Eight day cruise out of Port Everglades to four ports (Charlotte Amelia, St. Thomas, USVI; St. John, Antigua, Antigua-Barbados; Roadtown, Tortola, BVI; and Nassau, The Bahamas). The ports are similiar but at times strikingly diverse.
by two cruisers on July 27, 2012
Nassau is the most unique of the four Caribbean ports we visited. It is flat like Fort Lauderdale, being made of layers of limestone deposits with out the benefit of volcanoes and earthquakes. Kinda blah, but the Bahamans have made up for that by building beautiful resorts and private homes often using that limestone.We bought a shore excursion for this port. It was listed as an easy walk and that fit our needs and those of another couple on crutches. That easy walk was a very looooong walk and the guide set off at a very fast clip. We were led through the Festival Place where a very clever vendor had tubs of iced bottled water for sale. Thinking we were boarding our excursion boat on the otherside of the building we paused to buy some. Water is precious and it was much cheaper here than on board the cruise ship. Bill was not able to keep pace and I walked keeping an eye on him and an eye on the group way ahead. He managed to get there just as we were finished boarding. The other couple turned back and got a refund. Advise: look that salesperson in the eye and ask if it is reallllly an easy walk before buying tickets.The excursion was a glass bottom boat ride. The first part of the ride was between Nassau and Paradise Island. We saw fabulous private homes of such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Nicholas Cage, Michael Jordan and Meyer of Meyer's Rum fame. We also saw the huge pink Atlantis Resort and luxury condos and high-rises bordering it. On the other side of the ship where the typical marine areas, boatyards and mail ships. Our glass bottom excursion boat was part of the Sunshine Cruise line. There was an inclosed viewing deck and an open air viewing deck for the trip out to "Fish City". This was our nickname for the part of the bay where we ended up. The crew invited everyone to go below deck and enjoy the view through the glass windows. There was a waist to chest high rail around the windows that provided stablitly and kept fingerprints off the windows. Here is my piece of advice about fish viewing from a glass bottom boat: When you see brochures or aquariums the fish are viewed from the side and you can marvel at the coloring and shape. In a glass bottom boat you are looking down at their spine. They are very narrow and at first I had trouble seeing them from the background of seaweed and antler coral. But once I caught on, it was fascinating to watch them move around. The colorful coral were the scene stealers. They had a wide range of shapes and colors from deep purple and orange to pastels.When we returned to the dock, Bill opted to do a slow walk back to the cruise ship. I zipped around the shopping areas looking for something Caribbean. The StrawMarket is a huge building with many stalls. Each one a repitition of the one before it. The vendors were as agressive as the ones on Antigua. I moved on. The rest of the shops along Woodes Rodgers Walk were tacky. T-shirts with off-color suggestions, not even the coffee mugs (one of my favorite souvenirs) were tacky. I skipped Bay Street where the ship shopping lady told me all the good jewelry stores are. On a side street I found the Tortuga Rum Shop. How could you miss it with that pirate standing out front? I bought a small bottle of rum and a six pack of flavored rum cakes (Key Lime, Banana, Pineapple, Coconut, Chocolate and Original). The sales clerk had been handing out samples and it was yummy. If I have a chance to buy more I will buy the original, it is outstanding.My time was limited so I returned to Festival Place. It was crowded and lively with a band performing in the central area. I made two passes around the shops to make sure I didn't miss something good. Then I also returned to the ship. There were three Carnival ships and one from another cruiseline docked today. I was very careful not to get on the wrong one. Always referr to your ship by its name (Freedom) as if you just go by the cruiseline name (Carnival) you could end up in the wrong place. As we departed Nassau we had a lovely sight. There is a small lighthouse near the end of Paradise Island. The island seperates the aqua colored waters of ithe inlet from the ultra-marine colors and beyond the grey colors of the Atlantic Ocean. Very striking view to see the changes. Another point of interest is a breakwater made of cylindrical shaped pieces of concrete or limestone borings. From a distance it looks like a flotilla of wine corks.
