We sailed out from Miami early evening whilst we were enjoying an excellent dinner in the Main Restaurant.
To follow: a day and a half at sea.
We enjoy these sea days. They’re laid back and relaxing on a Viking Ship. There’s so much public space, indoors and out. Never a shortage of somewhere to sit or stretch out. You plan to go to a lecture or activity (quizzes, etc) but never seem to get there as you’re too busy doing nothing except relaxing.
This evening was the Explorer Society’s Welcome Party. We remember when we first went to one of these. There were 10 of us. This one: upwards of 400 people. IMO, no longer a lot of fun, more like a scrum; overcrowded, with too little space to sit, chat and relax. Needs a rethink, I think.
Dinner in the Main Restaurant again tonight. This ship’s main restaurant deserves a “+” on Viking's usual 5* rating! Service, presentation, flavours: all well above what even we expect.
Why does doing nothing in particular leave one feeling so exhausted?
A relaxing morning brought us to Cienfuegos around lunchtime, which had been brought forward by an hour to allow us time to prepare for excursions beginning almost immediately on arrival.
Also, to help us all avoid the temptation of Cuban street food (hygiene and drinking water concerns), the Chef had laid on a Cuban Street Food “festival” on the Aquavit Terrace to coincide with the ship’s approach to Cuba.
And very good it was, too!
The sail-in offered some interesting views and photo opportunities.
We anchored in Cienfuegos Bay. Trips ashore will be tendered - about 15 minutes we’ve been told..
After such a relaxing time at sea, we were ready to disembark almost immediately for our 9 hour excursion to Trinidad. We were expecting to be surprised by Cuba and the first few came in very quick succession!
Border and Immigration. A quick glance at our Passports and Visas, a cheerful “Hola”, a swift rubber stamping of both. Done - around 60 seconds.
Currency Exchange. Cuba has 2 currencies. One for locals, one for tourists. The “convertable" one equals exactly US$1 for CUC$1. We’d been advised the GB£ got a better rate than US$. Correct. Fees of 4% for £, 13% for US$. Quick, easy, friendly service straight after immigration.
Transport. I don’t know quite what we were expecting, but luxury never entered our thoughts. Wrong! Modern, Chinese built coach with seatbelts, reclining seats, aircon, WCs, curtains, cleaned to within an inch of its life. Lots better than many we’ve travelled on in Europe!
Our guide. Impeccably dressed in uniform, perfect, barely accented English, knowledgeable, well organised and his company had provisioned the coach (in it’s refrigerator!) with 2 bottles of water per person.
Scenery. Again we were expecting the unexpected, but had no idea that Cuba has the most beautiful hillsides and valleys. The region through which we travelled on our 90 minute drive to Trinidad was, in the main, simply wonderful. First, a pit-stop in Colonado for some local colour (& shopping!).
So onto Trinidad. It’s only “downside” was that the streets are cobbled, with narrow pavements. We’d been warned that sensible footwear was needed - glad we took the advice.
Lots to see on this very well guided walking tour, including a cardiac arrest inducing climb in to an old tower for spectacular views over the town and countryside.
This surprising tour kept up the momentum until the very end… Dinner. Again, having had some “off-ship” included dinners in 3rd World locations, expectations were low.
So wrong! In a bistro atmosphere that would have graced Madrid, with numerous, cheerful and efficient staff, 6 or 7 main course choices were on offer. Ours were outstanding and those served to other guests looked just as good. Local fruit cocktails and beer were complimentary and top shelf spirits were available for an average of US$3.
The tour ended with a visit to an artist’s studio. Maybe it’s my inner philistine, but most of it looked like “painting by numbers”. Total waste of time.
We travelled back to the ship, arriving quite late and with an early start for Havana tomorrow. Not a problem. We knew this trip was going to be demanding if we wanted to take the most from it.
This island is clearly up-market. At home, boring seagulls circle the harbour area. Here? Pelicans by the dozen!!
A day at the Cricket today: England vs West Indies, 2nd Test Day 1.
We set off just after 8:30am, and maybe because of the slightly silly Union Jack cap I was wearing, we were quickly approached by a taxi driver (Jane, we later learned) who offered her services to take us to the ground.
