A Travellerspoint blog

St Maarten

ST MAARTEN Date: 28th February

Weather: Warm and Sunny all day, few fluffy clouds, 28c

Position: Latitude 18 deg. 0.8 min. N Longitude 63 deg. 2.7 min W

This island is a bit of a strange one, not that it`s any different geographically but the way it`s governed, for there are two parts to the island, one side French and the other Dutch. This division started back in the mid 1600`s , when 4 Frenchmen and 5 Dutchmen were left behind by the Spanish, after several failed attempts to return to their own countries, they decided to stay, and a written agreement was made to divide the island, and that agreement still stands, so we have a two nation island. There are border markings on the roadside, but no passport control. The French use the Euro, and the Dutch use the Antilles Dutch Guilder, for the French,” Marigot” was their capital, and for the Dutch “Philipsburg” is their capital. The island is served by an international airport on the Dutch side, and a smaller inter-island airport on the French side.

This island is a very popular stop for the cruise ships, we berthed on a jetty in Philipsburg and on that day there was another cruise ship there “Celebrity Equinox”, but that jetty had the capacity to take another two cruise ships. The cruise ship facilities with terminal buildings, coach parks , and landscape gardens are excellent, as with our port yesterday in Guadeloupe ,both places are autonomous regions of their own countries (France and Holland) so EU money is available for these places to build such facilities ????

We had a trip booked from on-board our ship called “Island Tour”, so for us it was an early start at 8.30am. We were soon away with our guide, who gave us a lot of the islands history, and a big part of that history was Salt, which passing ships bought. The lagoons which produced the salt are still there today, but no salt production goes on these days, the use of slave labour for salt and other things was part of the islands history.

These Caribbean islands are not very flat, and you always seemed to be going up a steep nip, but on the plus side before you go down again you`re presented with a great view. Our first stop was at for the French capital Marigot, and we were given 1 hour to explore this very pretty place, right on the coast it had a very fine marina with some very expensive yachts and motor launches, but our opinion of Marigot was that it was not in the same league as the south of France. With our time up we continued onward with our tour, I would say this island was not as lush as some of our previous ports of call. We then went back into the Dutch side of the island via a different route which gave us a good overview of the place. Before our tour ended we were dropped off nearer the centre of Philipsburg so we could see what it had to offer. Philipsburg is right on the water`s edge and has a beautiful town beach well served with loungers and sun-shades, all very colourful. Along the beach front there was a promenade with plenty of bars and restaurants a real hive of activity. Running parallel to the beach are two streets, “Front Street” and “Back street” which are the shopping streets, Front street has a few historical buildings within it but this place has a good feel about it, it was clean and very colourful, and the locals were good fun.

After seeing what we wanted to see we decided to make our way back to the ship, and this we did by means of a water taxi, it`s a service which runs from a pier in the middle of the town beach to the end of the jetty where our ship was berthed, we only had to wait a few minutes and we were off. It was a good service, and the fare was reasonable.

To sum up, we have had a good day. Out of the two parts of the island, I think the Dutch came out on top, and would recommend Philipsburg to anyone. So with everyone back on-board we sailed off into a glorious evening to our next port of call Tortola.





















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GAUDELOUPE Date: 27th February

Weather: Light shower early, Hot and sunny 26c

Position: Latitude 16 deg. 14.3 min N Longitude 61 deg. 32.4 min W

Guadeloupe this French island is also known as the “Butterfly Island” as its shape resembles a butterfly with outspread wings. The two wings, one Basse-Terre and the other Grande-Terre are connected by a bridge. Basse-Terre is a mountainous island with a central rainforest and has a higher rainfall while Grande-Terre is the region of tropical flora with lush greens, waterfalls, banana fields and volcanic craters, both islands have many white sandy beaches with clear blue waters.

As with all this area these islands were all claimed and reclaimed by the French, English and Spanish at different times during their history. But today Guadeloupe is a French Overseas territory and in 2007 it separated itself from the islands of St Maarten and St Barthelemy ( St Barts) which are also a French Overseas Territory. The official currency is the euro. Our port for our call was Pointe-a-Pitre, which is not their capital but it is their largest town, and is the commercial centre of the Island.

