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Stunning St. Lucia

Honeymoon - St. Lucia

all seasons in one day 29 °C
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After a relaxed day in Antigua, today was going to be much busier. We had arrived in St. Lucia, and were going on a full day tour. After having breakfast we headed down to the dock.

St. Lucia was another of the Covid concerned islands, with temperature checks and wristbands to wear. We queued up for our tour, and looked at the ominous clouds above us. Next thing we were led to the side of a building just in time to take cover from the downpour about to hit us. It only lasted around 5 minutes, but being tropical it soaked anything caught in it.

We then boarded our bus and as we took a quick drive through the city's streets, got an introduction to the island from our guide. We then headed out of the city and up the mountain side, for views over the harbour.

Overlooking the harbour

Overlooking the harbour

The route south passed many hills and valleys, as well as passing by other aspects that make up the heritage and life on the island - seeing banana crops, fuel storage and alcohol distilleries.

Banana Plantations

Banana Plantations

We then arrived at Soufriere, the main area for our tour today, and which is dominated by the majestic Pitons - two twin peaks that are icons of the island, and stylised on the flag.

The Pitons

The Pitons

Our first major sight here was the Diamond Botanical Garden, a former plantation converted into a park with many beautiful ornamental plants.

Plants

Plants

There was also a walk down a gorge towards a waterfall, which being geothermal and mineral rich had stained the rock beneath.

The Waterfall

The Waterfall

After this, we headed back to the coach and travelled around the other side of town to the world's only drive in volcano.

The Volcano

The Volcano

Of course the sulphur escaping into the air meant it absolutely stank around here, but it did mean we got to see the bubbling mud pools and steam vents. Sadly we didn't get to stay here for long enough to bathe in the mud baths.

Mud Baths

Mud Baths

By now it was lunch time and we headed down the road to Morne Coubaril Estate for a Caribbean lunch where we got chatting to some of our other travelling companions.

Morne Coubaril

Morne Coubaril

It was now time to head back towards the capital, but rather than drive back the way we came, this would be via a boat trip. We boarded a catamaran at the small port at Soufriere as once more a huge black cloud came our way. Again this didn't last long, and was over by the time we set sail.

Uh Oh...

Uh Oh...

There were beautiful views of the Pitons once more, as we enjoyed Rum Punch.

The Pitons

The Pitons

We sailed to the secluded Anse Conchon Beach, where like in St. Vincent the boat's ladder was lowered and those who wanted to could get out and go for a swim or walk on the beach.

Anse Conchon Beach

Anse Conchon Beach

We decided to stay aboard as we'd done plenty of swimming until now, and after being surrounded by locals selling knickknacks, we headed north back towards Castries. En route, there was one last sight, the beautiful Marigot Bay, where lots of expensive small boats are docked.

Marigot Bay

Marigot Bay

For the last bit of the sail, the music was ramped up and there as a real carnival atmosphere with tipsy passengers and crew enjoying the music and dancing.

Party Boat

Party Boat

After arriving back at port, we went for a quick wander around the capital, seeing the cathedral and main square.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

We then headed back towards the ferry terminal where the scale of the ship's size dominating over the town was clear.

Hiding Ship

Hiding Ship

We were now coming towards the end of the cruise - with just one new island still to see, and only three more days. Once we got back to the cabin we found our flight tickets had been delivered. Then the mood turned. We had been allocated seats in separate rows - despite the fact the flight out had been 1/3 empty, and the flights contained the same people.

Chris went own to reception to ask why we had been separated, and if we could be moved. But when he came back, told me that a very rude lady on reception had stated that they probably couldn't do anything, if we had wanted to sit together we should have paid £35 each to select our seats (even though when I had looked at this option before we had left home this was not actually possible), and if they were able to find seats together we would have to pay £70 for it. We would need to go back down at 8pm to see if they had been able to do it.

I was livid. We weren't asking for a particular seat on the plane, just two seats together for a couple on their honeymoon who had paid a fortune for this cruise, and on a plane with tonnes of spare seats.