Jane was chatty and very obliging; we knew her entire life story by the time we reached the ground a little after 9am. Good business woman that she was, she thought it might be difficult to find a ride back, as we were leaving before close of play and offered to meet us at the time we wanted (in fact, she promised to be there 15 minutes early “to be sure”).
It’s a really pleasant venue; easy to access, laid-back security and well sign-posted.
We’d booked our seats after a lot of careful thought about the ground, compass points and the sunshine. Didn’t we do well! Throughout the day we were shaded in by the stand with a great view of the game. When we left we understood that if we’d have selected the other stand, we’d have been more barbecued than the chickens on sale in the ground.
I hadn’t realised how many Brits follow England cricket on tour. Our best guess is that there was somewhere between 3000 - 4000 travelling fans in the stadium. As it’s a working day, and given ticket prices, England fans probably outnumbered WI fans by 10 to 1.
After England’s embarrassing defeat in Barbados, we’d hoped for some sort of fight back. WI had won the toss and put England in to bat. Good captaincy. OK, so it wasn’t quite as embarrassing a 1st innings, but WI bowling still destroyed most of the English wickets.
It was such good fun, though. The caribbean atmosphere. Food vendors cooking open air over real oil drum barbecues. (There can't be a chicken still alive on Antigua). All sorts of other local foods. Bars and “impromptu” bars selling out of cool boxes. (Antigua’s local rum, English Harbour, gets a 5* rating from me).
We didn’t try the local food (well… except I can’t resist a few chicken wings!) as Room Service had provided some brilliant Italian Club Sandwiches which we took with us.
Jane was right, there wasn’t another taxi in sight when we left after England were all out for a sub-200 score. She was, however, exactly where she said she’d be and drove us back chatting about everything and nothing - we’d dropped lucky when she greeted us in the morning.
(Apologies for all the Cricket Action shots - I don’t often have a chance to be a Sports’ photographer.)
Back on board, tired but really satisfied with a splendid “one-off” day.
A quiet, restful dinner in the main restaurant will round off the day perfectly.
Well what a great idea this bus tour turned out to be. Viking Clockwork!
Our tagged bags were collected by Big Bus Co. and taken to their depot. We boarded a chartered Big Bus (it still had its UK tags showing it to be about 28 years old!).
However, it was clean and well equipped and we had a real live guide instead of the canned commentary.
Our first loop took us through City areas after which we returned to their base for a 30 minute comfort break.
The second loop took us around Miami Beach, the Art Deco District and “Millionaires’ Row” (have to be near Billionaires, these days!).
Back to base after nearly 3 hours of touring. We didn’t Hop-off. We were enjoying the view and the guide’s commentary (even if she was, just a touch, celebrity obsessed).
Plenty of time for lunch. She pointed out a food court area she’d recommend. Good recommendation. An enormous pizza at a decent price.
At just before 2:30pm, the transport for our 3pm airport transfer turned up exactly where it was supposed to. Our bags had already been checked and loaded onto the vehicle - all we had to do was double check they were all there - they were. So was our entire group, so we left at 2:40pm.
Simple uneventful transfer to the airport by 3:10pm. Blindingly efficient American Airlines check-in. TSA Pre-Check, courtesy of AA (well… isn’t that a wonderful new experience compared with standard security).
We’re sitting comfortably at the gate. The plane’s already at the gate. With luck, an on time departure.
We thought he was choosing his fantasy ship so replied, “No, that’s ours. We’ve just cruised on it."
“No, it’s really mine,” he insisted.
We took a closer look and recognised our ship’s Captain, a delightful and amusing Norwegian.
We spent a pleasant 15 minutes chatting with him, before our timetable meant it was time to wish him, “Bon Voyage."
It never pays to cross your fingers! Today turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.
St Maarten is still a lovely place. The cruise port area has been completely rebuilt since Hurricane Irma effectively removed it from Planet Earth. There’s still a lot of evidence of the havoc from the storm, but the Island is definitely open for tourists and residents alike.
As is often the case, your tour guide and the tour itinerary play a significant role in one's enjoyment of a location.