We had arranged to do a taxi tour with two of our friends , Marilyn and John. So on the dockside it was not difficult to find a taxi driver, but the main problem for us was the language, which was French, and for them not speaking any English, but through hand signals we finally agreed a price. We had a two part tour, the first part was to the rainforest in Basseterre. As we left Pointe-a-Pitre it took us quite a while to drive through all the commercial parts of the town, quite strange really, since being in the Caribbean this was the first time we`ve had any industrial sites and the like. Our visit to the rainforest was in one of their national parks, we arrived at a roadside parking area where there was a nature trail to a nearby waterfall. The path on the trail was in good condition for walking, but you would have thought that it had been raining recently with the amount of water that was on it, but it was only the drips from the trees that had caused it. It certainly gave us the sensation of being in a rainforest, our trail followed a fast flowing river to the falls, although the falls were not of a great height or flow, they were still good to see.

For the second part of our trip it was to the beach resort of Saint- Annes on the other side of the Island on Grande-Terre, so it meant we had to back track on the roads we had not long travelled on, our driver liked life in the fast lane!! driving with his headlights on and his indicating blinker always to the left, overtaking everything in sight. But we arrived safely in Saint-Annes, as we drove into town across a pleasant promenade, the first thing that hit us was the colour of the sea, a beautiful turquoise. We had arranged with our driver to spend 1 hour there, so after parking, which was right on the top of a narrow beach, we had an ice-cream first and sitting in some shade just soaked up the atmosphere. The water was too much of a draw!! so it was shoes off, and in for a paddle, (“the English Man abroad” springs to mind)but it was great. The beach although narrow was well used with families everywhere, kids learning to sail and people swimming. As we walked along the water`s edge at the far end of the beach near the roadside was a colourful market, with clothing, spices, paintings etc. I think we all said that we could have spent a lot more time here and would have enjoyed it, but sadly our time was up.

So back into the taxi to make our drive back to the port, what we had done today was not a comprehensive visit but we had seen some of Guadeloupe.

So to our next port St Maarten.

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St Kitts

ST KITTS Date: 26th February

Weather: Warm and sunny passing showers 26c

Position: Latitude 17 deg. 17.4 min N Longitude 62 deg. 43.4 min W

St Kitts was first sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1493, during his second voyage of exploration he named the island St Christopher after the patron saint of travellers. In 1623 St Kitts became the first island to be colonised by the English when Sir Thomas Warner arrived with a small group of pioneers. The English began to move out to the nearby islands Antigua and Montserrat, but St Kitts was always known as the mother colony. The name became shortened to St Kitts, Kit being the 17th century British abbreviation for Christopher. The island was first used to grow tobacco, and then sugar cane came later, now those industries have long gone and have been surpassed by tourism. St Kitts is 23 miles long and 6 miles wide, Its sister island is Nevis which is very near, and both lie north east of Montserrat, which was recently devastated by a volcanic eruption.

We were berthed in the capital Basseterre, on a jetty which we shared with a Costa cruise ship, also in port that day was a Thompson ship. Our jetty was right in the centre of town. Along with our friends we decided to do a taxi tour of the island, the method of matching us with a taxi driver is done by a local co-ordinator, there seemed to be a lot of shouting and arm waving, but we ended up with our man, who was called “ Archie” and it turned out to be a good choice. First he drove us around Basseterre pointing out their civic buildings etc. To mention a few, they have what they call the “Circus”, and this is modelled on our Piccadilly Circus, but I didn`t see any “Eros”, also a Regency type house made with bricks, which is unusual here, and these bricks got here because they were used as ballast in one of the sailing ships.

