7.00am local time. It looked a bit cloudy as we anchored in Fort de France, Martinique on the west side of the island. (Historical note: Martinique is not a colony, but actually part of France. Those living here are considered French and it’s one of the few islands in the Caribbean that has always belonged to France. Currently it has a population of around 360000).
Ann didn’t sleep too well last night, and we think it’s not enough food nor alcohol! 🙂
We had breakfast on the ship as normal, and then took a walk into Martinique town. It was only a short-ish walk – 15 minutes or so, but it felt longer because of the heat! We saw a sign as we sat sipping coffee – 33 degrees and it was only 10am!
Martinique was very different to many of the other Caribbean islands we’ve visited…as ‘buzzy’ but it was clear there was more money around here. Designer shops and BMWs, Minis and Mercedes cars were the giveaway! It was a literally a piece of chic-France (Ann described it as ‘chavvy’) transplanted onto an island!
We found a shorter walking-route back to the Ship – which was a good thing as the day seemed to be getting hotter!! Luckily, the Bar on-board was soon was in sight and we collapsed over beers and bitter-lemons!!
12.10. We’re leaving Fort-de-France and sailing south round the island, heading for the beach at Les Anses d’Artlets. We grabbed some lunch – a full Asian Buffet today – and then noticed it was POURING WITH RAIN!!! So, we sat out on deck in the shade for a while and decided to brave it to the Beach. The irony was, that on landing on the beach, it was such a small area that we couldn’t find anywhere to pitch our towels that would be warm enough to enjoy the Sun, but provide some shade when we needed it! Ralph decided to brave the elements and stay behind, whilst we three jumped on the next Tender back to the Ship!
Once back on board we found a good shady spot on-deck.
Time to get ready to see the new year in…
We decided to eat a little later so that we’d be awake for midnight. On arriving at the restaurant, it was already very busy – as we think others had the same idea as us, and it was therefore difficult to get a table for four. However, the waiter ushered us into a separate room together with another group and although we got to sit together as a foursome, we were somewhat detached from the main centre of activity. Consequently, when the Captain (who we’ve now affectionately dubbed Captain Meercat because of his accent) made his speech, we couldn’t see him.
The food was its normal high quality fare – we all had extra courses to make the meal last longer (another strategy to help us get through ’til midnight!) After the meal, we wandered up to the Tropical Bar when a talent contest was in full swing made up of passengers and ship’s crew – everything from juggling waiters (that’s waiters juggling bottles not waiters being juggled!!!), energetic male-waiters’ dance routines and songs dedicated to Grandmothers – Simon Cowell would have felt right at home!
We had a few more drinks and then wandered up onto the main deck to see the sails unfurl and hear the now familiar Vangelis theme blast out on the ship’s speakers. Captain Meerkat appeared on deck to count us down to midnight – three minutes…two minutes…one minute…30 seconds…10 seconds…5…4…3…2..1… We made it – under a full moon (a blue one as it happened) and full sail, 2010 has officially arrived!!!
We both slept well, although Ann woke with a pretty bad head – must have been the alcohol last night!
Another day, another island! Well, actually, we get two for the price of one today – St Vincent and Bequia (later today).
As normal, we had a lazy breakfast and then took the Tender ashore. St Vincent looked pretty sleepy from a distance – but we were going to be surprised!! On landing we were surprised at the rather sophisticated Cruise Terminal – quite a few shops and some places to eat.
We left the terminal and headed into the town. That’s when it all came alive! Ralph made a new friend – although not deliberately – who led us into the main shopping area. Once we got to the centre, he asked for some money, but when we declined, he disappeared into the distance!
After a quick look round, we made our way back to the Terminal, stopping-off for a drink in one of the Bars in the Terminal. It was quite humid, so we sat outside, enjoying the through-breeze from the town to the sea.
After a thorough chill-out, we went through the rather simplistic security area and waited for the Tender. We were back on board for more food! 🙂 and to see the Ship sail for Bequia.