by two cruisers on July 26, 2012
Of the five ports we visited, this was our favorite. The shopping lady on board the ship, warned passengers that there wasn't very good shopping here. That was my first clue that this place would be more to our liking. Today the welcoming at the dock was a two man steel drum band. They weren't overamplified so it was a pleasant background sound. It set the mood for a Caribbean adventure. The walk into town was pleasant, we saw fences covered with sea grapes, then tents selling t-shirts, hats and novelties. The proprietors were polite and didn't badger us. We spent some time in the Crafts Alive Village at Wickam Cay. I loved the setting. Small colorfully painted plantation style buildings were divided into up to four shops each. This compound was located on the water front, a lovely setting. We found crafts, clothing, and pottery here. It was fun stepping into each shop to see what variety they offered. Prices were reasonable, too. Two guidebooks had highly recommended going to Pussers an Brit shop, bar and restaurant.We walked down the waterfront street searching for it. Found some other shops along the way. At one I bought a Christmas ornament. Pussers did have some quality sportswear but we didn't find the British treats and souvenirs we had hoped to find. It was too early for a lunch break so we decided to moved on to Main Street.We had trouble finding a street that connected the two. A shop owner came out of her shop and walked us to Fountain Square, a small but lovely plazza that was connected the two streets. We sat for awhile and enjoyed the tranquility. Main Street like many other Caribbean streets is quite narrow and has unexpected twists and turns. The buildings hug the sidewalk and are highlight with some awesome color combinations. Exotic trees and flowering shrubs look like they were invasive not planted. Besides the visual charm, we were pleased to find shops we enjoyed. We shopped in small art galleries and local artist jewelry and pottery shops. Bill found Goodfellows, that sold good quality guayabera shirts. I found Sunny Caribbee spice and tea shop, where I bought tea and art glass. What fun!We stopped for a tea and coffee break at Island Roots a local cafe/gallery. The staff was most accomodating to us: Helping us after a coffee spill and finding us a table to sit at because the high stools were difficult for us old shorties to manage. They had lovely pieces of art for sale and just to look at. It is a popular place, so I advise you secure a table, then place your order at the bar. Today's shore time was limited, so after our refreshments we walked back to the ship. By this time a man with a burro was set up under the shade of a tree and was offering to be photographed...for a fee. Back on board we enjoyed watching the harbor traffic. Across from our veranda was a merchant dock. We watched them load containers on to ships and then the small ships passed by our ship on the way out of the harbor. We were curious if they were servicing other parts of the island or islands in the group. Looked too small to be going long distances.Yes, Roadtown, Tortola was the Caribbean we were searching for. I hope we can come back to spend more time here.
by two cruisers on July 23, 2012
A Carmen Miranda look-alike welcomed us to Antigua as we left the Carnival Freedom. Her male counterpart was playing the drums at the end of the dock. Put us in a very good Caribbean mood. However once we entered Heritage Quay (pronounced key) we were beset on by men offering to give us a $20 taxi tour of the island. The cruise director had warned us about taking a tour from one of these guys. Cruise passengers in the past have missed the boat departure, because of a taxi breakdown, or poor sense of time on the part of these tour guides. So, we side stepped each one who approached us. Finally I did tell one that we didn't want a ride, just directions to the museum. He was so startled he graciously told us how to find it, just a short walk away.Walking to the Antigua-Barbados Museum, Bill warned me to watch my step. Good advice. There are deep grooves between slabs of concrete on the street. I'm sure it is to allow rain storm run-off, but they were real ankle-grabbers. The museum is located in the oldest surviving building in St. John's. It was the former court house. This is not a Class A museum like the Smithsonian or The Field Museum. But its the little museum that tried. Displays were arranged in chronological order starting with the formation of the island through volcanic, sedimentary eras and earthquakes. We learned that the highest mountain called Boggy Peak has recently been renamed Mount Obama. There was a nice display of stone-age tools found in the bay. There was an unsual basket the original people called a cassava squeezer. The casava root is processed in it by squeezing and evenutally becomes a flour like tapioca. We saw a model of the square waddle and daub housing structures used a hurricane in 1951 knocked down the last ones. There was a section of the museum devoted to the slave trade and how it was linked to the plantation life. What downgrades the museum is the lack of professional signage. But I applaude that there were signs and explainations at all. We learned more about the Caribbean from this one museum than on the whole rest of the cruise.Now that our brains had been fed we found a place to feed our bodies. Hemmingway's Caribbean Cafe occupied the second floor and balcony of an 1800's building on St. Mary's Street. Not owned by Ernest the Author, but he did stay here when it was a boarding house. I loved sitting at our balcony table enjoying the colorful buildings of the historic area. Bill loved watching the drivers below and how they managed to cram their vehicles into tiny parking places. Bill stuck to the breakfast menu which always suits him. I was adventuresome and ordered Conk Fritters and Key Lime pie. I think we even heard some Jimmy Buffet music floating up from the sidewalk vendors. For the atmosphere alone I would recommend this place...but the food was awesome, too.We shopped along Heritage Quay and on Thames Street and Redcliffe Quay. Remember the $20 tour taxi drivers harassing us earlier?...well their wives, sisters and aunties took up the harassment as we poked around in the stall markets. "Sweetie, Honey, Sugar" was the way they addressed us. Very persistant and frankly there was nothing there I wanted to buy. Redcliffe Quay was different. We found a nice gallery and a pottery shop. I bought a blouse at the boutique Island Girl and a tea towel at the Linen Shop.Back on board ship we watched party boats arriving. Just as at St. Thomas, we found the bay at Antigua lovely.