Being slightly tipsy from the Rum Punch meant I marched down to reception at full speed, where I spoke to someone else who fobbed me off saying that only the Flight Coordinator could get involved and there was nothing they could do. What a way to kill the mood of what had until just now been a really good day....

After emailing P&O to complain about this problem and the appalling customer service, we headed for dinner and tried to enjoy the rest of the evening as best we could.

When 8pm came round we headed back down to reception to find a new set of people who knew nothing about our flight tickets. Speaking to a young guy called Calvin, we told him what had happened, and I ranted about the appalling customer service, this being yet another irritation on our holiday and the fact that not one person had yet had the decency to even say "I'm sorry, let me see what I can do". To which he said "I'm sorry". Whether it was genuine I don't know, but at least he had said it...

He told us he'd see what he could do and would give us a call later to let us know. In the meantime I had received an email back from P&O to say that as we were already on board, only the Flight Coordinator could do anything. Unsurprisingly, not even a 'sorry' in sight...

Expecting not to actually hear anything, and adjusting to the reality of probably having to spend the overnight flight back home separated we got into bed to head off to sleep. Then suddenly, the phone rang. It was Calvin, telling us he'd sorted out tickets and to come down to reception.

We got dressed and headed straight down, where he told us he'd sorted it and put us in seats together. He gave us the new tickets and we didn't need to pay. At least there was one nice person on board - but the question is, if this was so simple, why had it been such aggro to sort, why had we had to kick up such a fuss, and why had this not been done initially!?

By now it had been a very long day, and with another early tour tomorrow morning, we headed to bed.

Posted by kmmk17 17:25 Archived in Saint Lucia Tagged mountains rain boat beach volcano cathedral waterfall caribbean geology botanicalgarden Comments (0)

Beautiful BVI

Honeymoon - British Virgin Islands

all seasons in one day 27 °C
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We were now headed back towards the Eastern Caribbean, and the next place we'd be stopping was the British Virgin Islands - the eastern half of the Virgin Islands archipelago.

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

We had another excursion lined up for today, and so after grabbing breakfast we headed out to the ferry terminal. After hanging around for only 10 minutes or so, we then headed boarded a catamaran that would sail across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to the island of Virgin Gorda.

Like yesterday, the weather was a real mix - sometimes beautifully sunny, and at other times pouring down with rain. We decided to sit inside as the only space on the boat left was upstairs (and we'd felt sick enough on some of the boat trips already this last week!), and thank God we did! The sea was pretty rough and about halfway to the island it started hammering down.

We had got caught in a huge rainstorm, and the next thing the doors opened, in walking all those who had been sat outside, absolutely drenched - a huge wave had just covered the boat, with all those sat outside getting caught beneath it!

Watching the poor souls all shaken up had taken my mind off the sea sickness for a while, and thankfully the skies were now brightening up as we made it to Spanish Town. We then boarded some minibuses that took us to Devil's Bay on the south coast of the island, passing many beautiful murals en route.

Murals

Murals

The sun was shining as we made our way down through the vegetation to a beautiful white sandy beach and had a bit of a swim.

Heading to the beach

Heading to the beach

Devil's Bay

Devil's Bay

After this it was time to visit the most exciting and unique attraction on the island - The Baths. These are huge boulders of granite eroded by the sea which have piled up to create beautiful caverns on the beach.

We were the first ones in the group to wander through, and therefore got to enjoy the sights without a huge crowd in front of us. It started to rain as we entered, but that was fine as the caverns provided us with shelter!

Inside The Baths

Inside The Baths

It was a little bit dangerous, and for certain if this was western Europe, we'd have needed helmets (if we'd be allowed in at all). But hey, this is the Caribbean, so we just watched our heads and wandered across the slippy rocks!

Before long we made it to the other side and another beautiful beach, which The Baths imposed on. It was really beautiful here and the sun came out once more

The beach at The Baths

The beach at The Baths

However by the time we were about to leave, there was once again another rainstorm, we we hid under the covers of the café on the beach.

