Freedom Cruise: Ports of Call

This is Sisters Travel Adventures: Part 3 of Freedom Cruise Series

Ports of Call

This could be could also be called our Beach Cruise. Our plan is to go to a beach on every island. I love the beach. Susan loves the beach. This is something we have in common. The only issue is that I live at the beach and am use to the sun with sunscreen of course. Susan is not use to the sun at the beach and burns easily even with sunscreen. We have planned to spend a few hours in the morning on the beach and then head back into town for lunch and to explore. This has us near the port and ship when it is time to board.

Susan prefers more detailed planning. I like to be knowledgeable about our ports but also to be spontaneous. I have notes on different beaches and restaurants on each island. We will choose which beach to go to either the evening before or in the morning or maybe even when we get off the ship! And though I have some possible restaurants we will choose one we see if it looks interesting to us.

St. Thomas

St. Thomas is one of the ports we have been to back in our young lives. We are excitingly waiting to see what looks familiar and what has changed. The port area seems to have changed.

We head in a shuttle across the island to Magens Bay. Magens Bay is one of the top beaches in the world. There are direct shuttles from the port to the bay and back throughout the day. We catch one of the first shuttles arriving before most of the other passengers. We get chairs and find a place with some shade on the beach. One thing about Caribbean beaches is that they often have palm trees that provide shady areas. Into the water first!! Our first dip into this beautiful Caribbean Sea. Heaven.

Absolute heaven.

Our first drink of the day. This is the life sipping strawberry daiquiri’s, lounging on a beautiful Caribbean beach, socking up the sun and then cooling off in the warm calm bay. Cruise passengers continually arrive filling the beach. Not only is our ship in dock but so is other ships as well. Everyone is friendly and we have several conversations with people.

There is a lady selling jewelry on the beach and several of us are conversing with her about her life here. Turns out she moved here from New Jersey about 10 years ago after a divorce. She makes jewelry and sells it to make a living. It has everyone dreaming about ditching their life and moving down. It is a dream of mine too even though I am living my dream, living on an island at the beach! Still having warm sunny weather year round would make the dream even better!

After several hours of fun in the sun it is time to eat!! So we pack up and head back into Charlotte Amalie. Since we have been here before and have done the tour around the island and been to Blackbeard’s Castle, we are just going to wonder around town. But first lunch.

I decide to play tourist – we are after all- and ask a local the number one question I get at home, “Where should we go to eat? Where do you eat?” I see a young women and ask her. She first tries to send us to the tourist restaurants on the main street. I tell her we want to eat where she eats lunch, she hesitates and then says, “That would be Cousins. It’s down that road and then to the left down the alley.” When she realizes I am serious, she calls up to a man up the road and tells him to take us to Cousins.

Cousins is a small, cozy local restaurant with about 20 tables. It is not full but is filling up. A waitress seats us at a corner table by the windows. We order ice tea and look over the menus. I am not quite brave enough to try the local specialty but I do order the fish plate. What the fish is I do not know. People come in, some locals, some tourists. Several of them are tourists who come every year and the staff greats them enthusiastically.

We wander the streets of Charlotte Amalie. We remember some things as we go along but some areas seem very different from what we remember. All these islands have expanded immensely as the cruise industry has expanded. We do some shopping picking up some gifts to bring home. We are reliving parts of our childhood but in a new way free to be ourselves and follow our own interests.

We head back to the ship. The dock area is not right downtown and it is a distance. We walk it not realizing how far it actually is! The walk takes us thorough a not so nice area of town. Seeing this part of life makes my sister very sad. Sometimes it dampens her experience. It is sad but it deepens my knowledge and awareness of life and the places I visit. For me it enhances the beauty of life and my experiences.

St Kitts

We enjoy the view of arriving at St. Kitts from our balcony.

As we walked off the ship in St. Kitts it was a buzz of activity. We head for the taxi area. Susan sees a man holding a sign for Friars Beach, which is on my list. So we get into the group that is heading to the beach. We kind of went blindly not knowing exactly where we were going.

The driver took us to Carambola Beach Club on Friars Beach. The club facilities are exquisitely beautiful.

 

 

We were not expecting such lavish accommodations at a Caribbean beach.

It is the most posh beach experience we have ever had.

The beach itself is a disappointment. It is filled with seaweed  The day is not a good beach day as the wind is blowing and uncomfortable. The sea is rough and it is difficult to get into the water as it slops down and drops considerable immediately. These conditions are due to Hurricane Gonzales. We know this and make the best of the morning at the beach. Restaurant service is available on the beach so we order a drink and lounge in the most comfortable lounge chairs ever found on a beach. The staff is attentive and do their best to make us comfortable. If we return to St. Kitts someday it would be wonderful to come enjoy this beach on a good beach day.

When we had enough of the wind and the rough sea we head into town to explore the village of Basseterre. I had read a lot about ‘The Circus’ Area of town.

There is a center island where there is a large clock. This center area is a great place for seeing the hub of the island life. I had heard about a great restaurant there unfortunately it was closed for renovations! We peeked in and wished it was open.

Across the Circus is another restaurant with an outside deck. We head there. So have many of our shipmates! We are not disappointed. We are seated out on the deck overlooking “the Circus.”

I find a street vendor who makes extraordinary little guitars and other instruments. I want to bring one back for my roommates but I am afraid of it not fitting into my luggage and being destroyed in transit. I still wish I had bought one.

We head back to the dock area. All the ports now have their own shopping area. Some people actually never venture further then portside. Some port areas are tourist shops, some have local vendors, and some are a combination. I like the ones that have local vendors. I avoid most tourist shops except ones that are locally owned. Those shops I like to frequent too.

