Grenada

“The Island of Spice

Grenada, January 2019

Leaving behind Saint Lucia, we depart onto a last island-country in this cruise through the Caribbean before ending up at the starting point Barbados. Here we are in Grenada, docking at its capital city Saint George’s. First sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1498 during his third voyage to the Americas, and although claimed for the Crown of Spain, there was never found any evidence of settlement there. It was not until 1650 that the French settled and founded the capital at the eastern edge of the harbour named Saint Louis, however not a good location due to flooding and malaria, hence a new capital was built, Ville de Fort Royal.

After the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the island was ceded to Great Britain who named it Saint George’s Town, after the patron saint of England. It remained ever since British until its independence on 7th of February 1974. The Queen of England is still the Head of State as Grenada is a member of the Commonwealth Nations.

One of the main economies in this small island is the production of Nutmeg. Although this is not a tree from here, was back in 1843 when a merchant ship called in on its way to England from the East Indies carrying some Nutmeg trees that they left behind. This was the beginning of a booming industry in the island that now produces 40% of the world’s annual crop. Other spices such as clove or cinnamon are also very popular crops and wealthy economically speaking. Tourism is, of course, the most important direct influx in the economy of the island these days. (more…)

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Saint Lucia

“The only country in the world named after a woman

Saint Lucia, January 2019

One more island, and another country before a last one in this trip. Moving on from  Antigua onto the exotic Saint Lucia, docking at its capital city Castries. The only country in the world named after a woman; pulled back and forth for 14 times between the French who were the first to settle in the island and the British; it became permanently a British Oversee Territory until 1979 when it gained full independence. The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, however, is still the head of the state as Saint Lucia is part of the Commonwealth Nations.

Among its key sights in such a small land, nature and landscapes are somehow unique. The incredible rain forests, such exuberant vegetation and truly paradise beaches all around, but something unique adding to the excitement, it is one of the few islands in the world that contains a drive-in volcano. This is self-described by the word, you can be driven right there to the very edge of the boiling water springs, but do not expect any height, instead a rather hilly area at the backdrop of Soufriere with marvellous views towards the colonial city, the coast and the world famous Pitons Mountains.

Both cities of Castries and Soufriere, the “largest” in the island yet tiny when compared to normal standards of size and population are straightforward to visit. It’s merely an hour or so and you have completed all the nice colonial buildings around, hence when planning your time be mindful of this, while sticking to the limitations if you’ve come on a cruise which generally gives you from the morning around 8.00am until 18.00pm. That’s well enough to actually enjoy the best sights in the island which are along the west coast and in between Castries and Soufriere and the Pitons, some 40 kilometres apart from each other. (more…)

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Antigua and Barbuda

“Land of 365 Beaches

Antigua and Barbuda, January 2019

After such a little piece of paradise that was Tortola, although anywhere in this trip and all the islands we are visiting are pieces or paradise, we dock in the capital city of a new country in the list of countries visited so far to date, Antigua and Barbuda. That’s 97 as of today, exactly the half of the world’s currently independent nations (it’s 195), and still 2 new ones to come in the next few days to rise to an astonishing 99.

The country name was, likewise almost all other islands in the region, given by  Christopher Columbus in 1493 in his second voyage in honor of the Virgin of La Antigua in the Seville Cathedral. It was nevertheless not a priority island to form a settlement, and has been for majority of the history part of the British Empire and Kingdom, until gaining sovereignty on the 1st of November 1981. Since that date, it remains a member of the Commonwealth, where Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state.

The twin islands country, an other islets in between has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, hence why its fame, especially the island of Antigua. Barbuda, while smaller and more secluded, is by far less visited, rarely included in any cruise trip, and as of today is still recovering from the almost total destruction that caused Hurricane Irma in 2017. (more…)

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Puerto Plata, (Dominican Republic)

“Tacita de Plata (Little Silver Cup)”, “Novia del Atlántico (Bride of the Atlantic)”

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, January 2019

Continuing the cruise after some Dutch feeling at Sint Maarten, and after an entire day and night cruise this time only resting and enjoying the plenty of activities to do on-board, we dock at Amber Cove, the port of Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic. A city of many firsts in the Americas. It was here nearby that the very first village in the “New World” was founded on January the 2nd, 1494 called La Isabela, in honor of the Queen of the Spanish Empire. Dominican Republic was named back then, La Hispaniola, the first piece of land where Christopher Columbus set foot in 1492.

Puerto Plata is the 9th largest city in the country, therefore do not expect a city or large distances or lots to see and do. All the opposite, there’s not really that much here other that of course, the incredible landscapes and nature at the backdrop, and the impressive paradise beaches just east of the city. The top resorts are not far east as you can imagine. it is for this reason it’s a booming tourist destination, made even more accessible after the recently opened new cruise terminal at Amber Cove. Fair enough this is not Punta Cana, but it’s a great alternative for the beaches; and so it’s not Santo Domingo, but a nice idea for a first time in the country.