Now moving away from the capital we followed the coast road all the way around the island. With Archie giving us plenty of information all the time, we stopped at several vantage points giving us great views and photo opportunities of the coast line. One stop was known as “Bloody Point” and the history behind the name was that, back in 1626 3,000 local Carib Indians were massacred by the French and British here, as they were deemed a threat. Next, was Old Road town, the site where Sir Thomas Warner landed in 1623, and then onto Brimstone hill. This was an old fortress, started by the French in 1690, but completed by the British a century later, at the moment it`s a UNESCO World heritage site. We did not do a tour of the fort, just looked from a distance. We then went to Romney manor, it was an old manor house with a sugar cane processing plant attached to it. Now it`s more of a visitor centre where the local Caribelle Batik factory operates from. Batik is a form of cloth printing using wax and coloured dies, they are very good, very colourful. The Manor is situated on the edge of a rain forest, with many walks available, but while we were there we had a bit of a tropical storm, it rained very hard for 10 to 15 minutes, so the forest walks were out.

On one of our detours off the main road we passed an old sacred stone with a white line drawing on it which belonged to the Carib Indians. All the things and sites I`ve mentioned so far have been on the coast which shares the Caribbean sea, but then we started to move around the coast where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic. A point of interest on the border of these two waters was a place called “Black Rocks” it`s where an old lava flow from an extinct volcano went into the sea, and it has left some very interesting rock shapes on the water`s edge. I will mention now about a rail line which was part of the old sugar industry, this line runs for over 2/3rds of the coast line, more or less following the coast road, the line is in use today but is now used for tourism. The centre part of St Kitts is mountainous, and all through our visit it has been covered with cloud.

The shape of St Kitts has been compared to the shape of a cricket bat, the main part ( the bat) which we have covered so far was volcanic and all the beaches have black sand, but the handle part is where the white sand beaches are, Frigate Bay, etc. Archie, then took us to where the “bat and handle” meet, to a view point where you can see both the Atlantic and Caribbean seas, and there is also a view of Nevis the sister island to St Kitts and the view we had was the central mountain of Nevis which was covered in a white cloud.

Well our trip by taxi around St Kitts was coming to an end, and Archie dropped us off back at the terminal, and I would say we`ve had a good look around, thanks to our driver. As an overview St Kitts seems to be a quieter type of island than some we have visited so far.

So we travel overnight to our next stop Guadeloupe



















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St Lucia

ST LUCIA Date: 25th February

Weather: Hot and sunny very warm 29C a few drops of rain

Position: Latitude 14 deg. 0.7 min. N Longitude 60 deg. 59.5 min W

St Lucia is the second largest of the four islands making up the Windward group. Like its neighbours, St Vincent and Grenada, it has a mountainous backbone with a lush green rain forest, but it is of a volcanic origin. These volcanic origins are very apparent as the view which everyone associates with this island, is of the two peaks which rise from the coast ( which are known as Gros Piton and Petit Piton) and are in fact old volcanic spines. Also just as famous are the numerous sandy beaches and stunning scenery.

On its history, it has been claimed by Britain and France on 14 different occasions, with much bloodshed being spilt in the process. In 1967 St Lucia became a self-governing state, but in February 1979 it became fully independent, but remains a member of the commonwealth.

We docked at our berth in Port Castries, within Castries itself, this city is also their capitol. We had arranged to do a taxi tour with our friends Mike and Sue. We met aboard and made our way to the terminal building. There was no shortage of taxis, which were all vying for your business. These drivers within the terminal are all licenced by the state, so the rates for your trip are pretty well controlled. Our tour covered most of the central part of the island. We started with an overview of Castries and its civic buildings, then to a great viewing point which overlooked Castries and a great deal of the surrounding coastline. Our taxi driver was a great source of information all through our drive, but from that vantage point we could see a few of the well-known Caribbean islands. You know all these islands by name but not the geography that goes with them. This part of the island is very green and lush, and the roads we were using were more like alpine roads with sharp hairpin bends. As we went through the trees our driver explained what you could eat from them, and what uses each tree or plant had, it`s a lot to take in! We reached the top of a mountain ridge and were guided into a garden like viewing area with spectacular views of much of the island. Our taxi driver handed us over to another local guide familiar with all the surrounding geography, these guides are not official, they are just trying to make a living, as you tip them after your visit.

