Eastern Caribbean Cruise: Finale

Eastern Caribbean Cruise: Finale

Although each of the last three ports was a day, I’ve combined them into one post, since the first two stops didn’t have much substance.

Antigua (pronounced An-tee’ga) and its neighboring island Barbuda form a twin-island nation in the middle of the Leeward Islands. With a nickname of “The Land of 365 Beaches”, one would assume you could try out a new beach every day and not have to repeat all year. With temps in the mid-seventies in winter and mid-eighties in summer, I would love to test that theory! I guess being so close to the equator does have its advantages!

Given that reputation, we decided today was going to be a beach day. After taking the shoreline photos below, we left the camera on the ship rather than risk someone making off with it or us dousing it with sand or water.

Our beach day was not as glorious and relaxing as I had anticipated. The closer I got to the water, the lapping waves forced the sand to mush out under my feet, making it difficult to get my footing and left me feeling quite uneasy. In fact, an older woman farther down the beach ventured out and had to be rescued by a gentleman on shore after the mushy sand and the constant waves left her unstable and unable to stand. After several trips to the water, I opted to stretch out on a lounge chair or walk around quite a ways up on shore.

I was reminded of a video on Facebook that had everyone ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) at a woman (quite overweight) who kept getting knocked around and couldn’t get her footing. I have no idea if she was in Antigua, but I didn’t find it funny at all after our experience here. I am ashamed to admit though, that when the poor woman’s too-skimpy swimsuit filled with water and was yanked down, it was a little bit funny.

Since yearly rainfall averages only 45 inches, Antigua is the sunniest and least humid of the Eastern Caribbean Islands and the northeast trade winds are nearly constant for a fresh breeze most of the year. Living here would be pretty hard to take!

Our excursion on St. Thomas (Magens Bay Beach, Blackbeard’s Castle and Vistas) was rained out, which left us dodging raindrops for a while. I guess that will give us a reason to come back, since I also hear more serious shopping on the other side of the island is really great. Instead of taking a taxi or some other mode of transportation that we hadn’t checked out previously, we opted to spend the morning strolling around town close to port. We found a few souvenirs for the grandkids and then enjoyed a cocktail before heading back to the ship.

Saving the best beach/brightest blue water for last is Grand Turk – an awesome island in the Turks and Caicos. It was suggested by our captain that the Hop On, Hop Off Bus excursion that we had planned to check out the island may or may not get us back to the ship on time, so we canceled. We had hoped to see the sights of Grand Turk, especially the lighthouse. I had to settle for a photo of a photo that was displayed on the cruise ship.

Turks and Caicos

“The lighthouse was brought in pieces from the UK where it had been constructed in 1852. It has been restored and still works guarding the northern tip of Grand Turk, the capital island of the Turks and Caicos. The lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s house is a prized historic site and is protected by the National Trust. The Lighthouse provides some shade, a picnic area and an excellent viewing spot for the whales in February and March. The lighthouse hill overlooks North Creek, an inland body of water or lake that a growing number of historians argue is the closest fit to the description that Columbus gave for the island that he first encountered on his 1492 voyage to the New World.” – FROM THE Turks and Caicos tourism website.

Since we canceled our excursion, we had to spend the few hours we had on the most beautiful beach of our entire trip. I know – it was rough – but someone had to do it!

“At the cruise center guests can swim in the sparkling ocean waters or in one of the largest swimming pools in the Caribbean, stroll along the idyllic beach, relax in a complimentary chaise lounge on the beach or around the pool or rent a private poolside cabana for the day.” – READ MORE about the port of Grand Turk

Turks and Caicos

Everyone was talking about Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville which was front and center as we got off the ship. We had a pricey, but potent margarita before heading down the beach a ways to a much quieter (and cheaper) establishment where we could sample some of the local brew and get free wi-fi. The beach was amazing, but we opted to relax in the shade with our beverage and then stroll around to see the sights.

As we headed to the other end of the beach, there was a wonderful exhibit for wanna be astronauts. There are some placards with information and a cool replica of a splashdown that you won’t want to miss if you remember the space program in the 60s. Here is a little more info:

IMG_2403“Some claim that Christopher Columbus’s October 1492 landfall was Grand Turk. Other islands in the Bahamas also make this claim. Scholars may never settle this controversy about exactly which stretch of white sand first received the Admiral’s foot. There is no controversy, however, about where the first American to orbit the earth initially set foot upon his return to the planet. It was Grand Turk.

During the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s and 1970s the USA and USSR were locked in a race to see who would be the first to break the many milestones that space offered. The Turks and Caicos Islands were to play a minor part in this race.” – READ MORE about Grand Turk’s role in the United State’s Mercury Program

“In 2002, the Turks and Caicos Islands had more to celebrate than their position as one of the top 5 diving sites in the World, more to celebrate than the year-round great climate and sandy beaches. They celebrated the arrival of a visitor who literally came from Outer Space.

Without the Missile Tracking Station on the 6 by 1 mile island of Grand Turk, NASA may never have known that John Glenn was still alive after being the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. It was from here that the heart rates and positions of the astronauts John Glenn in Friendship 7 and Scott Carpenter in Aurora 7 later that year were monitored. It is an excellent example of how seemingly small places can play big roles in history. A history that still captures imagination all over the World.” READ MORE about Friendship 7

All in all, this cruise made us think that maybe we are not “cruisers” after all. In the Mediterranean, it made sense. With so much to see, it was a great way to visit multiple ports and only unpack once. But if we’re going to the Caribbean, I think I’d rather unpack once – on one island (St. Thomas?) and spend a week (or two) basking in the sun with an umbrella drink (or two). It would be nice to check out the local food and reggae music, maybe snorkel in the fabulously blue water, see more of the beaches and landscape and just relax – island style.

Our floating hotel did get somewhat confining, especially on the three sea days that we needed for the round trip to this remote location. Maybe if we liked the music more, or sprung for the beverage package. Maybe if we went with a group of friends, the peer pressure would get us moving more, because “in reality” Jim and I don’t go out or party every night or even drink that much on a regular basis.

As we gaze at our final sunset of this great trip, we couldn’t help but think that we’ll be back… basking in the sun with that umbrella drink… on St. Thomas… some day… soon, I hope!

Want to start this cruise from the beginning? Check out Eastern Caribbean Cruise: Overview

Happy trails,

Barbara Olson

Barbara Olson

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