 

The only place we saw one of the famous St. Kitts monkeys was in the pier shopping area. I understand though that they are all around the island but for some reason we didn’t see any. I would like to go back and explore more of St. Kitts. I want to go over to Nevis next time we are here.

 

 

Antigua

Antigua has been one of my bucket list places for years. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten here sooner. Part of the reason Susan picked this cruise was because of this port. She knew this has been one of my dream islands. It is said that Antigua has a beach for everyday of the year. I would love to find that out for myself. This trip I am just going to be able to visit one beach.

 

After much contemplation we have chosen Dickerson Bay. I read an article in a magazine from a local who picked this beach as his favorite. There is another couple who is also going to Dickerson Bay so we share a cab over. Our driver is very helpful and makes arrangements to pick us up later.

Dickerson Bay is a small bay beach. It has a beach bar and restaurant. The chairs here are regular lounge chairs nothing as nice as the beach in St. Kitts. We are always happy just to have a lounge chair and umbrella for some shade. The beach quickly fills with beachgoers.

The bay provides a secluded area for swimming. We both stay in the water for long periods of time. The water is heaven. Beach life isn’t complete without an island drink.

 

There are vendors on this beach which can sometimes become annoying. It they ask and then leave you alone that is fine. I see a women with paintings. I ask her if she painted them. She tells me she did. And talks about her technique. I ask her to see them. I have a painting I bought in Nassau on our last cruise. Having a painting of Antigua will be a wonderful souvenir. I choose one she painted here at Dickerson Bay.

 

 

More time in the water. It is what I came for. Susan decides to take a walk on the beach. Further down the beach is where the Sandals Resort is located and she wants to see what it is like. Though she can’t go in and check it out she can go on the beach as all beaches here are open to the public.

It is almost time for our taxi driver to return. We use the facilities and change. Our driver returns and we head to St. Johns, the capital of Antigua.

On board ship we heard cruise staff talking about a restaurant called Hemingway’s. As we are walking up and down the streets of St. John we see it. Intrigued we head inside. We are seated at a table on the terrace overlooking the streets of St. John. Again we have a great view to people watch and take in sights while we are enjoying another Caribbean Rum drink and lunch. I know we enjoyed our meal but I cannot remember what either of us ate.

After lunch we explore the town a little more. Wandering the streets of St. John is a kaleidoscope of color. Not just colorful clothing, but buildings, and music.

We eventually find ourselves on an alley down near the pier, but a distance away from the pier access. We turn around and find our way back to the ship.

In Antigua we have also been serenaded with a local steel drum band. It began when the ship pulled into dock and continues on until we pull out of port.

St. Maarten

St. Maarten has been hit hard by Hurricane Gonzales. The Splendor is the first cruise ship allowed to dock since the hurricane. We are told that the island is still in the process of cleaning up and restoring services.

Susan has finally had enough of my beach on every island agenda. She asked me last night if we could skip the beach and do a tour. I relented. It might be a good idea to do something different today. This is our last port and tomorrow we arrive in Puerto Rico. She has chosen an island tour that begins with a boat trip across the bay to the French side of the island. Then a bus trip back around to the Dutch side. I love all you can drink Rum punch while cruising across the bay to Marigot.

The boat ride gives us our first sights of some of the destruction Hurricane Gonzales caused on this island. Many boats still remain submerged in the water. It is a sad sight to see these beautiful boats destroyed.

Arriving in Marigot we have some time to roam the streets and do a little shopping and sightseeing. I wish we could have lunch here to enjoy some wonderful French cuisine but we only have 20 minutes. I would really like to spend more time here.

Then we board a bus for the rest of the tour. It is during this ride that we are able to witness the damage and see the process of cleaning up after the hurricane. There are still many trees down and some houses without roofs or damaged in some way. Our bus driver informs us that electricity was restored just a few days ago but that some areas are just getting their water restored currently.

We are dropped off in Philipsburg. We walk around some of the streets and alleys for a bit. Exhausted we return to the ship early. We have some lunch on the lido deck. It is always hard when we realize that our trip is almost over.

Port days can be hectic getting off ship, exploring the island and doing the activities you want to do. Susan and I like to stay together and enjoy the islands together so we opt to find a compromise of what we will do. Some trips we do excursions and other trips we go off on our own or a combination of both.

Traveling with others is always a give and take. Luckily we agree on most excursions and activities on shore. Sometimes we compromise, she chooses one day I choose the next. Thank goodness we both enjoy the beach. The beach is important to me. I do love history and architecture and culture as well so I am interested in other activities. I wouldn’t really want to spend a whole day on the beach. I like a combination of relaxation and activity.

I didn’t get to a beach on each island like I had planned. I didn’t get to the beach on St. Maarten but it isn’t that important. There is always another beach in another place next time. I did enjoy the tour we went on so it doesn’t really matter that my original plan was scrapped. Many times an unexpected adventure turns into the highlight of a trip.

One more night aboard ship and we will no longer be at sea. I am glad we are not heading directly home and are spending one night in San Juan.

My favorite town was St. John, Antigua. My favorite beach was Magens Bay, St. Thomas. Dickerson Bay, Antigua was second but I definitely want to return to Antigua to explore not only more of its 365 beaches but more of the island itself.

This cruise took place October 2014. I continue to catch you up on our past travel adventures. I am working my way up to the present. My next installment is the cruise where I suddenly realized I should be blogging our adventures. After that you will be up to date when we head out on our next Sisters Travel Adventures 2016.