St. Kitts

Basseterre, St. Kitts
Nov. 9, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We took tour KT67 Fairview Great House and Beach. First we drove in an air-conditioned bus through the historic streets of Basseterre. Lower levels of structures here are built with volcanic rock to guard against fires, which destroyed much of the town in the past.

Dating from the 17th century, these interesting buildings and monuments offer a glimpse into history. This is a substantial town that invites exploration. Next we drove to Fairview Great House, a former hotel that stands on a hill with an expansive view.

P1020085 (800x600)   P1020072 (800x600)

P1020081 (800x600)  P1020082 (800x600)

Outside it has a swimming pool and a covered outdoor terrace with a bar, while indoors is the dining room, men’s study, ladies parlor, and more. Upstairs you can see a sample bedroom with a private lavatory—an ancient toilet and a basin with pitcher only. On the grounds is evidence of former stables and a bathing room with a stone bath. A gift shop is down below, next to a separate building that housed the kitchen. This was a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era. The so-called botanical garden was mostly a grassy area with labeled trees.

P1020071 (800x600)  P1020073 (800x600)

P1020074 (800x600)   P1020078 (800x600)

P1020079 (800x600)  P1020080 (800x600)

From here we visited Frigate Bay Beach after a winding drive through the hills. This site boasted an expensive sit-down restaurant: $16 for a club sandwich or a burger plus 22% tax and gratuity. Chair rentals cost $10 each and we were only there for one hour. A large covered building held a bar and the costly restaurant, plus it had a pleasant sitting area under cooling ceiling fans. It’s a lovely beach if you want to soak up the sun and go for a quick swim, but it would be nice if they had a reasonable snack bar. While the beach is beautiful, it seems like a rip-off with the high prices and lack of other amenities. My caveat: bring your own snacks. You get a free fruit drink with the tour. If you want to sit in the shade, you’ll have to pay more for an umbrella or find a seat inside the structure where you can read a good book or admire the scenery.

P1020091 (800x600)  P1020092 (800x600)

P1020094 (800x600)  P1020090 (800x600)

P1020089 (800x600)  P1020087 (800x600)

Back in town, we went shopping near the pier. This is a good shopping stop although St. Maarten is still better for jewelry and electronics. You could keep busy browsing the shops along the pier, eating lunch in one of the restaurants, and meandering into the historic parts of Basseterre. If you do go on a tour, a couple of hours here is all you need to pick up souvenirs and gifts.

P1020100 (800x600)  P1020101 (800x600)

P1020098 (800x600)  P1020102 (800x600)

This concludes my recitation on Vision of the Seas. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Healthy Voyage into 2013!

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Antigua

St. John’s, Antigua
Nov. 8, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We took the ship’s tour AN48 Antiguan Experience. Antigua is a dry island compared to Dominica, where it actually rained in the rainforest and the shrubbery is lush with tropical foliage. Here cactus grows and the hills are lower although they still offer scenic views.

After driving in an air-conditioned bus through the hilltops, we arrived at a private home open to visitors. Inside were artifacts dating back to the 16th century collected by former owners, relatives of the current occupants. Their family owns cattle raised for meat. We saw sheep without its coat that looked like goats. The way to tell the difference? Look at their tails. I think it was the sheep whose tail is down, the goat whose tail is up? Anyway, the lady owner said that whenever the volcano at Montserrat blows, they get ash blown in. We toured the house, peering at the fascinating museum-quality relics. This lived-in home gave us an idea of how a well-to-do family might live on the island. It was a peaceful, comfortable ambiance.

P1020039 (800x600)   P1020038 (800x600)

P1020028 (800x600)   P1020031 (800x600)

P1020032 (800x600)  P1020033 (800x600)

P1020034 (800x600)  P1020036 (800x600)

From here we drove to a pineapple farm where they grow a small, sweet variety called gold pineapple. It was pretty hot out as a woman explained the growing process.

