18.02.2017 - 28.02.2017
This morning we had arrived in Fort Lauderdale. We were transferred to our next ship for the next part of our Caribbean adventure. We had to go back through immigration and have our photo and finger prints done to make sure we were who we were. It was then a lengthy process to get us to the Royal. So, we are now on the Royal Princess which was the same ship we were on in the Mediterranean last year.
We had the compulsory emergency drill prior to departure and we refamiliarised ourselves with the ship.
This is the atrium.
As we eased away from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) we couldn’t believe the escort we received from the US Coast Guard.
They were locked and loaded just in case.
As we sailed away we said farewell to Fort Lauderdale (just for now)
The pilot boat came and picked up the pilot.
Our first stop on this cruise was an exclusive port of call called Princess Cays. It is on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It is one hundred miles long and only two miles wide. This is some of the coastline.
It offers unspoiled beaches. Their private resort is on more than 40 acres and features over a half a mile of white sandy beach at the southern tip of the island.
We enjoyed a BBQ on the beach, sipped cool drinks and browsed the local craft market. We booked a private bungalow on shore. It had air conditioning and we thought it would be a romantic hideaway. Each bungalow was brightly coloured and was near the beach. We had our own dedicated staff to look after our needs. We had a lovely relaxing day. It was a bit windy so we didn’t go for a swim. We got lots of reading and drinking in. Here is Shane relaxing at the bungalow.
Today was a sea day on our way to St Thomas. It was formal night so we got dressed up for dinner. After dinner, we went to the atrium to watch the Captains Champagne Waterfall.
This morning we arrived at the US Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is the capital of the island group. Just a few miles away lay St. John and Virgin Islands National Park. Stunning mountain scenery, crystalline waters, and white-sand beaches with palms swaying in the breeze means that the US Virgin Islands are truly a slice of paradise. The harbor is easily one of the Caribbean's most scenic. In the 17th century, the islands were divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. In 1917, the United States purchased the Danish half for $25 million in gold.
These were the views we had as we sailed in to St Thomas.
We stepped foot on the US Virgin Islands.
We went on an open-air safari bus for a scenic drive.
We travelled along Skyline Drive and witnessed some of the most breathtaking vistas in the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. It was an overcast day so the views were not as good as usual, but it was still breathtaking. Photos just don’t do it justice.
We then went to a place called Mountain Top, home to the famous banana daiquiri. Of course, we had one.
They sold lots of different rums. Here is the big rum bottle.
There is a commanding view across Magens Bay with St. John and the British Virgin Islands in the distance.
We then went on the St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point, a modern aerial cable car.
We boarded the Skyride for an eight-minute ride to the top, located 700 feet above sea level.
We wandered around and looked at more spectacular views of the island and our cruise ship.
It is hard to believe that this place made so little an impression upon Columbus when he landed here in 1493. He didn’t even stake a claim. Spain’s loss was the pirate’s gain and the island soon became a haven for notorious buccaneers.
There is certainly some money around, have a look at the super yacht with the helicopter on board.
We made our way back to the ship and sat on our balcony admiring more of the views.
The largest of the British Leeward Islands, Antigua (pronounced an-tee-ga) boasts one of the Caribbean's most spectacular coastlines with secluded coves and sun-drenched beaches. Antigua was named by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the new world. The island's rolling hills are dotted with stone sugar mills, relics from the bygone era when sugar was king. Historic Nelson's Dockyard, where Admiral Horatio Nelson quartered his fleet in 1784, attests to Antigua's long and colorful nautical history during colonial times. Today we saw a lot of the above with both a fun morning and cultured afternoon. We disembarked the ship in St John’s.
This morning we boarded a 4WD.
Our first stop was to get a view of St John’s.
We drove through Buckley Village and followed a series of narrow dirt tracks along Body Pond. There was a variety of houses and all different colours.
There are lots of ruins of windmills that were used during the sugar heyday.
We soon found ourselves in a lush tropical setting with abundant flora and fauna. Here is some of the scenery.
This is the highest point on the island is called Mt Obama.
