Caribbean Cruise – you know you want to do one!

Here’s my travel article that explains my feet in the sand photo on my home page:


Hey Calypso

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.  

Sunshine Books visit

It was great fun visiting my publisher Wendy Pye/Sunshine Books in Auckland, New Zealand recently. I spent some time with the Managing Editor, Charyn Jones, who showed me their colourful display of current publications. It was so interesting to finally see where Cyclone Christmas (1st and 2nd edition) and Block City (and my brother Evan’s Bottle from the Sea) came to life.





List of Australian YA realist novels with LGBQ characters

Prolific Australian author Jenny Pausacker has compiled a list of Australian Children’s and YA contemporary realist novels with LGBQ characters and I am very pleased to see May Day Mine included. It’s not just in several lists (based on secondary and main characters, alphabetical order and chronological order), but she has also devoted a half page to critiquing the novel and also refers to it elsewhere in her article. It is enlightening to see another author’s point of view regarding my main character Jodi and her relationship with Dana.

You can find it here:


Visit to Sunshine Books in Auckland

It was a great thrill for me to visit the offices of Wendy Pye/Sunshine Books in Auckland, NZ, last week. I’ve had a relationship with them since last century, literally, when we initially negotiated the publication of the first edition of Cyclone Christmas. Since then, they have published another of my books, Block City, and a second edition of Cyclone Christmas.

It was interesting to put some faces to names and to see where all the action takes place. Their book display area is bright, colourful and cheery, and it was interesting to see all their current titles together in one place including my brother Evan’s Bottle from the Sea.

Thanks managing editor Charyn Jones for enabling my visit and being so welcoming.

Study Guides for Harmony Ink titles

Harmony Ink Press has given authors the opportunity to create study guides to accompany their books. Being a teacher, I know how useful study guides can be as inspiration for a harried teacher. So, today I’ve been busy making a study guide for May Day Mine! I’ve got sections for history & location; language & writing; art & craft; and a miscellaneous section. So much fun!