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Published: December 21st 2018
Day 15-21 Friday 7th
Dec – Thursday 13th
Dec 2018 Guadeloupe
Well, we made it!! Was there ever any doubt!! We were quite surprised crossing the Atlantic Ocean as it was hot and sunny most of the time so we were able to make good use of our balcony. There were a few swells in the middle of the ocean but nothing to get excited about!! The days settled very quickly into breakfast followed by an hours walk around the deck and an hour in the gym, followed by lunch and various interesting lectures in the afternoon, mostly about the Caribbean, music, history, slave trade etc followed by afternoon tea and then dinner at 6.15pm and the show!! We missed the Italian lessons which I was a bit gutted about, but there is only time to do so much!! It was Chris’ birthday on the 12th
and a surprise birthday card from Costa Club offering him a free cake and a photo of his choice!! I think I could now, actually be a Costa convert – as long as you like opera, pasta and italiano!! There is not too much socialising on the ship as most people are Italian,
French or Russian with a smattering of Germans, English and Others!! We did have a very enjoyable breakfast one day with a Welsh couple and have bumped into a few Americans a couple of times.
Anyway, we at last arrived in Guadeloupe about 8.00am and were off the ship by 8.30am. Chris had decided he wanted to hire a car, and as we could get NO information on the ship, it was with some trepidation that we ventured out!! No problem! The car hire places are behind the Bergevin Bus Station, which is a 10 minute walk from the ship, basically turning left, then left and left again. We hired a car from Tropic Car (the queue in Hertz was too long!) for 38 euros for the day (return it full of petrol at end of day – 12 euros worth of petrol).
There was a student demonstration in Pointe a Pitre, so we got straight on the ‘motorway’ and headed out on the Grande Terre towards Saint Francois. Pointe a Pitre seemed a bit rough and poor, but we were soon passing big houses and cows asleep in their field!! The road to Pointe des Chateaux was
closed in Saint Francois, so a quick detour on the Le Moule road took us back to road out to the end where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Pretty boring drive with trees either side obscuring the sea, but fantastic views at the end!! A few market stalls (I had a coconut sorbet later which was delicious!) and views in all directions of the islands of Le Roque, La Desirade and other nameless islands!! Walked up to the Cross for more stunning views and absolutely loads of butterflies. They were everywhere – I had never seen so many!
Drove back the way we had come to Pointe a Pitre and across the river onto Basse Terre. Turned down towards Petit-Bourg and then right, up into the rainforest and our first stop at the Cascade des Ecrevisses. Amazing to see the rainforest again – wonderful, large leafed trees and just such a profusion of green-ness!! Walked 5 minutes along the wet path to the waterfall and the river. The waterfall seemed in full spate and there were people swimming in the pool! Walked back and then carried on to Iles de Pigeon which is surrounded by a marina
in honour of Jacques Costeau. Sat on the beach at Plage de Malendure, a pleasant enough place, had lunch and watched the yellow finches pinching the sugar out of the sugar bowl, then wandered around a bit – it was 31C though, so very hot and humid!
Back over the same road towards Pointe a Pitre where we ran into a rainstorm at the top of the mountain, but sunny again on the coast as we approached Pointe a Pitre. Very easy to find the bus station – just follow signs to Pointe a Pitre, then Bergevin – to take the car back they give you a code to open the gate which is just inside on a road marked ‘To the Ferry’!!
Had a wander around the shops in Pointe a Pitre (no sign of demonstrations now) loads of clothes shops and shoe shops – some were quite cheap – and had a drink in the main market square before wandering back to the ship around 6.00pm just before it got dark. Loads of strange noises – we think they may have been singing crickets, maybe interspersed with tree frogs, and maybe bird song???? Ship left at
11.00pm so we managed to catch up on some wifi!!
Day 22 - Friday 14th
December 2018 St Johns, Antigua.
Docked alongside another Cruise ship – Norwegian Escape – that made our cruise ship seem small in comparison!! So, us, and 5,000 other passengers disgorged onto the small capital city of St Johns! We had already decided to get the bus no 17 from the West Bus Station, about a 10 minute walk up and to the right, located across from the Public Market Complex. $1.50 American Dollars to be paid on the bus as you get off and the bus takes you to outside the Nelson Dock Yard. Very interesting 45 minute journey across the island – the drivers drive too fast and the bus just stops when someone wants to get off!! Fold away seats for when it gets crowded and no leg room!!