We boarded by far the most comfortable vehicle of the cruise, and then things started to move South.
Our guide wrongly thought he was comedian of the year and so his commentary was peppered with inane jokes, which he repeated or explained until he received at least a chuckle. A few were borderline risqué.
To be fair to him, he did have a good knowledge of the Island and pointed out many interesting sights. He also pointed out every goat we passed, as if we’d never seen them before! Iguanas: at least they were worth seeing and there are lots & lots of them on the approaches to Marigot.
We had just 30 minutes in Marigot, the Island’s French Capital City. It took about 10 of them to collect some free refreshment and several more to use the minimal number of “cloakrooms”, leaving about 15 minutes of free time.
This short stop was essential to allow us time to enter the traffic clogged streets of Koolbai to visit a CAROUSEL! A free ride on a kiddy sized roundabout. However, being of equal importance to the French Capital, we had 30 minutes there to buy over-priced ice-cream (US$4 per scoop) and equally good value for money souvenirs.
My guess? The tour company owns the carousel.
Next a photostop at “International Point", where you can view islands affiliated with several different countries. Set my shutter to high speed as we were given the briefest of time to take in the view.
We passed by Philipsburg where an opportunity was given to leave the tour and travel back later by water-taxi. We let that pass by.
We were so glad to be able to return to the calm, peaceful Viking Sea, and spent the afternoon relaxing and listening to music, oh, and finalising arrangements for our Christmas 2019 cruise.
There’s a Greek Themed open-air live cooking pop-up restaurant tonight. Now I know why the guide was keen to show us the goats. Maybe they’re on the menu!!
The journey began on Sunday travelling to Heathrow, where we stayed overnight in the Hilton. Our "Friendly Neighbourhood" chauffeur service, Bob (and he is really friendly and local) arrived promptly and the journey was easy.
The Hilton was perfect for our purpose. Adequate (and uninspiring) room, TV and comfortable bed - all we needed for an overnight pit-stop. The Airport taxi firm turned up ahead of time (an oversized Mercedes!) and 10 minutes later we were at check-in for the flight.
American Airlines get a lot of stick in reviews - not justified from this, our one, first experience. Check-in: fast, friendly and efficient. The flight left a couple of minutes early. Premium economy seats: wide, comfortable, plenty of legroom. ”Welcome aboard” drinks served promptly. Both meals: well presented, tasty, served on china with real cutlery. Excellent amenities kit, soft pillow, warm rug/blanket, proper noise cancelling headphones. Arrived 30 minutes early. It was almost exactly what Business Class used to be perhaps 10 years ago.
Miami Airport has also upped its game. There’s a new automated passport control system, where most of the immigration formalities are done at a self-serve terminal (there’s lots of them, so a very short wait time). It prints a confirmation slip. The Border Control Agent asks a perfunctory, “Where did you fly from?” question, looks at the slip and sends you on your way without even stamping your passport! Just 10 minutes! It was nearly an hour last time we came through Miami.
American’s domestic service, however, isn’t its transatlantic offering. Main Cabin Extra isn’t “premium”. It means extra legroom, some free pretzels and a drink. Not much else. The flight left on time and arrived 15 minutes early, so for a 2 hour flight it did the job.
Viking staff were at the airport, in numbers, to meet the flight. We discovered there were 90 fellow “Vikings” on the flight, so it was a little chaotic. However, they collected all the bags at the carousel, split us into groups (there were 3 busses) and took us to the ship without a hiccup.
We ordered room service food, which arrived to our stateroom around the same time as our luggage - about 30 minutes later. And finally… bed!
Around 9:30am, we took a 3 mile stroll along the promenade that goes around the edge of Old San Juan and found a “hidden” attraction. Cats!
Feral cats are, apparently, everywhere in Old San Juan. Years ago, they were welcomed to kill off rats and rodents and then became a nuisance. A charity was set up to care for them so now they’re well fed and looked after. We saw 40+ on our stroll - there must be many more you can’t see. All were happy to siddle up to say, “Hola”, hoping we had a treat for them.
Lunch on the outdoor Aquavit Terrace, in the sun with a gentle breeze - so good! A nap after lunch: even better!
