Here’s my travel article that explains my feet in the sand photo on my home page:
By Verity Croker
LAND! I feel like an explorer sighting terra firma after a long time at sea. We departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida, over two days ago. Ship-board activities such as tai chi on the deck and dance lessons pool-side, fun though they are, have left us a little shacky-wacky . St Maarten is the first island we are visiting on our Caribbean cruise. Run by both the Dutch and French, it is the smallest land mass in the world governed by two nations. At Philipsburg, we sample guavaberry rum and lunch on mouth-watering shrimp in spicy Creole sauce with rice, gazing past the restaurant’s worn wooden verandah rails to golden sands lined with sunchairs, and out to sea. We tap our feet to the rhythms of a calypso band clad in bright shirts playing their distinctive steel drums in the street below.
Next port of call is lush St Lucia, and we are thrilled to see the cove where Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed. In an old colonial house overlooking Castries, after viewing their extensive art collection and period furniture, we are served rum punch, fish bites and banana ketchup. A woman at a roadside stall, hands grasping brightly dressed cloth dolls, enthusiastically hails down our bus. The number of peaks on the dolls’ headscarves indicates their marital status – single, married or married but still looking! When the dolls are upended, another head appears. I choose a doll and name her Lucy.
Back on board, the captain opens up the bow to view the twin peaks of the Pitons as we sail past in the sunset, accompanied by happy hour cocktails. While we anchor to collect passengers who toured the length of the island, young men in small boats appear calling ‘Dive for an American dollar’ repeatedly. The captain has told us we will walk the plank if we encourage them, as accidents can occur when they get too close to the ship.
That night, at a barbecue on deck, our drink waiter puts down his billfold to free his hands in order to take photos. A gust of wind flips it open and his papers fly out, some disappearing into Davey Jones’ locker. We scramble to rescue the remaining ones fluttering on the deck. Some are precariously caught on the rails, in danger of another gust spiralling them off into the dark night. Our waiter is distraught, as the receipts help calculate his commission.
In Bridgetown, Barbados, we view Nelson’s statue, the Independence Arch and a 17th century synagogue with the oldest immersion trench (mikvah) in the region. I see a woman wearing a huge-bustled traditional dress in the same colours as my doll’s skirts. Garishly painted shipping containers house shops, and the church has above-ground graves. We visit Bathsheba beach with its spectacular coral outcrops, before heading inland to see green monkeys, tortoises, macaws and pythons. Rum punch is again provided, this time with crab samosas and mango sauce. I’m really starting to enjoy this trip!
Our ship has two swimming pools, several restaurants, bars, a spa, gym, library, shops, a packed activity programme and variety of entertainment, so we are spoilt for choice. Our private balcony ensures a quiet space for relaxation, and the rhythmic movement of the sea rocks us to sleep.
We visit French Martinique, then Dominica. They say if Columbus returned, this would be the only island he would recognise. At the Roseau Botanical Gardens we stand in the welcoming shade of a huge natural bamboo stand, popular for weddings. Via a windy road we visit the Carib area (the original inhabitants) and enjoy a lunch of green banana salad, taro, and ginger pepper sauce, while watching traditional dancing and singing. A cooling dip at a waterfall brings down our core temperatures and makes the hot day bearable.
St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands is a shoppers’ mecca. Eight cruise ships are in town today and the shops glittering with jewellery and other duty free goods are swarming with keen buyers. We take an open-air trolley bus to overlook palm-fringed Magen’s Beach, one of the top ten beaches in the world. In Blackbeard’s Castle I buy a pirate’s treasure map jigsaw puzzle in a bottle, and photograph the world’s tallest amber waterfall. Under palm trees at the Big Kahuna Rum Shack, we lunch on spicy chicken jerk with honey mustard dressing.
Our final stop is Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. From a glass-bottomed boat we view coral and upside down jelly fish. The waters are aqua and the sand white. My feet sink into the flour-like sand and I lie back on my deck-chair, digesting my bbq lunch before yet another dip in the warm ocean.
Want to go on a Caribbean cruise? Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.