Decided, with another couple to take the taxi up to Shirley Heights ( the southern most highest point in Antigua!) and two other stops for $10 each (I think we could have got it a bit cheaper!!) Now this was when Chris had a small problem!! He kept his money in
a zipped pocket on his shorts, only the tag had come off a few days ago, and now the zip seemed completely jammed, with his money intact inside. Good job he had given me 60$ to hold onto as safekeeping!! Chris’ shorts were definitely holding onto the money and no amount of tugging, pulling, oiling (dry lube from the sailmaker/chandler in Nelson’s Dockyard) was going to release it!!
Anyway, eventually we duly set off uphill, for the various viewpoints and parts of the old garrison dotted about. Various guard houses and ruins of the old fortifications as well as an old cemetery that we didn’t see, that belonged to the European officers who died in service in the West Indies between 1840 and 1851.
Watched a short film that gave us the history of the Caribbean ie the slaves were brought from Africa to harvest the sugar and the sugar was then sold back to the Europeans. Antigua also has the largest concentration of the endangered Hawksbill turtles, where a few nest on the uninhabited sandy beach at Rendezvous Bay.
The taxi then took us back to Nelsons Dockyard, where we had a wander around, looking at
the old buildings built in the 18th
Century, that had mostly been turned into bars, restaurants etc. The oldest structure was the sawpit, dating back to 1769, where logs were rolled up the incline and cut into planks and timber for use on the ships. Most of the buildings were around the Georgian era and the Nelsons Dockyard is one of the finest examples of a Naval Dockyard and the fortifications around the English Harbour provided the British Navy with a secure base from which to maintain British control of the trade-oriented colonies throughout the Caribbean. The boat house, built in 1797, was damaged first by an earthquake in 1843 and then a hurricane in 1871, so that only the renovated pillars and the boat dock remains. There was also a tall palm tree planted by Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate her visit to the Dockyard on 22nd
Back on the tatty No 17 bus (Bus driver pulled his bus over to get his lunch at a roadside café!!) and a jammed packed bus headed back to St Johns. It’s interesting when someone wants to get off – everyone duly piles out of the bus
to let the person off, and then gets back in again, taking the seats at the back first!
Arrived back at the bus station and had a look at the large statue outside before heading off into the throngs of the market and chaotic roadside bustle to make our way to the impressive Cathedral we had seen from the ship. Unfortunately it was in the process of renovation so we couldn’t see inside and so contented ourselves by spending the rest of the afternoon having a beer and trying to find decent wifi!! (NB: Hemmingways Bar, just outside the dock gates has excellent, fast wifi !)
Day 23 - Saturday 15th
We were unsure what to do in Tortola as we had been there before, so decided to do a boat trip to one of the islands. Very easy to find the ferry port from the ship – a 10 minute walk, basically turning left, and then left at the traffic lights (which are not there at the moment!!) and it’s the building with the red roof.
The 9.00am ferry was leaving for Virgin Gorda in 2 minutes, or the
Jost Van Dyke Ferry was leaving at 10.45am. Quickly bought a Seniors Ticket ($20.00) to Virgin Gordo and found seats outside, upstairs, on the boat. It was really windy but an enjoyable 35 minute ride with Speedy Ferries and got off to try and find a taxi. Speedy Ferries run a Taxi service to the Baths and Devil’s Bay National Park, which can be bought with the ferry ticket, but we didn’t buy that at the time as unsure what we were doing – in any event, taxis on the island are the same price @ $4. It is $5 if only 2 people in taxi, so best to share. Jumped into a taxi with an Italian couple with small child and got off at the entrance to the National Park where we had to pay another $3.00 each to enter the National Park!
But it was oh so worth it!! Our favourite day yet!! It started off on a sandy, shady trail downwards, loads of butterflies fluttering about again like snow, and eventually arrived at Stoney Beach! Huge Boulders and a turquoise sea and an empty sandy beach!! Retraced our steps, and carried on along the trail to
Devil’s Beach where Chris decided to have a swim! More huge boulders and a beautiful turquoise sea but a very strong undercurrent (so Chris said!! I sat on a rock!!) and quite dangerous getting in and out of the water as there was a steep shelf! Red flags flying !!
Carried on along the trail that wended its way over the rocks, past inlets and small caves. The trail got more interesting as the tide was in and involved clambering down ladders, wading through the sea (up to my knees!) under the rocks, through caves and grottos – in places there were ropes to hold on to as the trail followed wet rocks down slopes! All good fun!! Eventually we emerged through a crack in the rocks onto the main beach, with a bar and shop and toilets!!
Sat for a while enjoying the scenery and chatting to Winnie from Denmark (also on cruise), before completing the trail back up to the top – and then back again to do the whole trail in reverse!! It didn’t seem so long going back and I think the tide must have gone out a bit!! Chris had another swim, but
tide higher and larger waves made it more dangerous, so all swimmers got out of sea.