We took another short stroll mid-afternoon along the quay where 5 mega ships were docked. Crowds with cheap junk goods stalls lining the way. Thirty minutes did it for us and we hurried back to Viking’s Nordic calm.
Tonight, there’s a Caribbean and Seafood “special” for dinner in one of the restaurants. Guess where we're going!
We’re sailing at around 5:45pm for the British Virgin Islands; Road Town, Tortola.
A day in Havana. When we first saw this, about 13 hours of travel, we were a little apprehensive, but then, how can you come to Cuba and not see Havana?
Our fears were unfounded. Another of the Chinese luxury coaches took us for the 3½ hour drive, stopping en route for a coffee and comfort break at Ranchon La Aguada.
Our guide was excellent. She admitted her English was actually Spanglish, and she was, maybe, a little hard to follow. However, she was so charming, we simply didn’t care!
Once again, Cuba surprises. Havana (Old Town) is lovely. Beautiful squares and gardens, a few too many tourists and a lively Spanish Caribbean atmosphere. We had a walking (well… more standing and talking) tour enjoying the glorious weather.
There was one square that seemed to be cobbled. A closer look showed the roadway to be made of wood. Surprising. Beautiful.
Our coach then took us to a suburban restaurant for lunch. It claimed to have a unique way of cooking chicken. It’s a good job it’s unique; at least there’s only one place on Planet Earth can make such a mess of the simple task of roasting chicken. So dry, it could have been used as kitchen towels.
Fortunately (!!!!), the restaurant was home to several street cats, so the chicken didn’t go entirely to waste.
The rice & beans served with it were very tasty, as were some fried nibbles served as starters.
Time to leave. Our guide then announced a “surprise”, and kept a sneaky secretive look on her face.
We exited the restaurant and turned the corner to where our coach should have been. Instead, the street was lined with a dozen classic old American cars for which Havana is famous, our transport back to the City.
We selected an amazing bright purple 1953 Chevvy.
This historical convoy set off. It was a Sunday and the streets were very quiet. Street racing? Each car is fitted with multi-tone air-horns and the drivers aren’t shy about using them… frequently!
The drivers made it a tour, driving (very quickly!) past almost every building and monument Havana had to show off. Exciting, exhilarating; an unexpected item to cross off the bucket list.
We boarded the coach and moved on to a flea market - possibly the biggest flea market in the World. Housed in a massive dockside warehouse there must have been 600-700 stalls stacked high with all manner of “I’ve been to Cuba” souvenirs.
We’d heard a lot from our guide about Cuban family economics (almost identical to the now defunct USSR’s system) and so, when one absolutely delightful stall holder eventually caught our attention, it wasn’t hard to justify wasting a few CUC’s.
Our final stop was at a fishing village where Hemmingway spent his time getting drunk and writing “The Old Man & The Sea”. I don’t “get” Hemmingway, but lots of people do and were delighted with the stop.
It was a lovely place, slightly spoilt by the fact I thought I’d lost my Passport, so we had to do retracing steps. It turned up in the little bar Hemminway used, where we’d been given complimentary drinks.
The 3½ hour return journey also included a stop, and showed the very real risks of driving on Cuban country roads after dark. Two near misses (one very very near) with unlit horses and riders using the roads as bridal ways.
Safely back in Cienfuegos, we boarded the tender to the ship, tired and happy, with just enough time to change for dinner in Manfredi’s. What a day!!
Strange how things work out. Yesterday, a disappointing tour took a little of the shine off St Maarten. When we last visited St Thomas, a dreadful tour left us not exactly looking forward to our time here.
We skipped repeating the tour and instead took a taxi into Charlotte Amalie. It’s delightful!
A fairly inexpensive taxi (US$4 pp) took us to the centre of CA. It’s clearly been developed for the US tourist market as nearly every outlet has some type of tourist item from Rolex watches to cheap t-shirts.
It’s clean, well built and, providing you get over being invited into every shop you pass by, quite laid-back and relaxing.
Apart from the main street, there are lots of alleyways with more shops, bars and restaurants. It’s an eclectic cultural mix: the place names are French, the ambiance Spanish and the people very American. Oddly, this works very well.