We then went on to a local wood carving workshop where a demonstration was given, and where the hope was to sell us some of their carvings, as good as they were, these carving were very expensive! We then passed by one of the remaining banana plantations on the island, again some surprising information was given. Progressing on we stopped at a fantastic viewing platform which overlooked the beautiful inlet of Marigot, just what you would imagine a tropical island resort to look like, a beach fringed with palms, yachts at anchor, houses or villas amongst the tropical trees, just beautiful! Every stop we made there was always someone selling something, clothing, cold drinks, tee-shirts etc.

Coming to the end of our trip now, we made our way back to the harbour passing through deep forested gully’s with houses at the roadside and in amongst the trees. So for us it had been a very enjoyable and informative trip. Before we went aboard, we decided to do a walking trip around Castries, this was a bit of an eye opener as most of what we saw was very much all local produce, local markets etc. very scruffy, with pavements etc. a walking hazard. We did hear later by other people who had visited other parts of the island, that beaches and waters were fantastic, with great resort complexes a plenty! So St Lucia has a lot to offer.

Sorry folks with the delay in posting my blog, but the days just seem to be whizzing by.

Next stop St Kitts.



















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BARBADOS Date: 24th February.

Weather: Hot and sunny 26C some cloud at times

Position: Latitude 13 deg. 6.1 min. N Longitude 59 deg. 37.7 min. W

Barbados is the most easterly of the West Indies and part of the Leeward and Windward chain of Islands. It measures 21 miles long and 14 miles at its widest point. The climate is tropical, but tempered by the sea breeze form the north east, the temperature hardly varies from 24 – 27 deg. C. Another surprising fact is the seas temperature, the last couple of days prior to us reaching Barbados while the air temperature was 24C the sea has been 25C.

From its founding in 1627 to its independence in 1966, the island was a British colony unlike most of its neighbours it was not taken by force.

For our visit to Barbados we had an afternoon shore excursion organised from the ship with a visit to ”Huntes” gardens and “Orchid World” . Before our tour we had time to walk up the quayside and go into the terminal building which had quite few shops and outlets, a lot which were duty free and others which sold local merchandise. We were not the only cruise ships in port, as there were also the “Celebrity Summit” and a four masted sailing cruise ship “Sea Cloud”.

So after some early lunch we made our way outside the terminal building to pick up our tour bus. To get to our first stop we headed up the west coast passing some fantastic looking beaches and the famous Sandy Lane, then “Hole Town” ( this is where the British first landed on the island), Turning now inland we passed through several different villages where the local Barbadians live, a lot of their places are painted very colourfully. We also passed a lot of their agricultural fields, one particular area looked very like our country fields back home.

When we reached “Huntes Garden” which was designed and run by a Mr Hunte, he himself greeted us and it was soon apparent that he was a very likeable character. The Gardens were set in an old “Sink Hole” which was formed many thousands of years ago. Although not a gardener myself you could not but admire the way it was laid out, many tall mature palms of differing varieties and at ground level the different coloured plants and bushes were a pleasure to see. As you walked around classical music was played from a part of his house, creating a very peaceful atmosphere. To finish our visit we made our way to a part of Mr Huntes home, onto an open veranda where we sat down and had a drink of either rum punch or lemonade, this part of his house was furnished in the old colonial style and full of old nick-nacks. We were treated very much as friends and when it was time for us to leave he (Mr Hunte) comes and sees you off, all very pleasant.

To our next stop of Orchid World, which was only a short drive away. This place was again a well maintained garden with several covered orchid houses, I say covered but the orchid houses were all made out of fine mesh and the size of the mesh seemed to create the right conditions for orchids within it. It was amazing that such beautiful flowers just seem to grow in the most flimsy of pots with their roots just hanging in fresh air, as you can see from some of my photos they are so beautiful. This visit was also completed with a drink of the rum punch or fruit juice with seating on the veranda, all very nice!!!

Making our way back to the ship across the centre of the island we passed through several communities all with pupils emerging from them, and each school with its own uniform colour , yellow, green, purple, the children all looking very happy smiling and waving at us. Then we were back to the terminal building, and our final treat was a delicious ice cream!

It`s strange after leaving England, in the middle of February that we are here in the sunshine although the evenings get dark very quickly, when we left port at 6 o` clock it was nearly dark, whereas back home we get very light nights in our summers.

Bye for now, next port St Lucia






















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