VISITED: DECEMBER 2016
Unlike previous posts, this post will focus on multiple destination ports that were visited on my last Caribbean cruise. Not only that, but, due to the fact that the disembarkation times were just before sunset, this post will not have the sunrise and sunset recommendations. This is largely because I was on the cruise ship at the time of sunrise and sunset, so I didn't have an opportunity to scout out any locations. Instead, this entry will make up for the omission of sunrise and sunset recommendations by replacing it with points of interest from the various destinations that were explored. It was a 7-day cruise that was based out of San Juan, Puerto Rico with the ports of call being:
Frederiksted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda
St. George's, Grenada
FREDERIKSTED, ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
Frederiksted – Frederiksted is the only port of call for St. Croix and one of the most iconic sights of the island. It is home to historical sites like Fort Frederik, Frederiksted Pier, Oscar E. Henry Customs House, Emancipation Park, and Frederiksted Beach. When a cruise ship is in port, the town of Frederiksted comes alive with vendors, music, and dancers, who all graciously welcome the visitors. This picturesque waterfront town offers a wide variety of activities, but also has many iconic structures that are a difficult photo opportunity to pass up. For those who prefer a little freedom or want to avoid the expensive shore excursions, Frederiksted has a shuttle service that offers round-trip service to Christiansted for $16 per person.
Christiansted – The town of Christiansted is the largest town on St. Croix and one of the most popular destinations. Christiansted is a brilliant combination of the island’s colonial history and culture with modern tourism. Walk along the boardwalk in Christiansted and you will pass by a number of shops, restaurants, and activities that are great for couples or families. At the end of the boardwalk (walking west to east) the footpath culminates at the walls of Fort Christiansvaern. For a $2 entrance fee, enter the fort and marvel at the architecture, history, and the vibrant colors that remind you that you are in the Caribbean. It is easy to get mesmerized by the beauty of Fort Christiansvaern, as I did, and spend hours photographing the cannons, tunnels, and intricate design of the building.
Point Udall – Point Udall is the eastern most point in the United States, which includes territories and contiguous states. The Point Udall Millennium Monument is a giant, sharply designed sundial that marks the point at which each day in the United States begins. Although this may be “touristy” for some, the scenic drive getting to Point Udall makes the adventure worth it. Along with the drive, there is a trail of moderate difficulty that leads from the Point Udall Millennium Monument down to the point, which is composed of fortified volcanic rock.
Buck Island Reef National Monument – For those who enjoy water activities like snorkeling and scuba diving, then look no further than the Buck Island Reef National Monument. This underwater sanctuary is roughly thirty square miles and is home to beautiful coral formations, vibrantly colored fish, and other captivating wildlife. There is an underwater trail that is perfect for scuba divers and snorkelers of all levels to explore the elkhorn coral reefs. On land, the pictorial white sand of Turtle Beach is one of the finest and most relaxing in the Caribbean. So whether enjoying the sun and sand by land or taking in the aquatic wildlife and scenery below, Buck Island Reef National Monument has something for everyone.
ST. JOHN’S, ANTIGUA
St. John’s – St. John’s is the largest city, capital, and chief port in Antigua and Barbuda. The skyline of St. John’s is covered in fluorescent painted buildings and is dominated by the white baroque towers of St. John’s Cathedral. Since tourism is a main source of this island’s income, be prepared to be bombarded by local taxi attendants asking if you need a ride to the nearest beach. Although helpful and friendly, it can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor to Antigua and Barbuda.
Shirley Heights – Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and battery that has an elevation of 490 feet. This lookout offers spectacular views of the English and Falmouth Harbours, which are considered the most stunning in all of Antigua. A walk around Shirley heights affords visitors 360 degree breathtaking views of the scenic landscape. Shirley Heights is known by locals to be the ideal location on the island for sunset and late evening photography.
Nelson’s Dockyard National Park – Nelson’s Dockyard is a cultural heritage site and marina found in the English Harbour. It has been fully restored and now offers daily tours around the grounds for visitors to marvel at the fine Georgian architecture and a museum depicting the dockyard’s rich history. Outside of the dockyard, the historical forts dominate the landscape and are accessible by hiking trails so that visitors may enjoy the scenic beauty. The park doesn’t have any shortages of subject matter to photograph, from boats and anchors to cannons and architecture, so take your time and explore the grounds.
