A New Island a Day
There is no denying that the Caribbean is a long way away, therefore it is essential to plan your stay right. You might book to stay in a hotel in Barbados or St Lucia for 2 weeks and enjoy the island and the sea but how exciting would it be to see a new island every day and immerse yourself in a different culture every 24 hours? Well, if you like the sound of this then hop on one of the many cruise ships sailing around the Caribbean Islands and explore their beauty for yourself.
I have to admit your time on the islands is limited as the ship needs to leave for the next port, however, even in those 8-10 hours there is a lot you can experience and see. So join me in hopping from Aruba to Curacao to Bonaire, Grenada and St Lucia and see the things we managed to do ourselves.
The heat is the first thing that hits you when you step off the cruise ship. The next is the rows and rows of colourful buildings which will be the theme across the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) which belong to the Netherlands Antilles and take their influences from this small European country. The colours are immense, from pastels to vibrant purples and greens which look amazing in the sunshine.
You will also see that everybody on the island is happy and they are so proud of it that even the registration plate says “one happy island”.
The shopping malls are first class here and filled with designer items so you can definitely get some bargains.But who wants to waste time there? There is an island to explore!
If you want to see the colourful streets of Oranjestad just hop on the free tram and enjoy the sights and feel the beat of the Caribbean music accompanying the ride.
However, the best thing to do in the remaining few hours on the island is to visit one of the best beaches on the island – Eagle Beach. A short taxi ride from the capital and your feet are touching the white sand and you can’t take your eyes off the blueness of the sea. And it gets even better when the heavens open and you are stuck in the sea for 2 hours as the water is warmer than the land… An amazing experience!
The next morning it is time to say Hello! to Wilemstad in Curacao. The view from the boat’s balcony is familiar to Aruba’s which is rows of candy coloured houses reminiscent of the Balamory houses in Scotland. The capital is divided into two parts and is connected by the Queen Emma Bridge, a pontoon bridge which swings open a few times a day to let the cruise ships and other boats through. A walk down the streets to admire the town’s architecture is definitely a must. The plethora of rainbow houses and the remnants of the 18th fortifications create an great photo opportunity.
As this island is called “the diver’s paradise”, the only thing left here to do is to go snorkeling. My tip here would be to take a water taxi to Klein Bonaire, a small uninhabited island 25 min ride from the harbour to experience the crystal clear waters and exceptional beaches of the No Name Beach. Well, it did not happen to us… Instead, we found Coco Beach, a good 30 min walk from the boat, which turned out to be a great place to snorkel and to spot tropical fish.The beach was sandy, not too crowded and had a beach bar offering local beer and cocktails. It was a great find and the kids loved it, especially diving in from the pontoon bridge. Bonaire was definitely in my top 3 favourite islands of that particular cruise.
If I was to choose my favourite island on the trip, it would be a tie between Grenada and St Lucia. These islands are the complete opposite to the islands of Netherlands Antilles. The main difference is that the islands are dominated by hills and are very green, making you feel like you are in the jungle, even more so in the torrential rain that we experienced.
Grenada is known as the “spice island” and the climate is ideal for the cultivation of cocoa beans, vanilla , nutmeg plants and cinnamon. If you get a chance, go to the spice factory run by John who will talk you through all the spices and what they look like before you add them to your food. The picture below shows fresh cocoa beans in one hand and roasted ones in the other.
Grenada is a beautiful island and there is plenty to see. The roads are really winding and steep so getting a taxi with a knowledgeable driver would be my advice here. For around $70 (for a family of 4) you get an extensive tour of the Annadale Waterfalls, where you can watch local lads tombstoning making your toes curl a bit, the spice factory, spice plantations, Fort Matthew and you finish your tour in a local bar sampling the best rum punch and chatting to the locals.
St Lucia is one of the island I would love to go back to. It has it all… the beaches, the Pitons and rum punch. and one of the fun ways to experience all these is on a catamaran. The tour lasts 5 hours and takes you along the coast where you stop to see the beautiful Marigot Bay, have a swim on a secluded beach and come very close to the famous Pitons which dominate the St Lucian’s landscape. The visual experience is accompanied by Caribbean music and copious amounts of rum punch. My advice is to go easy on the rum punch. It tastes great but it is very strong and you don’t need many to get quite tipsy. We booked our excursion with Thomson and it was quite pricey but totally worth it.
Unfortunately, we did not manage to see much of the capital, Castries. There was a big market on just outside the harbour with lots of local goods, clothes and food.
I did it this way!
So this is definitely one of the ways to do it. 5 new islands in 5 days on a luxurious cruise ship. I admit, you only get a snapshot of the islands as your time ashore is limited but it is enough to see the main sights and get a feel of the place.
My summary of the islands is as follows…
St Lucia has an amazing landscape and vibe, Grenada is so beautiful and so green, try Aruba’s white sandy beaches, swim with tropical fish in Bonaire and take lots of pictures of the candy coloured houses in Curacao. And most of all enjoy the friendly people and the hot weather!