P1020047 (800x600)  P1020046 (800x600)

A stop at a beach came next. I didn’t care for this portion because there was absolutely no shade. It was a fairly deserted beach, but there were restrooms and we were provided a barbecue lunch. We rented chairs for $3 each but there weren’t any umbrellas. Ants crawled on the ground and perhaps got into my shoes because the next day I got a couple of bites on my foot. I tried to go in the water here, but there was a drop-off not far from shore so that I’d have to climb over the ridge to get back. And the undertow was extremely strong. I splashed myself but then scampered out onto the sand. We broiled in the heat until lunchtime. Seats at tables were arranged under an awning but it was still hot. We ate barbecued chicken with beans and rice. Then a lady entertained us with poems and song while I fumed impatiently to go back to town. This dragged on too long. Finally, we got back into the bus and made it to the pier. There are shops lined up here where we browsed before gratefully reentering the ship.

P1020048 (800x600)  P1020049 (800x600)

P1020051 (800x600)   P1020054 (800x600)

The house might have been fascinating, but I was less than thrilled with the beach portion of this excursion. I don’t like it when the tours take you to a deserted beach. Maybe you’ll love it if you’re from up north, but I prefer a more active beach site with restaurants, gift shops, and facilities. Here you’re stuck waiting for the driver and others on the tour, whereas if you’re in a better location, you can amuse yourself at a bar or a shop when you get tired of the sun.

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.
Coming Next: St. Kitts

Dominica

Roseau, Dominica
Nov. 7, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We did the Royal Caribbean ship’s excursion RO32 called Cooking Caribbean, Rum, and Nature.

An air-conditioned van drove us through a poor section of town with ramshackle buildings to a mountain road. We drove up a steep, winding incline. It was a bumpy ride where we jostled against each other, swaying left and right around hairpin curves. It appeared to be one lane but served as a two-way road.

We climbed up and up into the rainforest, spotting banana plants, papaya trees, clumps of bamboo, colorful crotons, broad-leafed plants and reaching vines. Wealthier, substantial houses dotted the hillside. We arrived at a lovely home and were guided out back to an outdoor kitchen under a covered patio. The view of the cloud-shrouded mountains from this location was spectacular.  Be aware that it actually rains in this rainforest! Showers swept in but quickly passed. While sipping a fruit punch, we admired the flowers, shrubbery, and distant vistas.

P1020007 (800x600)  P1020008 (800x600)

P1020001 (800x600)  P1020004 (800x600)

P1020005 (800x600)  P1020006 (800x600)

Then we were summoned to take our places in the outdoor kitchen. We stood in a semicircle around a broad counter. There were 15 people in the class. Three lady cooks introduced themselves and gave us each a yellow apron to wear.

P1020009 (800x600)   P1020012 (800x600)

P1020010 (800x600)  P1020017 (800x600)

First on the menu was marinated, sautéed tuna. This came out a bit chewy and not to my taste. Next we cooked red beans and rice that was very good. The cooks used fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs like lemongrass, many of which were obtained from the grounds. We made a salad with homemade dressing and then did fried coconut-dipped plantains. I mixed the batter which consisted of one can of coconut milk, two eggs, and 1 cup flour. Everybody participated. We had grapefruit with rum sauce for dessert, and a rum punch made with West Indies pumpkin.

P1020021 (800x600)P1020014 (800x600)

P1020023 (800x600)P1020024 (800x600)

P1020025 (800x600)P1020022 (800x600)

We were promised recipes via e-mail but so far they haven’t arrived. There was a tip bottle put out at the end. A long table was set for the tour participants and we ate buffet style. It was a lot of fun, and I’d suggest this as one of the best, most unusual excursions if you’re into cooking. What would I change? I’d suggest they put stools around the counter so we wouldn’t have to stand for so long. Also, they should hand out copies of the recipes. I doubt we’ll ever get them, so you might want to take notes if you do this tour.  Our stomachs satisfied, we went back to the wharf in Roseau to browse the native market.

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.
Coming Next: Antigua

Save

St. Maarten

Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Nov. 6, 2012, Vision of the Seas

On previous tours of this island, we visited the French side of Marigot. It’s a tedious drive across the island on the only road which means it’s usually congested. We didn’t find the expensive restaurants and European cafes to excite us when the ambiance in Philipsburg is charming enough and a lot closer. That prior ship’s excursion also took us to a not-so-nice beach near a nudist site. Not our cup of tea.

So this time, we went shopping in Philipsburg, capitol of the Dutch side, after taking the water taxi for seven dollars (round-trip fare) from the pier. There are shops near the ships that are adequate representations of the ones downtown, but it’s much more fun to go into the town center and stroll through the quaint streets.