Devil’s Bridge – Devil’s Bridge is a bridge rock formation that was naturally carved by the sea and is found on one of the eastern most points of the Antiguan coastline. The bridge is made of soft and hard limestone ledges that have eroded over time due to the sea water. The waters around the bridge are notoriously rough and it is said that if anyone falls in that it is unlikely that they will come out alive. Devil’s Bridge earns its name due to the fact that it is known to be the location where slaves from neighboring estates would go and commit suicide by jumping into the water, so people would say that the Devil had to live there.
Betty’s Hope – Betty’s Hope was the island’s first large scale sugar plantation that was a major factor behind the success of Antigua’s sugar production. It is located in a serene, rural area of Antigua’s limestone district with dazzling views of the rolling hills and the sugar mills set in amongst the trees. Although the only surviving structures are two stone sugar mills and the remains of a still house, the site’s importance has led to restoration projects to preserve the Antiguan history. Today, new sails have been installed on the sugar mills and the crushing machinery has been fully restored to working condition.
Dickenson Bay – Dickenson Bay rests on the northwestern coast of Antigua and attracts countless visitors because of its white sand beaches and tranquil waters. The beachfront is lined with restaurants, beach bars, and beach activity stations for those looking to snorkel, kayak or windsurf. The beach is heavily crowded along the long stretch of powdery sand, so be prepared for a frenetic atmosphere. For those looking for a more peaceful beach, Runaway Beach, which is directly to the south of Dickenson Bay, is a less developed and narrower beach with similar alluring features.
Roseau – Roseau is found in Saint George parish and is the largest city and capital of Dominica. Surrounded by the sea, this compact urban settlement is a vibrant city that can feel crowded with local road or foot traffic. Roseau’s streets are lined with historic buildings in a combination of modern and colonial French architecture that are in states ranging from dilapidated to elegant.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park:
Emerald Pool Nature Trail – Located in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, the Emerald Pool Nature Trail is a crushed rock path that makes its way down to Emerald Falls and the Emerald Pool. Emerald Pool is rarely empty, as visitors brave the extremely chilly water for a chance to sit under the falls and have their photo taken. The easy access to Emerald Falls makes it a popular destination, so it is best to arrive early for a chance to photograph the pool and the falls without anyone in it.
Trafalgar Falls – Trafalgar Falls is located on the west side of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park and, like Emerald Falls, is easily accessible by visitors. From the designated viewing platform, these beautiful twin waterfalls are impressive and locally referred to as “Father” (upper falls; larger) and “Mother” (lower falls; smaller). If visitors are feeling more adventurous, they may take a dip in the refreshing waters of lower falls or hike up to the hot water spring of upper falls.
Boiling Lake – Boiling Lake is not for the faint of heart. The round-trip hike is grueling and muddy and can take anywhere from six to ten hours to complete; however, the payoff is worth it. Boiling Lake is nearly 200 feet wide and is known as a fumarole, which is an opening in the earth’s surface where hot sulfurous gases emerge. Boiling Lake is known as the world’s second largest boiling lake and looks like a cauldron of grayish-blue bubbling water surrounded by a cloud of vapor
Titou Gorge – Titou Gorge is a popular swimming destination where visitors enjoy the light as it illuminates the walls and dances along the water. The undulating sides of this deep, narrow gorge were formed by molten lava which cooled and split open, leaving a natural cave. Although it only takes a few minutes to swim through, swimmers tend to wade around to enjoy the ambiance of the high cliff walls and canopy of trees. As with most sites, it is best to arrive early to avoid the swathes of visitors who flock to Titou Gorge as the day presses on.
Cabrits National Park –Cabrits National Park is on a peninsula on the north end of Dominica and protects tropical forests, coral reefs, wetlands, and is home to Fort Shirley. Fort Shirley was the headquarters and main defense post of the British army and has undergone considerable restorations to preserve its legacy. The fort offers spectacular views of the harbor and is a great place to photograph the different cannons, stone buildings, and lush green vegetation surrounding the grounds.
Scotts Head Pinnacle – Scotts Head Pinnacle is arguably one of the most famous dive sites for those who are moderate to expert scuba divers. The dive is filled with large coral encrusted rock formations that are surrounded by soldier fish and grunts that blanket around you as you swim by. The dive at Scotts Head Pinnacle is around 35 feet as you cruise towards the “pinnacle,” where divers are faced with the 120 foot drop-off. The crystal clear water and the tranquil beauty of the underwater landscape make this one of the regularly repeated dives on the island.