After strolling and window shopping for a while, we walked along the waterfront taking in the view of the bay. We realised we’d walked a fair distance towards the ship so decided to walk all the way back. (It’s about a mile - a pleasant 60 minute walk).
Worth it! First place we’ve been with an airport for sea-planes!
We passed a most unusual cemetery; burial vaults above ground, but set up so they can be stacked like apartment blocks as more family members take up residence.
There also was an ancient London bus parked in someone’s yard. Why? Who knows?
After lunch onboard, we (well Margaret actually) started the process of planning and packing for our transfer tomorrow to the Viking Star in Miami.
Tonight will be an early dinner in Manfredi’s and an early night as our airport transfer is at 6:45am. We’ve joined two cruises together, so we’re flying to Miami to set sail for Cuba.
Our favourite Island, so far. It’s small, with little tourist development, random passers-by smile, say, “Good Morning,” or “Welcome to the Island”, no international brands or cruise-port shops. It feels safe, clean and cared for. Visit it soon before it’s discovered and spoilt!
We had a typical “panoramic” excursion driving around Roseau.
We stopped first at a centre for blind and challenged persons, where simple skills are taught to enable them to earn an income (as, once, did Remploy in the UK). The lady who explained their work was so proud of their achievements, she forget to try and sell us anything! So charming! People bought items anyway.
Next our journey took us to the Botanical Gardens, just on the edge of the City. These beautifully manicured gardens were rich with flowers and trees and so well described by our tour guide.
Mentioning our guide: a charming, late teens, Kalinago girl, who is one of the last 3000 pure indigenous people left on the Island. Within 20 to 30 years, she estimated, although their traditions will be maintained, none will remain.
Our final stop was on a hill above Roseau which offered superb views of the City and our ship.
After returning to the ship and a brief rest, we went walkabout. It’s Sunday so most of the people were at Church (Dominica is 60% Catholic).
Most shops were closed, but a Sunday Market of local goods was open. Very little hard sell, stall holders happy to chat about their beautiful Island and then remembering they’re supposed to sell their goods.
People, old and young and all points in between were mostly dressed in Sunday best and showed a genuine warmth and friendliness as you passed by. Passing churches, you could hear old-school fiery sermons being delivered with enough gusto to be heard on the street outside. Time travel back to more genteel times.
A simply delightful place to visit.
Back on board by lunch time, the relaxed Dominican atmosphere took hold, so we spent the afternoon doing lots of nothing at all.
We’ve decided to let the evening continue in the same vein and enjoy a selection of Room service goodies on our veranda, watching the waves go by.
This island is actually “St Christopher’s” according to its constitution, but as Kitt was a common Victorian nickname for Christopher, the name evolved.
Our tour today took us on a scenic train journey around the island on the last working railway in the Caribbean. The carriages are double-deckers, the upper: open sided, bench seats; the lower: a beautifully set out, fully enclosed “Pulman” lounge.
We were provided with drinks and snacks along the way, a knowledgeable (unfortunately non-stop) commentary and a “choir” of 3 local high school age girls who went from coach to coach performing calypso style songs (quite well given the acoustics!).
The journey took us mostly along the coast, through small towns and villages. Whilst not exactly “spectacular”, there were many interesting and some beautiful sights and views during the hour or so of the journey.
We were then collected, train-side, by a small coach and driven back to port by a driver/courier with plenty of local knowledge and a charming sense of humour.
A pretty good way to have spent the morning.
After lunch we took a stroll around Basseterre township. It’s a busy place, but with a very relaxed feel. Not as pleasant as Roseau, but nice enough. We’d been here a few years ago, before Irma. Sad to say, a row of beautiful fan-palm trees didn’t seem to have survived.
We’ve started to make arrangements for another cruise, this Christmas, 2019. Charaine, the Cruise Consultant (who has become our good friend) is finalising a trip from Lisbon to Miami, which includes Christmas Day.
We’re having dinner in Manfredi’s tonight; always something to look forward to!
Sint Maarten (St Martin) tomorrow. Loved it last visit. Fingers crossed.
An early start today for our transfer between ships. This was well organised and we arrived at the airport in plenty of (read: far too much) time.