P1010978 (800x600)   P1010979 (800x600)

P1010981 (800x600)  P1010983 (800x600)

A beautiful beach faces the water in Philipsburg that is fronted by restaurants and shops. We ate lunch at the Barefoot Terrace. This restaurant is to the right after you dock downtown from the water taxi. I had coconut shrimp with French fries, coleslaw, and sautéed plantains for $14.95. The St. Maarten Rhumba drink cost $6.95 and packed a wallop. After I went back to the ship, I had to take a nap. Holland House is another restaurant we’ve enjoyed with a water view.

P1010993 (800x600)P1010988 (600x800)

P1010987 (800x600)P1010989 (800x600)

I can recommend my favorite stores here if you’re in the market for baubles. Otherwise, souvenir stores are plentiful. I like the Guavaberry place for a taste of the island’s specialty liquor. If you tire of shopping and aren’t on a tour, you can rent a beach chair for $5 and enjoy the water. Bring cash for the water taxi, food, and incidentals. Philipsburg is my favorite port! Shopping, restaurants, and a free beach–what more could you want?

P1010982 (800x600)  P1010995 (800x600)

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.
Coming Next: Dominica

Tortola

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola
Nov. 5, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We shared a taxi ride with two couples that we hooked up with via Cruise Critic. To get to Cane Garden Bay, it cost $8.00 per person one way with six people in the cab. It was a bumpy twenty to thirty minute ride across the island on curvy hilltop roads with scenic views. As the taxi careened around hairpin curves, we held onto our seats. This was as good an island tour as any other.

Cane Garden Bay Beach is a lovely site that I’d noted on a previous visit to Tortola. Restaurants are plentiful and restrooms are adequate. The drink prices vary from bar to bar. Our three dollar rum punch had no punch. A lounge chair costs five dollars, plus an extra five dollars for an umbrella.

P1010959 (800x600)  P1010960 (800x600)

P1010961 (800x600)   P1010963 (800x600)

The beach is beautiful with many facilities and well worth a return visit. It wasn’t as crowded as Magen’s Bay on St. Thomas, plus there is no entry fee. Ask your taxi driver to drop you off at the main entrance near the two-story building. You can easily catch a cab back from here to the ship. Bring cash for taxi fare, food, and chair rentals.

P1010964 (800x600)   P1010973 (800x600)

P1010968 (800x600)  P1010970 (800x600)

P1010966 (800x600)    I Love those Rum Punches but this one didn’t have much punch. This is a lovely beach with a wide range of facilities where you can easily spend a few hours.

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Coming Next: St. Maarten

Vision of the Seas: The Food

Vision of the Seas, Nov. 2-12, 2012
The Food

If you want a sit-down meal on Vision of the Seas, you go to the dining room. Otherwise, the Windjammer Café on the pool deck serves a buffet three times a day plus afternoon snacks between 3 and 5 pm. You could also get pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches at a grill outside the Solarium. There’s also a specialty coffee bar with cookies and pastries.

Dinner Table (800x600)   P1010933 (800x600)

P1010955 (800x600)

The food was okay but was not as impressive as on the Allure. The choices didn’t seem as upscale as on past cruises and some of the menus were mediocre at best. Even the garnishes seemed lacking. My husband’s dinner would come with one or two broccoli florets instead of a generous portion. You could do better at the Red Lobster. Not so for those lucky folks invited to the Captain’s Table. We sat right next to this special group, and I almost bumped chairs with Captain Lis herself. These guests were served a feast. Their selections were very different from our simple choices.

P1020026 (800x600)  P1010997 (800x600)

I liked the veal shank, the lobster tail and garlic shrimp, the roast duck, and the turkey dinner. The daily alternate choices weren’t as appealing as on other cruises. And we were disappointed there was no Baked Alaska on the last formal night. The waiters did sing that one time, but it wasn’t the same as in the old days when the dining rooms were decorated according to a different theme each night, and the waiters wore matching outfits. Times have changed, and not for the better. Generally we’d rate the food on this ship as average.

P1010953 (800x600)  P1020027 (800x600)

The coffee throughout the ship was Seattle’s Best, and it was better than on most ships. No complaints there. Creamer is offered at the buffet in non-perishable cups. There are no specialty restaurants yet on this ship, which is scheduled for refurbishment. Hopefully a couple of additional restaurants will be added along with a Diamond Club lounge.