Bridgetown – Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and is a heavily trafficked port city on the island’s southwest coast. This charming city is surrounded by a mix of old and new architecture with the historic sites and buildings nestled within the modern office edifices and malls. Along with these buildings, waterways allow locals to sail and dock their personal boats in the heart of the city. Bridgetown offers a wide variety of cultural activities including diverse shopping, dining on local cuisine, and a historical walking tour of one of the Caribbean’s oldest and most active cities.
Harrison’s Cave – Harrison’s Cave is a subterranean limestone environment filled with stalagmites and stalactites that are explored while riding on a tram through the underground roadways. Along with these natural columns, streams of crystal-blue water flow throughout the cave and, in some locations, drop as dramatic waterfalls into the deep pools below. The cave sits in the middle of the country and is roughly 5-miles from Bathsheba Beach. Admission for the tram ride is about $30 for adults and $15 for children with tours operating daily from 8:45am-3:45pm. Additionally, walk-in tours are offered for $20 on Saturday’s at 4:00pm and 4:30pm for those who are 16 years or older. The regular tram ride is convenient and fun, so it makes it the most popular choice; therefore it is difficult for photographers to get a clear shot of the caverns without anyone in the photograph. This is especially true since there is only a specific amount of time allotted at each location during the one hour tour. For this reason, the walk-in tours may be a better choice for those wishing for a little more time and fewer people when photographing the caverns in low light with their travel tripods.
Bathsheba Beach – Bathsheba Beach is the most famous beach in Barbados and is highly visited for its unique rock formations that reside close to shore. These mushroom shaped rocks are a photographers dream as it makes for the most majestic landscape shots. Along with photography, Bathsheba Beach is a renowned location for surfers to catch the best waves. The beach’s famous Soup Bowl is where the magnificent waves of the Atlantic roll in to form these exhilarating breakers. It is truly a surfer’s paradise; however, it is unsafe for visitors to swim at Bathsheba Beach due to the regions rough waters. Instead, enjoy the pristine white sand beach and tide pools while drinking straight from a coconut. The coconuts are sold by some of the friendly locals and will prepare the drink by lopping off the top with a machete.
Barbados Boardwalk – One of the most popular attractions is the Barbados Boardwalk due to the cleanliness and the views. The mile-long boardwalk stretches from Accra Beach to Camelot Beach complete with panoramas, landscaped gardens, and relaxing retreats. The best views are during sunrise and sunset, but even during the day the foamy turquoise waters and soft white sand beaches are something to behold. In addition to the scenic beauty, the boardwalk also provides outdoor enthusiasts opportunities to view the local land and aquatic wildlife.
St. Nicholas Abbey – St. Nicholas Abbey is located in the parish of St. Peter and has a plantation house, a museum, and a fully operational steam mill and rum distillery on the grounds. In fact, complimentary guided tours of the abbey explain to visitors that it is one of only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere. The tour also provides an interior view of the architecture of the mansion and the historical furnishings and antiques. The gardens of St. Nicholas Abbey are full of tropical vegetation that is carefully manicured, while the surrounding gullies and orchards are home to beautiful Silk Cotton and Mahogany trees. Before leaving the grounds, be sure to stop by the gift shop if you’re interested in purchasing any of the newly made sugar or St. Nicholas Abbey Rum.
Carlisle Bay – Carlisle Bay is a crescent shaped bay surrounded by turquoise water that glistens in the sunshine and has white sand as soft as powder. It is also a natural harbor, and the main harbor neighboring Bridgetown, which is often filled with yachts and catamarans. The bay’s placid and clear waters do not experience any undertows, so it is an ideal place for swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers. This historic bay has six dive sites in close proximity that makes it an excellent location for divers of all levels of experience. The dive sites are roughly marked underwater by using pylons, cannons, and anchors to lead divers from one shipwreck to the next. Although the shipwrecks can be accessed as a shore dive, it is highly suggested that all divers take advantage of the daily boat tours for safety and convenience. During the dive you will encounter marine life such as groupers, eels, sea horses, and many more species of tropical fish. If scuba diving or snorkeling does not interest you, then the bay offers four picturesque beaches that are perfect for sunbathing, enjoying the sand, and partaking in the shore activities. Overall, Carlisle Bay is a tranquil beach that offers a wide variety of activities for everyone and is an ideal location for photographers seeking to capture the beauty of Barbados.