Ralph and Karen explored Bequia, but as Ann’s head was still bad, we went to bed in an effort to shake it off. I went out like a light (as normal!), but Ann just couldn’t sleep. We got up about 6pm to get ready for the evening meal. Absolutely NO ALCOHOL for Ann tonight!!!
The meal tonight was excellent and Karen and I even managed to persuade our Waiter to go off-menu and get us some rum-and-raisin ice-cream…Perfect!!!
We stayed up late tonight to watch the Ship’s music-quiz, a rather manic affair on deck where the objective was to collect dominos (as points) for every correct answer. As always with these things, it was taken very seriously by those taking part and half the fun was watching the behaviour of the contestants.
We called it a night around 10.45pm.
The ship arrives at Martinique tomorrow morning at around 8am.
We had a later breakfast and then took the Tender to the beach. It was another gorgeous day, although thankfully, slightly cooler than yesterday – only 26 degrees!
The beach was your typical ‘Robinson Crusoe’ type, sand, sand, palm-trees and more sand. Perfect!!!
“South of Canouan and west of Mayreau lie the Tobago Cays islands, like giant turtle shells rising from the crystal clear water. The coral reefs are an unforgettable experience for all visitors…”
We seemed to be one of the first to arrive, so we therefore managed to get the pick of the shady-spots and after being lent a rake from a local, created a nice area between two trees for the four of us – perfect..just enough sun and shade! We chilled out there as the island began to fill-up and before long, lunch was waiting!
The Ship’s catering team had laid on an impressive spread – salads…burgers…ribs…hot-dogs…tea…coffee…Coke…fruit juices…rum-punch as well as bread-and-butter pudding…chocolate cake and lots more desserts.
We finished our lunch, chilled-out for half-an-hour or so, then caught the Tender back to the ship admiring the blue-ness of the water along the way.
We laid out on deck in the shade for an hour-or-so reading waiting for the ship to sail at 4pm. The main excursion from the Island was late back, so we didn’t get away until 4.30.
Dinner in the restaurant again tonight. It was a pirate theme and a lot of the guests and ALL the staff dressed-up accordingly – our waiter spent the evening with a cutlass through him!!! It was another good meal – we all had steak. After the meal, we resisted the temptation to watch the crab-race at 10pm as we were all quite tired.
The Ship is now heading for the islands of St Vincent and Bequia and we dock at St Vincent by 8am tomorrow.
We woke just after 7, to a cloudy-ish sky – I wonder if it’ll rain? The Ship docks in Grenada today around 12 noon – it’s the smallest independent country in the western hemisphere and is home to 160000 residents. St Georges is the capital and home to The Carenage, noted as ‘the most beautiful harbour in the Caribbean’.
After breakfast, Ralph climbed the rigging on the ship whilst the rest of us watched!
We decided to spend the rest of the morning reading and settled in the Piano Lounge – only to find it converted into a AV presentation area a short time later, for the Captain to recount his life as a salty old sea-dog!!
I had a short snooze whilst Ann visited the Gym, then we all had lunch. Afterwards, we boarded the Tender and headed for Grenada and The Carenage area. The cloud has given way to a really hot day. It’s 2.15 and already about 80 degrees.
We’d been here before, on another cruise, but it’s changed quite a lot and now has a dedicated cruise terminal. Lots of shops and totally free internet access – pity I didn’t bring the lap-top from the cabin! Everywhere we looked, there were people making use of this free facility – I don’t think I ever seen so many laptops in one place (apart from PC World!!)
We wandered into the town – a really busy, bustling place. full of life! The residents obviously like sounding their car horns and were using it to denote ‘get out of the way’, ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘want a taxi?’ and more-or-less any type of initial communication!
It’s getting even hotter – now 85 degrees – and we wandered right round The Carenage, before turning round and finding the nearest Bar. After seeking refuge there from the heat for about 45 minutes we made our way back to the Terminal and luckily, there was a Tender just arriving. We were back on the ship by 4.15, just in time for a rest before our evening meal.
We’re going to try and stay-up tonight – until 10pm!!!! – as there is a steel band coming aboard. I thought I’d be OK, but as 10 approached, I was just too shattered, soI hit the pillow around 9.45. Apparently, they were very good.