It didn't last long and once it ended we rinsed out all the sand from our shoes, before heading back up the hill to the minibuses. We then took an open-top minibus back to the port, where our guides had an honest conversation with us about the difficulty growing up in places like the British Virgin Islands, where there are little good opportunities for ambitious youth.

Getting back on the catamaran, as we were the last bus back there were now no spaces left in the indoor area of the boat, and so we sat outside. Thankfully it was much calmer on the way back and we were able to enjoy our rum punch.

After getting back to Road Town, we went for a little wander around the town. We began by heading off to the ferry terminal, where we managed to secure a passport stamp. "Happy Birthday for later this week" said the lady who'd seen my date of birth as she found a blank page to stamp.

We then headed back out towards the supermarket, hoping that the ominous black clouds heading this way wouldn't arrive too soon!

Road Town

Road Town

Having bought some drinks, we then made our way back to the ship, and chilled for a few hours before grabbing dinner. That night there was a silent disco being held on the decks, so we went along for a laugh.

Silent Disco

Silent Disco

There were two radio channels to choose from, and it was quite funny hearing tonnes of people (badly) singing along to two completely different songs, whilst others are sat there reading a book or sipping a cocktail!

After staying here a little while, we then headed back to the cabin to call it a night before tomorrow's next exploration.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 14:05 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged sea beach caribbean geology Comments (0)

Glorious Grand Turk

Honeymoon - Grand Turk

all seasons in one day 28 °C
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Having travelled through the Bermuda Triangle, we arrived at our westernmost destination on the trip, the beautiful island of Grand Turk.

Grand Turk is a relatively small island making up part of the larger Turks & Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory. The name 'Turk' coming from the name of the locally grown cactus that looks like a Fez hat, historically worn by the Ottomans.

The Grand Turk Cactus

The Grand Turk Cactus

So it turns out it's a rather old school racist name rather than actually having anything to do with the Turkic ethnic group!

Despite this island being only the 7th largest in the territory, it is the second most populous and home to the capital. As it also has a recently built cruise terminal located on the south of the island, this island is the focal point for the cruising industry in the territory.

Grand Turk

Grand Turk

The complex features shopping areas, cafés and restaurants, a swimming pool, surf simulator and luscious beaches. We didn't need to leave the terminal, and so we didn't! - not that there was much outside the complex anyway!

The Cruise Terminal

The Cruise Terminal

After having breakfast we left the ship and headed for the short walk over to the complex along the jetty. This was certainly one of the most beautiful locations on the trip - with white sand and clear blue seas, and it's a shame we were one of the last visits P&O will do to this island. We had a little wander around the shops before finding some sun loungers on the beach.

Grand Turk

Grand Turk

We spent some time between both the beach and in the sea, enjoying the glorious views before we started getting hungry for lunch. Whereas usually we'd have been out and about, as we were next to the ship we simply headed aboard, grabbed some food and then made our way back to the cruise terminal. We then had another wander around before again finding a place to lounge.

On the beach

On the beach

Having spent much of the day enjoying the sunshine, after a final walk along the beach, we headed back to the ship to prepare for dinner. We started sailing away from port just before dinner opened and we watched as we sailed around the west coast of the island and past the island's lighthouse.

Sailing around the Lighthouse

Sailing around the Lighthouse

We were also informed that this evening's performance had been cancelled, along with all others for the foreseeable future. We had already booked a performance for a few day's time that we would now no longer be able to watch. Although no specific reason had been given it is likely this was Covid related, with the rest of the performance troupe being forced to quarantine.

Thankfully we had already been to see a performance a few days earlier, and so we had got to have that experience on board, and with there not being a replacement for tonight as yet, we instead spent the evening watching some of the on-demand movies in the cabin.

The next day was another sea day, heading back towards the Eastern Caribbean. Whilst the weather on the trip had until now generally been pretty good, it was starting to turn, and we got caught in one of many showers that would linger over the next week.

A wet day

A wet day

We once again spent the day around the pool, (trying to) sunbathe and doing the quizzes. That night was again a black tie night and we again went to the restaurant for an à la carte meal.