We loved the free drinks and appetizers we’d earned with our Diamond status and frequented the Viking Crown Lounge every evening where this event took place. Between this perk, the Welcome Aboard Party, bottles of wine from our travel agent and a friend, plus two repeat cruisers parties, we saved money on the bar bill. And that’s without getting the free champagne at the art auctions! I miss the nightly Diamond Club appetizers the most.

P1010948 (800x600)P1010996 (800x600)

Also notably lacking were the chocolates on our pillows at evening turn-down service. This omission was a disappointment, no doubt a cost-cutting measure but a come-down all the same. It went along with the more plebian food choices. Even the breakfast buffet had little variety. It would have been nice if they’d offered fried eggs and premade omelets like on Princess. You could get them only if you stood in line for the chef.

P1020055 (800x600)  P1020109 (800x600)

Despite the shortcomings, it was still great to have food available at all hours and in various locations around the ship. We found plenty of tasty choices to enjoy. Fortunately, stair climbing and walking around the decks helped to counteract the extra calories.

P1020056 (800x600)   P1020057 (800x600)

P1020111 (800x600)   P1020110 (800x600)

 

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Coming Next: Ports of Call

Vision of the Seas

Vision of the Seas
Nov. 2-12, 2012

The Ship

Vision of the Seas was a refreshing change from our last voyage on the exciting but enormous Allure. A member of Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class fleet, this ship has sleek lines and a classic layout. Ocean views are prevalent from all the lounges, and the more intimate size makes this cruise an easy one to run into the same people and make friends. We had a great itinerary with four days at sea to relax and five ports to visit.

P1020067 (800x600)    P1010927 (800x600)

I loved the floor-to-ceiling windows in many of the lounges and the Windjammer Café that showed ocean views. The Windjammer faces forward so you have a view of the ship plowing through the waves. I really missed these windows on the Allure and felt closed in on that huge ship despite the numerous venues. The Vision’s Solarium has a domed glass cover, so you can sit out at the pool during inclement weather. We had no problem getting lounge chairs at either of the two main pools during the day.

P1010928 (800x600)    P1020059 (800x600)

There are enough inside lounges for variety, and the shops have interesting wares. We had plenty of places to walk around, and I for one did not miss the interior Promenade from the larger ships. I’d rather see the water wherever possible, although the Promenade at night does give you a place to stroll. Still, there was plenty to do here. A lively, several stories-high atrium had a dance floor where musicians played in the evening.

P1010957 (800x600)   P1010942 (800x600)

P1010938 (800x600)   P1010940 (800x600)

The captain greeted us at the Welcome Aboard Party on the second night which was formal dress. Lo and behold, we had a lady captain! As I’m a fan of Captain Janeway on the Enterprise, I was thrilled. Captain Lis Lauritzen was gracious and kindly posed for photos and gave welcoming talks throughout the cruise as well as her daily briefing from the bridge. (“This is Captain Lis from the Bridge”—Do you ever wonder where else they might be?) I liked her joke about the difference between a boat and a ship. “A ship has a captain. A boat is run by a frustrated husband.” Diplomacy, poise, and wit are definitely part of her job description.

P1010951 (800x600)  P1010932 (800x600) Vision1

Our cabin was comfortable and in a great location. If you’re sensitive to light when you sleep, I’d suggest you bring a sleep mask. Light beamed through the peephole from out into the corridor and it shone like a beacon in my eyes at night. If you have a balcony, light from outside might shine in as well. You might also want to bring some shower gel. You can barely move in the shower, so if you drop a bar of soap, good luck retrieving it. Our shower on Vision had a clingy curtain instead of a glass door, and I cringed at the thought of who might have touched it last. As for shaving in the shower, forget it. I had to put my foot on the toilet seat and dip my razor in the sink. I hope the shower curtains are replaced with glass doors during the upcoming refurbishment. It is badly needed as most of the carpets throughout the ship are stained and the paint is peeling off the outdoor chairs.

Make sure your room isn’t over, under, or near a lounge with music at night or near an elevator. On the Vision, a door separates the public areas from the stateroom sections. This door helps to keep noise out of the cabin areas, except perhaps for the people right next to it. They might hear the door bang open and closed all night. A couple we met had their room over the show lounge (not the theater). The band’s noise reverberated throughout their cabin and they were forced to stay awake each night until after midnight. Be careful to look and see where your cabin is located when you book your cruise. Otherwise, our cabin was comfortable and the steward gave excellent service. This is a nice size ship if you’re looking for a more relaxed cruise experience.