And isn’t it always the way, when you have time to spare...
American Airlines check-in: no queues.
Security/TSA: no queues.
Kerbside to gate: 10 minutes.
We boarded early. Took off early and arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
Miami Airport: now there’s a place designed by the criminally insane. We walked a long distance from the gate, following signs for baggage reclaim. After a while the signs led us to escalators going UP (maybe the equivalent of 3 storeys). Seemed weird. Why would you want your bags 3 floors above street level.
Well… You board the SkyTrain and travel 1 stop, where you disembark and enjoy another escalator ride DOWN to street level. If Dante designed airports!!!! On the bright side; our bags were already there.
But Viking weren’t. First time for everything. I phoned the ship and they said to take a taxi and they’d refund the fare. Simple.
Except… As we’d been en route, we didn’t get the email about the cruise terminal change. A very tolerant taxi driver drove around and we spotted the ship. Problem solved.
The airport designer’s brother planned Terminal F at Port Miami.
You go up one floor and check-in. You then walk maybe 100 yds to an elevator and go to floor 3. On exiting, after around another 100 yds, you enter a ramp that zig-zags down the 3 floors you rode up in the elevator to enter the ship.
Not having the best of times, so far! Next: Cuba Travel Services (Viking’s Visa Agents) didn’t have our Visas. They spent a good 15 minutes trying to find them, gave up and issued new ones on the spot.
At least, we knew how to find our cabin (it’s the same one as on the ship we just left). There’s an interactive TV with almost everything you need to know available online.
We checked our pre-booked dining reservations… there weren't any. (Our theory is that as this type of back-to-back cruise hasn’t been done before their computer took offence!) And to compound things, the dates, times and venues we’d booked were no longer available. A challenge for the Restaurant Bookings Supervisor, but she assures me, they will be reinstated.
Outside from our veranda… Just a few days ago we’d spotted our first active seaplane. Well, like buses, wait forever and then 2 come along together.
Not sure why 3 fully armed US Coastguard RIBs were shadowing us.
Dinner in the main Restaurant tonight. The Senior Restaurants’ Manager, Johann van de Merwe, we’ve met before and he runs a very tight service. Everything perfect.
A sea-day tomorrow. Thank the Lord! We need the break!!!
Two huge cruise ships were cluttering up the docking quay this morning, so we’re tendering ashore. The “port talk” last evening described the excursions. The one we’d planned goes to a beach (described as “one of the most popular”) so, there being 5000+ cruisers on the mega ships, many of whom might go there, we thought, “Bank Holiday Beaches,” and decided to independently explore Road Town instead.
Tortola was one of the worst hit islands by Hurricane Irma a few years ago. We’d visited here just before that time. We were interested in how it had recovered.
Logically, for the Island’s economy, the area around the cruise dock has been completely rebuilt - bright shiny and new.
Not so true if you take a turn off the main road. Even some of the more prestigious buildings are still undergoing repair. Turn again into the side streets and it’s quite a mess still.
Even Pusser’s Rum Pub has scaffolding in place. Well… we were outside Pusser's, weren’t we? It was around 11am. It would have been simply wrong to just walk past and not support the Island’s economy, wouldn’t it?
Back on board, we enjoyed a room service lunch on our verandah, watching small boats go by, simply taking in the warm breeze and gorgeous view. Then. a quiet afternoon, reading and continuing to enjoy the warm sunshine.
Dinner tonight was Manfredi’s, Viking's Italian restaurant. We visit Italy around once a year and it’s as good as the best Italy has to offer. Bueno Appetito!
Tomorrow it’s Cricket in Antigua. We’ve planned our own “tour" to see the first day of the 2nd test: WI vs England. Let’s hope England can do better than in the 1st Test (but it’s hard to imagine how they could do worse!!).
We’re ending the day with a “Movie under the Stars”, Viking’s open air late night cinema. " Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again”. On a warm Caribbean night, what could be better than Abba?
P.S. Great cinema, awful movie!
The day began with rain. We were going to a rain forest so it seemed appropriate. However, typically Caribbean, it cleared away in about an hour and the sun came back out.