After having finished my Champagne Sorbet at the end of the meal, whilst walking out of the restaurant we saw our quiz friend from a few days earlier. We stopped to say hello, and asked how she'd done in today's quizzes - of course better than us, and she had also won the bingo this afternoon!

Dinner Time

Dinner Time

We then headed back to the cabin to chill for the evening, before our next port day tomorrow!

Posted by kmmk17 13:03 Archived in Turks/Caicos Islands Tagged sea rain beach sun caribbean Comments (0)

Return to Maho

Honeymoon - St. Maarten

all seasons in one day 28 °C
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Most of this trip was to new places, however St. Maarten would be a return. I previously spent 10 days of my round the world trip here, and loved it. So much to see and do for a small tropical island, so it was great to make a return. Despite 8 and a half years and a devastating hurricane since, it was pretty much the same as before.

We arrived as usual before breakfast, waking to find ourselves in a new port. This was a pretty busy one, and there were 6 ships in today!

Busy Port Day

Busy Port Day

The port itself is located just out of town, and so we had to walk for around 15 minutes to get there. Once there the town was pretty busy, and I guess this is how most port towns would usually have been before the pandemic!

Having been here before I knew how to get around, and we headed straight to catch one of the cheap minibuses to take us over to the west side of the island. Surprisingly, even after 8 years, the prices hadn't increased, and it was a bargain $2 to take us on the 45 minute journey. However his made up for being stuck with a bunch of Americans on the whole route who just wouldn't stop talking to us!

Bus trips during Covid

Bus trips during Covid

They were the bad stereotypes, comparing everything to their state, and asking stupid questions to anyone they could catch hold of... when we told them we were from England they thought we'd sailed across the Atlantic, and couldn't understand that we'd flown to Barbados... Thankfully a local who worked at the airport got on board, but the poor guy was then subjected to questions about what the local fish was(?). When he didn't get the question it was repeated at him three times before he just picked a random one to shut the guy up!

Eventually after crossing the beautiful hills, we made it to Maho Beach. This is the famous beach directly at the end of the runway, and the huge planes come in to land right above the sunbathing public.

Even mid morning, it was pretty busy... but we did eventually find a nice spot in the middle of the beach. We set ourselves up and within 10 minutes we got our first taste of what was the come - a small plane coming in from St. Barths that looked like it was about to crash onto us! Of course it didn't, but it was certainly exciting!

On Maho Beach

On Maho Beach

I kept an eye on the schedules to see when the bigger ones would come in. Since my last time here, the huge jumbo jet from Amsterdam had been cancelled, and due to the pandemic there were a lot less mid-size planes from Europe and North America coming in than there would usually have been.

As one of the larger planes was due imminently, I left Chris to mind the bags, whilst I went off to get a side angle shot. However there was a bit of a delay, and some of the planes already at the airport were about to take off. These take offs are a very different experience, as this is when the thrust kicks in.

No one cares though

No one cares though

Despite the signs saying the opposite, people will stand right behind the barrier fence to feel the full force of a plane taking off. I knew what to expect, but Chris and many of those there did not. As the engines got stronger and stronger, the thrust threw up all the lose stones and sand on the beach. From a distance it looked like a sandstorm encompassing the whole of the middle of the beach!

Plane landing

Plane landing

After finally seeing the large plane from New York coming in to land directly over the beach I headed back to find all our stuff covered in sand, and people still looking around for their sunglasses and other lost items! I then got in the sea and had a swim, whilst more planes came in to land - including one that was so low I'm surprised it managed to clear the airport's fence!

After having spent a few hours here, we headed back to the capital, Philipsburg. After a drive back across the island we had a little wander around the shops before waling back to the port.

Philipsburg Courthouse

Philipsburg Courthouse

After another afternoon of sitting around the pool, we went back to the room and got ready for the evening. However even after showering, Chris still had sand lodged in his back - such was the force of the thrust at Maho beach!

For the first time in the trip, we decided to go and watch the evening entertainment in the theatre. As we had been a bit concerned about picking up Covid we didn't dare go during the first few nights, but as tonight there was an 80's inspired music extravaganza on offer we decided to risk it!