As for entertainment, the production shows in the Masquerade Theatre were visually appealing and the singers/dancers competent, but these shows lacked sparkle and so were nothing exceptional. I hate jugglers, so we skipped that performance. We enjoyed the comedians, especially 85 year old Norm Crosby who’s the best we’ve heard in recent times. We also caught a couple of movies: The Lucky One with Zac Efron and People Like Us with Chris Pine. Overall, I’d rate the entertainment and enrichment topics as average. If you’ve been on many cruises, you’ve seen similar. But does it matter? Being on a ship is still a diversion from watching TV at home.

 

 P1010935 (800x600)

To View entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Coming Next: The Food (my favorite part!) and then the Ports of Call.

Aruba

Day 7, December 14, Tuesday, Emerald  Princess 10 Day cruise to Southern Caribbean

BONAIRE

We had more time on this island than Grenada and I would have liked less. It’s 112 square miles with a population of 14,000. The land appeared relatively flat and sparse with little vegetation. It didn’t look as populated as the other islands, but my cousin took an island tour and was so impressed by the upscale housing and sights that this was her favorite island. She said there’s a very low level of unemployment. Next time we’ll have to do the island tour.

We walked down the pier to the main shopping street, passed a bunch of crafts vendors, and turned left. The shops sold the usual souvenir items plus sea salt produced here. We bought aloe lotions as they grow the medicinal plant on this island. There were no bargains and nothing else new to get. A few bars face the water where you can buy a drink and admire the view. The streets were dusty with the dried mud coating the surface and buildings with second-story balconies reminiscent of the Old West. We arrived at port at 12 o’clock. My husband and I spent less than two hours walking around. I liked this port the least but it’s probably good if you like water sports. The water was beautiful and crystal clear. We could see tropical fish swimming around right up to shore.

Main Shopping Street

 

Day 8, December 15, Wednesday

ARUBA

We approached the main town Oranjestad on this prosperous island of 74 square miles. Aruba’s population is around 34, 000. It’s part of the Dutch Commonwealth. Aloe is its main agricultural crop. I spied numerous freighters offshore. A sandbar protects the coast by the pier and a lone tree grows seemingly in the middle of the water. We could see oil storage tanks from the Lago refinery in the distance on one side and the airport on the other. The island appears mostly flat with a hilly area in one direction.

The affluent and well-kept town contains some of the same jewelry stores as St. Thomas. You can get jewelry galore along the main street, L.G. Smith Boulevard, along with tropical wear, souvenirs, and Delft china items from Holland. It didn’t take us long to walk up and down the street and stroll around the Royal Plaza and Renaissance Malls (attached to a hotel).

Diamonds International is a favorite store among cruise passengers, and Kay’s Fine Jewelry had some good prices. (In St. Thomas, check out Imperial Jewelers and Ballerina Jewelers in addition to DI).

We went back to the ship for lunch then explored the souvenir shops inside the cruise terminal. You can get last minute gifts here without going farther. Aruba is a large island, and if you can ignore its news infamy, worthy of exploration.

Tonight on the ship was the Captain’s Circle repeat members cocktail party. It was very crowded. They were generous with the drinks but not with the food. For dinner, I chose the roast rack of lamb. The show was a ventriloquist whose dummy was a shrieking duck that grated our nerves. We left in the middle of his performance.

Days 9 & 10, December 16-17, Thursday and Friday

AT SEA

We enjoyed our days at sea, sitting out by the pool, reading, eating, lounging on our balcony. Eating again. Napping. Checking out the ice cream. Getting a hot dog. Grabbing a cookie. Reading. Eating again. If you want to be busy, there are various activities going on, but this was my 25th cruise and I’d been there, done that. It was a wonderfully relaxing trip. I miss the warm weather, now that we are home again. The only solution is to plan our next voyage on the high seas.

For more photos, go to: http://bit.ly/i1wERn

And if you’re into cruise mysteries, check out Killer Knots, my latest Bad Hair Day mystery featuring hairdresser Marla Shore who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry tropical sun, this time on a cruise to the Caribbean.

