Caribbean Cruising - Mum's 60th birthday


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December 31st 2016
Published: June 20th 2019
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The past couple of years we've had my 30th birthday and my brother and stepdads joint birthday party which were great occasions with friends and family but we found ourselves spending lots of money for an event that would be over in a few hours. We therefore decided for my mum's 60th birthday we would rather spend the money and go away on a nice vacation that would last a couple of weeks.

Barbados

Whoa... we're going to Barbados! I can't get this song out of my head as we head for Birmingham airport to catch our charter plane to take us to Barbados.

After an 8 hour uncomfortable/cramped flight, we arrive in Barbados and taken to the cruise port to embark. The welcome on-board quite something as we get given rum punch and a warm Caribbean greeting with reggae music... I have a good feeling about this holiday

Our cruise ship, named Britannia, is the biggest British cruise ship. The 141,000-ton, 3,647-passenger ship has 13 bars, 4 swimming pools and a 936-seat theatre.

After a busy turnaround, which saw over 7,000 passengers embarking and disembarking, our ship is ready to set off for our 2 week adventure. Everyone seems in good spirits as it's the last day of the year. Struggling to keep awake, my brother and I manage to get some energy to hang out and a see the new year in. For the first time ever, it feels weird not being at home and knowing friends and family have already seen the new year before me.

Curacao

After a day out at sea In the gorgeous Caribbean, our first port of call is Willemstad, Curacao. This island is close to Venezuela and is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands. We get off the ship without an itinerary; suddenly lots of people calling me over to book a tour, there is one older lady who quietly waves the brochure and I am drawn to her. We join a small tour with a native guide. We first visit a large lake where we get to see wild Flamingos. Next, we visit Hato Caves; these caves are over two hundred years old and the biggest on the island. We then head over to the Curacao distillery at Landhuis Chobolobo. I'm familiar with Curacao as seen it used in cocktails and understand that Blue Curacao is one of the most famous liqueurs in the world. I'm surprised to see so many different flavours of Curacao and happily enjoy the free samples as well as buying some smaller bottles to take home.

After the tour, my brother and I head into Willemstad, as I am desperate for some headphones after breaking mine on the plane. We walk over the Queen Emma Bridge admiring the array of colonial architecture that has been influenced by the Dutch. The buildings all painted in different colours and date back to the 16th century. To my surprise, one of the first shops sells electrical gadgets and have official IPhone headphones... phew! We carry on walking around until a McDonalds appears; so I have to do my challenge, but surely Curacao falls under the Netherlands and not it's own country? either way I haven't been to a McDonalds in Holland so it definitely counts as another country ticked off.

On the way back to the ship, we walk around the RIF Fort; built to protect the island's capital as it was bombproof and armed with 56 cannons. Today, it houses many renowned brands and souvenir shops. As we get close to the ship, we admire the beautiful sunset slowly go behind the ship and into the horizon.

Aruba

My mum and stepdad taking their time, I suggest to my brother we do our own thing. With the weather looking rather dull and overcast it, it was worth us getting off the ship before it rained. The ship is docked at Oranjestad, the island's capital. As soon as we get off the ship, we are walking along the main high street that it lined with shops mainly catered for tourists.

After walking around for a while, I suggest we walk to a beach and chill out. Wishing we had done Flamingo beach, I look on IPhone maps to see where the nearest beach is. It seems the nearest beach is only 20 minutes walk so we head off.

As we arrive at the beach, the sun tries to come out as it breaks through the cloud. I take off my flipflops as I feel my feet touch the soft white sand, then I paddle into the beautiful turquoise Caribbean sea. Unfortunately, the sun doesn't last long and it starts to rain. The rain is light so we continue walking further along the beach, but then the rain comes down heavily and we shelter under a beach tree hut. My brother getting annoyed at the thought of getting soaked on our walk back, so we slowly head back stopping for shelter every time the rain gets heavy.

On our way back to the ship, I notice Fort Zoutman, this restored military fort was built in 1798 and painted in several interesting colours. The main street we walked down earlier with the shops completely flooded with rubbish and feces just floating down the road. I regret now wearing my flipflops. Such a shame on the weather... locals say it's the first time they've had rain in over 60 days.

Mum's Birthday

Another full day at sea as we head towards Grenada. It's worked out quiet nicely with being mum's birthday as means we can just relax the whole day and celebrate her special milestone. It's also a casual evening so we all get dressed up and have a three course meal. I pre-arranged for a birthday cake to be delivered to our table... mum seems pleased with her surprise cake, birthday cards and spa vouchers.

Grenada

We arrive at Grenada to be greeted by P&O's other cruise ship the Ventura. There seems to be excitement from the ships crew with the two ships meeting. Another ship pulls in from Thomson, called the Thomson Dream, this ship looks rather familiar, not sure why though.