ST. GEORGE’S, GRENADA
St. George’s – St. George’s is a charming horseshoe-shaped harbor that is surrounded by a hillside of an old volcanic crater. This capital city is best explored on foot in order to fully appreciate the beauty of the old colorful buildings, historic fort, and the bay filled with different fishing vessels. At the center of St. George’s is the bustling Market Square where locals gather to sell a multitude of items; however, since Grenada has been given the moniker as being the “Isle of Spice,” it is most famous for their spices. Along with these spices, they sell vanilla, chocolate, and more varietals of tropical fruit and vegetables that you won’t find anywhere else. Of all the ports visited, St. George’s was far and beyond the most stunningly colorful and photogenic of the bunch. The city streets are narrow and dotted with cafes and shops, so they require precision when navigating through daytime traffic. Be sure to walk through the Sendall Tunnel and stroll down Wharf Road as it makes its way around the harbor of Carenage. Carenage has one of the most beautiful harbors in the Caribbean and gives visitors a glimpse into what a tropical paradise should look like.
Fort George – Situated 175 feet above the harbor of St. George’s, Fort George is considered the most important historical structure for the political and military changes it has endured. Today, Fort George serves as a police headquarters and can still be toured for a $2 entrance fee, which is a bargain. The views from the top of the fort are unmatched and offer another perspective of St. George’s and Carenage. Throughout the fort are ample photography subjects in the form of cannons, flags, stone tunnels, and ruins of buildings that suffered damage in Hurricane Ivan. It is easy to get lost in the magnificence of Fort George while meandering through the various tunnels, stairs, and pathways that weave throughout the fort’s interior.
Grand Etang National Park and Preserve – Grand Etang National Park and Preserve is a fertile nature preserve that is found in central Grenada. Grand Etang’s varied elevations and terrains maintain several different ecological subsystems that can be explored by hiking the network of trails throughout the preserve. This natural wonderland has a lake at its center and is home to fauna, like monkeys, frogs, armadillos, mongoose, and lizards. The rainforest around the Grand Etang National Park and Preserve is the most popular for those who enjoy trekking and hiking excursions.
Annandale Falls – Annandale Falls is one of the easiest waterfalls to get via a short hike, so naturally it is one of the most popular. A dip in the chilly water can be invigorating, but for some this is not enough. For those who enjoy a thrill, there is a trail that leads behind and above the falls for an opportunity to jump over 30 feet into the emerald pool below. If you rather watch, there is a donation box at the top of the trail where a small donation will grant you a spectacle of one of the locals performing the jump for everyone to see. Annandale Falls also has benches and tables for those who have time and would like to enjoy a picnic while listening to the cascading water and being surrounded by a grotto of lush vegetation.
Dougaldston Estate – Dougaldston Estate is an old spice plantation and processing plant, but the majority of the grounds have been abandoned. A tour of the estate gives visitors a glimpse into how the plantation was run and the amount of man power and infrastructure needed to stay current with the demand for spices. Today it is used for tourism and offers demonstrations where you can touch, smell, and taste the different spices. Despite being mostly geared towards tourism, the Dougaldston Estate still processes a few spices and cocoa beans and can be seen as they are laid out on giant racks to dry in the sun. As your tour wraps up there is an opportunity to buy individual spices, or an assortment of spices, at a modest price.
Belmont Estate & the Grenada Chocolate Company – Belmont Estate & the Grenada Chocolate Company factory can be found in the village of Hermitage on the northeast of the island. The Belmont Estate is a property that is over 400-acres and is where the initial processing of the cocoa plant for the Grenada Chocolate Company begins. A tour of the estate gives step-by-step details on how the cacao is harvested, fermented, and dried before it is processed. A short distance away, the modest Grenada Chocolate Company is a sustainable and ethical “tree to bar” company that churns out a variety of chocolate bars to be sold worldwide. A tour of the tiny, brightly painted factory shows visitors the process by which the processed cocoa is poured and molded to be made into this delicious treat. At the end of the tour there is an opportunity to purchase chocolate bars that were made on site.