Visiting the city is very simple and quick to do. Give or take merely 3 hours for what’s the core in downtown. You won’t need any longer, but instead head to the gorgeous beaches farther east along the Costa Dorada. Playa Dorada is without hesitation the best, with the greatest resorts. Then if you came here as part of your cruise, you will not have that much time anyway to do as you wish, so city and beach is the perfect combination. Fantastic local food and amazing fresh cocktails. What else to ask for! (more…)

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Sint Maarten, (Dutch Caribbean)

“The Friendly Island”

Sint Maarten, January 2019

Another day passing, and onto another island in this cruise through the Eastern Caribbean islands right after the previous base at Saint Kitts and Nevis. This time onto the smallest of the islands we would visit in the trip, and even considering such a small piece of land, yet divided in two, the French and the Dutch sides. The Dutch in this case, the part we would visit, which is nevertheless, the one that houses the main international airport and the cruise terminal.

Discovered in 1493 on the second voyage of Christopher Columbus, and named as such as it was Saint Martin’s day when was first sighted, 11th of November. While claimed to the Crown of Spain as a territory, it was never settled and was a low priority. Instead the Dutch and the French saw it as a key location among their other territories in the Caribbean and North America who made it very profitable mining salt, moment in which the Spanish saw again an interest and captured it from the Dutch for 15 years, losing again interest and completely abandoning it in 1648.

The French and the Dutch returned, and although there was never a war between them two, the borders shifted dozens of times over the next 200 years. Still, it was a very pacific agreement that lasts ever since. And while at first it was all about slavery, with the abolition and the following decades, both sides turned into heavy tourism dedication; the principal economy is the island. (more…)

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Saint Kitts and Nevis

“The Mother Colony of the West Indies”

Saint Kitts and Nevis, January 2019

A new day, and with it, a new port of call after Saint Vincent two days before. This is the turn for another country, Saint Kitts and Nevis, docking at its capital city Basseterre. This is now making the already serious number of country 95 visited so far up to date. Yet again, the count can easily go up here in the Caribbean especially if on a cruise. The only real way for enjoying the islands to be honest at a decent overall cost than if going on your own planning yourself the trip. Inter islands flights are quite expensive not to mention the hotels. Yes I agree is nice to stay longer at some of these pieces of paradise, but for now, getting an idea of the region seeing the most we can is the best option.

Basseterre, meaning low land as it’s located in the lowest height in a rather flat area of the island was founded in 1627 by the French. Then made the capital of the island of Saint Kitts in 1727 following the French expulsion full British control, and remained ever since the capital of the country counting the second island of Nevis as part of its territory after its political independence on 19th of September 1983.

Although small, it has lots to offer, especially that is completely surrounded by lush green hills and mountains, hence beautiful scenery and nature. It’s also home to spectacular Georgian manor houses once home to wealthy sugar plantation owners. It was the main economy back in the colonial days, production of sugar, like in all of the other former colonial islands. The remains of factories are scattered in both St Kitts and Nevis islands, while manors and houses have been turned into museums and luxurious hotels.

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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

“The Breadfruit Isle”

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, December 2018

Next port of call in this cruise after Barbados, docking at Kingstown, the capital city of small Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, country formed of the main Saint Vincent island and 32 other smaller ones. Now if Bridgetown was small, here Kingstown is a much smaller fraction in size, with little to almost nothing really worthy from a touristy point of view, yet like almost every island in the Caribbean, lots of beautiful nature, although not many beaches as it is in the other islands.

Founded by the French in 1722, it turned hands from the French to the British, back to French and lastly to the British again before gaining independence on 27th of October 1969, however still remaining in the Commonwealth, a constitutional monarchy and representative democracy where Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State. The mix between the French and British colonial past is seen everywhere and not just in the capital city, but across the islands with its architecture and heritage. Tiny yet very cute, the island of Saint Vincent is in fact full of extreme natural beauty and lush vegetation, all due to La Soufriere Volcano located in the northern side.

However, the few hours in between since the early morning arrival until the evening departure of the cruise was well more than enough, as there’s not much more you can do here. And if you would think about going to some nice paradise beaches, then it would be better to wait for another port of call in your cruise since Saint Vincent is not really the place you would consider the perfect paradise in the Caribbean. It’s quite rough because of the nature, although in the Grenadines archipelago you will for sure find such paradise and the turquoise waters as is in Mustique, Canouan or Carriacou islands.

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Barbados

“The Bearded Ones”

Barbados, December 2018

One last trip of the year, and beginning of the next to discover some Caribbean islands on a winter cruise, escaping the cold weather back in Europe. A cruise is actually the only feasible way to visit these islands, many of which are tiny independent country-islands and therefore, rising the total count of countries visited so far to date to 99 by the end of the cruise; over half of the world’s total which stands as of December 2018 at 195. So starting with one of the largest, Barbados, and its beautiful World Heritage Site listed by the UNESCO, its colonial capital, Bridgetown, one of the major international ports in the Caribbean for cruises.

Founded by the British on 5th of July 1628 as a traditional English medieval market layout town, was raised to city status from 1842 after the Saint Michael’s Parish Church was elevated to the status of Cathedral. Then considering all other islands and their respective capital cities, Bridgetown remains as one of the largest and one of the most historic and therefore, touristy due in part for the large amount of colonial structures so well preserved and of course, the beaches and great resorts around the rest of the island.

Now, considering the fact of how small it is and how straightforward it is to visit, there won’t be too much more to add rather than the obvious section of what to see and do. Still, Barbados has more to offer than just Bridgetown or what many see it as their port of arrival. The island was visited by Spanish navigators in 1511 who claimed if for the Crown, however not much they did until the arrival of the English, developing it into an important sugar cane production, and leaving quite a large legacy of structures all over the island.

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