My brother and I start walking around St George's whilst we wait for mum and stepdad, we end up finding a bar with wifi so good to connect with my girlfriend as well as friends and family back home. Once mum and stepdad arrive we decide to walk up to Fort George; as we walk up the hill a man calls to us offering to take us on a tour around the island. He promises to show us many places including Annandale Falls. We agree a fee and get into the car... a little risky maybe since he doesn't work for a tour company. We drive around St George's, admiring the pretty different house colours that stagger in the hillside.

The tour not what it seems as the man shows us nutmeg trees from the side of the road and we were believing we would go to some kind of plantation.

We continue our way towards Annandale Falls, admiring the beautiful scenery on the way. When we reach Annandale Falls, we have time to visit the falls. We find many locals trying to sell us things. I joke with the locals and tell them my stepdad is the famous Jack Nicholson. As we get to the falls, we see locals plunging at about 50ft into them... what a great way to make a living and they seem happy.

After the falls, we head back to St George's and visit Fort George. The fort has been well preserved and offers spectacular views of St George's so definitely worth a visit.

We then discover Grenada National Museum. This museum is housed in a building that was used as a barracks by the French from 1704 and when under British rule it was used as a prison for female inmates until around 1880. Sections of this museum include slavery, first inhabitants, plantation and economy, whaling and fishing and early transportation and technology. The museum also includes items such as Carib and Arawak artefacts. We also enjoy and participate in drumming lessons. In Grenada, the tradition dates back to the arrival of African slavery in 18th century. The slaves struggled to keep their African culture and traditions so drums were used to covertly communicate in a rhythmic language.

Back onboard Britannia, we visit the promenade deck as the two P&O cruises (Britannia and Ventura) battle it out with who can blow their horn the loudest.

St. Vincent & The Grenadines

We disembark with no idea of what to do. The island seems very small and not very touristy but we noticed many people coming off the cruise ship and queuing for a speed boat that takes you to a nearby beach; so we opt to do this, after all, we are on holiday so a little relaxation really appeals.

As the speed boat drives past our cruise ship and It makes me realize just how big this ship really is! It's literally a huge floating hotel.

Once we are on the nearby beach, it's time to get the sun cream out and take my top off. I hire a sun lounger, apply my sun cream and start to relax. The sound of the sea waves and Reggae music being played is my kind of perfection. I reminisce of my time back on the beautiful island called Caye Caulkner in Belize. It's amazing how a similar setting can bring back fond memories of somewhere else. Alfie enjoys a fresh coconut and we all make friends we some locals who are selling cold refreshments. We discover they're due to get married and the need to take advantage of the tourism when it comes to the island as only several ships turn up in a week. My Mum and Stepdad give them a tip towards their big day.

Before we return to the ship we visit a nearby supermarket and although the locals are not directly rude to us, their staring is not subtle.

St. Lucia

I was really looking forward to this port of call as heard many great things about St. Lucia from people who have visited the island before. When we got off the ship, we explored shops at the port and then found somewhere selling excursions. We decide to do an island tour which includes a visit to the Sulphur Springs. Our tour guide very knowledgeable on the island and says he will stop off at some of his favourite locations spots for picture taking.

We first stop outside the Government House. Although we couldn't go in, we could appreciate its beautiful ornamental gates and a view of the house. The gates are marked with ER II (Queen Elizabeth II) which symbols their commitment to being part of the Commonwealth.

As we drive along the bendy and hilly roads we see many locals trying to sell souvenirs, to be honest, they all seem to be selling the same things and every time we go past they try to stop us to buy something off them. It's hard being rude but when you're not interested you have to stay firm and say "no".

We see lots of beautiful views and nice beaches as well as the 2 mountain peaks known as the Pitons, St Lucia's two volcanic mountains. Our tour guide stops the car at every opportunity and gives us enough time to take photos and selfies.

The Sulphur Springs is the only drive-in volcano in the world. The Sulphur Springs comprises several hot springs, bubbling mud pools and steam vents. Our guide tells us temperatures of up to 172c have been recorded here. You can even get inside the mud pools, but I decided not in case our guide decided not to let us back on the minibus.

Dominica

Known as "the nature island of the Caribbean" our port of call at the islands capital, Roseau. No pre-excursions arranged, we step off the ship and begin to wonder around the capital. On a local map provided by P&O we know there is The Botanic Gardens so we decide to head in the direction of the garden, admiring a couple of small cute churches on the way. The Botanic Gardens is full of lots of exotic trees, plants and flowers and aviaries of birds too. Locals selling refreshing cold drinks and souvenirs. I buy my girlfriend a beautiful necklace made out of hematite. I'm told the stone is sourced from the volcano rock on Caribbean islands.

Next, we take on the "Jack's Walk" trail which is around 20 mins to walk and involves climbing up many steps and narrow pathways without much grip. I am pleased to be wearing my walking shoes as I take slight leaps to get further up the pathways on a steep incline. My mum and stepdad far behind my brother and self.

The trail takes us up to a steep hill where we can see amazing views of the island and sea. In the distance, our cruise ship, Britannia.

