including Rebecca) saw, so I didn’t get a snapshot of it. Back on the catamaran, we tooled around the islands, getting sprayed with salty water and listening to reggae music. I learned that walking like Dean Martin is actually a great skill to have when dealing with a wave-tossed boat, while trying to carry two drinks. The previous night, we’d experienced some rough seas, and everyone was a bit bleary-eyed. But the day was lovely and revitalizing. After taking a long walk around the dock area to find a customs official to stamp our passports, we called it a day a bit early and headed back to the ship for a late lunch, and to enjoy our last night on the Norwegian Gem.
I don’t think that cruise ship travel is the only way I want to go, but it was a ton of fun, and I definitely want to do it again. The Norwegian Gem was a great ship, the crew was excellent, the excursions were a blast, and the islands were amazing. I can imagine going back to any of these islands. I think going into Antigua or Tortola, and venturing out from there to other nearby spots might be a good way to spend a week or two, if you weren’t going to do a cruise. Grenada has a rain forest I’d very much like to visit. And there are so many islands that make up the British Virgin Islands, I imagine there are plenty of adventures to be had there.