Our knowledgeable guide gave us information on the island's natural foliage. We travelled along Fig Tree Drive. Contrary to what you may think we didn’t see any actual figs along this drive because in Antigua, "fig" is the local word for "banana"! In addition to this fruit, we saw mango groves and pineapple fields set against a landscape of tiny fishing villages.
We skirted the shore and drove past mangrove thickets as our guide explained the ecological role this ever-present Caribbean tree plays in the saltwater environment. We passed some lovely beaches. There are 365 beaches on Antigua. They joke there is one for each day of the year.
The turquoise waters of Turner's Beach beckoned and we took a dip in the sea.
Gentle trade winds cool the air and on clear days you can see as far as the island of Montserrat from the shore. The volcano on the island was smoking.
In the afternoon, we visited the Nelsons Dockyard National Park. We first visited the Dow's Hill Interpretation Centre to view a multimedia exhibition that celebrated the history of the Island. Throughout the presentation, we moved through a timeline of the island and met prominent figures from both the past and present that have influenced Antigua's growth and development. We explored the historic ruins of what was originally a fort constructed by the British government. There were panoramic views from the observation deck.
The views continued when we reached Block House and Shirley Heights Lookout. From this area, picture-perfect views of Nelson's Dockyard National Park and the English Harbor can be seen. The lookout was once used as a signal station and different flags were flown to warn those in the dockyard of approaching ships.
This building was used mainly for storing gun powder.
There were lots of ruins from buildings that did not stand the test of time.
This is the guard house
This is Nelsons Dockyard from afar.
We also got a view of this massive home sitting right on the point. It belongs to Eric Clapton.
We arrived at Nelson's Dockyard, the only Georgian naval dock in the world and a unique Antiguan landmark. Although this is the Caribbean's premier example of a British naval yard, it was actually constructed by Antiguans. Nestled in the cone of a dormant volcano, the dockyard has been well protected for over 500 years from the hurricanes that frequent the area. Built in 1725, the dockyard served as the base for the English naval squadron patrolling the West Indies. It was named for Captain Horatio Nelson, one of Britain's most famous naval heroes.
This was the only entrance and slaves could not climb the high walls nor get through the gates.
This is the high walls that surrounded the dockyard.
We toured the dockyard and its restored buildings.
We stopped at the Cooper and Lumber Store, once an area for sailors to purchase provisions and string up their hammocks, it is now a hotel. We had a rum punch.
We even saw some wildlife there.
It was then time to head back to the ship. It had been a full day and we felt like we had seen a variety of things on Antigua.
Nestled below the Pitons, twin peaks rising over 2,600 feet above the azure waters of the Caribbean, St. Lucia is an oasis of tropical calm. The island's capital, Castries, is a town of charming, pastel-colored colonial buildings, home to some 60,000. Yet despite its peaceful setting, St. Lucia has a turbulent and colorful history. Fierce Carib warriors overran the peaceful Arawaks in the 9th century. The first European settler, Francois Le Clerc, was a French buccaneer. Le Clerc's countrymen followed in his wake, establishing the town of Soufriere in 1746. Sugar was the lure, sugar was king. Within four decades some 50 plantations flourished on the island. Thus St. Lucia became part of the Caribbean's 18th-century trade triangle of sugar, slavery, and rum. St. Lucia is the reputed birthplace of Napoleon's Empress, Josephine de Beauharnais.
We headed out of the capital city of Castries and drove through the countryside. We passed a couple of fishing villages.
We continued on to one of Soufriere's most popular sites Sulphur Springs, the world's only drive-in volcano. We toured the bubbling pools which were letting off puffs of odorous steam.
Our next stop was the 18th century eco-friendly colonial plantation of Morne Coubaril This working plantation is dotted with cocoa, coconuts, citrus, and other tropical trees. We viewed the cocoa fermentation, drying, and coconut processing buildings that are still in use today.
This donkey moved the machinery that extracts the juice from the sugar cane.
This is where they smoke the coconut.
This is the plantation house that is still in use today
A view from the plantation.
We had a sumptuous Creole buffet lunch. After lunch, we took a short ride to return to Soufriere. This is the view of the town and the Pitons.
Shane at the Soufriere wharf.
We saw the majestic Pitons, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each mount was created from hardened lava, towering over 2000 feet in the air.