Grand Anse Beach – Grand Anse Beach is a 2-mile stretch of beach that lies along the southwest coast of Grenada. This ideally sheltered beach is Grenada’s most popular beach due to its supple white sand and its jaw-dropping view of the sapphire-hued bay. The bay is home to brightly colored fishing boats and is lined with restaurants, hotels, and shops. Grand Anse Beach offers a variety of activities that are fit for different experience levels, which include scuba diving, snorkeling, water-skiing, kayaking, and parasailing. For advanced scuba divers, Grand Anse Beach is where the most audacious divers may explore the wreckage of one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks, the Bianca-C. The local dive companies also organize day trips to Hema 1, Shark Reef, and the Grenada Marine Park where you may come face to face with tropical fish and sea turtles. Like most beaches, Grand Anse Beach is also an exceptional place to sit back, relax, and soak up the sun while listening to the sound of the gentle waves kissing the shore.
As with the sunrise and sunset locations, I did not have time to appraise many restaurants due to time constraints; however, I did try different “specialties” that each destination was known for and will list them below:
*St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands*
Ginger Beer - Just about every restaurant has its own version of ginger beer and each one has its own ‘bite’ to it. Be prepared since it packs a punch and can take visitors by surprise.
Fish and Fungi – This unique pairing is considered the national dish of the Virgin Islands. In this dish, fresh fish (usually a firmer fleshed fish like snapper) is pan-fried and stewed in a Creole sauce with vegetables and savory green herbs. The fish is served with fungi, which is a mix of cornmeal, water, and butter that are hand-stirred and cooked into the consistency of whipped mashed potatoes.
*St. John’s, Antigua*
Pepper Pot Stew – Along with their version of Fungi (or fungee), Antigua’s national dish includes pepper pot stew. This stew made up of salted beef, pork, vegetables (spinach, okra, and pumpkin), and served with cornmeal dumplings.
Black Pineapple – Black pineapples get their names from the color of their skin, which is actually dark green but looks black. They are sweeter and more delectable than the traditional pineapple. They are perfect as a snack or dessert on a warm day.
Callaloo – Callaloo is the national dish of Dominica and was a favorite of the African slaves during slavery and remains a local favorite to this day. This dish is a combination of leafy vegetables that are mixed in with spices, meat, and coconut milk. The soup takes on a greenish color and locals feel that it is an energy booster.
Rum Punch – Although many islands in the Caribbean offer their version of rum punch, Dominica’s was impressive. Reason being, that it is so smooth and delicious that you quickly forget about the rum until you’re well into your third glass and walking becomes a challenge. Drink with caution and be sure to have a designated driver or safe means of getting to and from your destination.
Flying Fish with Cou Cou – This national dish is made from boned flying fish that is rolled and stewed in gravy, which is made with herbs, garlic, butter, tomatoes, and onions. Served along with the flying fish, cou cou is made with cornmeal and okra and takes on a ‘grits-like’ consistency.
Macaroni Pie - The Barbadian version of macaroni pie varies depending on which restaurant you visit, but the one constant is that it uses tubed noodles instead of the traditional elbow macaroni. The macaroni pie is a decadent, baked mac and cheese where the noodles are broken and mixed with cheese, onion, herbs and spices, and a mix of yellow mustard and ketchup. Some recipes substitute the ketchup mix for diced tomatoes and/or integrate chunks of meat into the pie. Macaroni pie is usually served as a side to flying fish or meat, but can easily be made into a main dish.
*St. George’s, Grenada*
Oil Down – Grenada's national dish is called "Oil down," which is simple, delicious and hearty comfort food. This robust one-pot meal is made up of local vegetables, called ‘provisions’ (the local term for bananas, starchy roots, and tubers), salted meat, dumplings, breadfruit, and various spices. All of these items, which are easily accessible and affordable, are combined into a large pot and cooked down in coconut milk over an open fire. The stew is then boiled until all the coconut milk is absorbed by the other ingredients and the mixture has an oily texture, which is how this Caribbean classic earned its name.
Chocolate & Spice – Grenada is known as being the Isle of Spice and it does not disappoint. Different spices include cinnamon, clove, bay leaves, ginger, turmeric, mace, and curry just to name a few. You buy these anywhere on the island, but there is the Spice Market in St. George’s that specializes in the selling of the island’s famed spices. For those looking for a sweet treat, The Grenada Chocolate Company makes chocolate from the locally grown cocoa plants.
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