by two cruisers on July 22, 2012
Our cruise director told us that by stopping at the United States Virgin Islands first we would be introducing ourselves gradually into the Caribbean. He was right. This island had the worst traffic, very American high speeds and lots of honking. This island also had US Postal Boxes just like at home, they use US dollar, and speak English (with a charming accent). All of our port visits are similiar on this trip. We debark, acknowledge the colorful greeters, and walk or ride to the main shopping district. There we look for museums, art galleries, local flavor restaurants and souvenirs hopefully of local origin. Many of the other people from our ship bought shore tours ranging from snorkling, to beach picnics, to boat trips to near-by islands, and to adventuresome athletic activities. At this point in our lives, walking to Main street is as adventurous as Bill wants to get. I was very interested in learning the history and culture of each island. Some shore tours hinted at that feature, but Bill was reluctant to commit to the length of those tours. I agreed, figuring the cruise personel would provide a lecture on history and culture to fill my needs. Wrongo...at least not on the Carnival Freedom.So off we went to catch a taxi, which was a van shared with others. We were dropped off near the Post Office in down town Charlotte Amalie. I was impressed to see a large old building painted in coral with limestone trim dating 1571. Wow! We proceeded down the Main Street in search of elusive gift shops and art galleries. All we found were jewelry stores and very persistent salespeople. These folks are agrivating. Finally I let one of them lure me into his shop. I told Bill to sit in the "hubby" chair while I delt with the salesman. That man frantically showed me a large array of gem stones looking for what I would tumble for. I kept a watch on Bill and when he looked rested, I thanked the clerk and left the store. Am I mean? No, the clerk didn't lose any sales by spending time with me. And who knows...I might have found something I like.We saw signs pointing to a cluster of shops on a side street or alley. This was what we were looking for. We visited a wonderful art glass shop and two antique stores. We like the less frantic sales people here they were better about sharing information about the island. Bill found a treasure, a petrified whale ear-bone. I found us a restaurant.Located in one of the oldest buildings still on the island, Gladys' Cafe serves a blend of Caribbean and American cuisine. The walls of the building are made of an assortment of materials, balast stones, bricks, limestone and coral. It was lovely and alive with centuries of use. They are particularly known for their hot sauce. Bill stayed with the American side of the menu by having a bacon cheeseburger. I selected a local special of stewed chicken with sweet potatoes, plantains, fancy rice and macaroni salad. What a taste treat!After lunch we walked along the waterfront, which was dangerously busy with speeding vehicles. We decided to try Main Street again and this time found the home of Camille Pissaro. Going back to Art History 102, I remember this famous artist was born here in the Caribbean, left to study in Paris...and never came back. The museum gallery was not open when we were there. As we headed back to the place the taxi let us out, a driver of a taxi who was cruising Main Street recognized our tired look and hustled us into his vehicle for the ride back to the dock. Apparently this is the normal practice. When you are done shopping, just step to the curb and a cruising taxi will stop for you.When we returned to the ship we walked around the Panorama Deck to enjoy the view of the beautiful harbor, and the lovely volcanic shaped island.
Our cruise of the Caribbean was the middle 8 days of a 28 day vacation. We drove into Fort Lauderdale and needed to find a place to leave our car where it would be safe. The parking stalls at Port Everglades would have cost a minimum of $150. Online I found a company that caters to people that have that same problem. It is called Stay123. By booking through them we chose a lovely Hampton Inn hotel room in Plantation, Florida (7801 SW 6th St). Besides the usual amenities of comfortable room, guest laundry and good continental breakfast; we were allowed to park our car at the back of their parking lot until we returned from the cruise. In addition to that they had airport or cruiseport FREE transportation. Transport was well organized and we ended up at the correct terminal in plenty of time for first boarding. Upon our return I called the motel front desk and the extended window van hauling an enclosed luggage trailer picked us up in a matter of minutes. The best $80 plus tips we have spent in a long time.Fort Lauderdale has a lot to offer in addition to overnight lodging. Unfortunately we only extended our sight-seeing to the restaurant next door to the hotel. We had lunch at Jay's Cafe. This very new restaurant shared a building with a spa, salon and bridal boutique. Bill ordered a fish dish and I had an Italian sub. It was a fairly diverse for such a small place. But they need to work the kinks out of the ordering system.For supper we ordered in pizza from Pizzaloft (3514 S. University Drive, Davie, FL). This was a recommendation from the front desk clerk. She knows her pizza. Our choices were excellant.In the morning, when we arrived at Port Everglades, the rainstorm formerly known as Tropical Storm Alberto also arrived. (In another review I mentioned how our suitcases were drenched.) But my observation here is how bleak the port and city skyline look. Florida in this area is remarkably flat. I'm surprised the explorers of the 15th century didn't just plow into the land by accident. This port is easy for large ships to enter and depart, but we always enjoy watching the little pilot boats escorting us. Our first port of the trip was exciting for the sheer size and amount of activity. And when we returned here we took pride in America's impressive highway system and services available. And it was sunny that day.
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