We then sailed up the coast. We stopped in a secluded cove, where to enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal clear waters.
We then cruised into Marigot Bay This lush, tranquil yachtsman's haven has been used for background shots in many Hollywood films such as "Dr. Doolittle" and "Fire Power."
We had another full day of sightseeing.
Barbados is one of the few Caribbean islands solely colonized by one nation. It's no wonder Bajans describe their country as being "more English than England", surnames like Worthing and Hastings abound. But it was clear we were not in England: rich and fertile tropical fields meet a glistening, azure sea. The soft pastels of old chattel houses blend with the vibrant reds, oranges, and greens of roadside fruit stands. In short, Barbados exudes a charm all its own. Perhaps it is due to Bajan culture, that celebrated blend of English tradition and the African heritage brought to the island by slaves imported to work the sugar plantations. The potent brew which results flavors every aspect of island life, from music, dance and art, to religion, language and food. Our ship docked in Bridgetown which is the capital.
We had a full day here so this morning we got off our floating home.
We embarked on a cruise through the sparkling waters of Barbados on our intrepid Barefoot Breezer.
We dropped anchor at one of the island's sheltered bays for a guided snorkel encounter with the wild sea turtles that nest on the white sand beaches. After a briefing on how to interact with these amazing sea creatures, we donned our snorkel gear.
We frolicked and swam with these stunning marine animals as they moved gracefully with the ocean currents through the shafts of sunlight that penetrated the ocean's surface. The water was quite clear.
Sometimes they swam so close you couldn’t get the whole turtle in the shot.
We then journeyed to one of the island's magnificent beaches for some fun in the sun. We swam in the warm, tropical waters.
We drank lots of rum punch while on board and when we went for a swim they even had a floating bar to provide us with more run punch.
They were so friendly and were a lot of fun.
In the afternoon, we went on a safari adventure on a 4 x 4 vehicle. We took a scenic drive off the beaten path to some of the island's more remote and unique locations.
We encountered Blackman's Gully, located on the island's east coast. Created when the roofs of caves collapsed hundreds of years ago, Blackman's is part of an island-wide series of gullies that are home to a range of exotic plants and animals, including the inquisitive green monkey. We did see a monkey but he didn’t hang around for a photo.
We crossed over the gully via the Molasses Bridge. Constructed 250 years ago with limestone boulders held together by the mortar of molasses and egg whites, it is one of the strongest spans in Barbados.
We the travelled through Joe's River Forest featuring 85 acres of lush, towering trees, including the famed bearded figs which gave Barbados its name. We drove through sugar cane plantations and stopped to look at the cotton bushes.
They explained the cotton bush and the different stages of the plant. Shane is holding all 4 stages. It starts off with a reddish flower, then turns yellow, then turns into a green bud and then finally opens with the cotton inside.
We stopped at a view point to see the rainforest and picturesque Atlantic Ocean. It was here that once again they fed us with rum punch.
We wound down to sea level.
We saw a lovely old plantation house.
They showed us a plantain crop. It is longer than a banana and needs to be cooked.
Our next stop was to get a distant view of Bathsheba.
We passed Bathsheba Beach where waves, wind and time have conspired to sculpt giant mushroom shaped rock formations that jut majestically out of the pounding surf; the largest of which, the Bathsheba Rock, sitting slightly off shore.
We stopped at Barclay's Park, a 50 acre hillside park on the east coast of the island. We went for a walk on the beach. You are not allowed to swim on the Atlantic side due to the currents.
Our journey also took us through Rock Hall Village, the first free village founded by ex-slaves in 1841, just five years after Emancipation.
We drove through the port city of Holetown, the first settlement in Barbados when Captain John Powell arrived in 1626 on his journey from South America to England. As our journey to came to an end we passed the elegant Platinum Coast (known for its stunning luxury hotels) en route to our ship.
We arrived in the country of St Kitts and Nevis. This is a two-island nation and is the smallest in the Western hemisphere, both in area and population. It has only been its own country since 1983. St Kitts is known for its jagged volcanoes soaring above turquoise seas. It has dense rainforests in myriad shades of green and rolling fields of sugarcane.