Our excursion was a ride on an aerial gondola - not quite Alpine skiing style, but very good. We journeyed to the location with an excellent guide and a bus driver trained by Ferrari’s Formula 1 Racing Team - no accidents, no problem.
It was very interesting to drive through small towns and villages to see what life is like here. As everywhere, there are contrasts between rich and poor housing; perhaps here more heavily contrasted than most of Europe.
The tram journey of about an hour took us through all the layers of the forest. Not a lot of wildlife, except for hummingbirds; they are sooo small and fast, but I did manage one (out of focus) photo.
It was so peaceful, relaxing and quiet. A really enjoyable and very different excursion tour.
After lunch we ventured out to see Castries. The ship is docked effectively in the main street - seriously close.
Not so calm and quiet here. Loud and chaotic, busy with people and traffic - in fact, not for the faint hearted. We were on the street as the school day ended. There were literally hundreds of small buses, parked anywhere collecting children to take to outlying suburbs and villages.
Castries didn’t feel especially friendly or safe (re-enforced by the number of police officers standing around). But if you come to visit a destination you find what you find. Thirty minutes was all we needed to see as much as we wanted to see.
Another amazing dinner in Manfredi’s with a new friend, Charaine (from NZ). Great food, great company… what more do you need?
Barbados tomorrow. Home of Mount Gay Rum. What could be better?
We docked quite early to cloudy skies and a light rain. Again, typically Caribbean, the clouds and showers came and went through the morning, and by afternoon, it was mostly sunny.
Our excursion (Panoramic Barbados) took us around the Island’s Parishes on a small bus - a perfect way to see how everyday Bajans live. It impressed. Most homes, even the more modest, were well constructed and tended. Many had gardens with colourful flowers and shrubs. There were modern shopping centres, decent looking schools and the QE Hospital looked worthy of its name.
Our guide was exceptional and pointed out local “wild” crops: avocado trees, breadfruits, mangos (did you know there are at least 80 different sorts), bananas (again, multiple varieties) and many others.
She also had a keen gardener’s knowledge of flowers and shrubs and pointed out many naturally growing, beautiful plants.
We stopped at the Island’s highest point and were treated to spectacular views and some rum punch (equally spectacular).
We journeyed on to St John’s Church, the oldest church site on the Island, although it has been rebuilt several times because of hurricanes and fires. The current building is still a couple of centuries old.
Back on the ship for lunch and then a stroll around the port area. If the “souvenir” stalls were closed down, China’s economy would crash. How do they cram so much junk into so few small shops? The large duty-free area once again glittered with the usual array of watches, jewellery, booze and overpriced “whatever were we thinking when we bought this” souvenirs.
Main restaurant dinner tonight had a “destination” menu based on Barbados. Clearly not the culinary centre of the Universe, even though Chef had tried his best to elevate the dishes.
Tonight is the Explorer Society “party" to thank returning guests. When these first started, we remember being one of perhaps 5 couples. Tonight it could be around 200+ couples. Quite a party!!!
A new destination tomorrow: Roseau, Dominica.
We’re going to be at sea now, all the way to Miami. A “technical” difficulty means the ship has to sail more slowly, so Santiago de Cuba has been dropped.
The details are undisclosed, so ships being rumour mills, theories range from Alien Invasions to the more likely minor engine fault needing parts not available on Cuba.
We like sea days and the onboard activities list has been extended.
Not connected to the itinerary change, Viking have come up with a great plan for those of us with late departing flights from Miami, as the ship must be completely disembarked by 9:30am.
Rather than dump us in the airport for 10 hours, they’ve chartered some of the Hop-on, Hop-off tour buses for a complimentary Miami tour. Great free gift. The on-line booking cost is $49pp.
So a few days of eating, drinking, reading and a few shows. Oh dear; never mind!
And so very good was everything except...
The final theatre show: “The Abba Songbook”. As a real fan of Abba’s music, this was 60 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but may re-live in nightmares for years to come!!
Docked in Miami around 5:30am.
We’ve never done a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour anywhere before, and we’ve never seen Miami except its airport and roads from there to Port Miami or Fort Lauderdale heading to North Florida. Could be fun!