Grenada

Day 6, December 13, Monday, Emerald Princess 10 Day Cruise to Southern Caribbean

GRENADA

The day dawned bright and sunny and warm. Clouds hovered over the distant mountain ranges as we approached the famed “spice” island. I spotted a fort up on a hill, a clock tower in town, and a multitude of pastel buildings, many of which clustered up the hillside. Grenada is 133 square miles. Approximately 33,700 people live in the capital city of St. George’s which is where we docked.

We boarded an air-conditioned bus for the ship’s tour titled Grenada Explorer (the sign-up sheet says non a/c vehicles but that may be outdated). Here we drove through the insanely crowded narrow streets of St. George’s barely scraping by other vehicles. We emerged onto a road hugging the rocky coast. Sandy beaches and resorts are to the south side. We headed in the opposite direction. After a lengthy drive past many seaside villages, we turned inland toward the lush jungle interior. Wild fruit trees sprouted everywhere: tall, leafy nutmeg trees with round nuts sagging from the branches. Papayas laden with heavy green fruits. Abundant banana plants in various stages of maturity. Long cocoa pods hanging off trees. Vines aplenty. We passed some planted fields of corn and root vegetables. Most of the nutmeg, cacao, bananas are exported to Europe. It was amazing to see these fruit trees wild all over the island. I was stunned by the bountiful fruits to be found on this tropical paradise, although the standard of living could be higher.

Nutmeg Tree
Cacao Tree

 

We careened around switchback roads up and down through verdant hillsides, spotting an occasional goat. Overhead power lines strung through villages. We saw many half-built structures as though abandoned mid-construction. Men sat about watching us pass as though they had nothing productive to do. Laundry hung out to dry at many cottages. Dogs roamed the streets, and children played on open porches. Many of the homes were on stilts, without any visible air-conditioning units. Given the living conditions, I was surprised when the guide said they have cable TV with the same channels as we do.

Our first stop, an hour’s drive away, was the centuries old Dougaldston Spice Estate. The wooden buildings were faded and rundown. While I visited the outbuilding restroom, the host described the different spices grown on the island. I joined the group as he passed each spice around for us to smell: nutmeg, bay leaves, cloves, mace, ginger, tumeric, and cocoa. Small packets were available for purchase for a dollar or two each with no labels other than what spice they contained. I was disappointed; the tour description said we’d have the opportunity to buy spices here and I’d expected something more sophisticated. This hardly seemed worth the long ride, except that I enjoyed the drive through the verdant mountains to view the scenery.

Spice Estate; Beans Drying in Sun
Spice Estate Demo

 

Our bus resumed its route, making one roadside stop. The driver paid a guy to give us each a banana to eat. The tour list said we were supposed to stop at Gouyave Nutmeg Station but I don’t recall this being part of the tour.

We proceeded next to Grand Etang National Park 1900 feet above sea level for a view of the crater lake. I would have liked more time here as they had the best vendors for shopping but we only had 15 minutes. I gulped down the free rum punch which was mostly fruit juice, snapped a quick picture, and ran from one craft stall to the next. I bought spice necklaces made up of the different spices grown on the island. They smelled wonderful and I hoped they would keep until we got home and I hung one in my kitchen. I also bought nutmeg syrup and nutmeg jam plus some gift packs and individual packets of the different spices.

Crater Lake
Annandale Falls

 

From here we visited Annandale Falls where we had a short hike downhill for the view. It was a minor waterfalls compared to the twin falls in Dominica. The vendors here were annoying, pushing their wares at us. We were now anxious to get back to town to do some shopping but our bus driver took us to Fort Frederick. We admired the ships in harbor in St. George below. There was another vendor up here plus restrooms.

Our bus stalled as we turned to make a sharp curve. All the passengers had to get out and several men helped push the bus backward. Then the driver aimed downhill, and we climbed back on. We gritted our teeth as we coasted down the steep decline but the engine restarted. Whew. The driver deserved our praise after the harrowing ride.

Fort Frederick

 

We’d begun our tour around 7:30 and got back to town around 12:30. Five hours was too long to be sitting on a bus. I would have liked a lot more time in town, especially because the ship left at 2:00 pm. This was our shortest port stop and one of the most interesting. Nonetheless, we appreciated the tour of Grenada’s natural wonders. My only suggestion to Princess would be to stay in port longer.