Having booked our slots, after dinner we went to go and watch, and luckily found it wasn't too busy so there was plenty of space to feel comfortable watching. As we left the auditorium after the show ended, we walked past a crowd of fumigators ready to sanitise for the next show! If you've ever seen Monsters, Inc. - it looked like the bit where one of the monsters arrives back contaminated by a kid's mislaid sock!

Next door there was a pub quiz about to start, but as we entered the room we realised there were now no spare seats! As they had cordoned off all the stools by the bar it left us with nowhere to sit, and so not only did we lose, but we also had to stand up for the entirety of it!

The following day was another sea day, as we made our way further west, and into the Bermuda Triangle.

Inside the Bermuda Triangle

Inside the Bermuda Triangle

Like on the other sea days we grabbed some spots around the pool and waited for the quizzes to start. However today the weather was a bit iffy. After grabbing a nice slot in the shade it then started to rain. We pulled our sunbeds under the shelter and waited five minutes whilst the rain soaked the entire area! The poor lady next to us who had gone for a swim came back to find all her items were now soaked.

Rain

Rain

We then got chatting to her and she told us all about her trip so far. Then when the quiz started she was helping us with our answers and it turned out she was quite knowledgeable! Even so it still wasn't enough to win...

And sun

And sun

The weather later that day brightened up and once again we got quite hot and sweaty. By the time the mid afternoon quizzes ended we had had enough of the heat for the day and so headed back to freshen up for the ship's second black tie night.

We started off the evening by heading to the first performance of the evening entertainment in the theatre - which tonight would be Britain's Got Talent 2014 finalist, impressionist John Clegg. Some of his act was actually really funny, however in what seemed like an intention to entertain the general demographic of the cruise, some of his 'jokes' were quite old school so I didn't end up enjoying it quite as much as I was hoping to.

Entertainment with John Clegg

Entertainment with John Clegg

Nevertheless it was something different to enjoy. After this ended, and much later than we would usually have done we finally went for dinner. It had been a lovely evening once again and we were excited for another port day tomorrow.

Posted by kmmk17 14:58 Archived in Sint Maarten Tagged planes sea rain beach airport sun port caribbean swimming entertainment Comments (0)

Kept Out Of Kingstown

Honeymoon - St. Vincent

sunny 28 °C
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As many of us have found - travelling during a pandemic is difficult. Even two years on, in parts of the world things are still far from normal. As mentioned in the last chapter, some ports were not letting independent wandering outside of the port. This was the case in St. Vincent, where the only way to see anything was to go on an excursion.

We had already booked some for tours we definitely wanted to go on in other ports, but for St. Vincent we weren't quite sure what we wanted to do. After having another look through the list of options once on board, the night before we got to Kingstown we decided we'd go on the Catamaran tour of the west coast.

Having sailed away from Barbados last night, by the time we woke this morning we had already arrived and docked in Kingstown, St. Vincent. And with the port being located at the far end of the bay we had a nice vantage over the town of just 12,000. The port also felt much different from that of Bridgetown - which had been very industrial. Kingstown meanwhile had a small jetty and then a collection of shops.

Kingstown

Kingstown

Having had breakfast and about to embark on our first cruise excursion we checked out of the ship, before being guided to join the relevant queue. Not long later, we were led to board the catamaran, from inside the port terminal.

Once everyone was on board we then headed out of the harbour. There were beautiful views as we sailed up the western coast, and we headed as far as Richmond, where there were views of La Soufrière, the highest peak on the island.

La Soufrière

La Soufrière

In April 2021 this dormant volcano had exploded and half the island was severely affected. Thankfully over by the time we arrived, the damage caused by the pyroclastic flows was evident. As we returned towards Kingstown the excursion's guide showed us a video he had taken during the peak of the volcanic activity, where plumes of smoke were shown rising almost endlessly, seemingly close to his home - and this was just from the Green zone!

Damage from the Pyroclastic Flows

Damage from the Pyroclastic Flows

Not long later we passed by Walliabou Bay, which had doubled for Port Royal in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In fact much of this stretch of coastline had been used as a filming location in the franchise, and as we passed these locations they were pointed out to us.