On the way back, we just start to go down the hill and see a woman on the floor. She has slipped and cannot walk on her foot. Her partner tells us they're on our ship and that emergency services have been called. We then start to hear sirens in the distance so know this must be for the lady. She was wearing sandals and slipped on a tree trunk.

After a tricky walk back down the trail, I make it down without any injuries. My mum and stepdad decide to play it safe and take a taxi down and we join them at the bottom of the hill. As we head out of the garden back towards the port, we noticed a yellow school bus completely flattened by a tree. It seems a hurricane several years ago had caused the tree to fall and it flattened this bus and to this day has been left in this position. Luckily, no children were on the bus.

Back at the port we explore several souvenir stores and I end up buying this luminous Caribbean shirt to wear on the cruise ship for one evening. We also discover a very lively bar called Ruins Rock Café. The smell of grilled food is making me hungry. We end up buying some rum punch cocktails and soaking up the lively reggae vibe before having to get back on the ship.

Back on board the ship, we watch a beautiful sunset before dressing up in Caribbean style.

Antigua

We arrive at Saint John's, the island capital. At the port, my brother points out the Thomson ship which we saw a few days ago that looks familiar because they have crazy golf on the top deck. The port has a large shopping area called Heritage Quays and its very busy with tourists from the two cruise ships that have called in. After an hour or so, I feel like I've seen enough shops and fancy finding a nice beach to sunbath and chillax on. There are plenty of excursion tours and many offering bus trips to and from top beaches. We decide to do a beach trip with a recommendation to Ffryes Beach.

Ffryers Beach is only a short ride from Saint John's and the prefect beach to chill on and definitely worth a visit. On the way back to the port, I overhear people on the bus talk about the other cruise ship and discover the Thomson ship used to belong to Royal Caribbean and was the Splendour of the Seas, which was the first ever cruise ship that I went on back in 2012 and explains why the ship looks so familiar with just a different lick of paint.

Sint Maarten

St. Maarten or Saint Martin, depending on which part of the island you're on because its owned by two different countries. St. Maarten is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Saint Martin is a French overseas territory. The cruise ship arrives at the port, Philipsburg, the capital of the island and is on the Dutch side of the island. We get off the ship and the explore the shops at the port. We then discover there is a water taxi which will take you to downtown Philipsburg. Downtown Philipsburg is full of restaurants, bars, shops that are placed behind a row of sandy beach. We find ourselves enjoying this lively beautiful capital with several stops at bars and some relaxation on the beach plus snorkelling in the Caribbean sea.

My brother and I separate from mum and stepdad for some duty free shopping. The litre bottles of branded alcohol extremely cheap. On the way back to the cruise ship, we board the water taxi and I realize my camera is missing. I go into complete despair as I'm sure I left it on a table at the bar and convince myself that my mum or stepdad will not notice it. The camera pretty much has my entire holiday photos!!

Once back on the cruise ship I anxiously wait for my mum to return. The minutes feel like hours, then after a good 25 mins or so, my mum and stepdad return and have the camera with them. I've never felt so relieved to see an object. I love to be able to look back at photos and always take plenty to help me remember and reminisce each holiday.

Barbados

After a full day at sea, we're arrive back were we started and luckily have one night left before our cruise comes to an end. My brother is feeling poorly so decides to stay on the ship whilst my mum, stepdad and self disembark the ship. The cruise ship is docked in Bridgetown and we take a taxi into the capital. The capital streets are busy whilst we try to visit shops. We get bored easily of the shops as they're more for the locals than tourists. We continue up one of the main roads and find the Parliament Buildings, also known as the Public Buildings; is the seat of the Parliament of Barbados. The building was built between 1870 and 1874 and boasts with being the third oldest parliament in the Commonwealth. The buildings are of neo-gothic architecture and are reminiscent of Great Britain. Inside is a museum of Barbados as well as the parliament. You can see that Barbadians are proud to be part of the Commonwealth.

Next, we cross over the sea via a bridge to get to Pirates Cove, as we cross the bridge I notice a sea turtle swimming. On the other side of the bridge we go under the Independence Arch which was built in 1987 to commemorate the 21st anniversary of independence from Great Britain.

At Pirates Cove, which is located on the historic Carlisle Bay and is an UNESCO world heritage site. This area is pirate themed with a rustic Caribbean tropical island feel to it and is the perfect way to relax and spend my last full day in the Caribbean.

My time now coming to an end, but what a perfect way to see so many different Caribbean islands in a short space of time. Each island has offered something different and there are several I'd like to go back and visit one day to see more of.


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6th October 2019

Caribbean Cruising
What a wonderful way to celebrate your Mum's 60th birthday! A lovely family holiday. It seems taking a cruise is a really good way of seeing so many Caribbean islands in one go. A very inspiring read, thanks Alan 😊
10th October 2019

Caribbean
Thanks! Yes definitely the best way to see lots of Caribbean islands and I know which ones I'd like to go back and see again :)
8th October 2019

Happy Birthday Mum
Great spending time with family in a warm and beautiful place. Lovely waters and food.
10th October 2019

Family
Ha ha perhaps a little too much time with the family :)

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