Frantic to buy more spices, I shopped in the Esplanade Mall next to the pier. Everything you’d want is right there: duty free liquor and perfume, souvenirs and spices, jams and jellies, hot sauces. This was a great shopping mall with crafts vendors outside. We didn’t have time to walk around the town at all. Maybe it was just as well. I’d already spent too much money and bought all kinds of spices that I didn’t know how to use.

Once aboard, we rested in our cabin then strolled around the ship. Most of the pool chairs were already taken so we enjoyed our balcony. For dinner that night, I had shrimp cocktail, a mushroom tart, roasted sliced duck, and a Grand Marnier soufflé.

For more photos, go to: http://bit.ly/i1wERn

Dominica

Day 5, December 12, Sunday

Emerald Princess 10 Day Cruise

DOMINICA

We approached Dominica, a mountainous, long island of 298 square miles with a population of around 73,000. Clouds hovered over the green-coated land. White buildings clustered along the coastline like blobs of bird poop (not the nicest image, but this popped into my mind). A five-masted sailing vessel glided past. Closer in toward the town of Roseau, I spotted another cruise ship at a farther pier. Signs flashed in front of me: KFC, General Post Office, High Court of Justice. Decent paved roads curved by pastel buildings, many in need of repair. Buses and vans lined up ready to receive visitors. A row of tents indicated a straw market. Across the water, I spied a squat building housing a hardware center near a series of colored umbrellas sheltering more crafts stalls. I could see the Luxury Emporium, a recommended shop by the cruise line. The Royal Bank of Scotland was near the Garraway Hotel.

Our ship tour met at the end of the pier. We took the Traflagar Falls & Roseau Highlights excursion. We boarded an air-conditioned van seating 10 people and left early as the bus was full. We drove out of town without much trouble and stopped a short distance away at the Botanical Gardens, where the guide pointed out the foliage as we walked across the grass. She showed us thick caterpillars that would turn into moths. We were fascinated by the tree felled by a hurricane in 1979 that crushed an empty school bus. Banyan trees, coconut palms, papaya trees, banana plants, pink impatiens, colorful bougainvillea, sausage trees, vibrant hibiscus, red Poinciana trees, red ixora, and crotons were some of the plants shown to us. We saw the “poor man’s” orchid tree, breadfruit trees, and trumpet flowers. Hummingbirds flittered among the branches. A hollowed out circle of bamboo provided a “bamboo house” where special events took place. It was shady inside with a dirt floor. Birds chittered overhead as the guide pointed to some parrots. She mentioned there were 365 rivers on the island, hydroelectric plants, and water treatment facilities. I was impressed by their self-sufficiency in terms of water and energy needs. The island used to hold a big lime plantation but no more.

 

Botanical Gardens

School Bus Crushed by Tree
Caterpillar
Craft Vendor

 

As we continued up into the mountains, I noticed electric wiring strung overhead. A big pipe followed the road to carry water. Dwellings, made mostly of concrete, had painted galvanized metal roofs. We saw trees with green beans that were Dominican grown coffee. The road was mostly paved but coated with dried mud and rocky with many switchback curves. We climbed up and up to the rainforest at Morne Trois Pitons National Park where we got out of the van and trekked through the vegetation to the famous Traflagar Falls. It’s a treacherous path with uneven, rocky steps that would be terribly slippery if wet. You need to be in decent shape to make this hike. Sweat beaded my brow and my shirt stuck to my back in the humidity. My heartbeat raced as we climbed further, but the view was worth the effort. As we approached the twin falls, the sound of rushing water grew louder. The lower falls gushed on the right, the higher falls on the left. It was truly a lush setting among tropical vegetation. I loved the rainforest and seeing the green plants and ferns and tall trees. We’d brought our rain ponchos but fortunately the weather stayed sunny and warm.

Taller Falls on left
Shorter Falls on right

 

Our next stop was Papilotte Wilderness Retreat where we had an inspiring view of the Roseau Valley and a free rum punch. This was a relaxing stop where we could admire the sights.

Moi at the overlook

Back in town, we shopped in the crafts market and few souvenir stores. The Luxury Emporium had leather goods, liquor, and coffee. The outdoor stalls held the usual T-shirts, magnets, carved wood boxes, flowered dresses, and beads. This island is better for scenery them for shopping but the views are spectacular.

For more photos, go to http://bit.ly/i1wERn