Caught a taxi back to get the ferry and as we had some spare time before our return ferry at 15.30pm, had a Carib beer in a run down rum shack called the West Indian Parrot, with Tanty from St Lucia, who had lived on Virgin Gorda for 46 years!
Smoother crossing back to Tortola, and had another Carib beer at the Port and catch up wifi before boarding the Ship just before 5.30 pm, one of the last passengers onboard. Ship sailed @ 5.45 pm bound for Nassau, Bahamas, with 2 days at sea before we arrive.
Day 24, 25 & 26 Sunday-Tuesday 16th
Two sea days and then we docked at Nassau at 9.00am. The Bahamas are made up of 700 coral islands but only 5%!a(MISSING)re inhabited – 90%!o(MISSING)f the people live at Nassau which is the Capital and and located on New Providence Island.
We decided to just wander around Nassau and first of all walked to the Queen’s staircase ( left out of the Port and turn right up
Elizabeth Ave), which was carved out of the limestone cliffs by slaves at the end of the 18th
It makes for a pleasant walk and the 66 steps were used as the main route between Nassau Town and Fort Fincastle – built by Lord Dunmore in 1793. The Fort is shaped like an old paddle wheel steamer, and was built to protect the city from pirate invasions. Not a lot inside – just three rooms that apparently were the gunpowder store, the cannon ball store and the gun store. Took some good pictures of the four cruise ships that were docked!!
Walked back down to Bay Street and after looking at the pink Court and Library buildings, had a quick look in the straw market! The people here are very friendly,
but difficult to just look at things unless you want to actually buy them!! – high hassle factor. So we left the Straw Market and went along to ‘Dunking Donuts’, up the hill to the Graycliff Hotel ! This is the oldest part of town and this elegant hotel takes its name from a pirate named John Howard Graysmith, who was told by the Governor
that he would either have to change his ways or be put to death. So he built Graycliff which is now a wonderful Georgian colonial architecture 5***** hotel. A quick peer inside revealed luxurious interior decorations as well as a Christmas tree made out of old wine bottles!
Walked along the colourful street, full of bouganvillea and free wine and chocolate sample tastings, past the historic St Francis Xavier Cathedral to John Watlings Rum Distillery where we were greeted by two very large chickens!! Joined a 5 minute tour of the rum factory and had our free sample of Pina Colada – just like sorbet really!! Had a good look a the Governors Residence, where we were lucky enough to see the Govenor just leaving in her car!! We then retraced our steps back down to Bay Street.
We then got the ferry across to Paradise Island (used to be called Hog Island but they changed its name as it had no visitors!!) and eventually, after asking quite a few people and walking through the Atlantis Hotel Resort (Las Vegas size !!) and found Cabbage Beach (packed out!!!) where Chris had a swim!
Got the ferry back,
and had a well earnt beer ( local beer is kalik!) and a conchy conch fritter!!
Last evening on the ship and good “Italian” entertainment again from the waiters, although not quite as good as last night 70th
A quick note about the loooong journey home - supposed to be off the Ship at 9.15am Wednesday 19th
Dec. Got off eventually at 12.15 then queued for nearly 2 hours for USA immigration. Then taxi to airport, burger king and wait for the flight at 17.40pm. Horrible plane – worst one I have ever had – Vamos Airlines ( a Norwegian Air substitute plane) The plane was 3 x 3 x 3 seats. Squashed, less leg room than Ryan Air, windows & arm rests were broken, noisy so no sleep was possible. Sullen & untidy air hostesses. Don’t ever fly Vamos Airlines – You have been warned!!!
8 hr flight was diverted from Gatwick to Orly Airport in Paris due to ‘drone incident’. Landed in Paris at 7.30am. Allowed off plane at 11.30am. Waited for luggage until 5.15pm. Norwegian Air had laid on coaches to Gatwick but it was going to take 8hrs. But coach stopped
after 1hr through traffic in Paris to say he needed to change drivers. We got a ‘taxi’ (one of his mates!!) to drive us to Charles de Galle airport hoping to get 21.25pm easy jet plane to Bristol. Girl could only sell us one ticket, even though there were empty seats on plane (no shows!!) – because these hadn’t been cancelled she couldn’t sell them to us.
Same situation with Flybe to Cardiff tomorrow so booked easyjet flights 21.25pm for Friday 21st
Dec. Now have to spend the rainy day in Paris, waiting for flight home tonight! Dragon taxi now booked from Bristol to Newport – expensive but hopefully efficient!! At least we have now had some sleep, shower and breakfast!!
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