We took Shore Excursion GD-330 on our Royal Princess cruise port stop at Grenada to Spices of Grenada and the Westerhall Rum Distillery. This time we had an air-conditioned van, which is better than a bus because you have fewer people to wait on to get in and out. We passed buildings painted in colorful hues of lime, coral, lavender, and sand.
Right away, we got the impression of a more upscale island. We drove through crowded port city streets to our first stop, De La Grenada Industries. Here they package spices grown on this fertile mountainous island. Inside the single building is a view of the machinery. There’s a tasting area where we had a sip of rum punch that was very good. The gift shop has a decent selection of packaged spices, nutmeg liqueur, and rum punch bottles.
We drove on through lush tropical hillsides to Laura’s Herb and Spice Garden for a tour in the rain of a botanical garden. The knowledgeable guide told us about the medicinal values for all the plants grown there. As the downpour got heavier, our hosts provided umbrellas. We donned our ponchos that we’d brought along. I learned that onion boiled with sugar makes syrup that can be used as an emetic. This might come in handy for a story if it works. The outdoor path is made from nutmeg shells. Inside the lone building, there wasn’t much to buy at the small sales counter except for some spice packets or vanilla extract bottles.
Our drive took us through more mountain rainforests. We passed goats, cows, and graveyards that had white above-ground tombs. Houses appeared to be concrete. Roofs looked like tile but were sheeting of some sort.
At the Westerhall Rum Distillery, it was raining too hard for a tour. They took us to the tasting hut where we got straight rum samples while standing outside under cover. I wasn’t sorry to miss the tour. We’d seen better on St. Croix, and had better tastings too with mixed rum drinks. Here you could see rusted wheels and other implements littering the grounds. There didn’t appear to be any shop.
We sloshed back into the van for a drive through a wealthy gated community to view the impressive homes overlooking scenic views. Finally, we were dropped off back at the ship. This tour took about 4 hours.
One of the best places for shopping is Esplanade Mall right at the pier. I bypassed the jewelry stores to browse the spices, coffee, shirts, hats and souvenirs. It’s a great place to buy gifts for people back home and spices to use in your own cooking.
Day 6, December 13, Monday, Emerald Princess 10 Day Cruise to Southern Caribbean
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.