Walliabou Bay

Walliabou Bay

Although we weren't allowed to stop at these places (to prevent us mixing with locals in light of the Covid situation), we were able to stop at Mt. Wynne Beach, as it was more isolated. We were taken almost to the shore, where the catamaran descended it's ladder and we were able to walk quite easily (if timed with the waves) to get onto the beach.

Getting off the Catamaran

Getting off the Catamaran

As the island is volcanic, the sand here was black, and we stayed here for around half an hour. The sea wasn't freezing but wasn't super warm, so I didn't do anything more than dip my feet in. However as it was pretty rough, it was probably wise. In front of us were some older ladies, and one of them misjudged the tide and quickly became submerged, spinning around like she was inside a washing machine!

At first it looked hilarious, but quickly the situation became quite serious. She didn't get pulled in, but as she couldn't swim (I know!) it was a close call. She made it out all shaken, but her sunglasses had not been so fortunate, lost forever more.

On the Beach

On the Beach

After a nice bit of time on dry land, we reboarded the boat and were served some rum punch - the local cocktail. And unlike in much of the western world they weren't afraid to make sure the rum was noticeable. After thoroughly cleaning out any lingering bacteria from my throat, it then went straight to my head - and it wasn't even lunchtime yet!

On the Catamaran

On the Catamaran

We enjoyed some beautiful views of St. Vincent in the glorious sunshine before we arrived back at the port. We weren't allowed into Kingstown which was a shame, but we could at least see it from the harbour. We bought ourselves some postcards before reboarding the ship and gabbing some lunch.

That evening before dinner, we managed to catch the sailaway as we left port, and grab some final views of a town we'd never seen!

Sail Away

Sail Away

The following day was our first Sea Day. We wouldn't be seeing anywhere new, instead spending the day on the ship as it sailed the Caribbean Sea. However as it doesn't actually take two days to get to the Leeward Islands, instead of hugging the Lesser Antilles, we did an unnecessary diversion well into the Caribbean Sea to waste time!

As everyone was on board instead of in port, extra entertainment and activities had been laid on today - beginning with a mid morning quiz which would accumulate points on every port day - let's hope Covid won't knock us out from some points on the other days!

Quiz Time

Quiz Time

After this we headed over to another of the pools, where the SeaScreen was located - a huge cinema screen that showed films four times daily, where this morning the film Encanto was being shown. However like in resort hotels, if you don't get your towels out early you miss the good spots! We managed to find two loungers right at the top of the ship, but being a bright sunny day, and sheltered from the wind it was baking. There are no parasols, so even after some ice cold cocktails we were still baking! We managed to stay until the end of the film, before heading to find some shade.

SeaScreen

SeaScreen

We had some lunch and a wander around the ship before heading back to the first pool for musical bingo and a guess the tune quiz.

Unlike many other parts of the travel industry, cruise ships still keep up many of the old fashioned traditions, and tonight was going to be one of those - it had been declared a Black Tie Night, where we would dress up very smartly in our suits. Feeling fancy, we decided to go to the formal dining room for our evening meal where we were treated to a five course meal.

The couples on the neighbouring tables were clearly different people to us however, complaining about the quality of the wine they had been given, and where on earth the Sommelier was, whilst the lady on the other side (who appeared to have plucked a whole family of blackbirds for her dress) seemed to have an endless list of complaints about her cabin, not receiving her Amuse-Bouche, and the fact that the captain had not awoken everyone at 6am to congratulate the Queen (who I note was not on board) on her Platinum Jubilee the previous day.

Black Tie Night

Black Tie Night

After a quick go on the roulette in the Casino, that night we went to enjoy our complimentary glass of champagne whilst watching the onboard comedian. He was ok, but trying to match the demographics of the room meant I didn't find a lot of the jokes that funny. Nevertheless it was a nice evening.

Posted by kmmk17 18:00 Archived in St Vincent/The Grenadines Tagged sea boat beach volcano scenery caribbean entertainment covid Comments (0)

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