Nevis is a separate island all together. A two-mile channel called “The Narrows” separates Nevis from St Kitts.
St. Kitts presents an exotic landscape more common to Polynesia than the Caribbean. The islands' terrain, rich soil, and climate made them ideal locations for raising sugarcane. In fact, St. Kitts and Nevis were once the crown jewels of the Caribbean. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Spain, France and England vied for control of the islands, with the English finally winning out in 1787. Today, British and French heritage is evident on both islands. We docked at Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts.
We walked down the pier to start our tour for the day. This was the entrance to Basseterre.
We stepped aboard the "Last Railway in the West Indies" for the opportunity to experience the scenery and culture of this unspoiled country. The "Island Series" railcars of the St. Kitts Scenic Railway are unlike any other railcars anywhere in the world. They are double-decked, with an upper open-air observation platform that puts you high above the top of the sugar cane and island vegetation for unobstructed 360 degree viewing.
As you can see from the map we pretty much circled the island. We travelled 18 miles on the narrow-gauge train and 12 miles by bus.
The 18-mile railway segment hugs the Northeastern coastline. In 1912, believing that profitability could be increased with economies of scale, a group of investors built a modern central sugar factory near Basseterre and began construction of a narrow-gauge railway to bring the cane from outlying estates. This was completed in 1926 and ran seasonally from February to June for the annual sugar harvest. After many decades, the government decided to close the industry and the last sugar train rattled into the yards on 31st July 2005 and factory machinery was shut down, bringing an end to over 350 years of sugar production on the island. However, the sugar train survived and has been running as a tourist attraction ever since.
Leaving Needsmust Station, the train was soon surrounded by fields of sugar cane. Sugar cane was introduced in St Kitts in 1643, and it became as valuable as oil is today.
The railway skirted the volcanic slopes of Mt. Liamuiga.
Crossed numerous tall steel girder bridges,
Provided glimpses of black sand beaches
By 1775 there were 200 estates producing sugar, and there are several crumbling plantations along the railway.
Images of village life offered local color.
All along the route laborers and farmers stopped work, and children ran out to greet us with smiles and waves as the train went by. They even open the gates manually.
At La Valle Station we disembarked the train and transferred to a bus to circle the Island Main Road. The route passed under the silent guns of Brimstone Hill Fortress. This Fortress, called the "Gibraltar of the West Indies," is one of the most impressive fortresses in the Caribbean. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We drove through a dozen small villages and towns that dot the Caribbean Sea side of St. Kitts.
This trip had been a great way of seeing a lot of the island and seeing what it had to offer.
26th and 27th Feb
We had two days at sea as we returned to Fort Lauderdale. It was nice and relaxing. We had another balloon drop one of the evenings. We didn't wait to see it though as we had other things we wanted to do.
The other evening we attended “The Voice of the Ocean”. Princess have been lucky enough to get the rights to do this on the ship.
This morning we arrived in Fort Lauderdale where we dropped off and picked up other passengers, we are staying onboard the Royal Princess as we are doing a further 10 days. While everyone was embarking, and disembarking we went on an excursion to the Everglades Holiday Park. If you have ever seen “The Gator Boys” TV show, this is where we went. We didn’t get to see them though.
First of all, we climbed aboard an airboat to have a ride around the wetlands and journeyed into the everglades. We zipped across the “River of Grass” at top speeds. It was a thrilling ride.
We were able to lock eyes on some of the American alligators.
We also saw an iguana sunning itself on a tree branch.
Upon our return, we went to see the Alligator Show where we learned lots about the alligators that have been rescued. There was a brave woman who pulled an alligator out of the pond.
She demonstrated how docile they are.
Even after she hopped off it, it just sat there. They are a lot more docile that the salt water crocs at home.
We then returned to the ship ready for our late afternoon departure.
Here is Fort Lauderdale city.
On our last exit from Fort Lauderdale I showed you photos of the narrow passage to exit to the sea. This is the channel from another angle. Our big ship reversed out of the dock and headed up there.
Once again we were escorted by the sheriff
And the US Coast Guard, once again locked and loaded.
Across from the ship were lots of beautiful houses
Fort Lauderdale beach as we left.
Our next adventure now begins.