It’s the island of Tobago Cays tomorrow and lunch will be a beach BBQ.
Overnight (and for much of the morning) we headed for Union Island – Grenadines arriving at Noon. We avoided the rush to get off the ship by spending time soaking-up the sun and then having lunch on-board.
We then jumped on the Tender (only a short wait) and headed for the shore. The beach area wasn’t particularly large, but it was a good spot to chill-out for an hour-or-so – the sand was beautiful but the mobile phone reception was crap – Well, you can’t have everything!!! 🙂
About 3pm, we caught the Tender back to the Ship and spent a short while in the bar drinking. Ann and Karen tried out the gym whilst I exercised my typing skills. 🙂
I then decided to have a short snooze…which turned out to be much longer than I thought – Ann woke me up at 6.15!!!! I took me ages to ‘come-to’, but after a quick shower I was ready for more drinking and eating. We decided to meet Ralph and Karen in the Tropical Bar, and then eat slightly later. The Restaurant was busier tonight and it was trickier getting a table just for four (but we found one!). The food was great again tonight. I had the stuffed turkey whilst Ann opted for the steak and chips again.
After the meal, we went our separate ways – Ralph and Karen went back to their room, whilst we went to ThePiano Lounge and caught up with various bits and pieces on our iPods.
10.15. Time for bed…
The Ship is sailing for tomorrow’s destination – Grenada.
Later today, we’ll be boarding the ‘Royal Clipper’. We board at around 4pm local time and sail at 10pm.
We’re not sure yet if we can get an internet connection on the ship, so this may be the last posting until we get back next Saturday!
Over the coming seven days, the cruise will take in the following Caribbean islands:
Union Island – Grenada – Tobago Cays – St Vincent/Bequia – Martinique – St Lucia and then back to Barbados.
We’re going to spend our final hours at Sweetfield Manor getting packed, and then just chilling-out.
Clayton, our personal taxi-driver was his normal conscientious self and picked us up just after 4.15. He took us to the terminal via Bridgetown (which looked very interesting) and after about twenty-minutes, we were unloading our stuff ready to board. We’re used to cruising, and we’re especially used to the long drawn-out affair of registering before you board. So, today was a very pleasant surprise as it only took about 20 minutes before we were walking up the gang-plank.
Once aboard, we helped ourselves to food and drink whilst the Rick-Wakeman sound-alike tinkled away on his keyboard providing background music to eat and drink by.
After snacks we moved the Library to check-in. This, in our experience, is another part of the process that normally takes ages, but we were processed in no time. So it’s now off to Cabin 258 that’ll be our home for the next week.
Another thing we’re used-to is cabin-size – normally small, but the Royal Clipper redefined the term! How we got the majority of the stuff unpacked I’ll never know (and just where did we stash the kitchen sink?). Anyway, half-an-hour later, the bags were squeezed under the bed.
We headed for the restaurant around 7.30. It was tastefully designed over two levels and was already quite busy by the time we arrived. We managed to get a table for four (they don’t take reservations) and were quickly provided with menus and a wine-list. Service was brisk and initially, we seemed to be drowning in wine-waiters, who were all anxious to take our order. Things settled down and we chose a bottle of the French House White whilst Ralph stuck to his beer.
The menu was pretty extensive – Karen and I had the lobster soup whilst for mains, Ralph and I had the veal, whilst Ann tried the steak and chips and Karen had the salmon. We finished of with cheese – when I say finished off, Karen and I finished off the finishing-off with ice-cream!!!
We just had time to pop back to our rooms before going up on deck to see the ship sail. What a magnificent sight – seeing the sails slowly unfurl gave an even greater sense of occasion as we sailed out of Barbados at 10pm under the night-sky.
10.30 We were tired by now and headed back to our Cabin. One thing we noticed, being a much smaller ship, is that you definitely know you’re at sea! Watching from a distance, it would be hard to tell whether we’d been on the Rum or just coping with the ship’s movements!!!