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10:27 am Tuesday 27 March (St Kitts)
As I write this, I am sitting under and umbrella on a sun lounger on the very beautiful Dickinson Bay Beach in Antigua. The sea like in Grenada is a mass of greens and blues – and quite lovely. The sand is especially remarkable and very fine and white; it is almost powdery in texture. More about Antigua later but first let me update you on yesterday in St Kitts.
Yesterday we were in St Kitts where we had probably the best day yet. We berthed on the long cruise jetty that sticks out into the sea at Basseterre (the capital) later than scheduled, at about 07.30am.
We were booked on an all morning bike ride around the southern part of the island. The island is shaped a bit like a cricket bat. The tour is 11 – 12 miles of cycling and it ended up being much more strenuous than I think some of the party of 12 people had expected it to be. I think I am fairly fit and it gave me a good workout!
St Kitts is very hilly and so we cycled up hills into the sugar cane fields to an old sugar cane factory now dilapidated and ruined. The island had been a major producer of sugar from cane until 2 years ago when it became unviable and they stopped so now they rely more or less on tourism.
We cycled past the relatively new looking and very busy airport that seemed to mostly have small island hopping planes landing though our guide told us that a number of long haul charters from as far as the UK fly in, and in fact the runway can handle 767 size planes. Later in the afternoon while sitting at the pool on the ship I saw a large charter plane from the UK landing there.
We then cycled past a huge and now empty processing factory made of corrugated iron, through more cane fields and on to the stunning Frigate Bay area. Our guide challenged / asked for volunteers to cycle up the hill while he took the others in his open back van. We of course took up the challenge but almost expired as it was so steep, long and hot and so had to walk up at least a quarter or more of it.
But up there it was an incredibly beautiful view. The views across Frigate bay, a natural harbor were amazing as well as the one across the 2 mile gap to the sister island of Nevis. There was also a salt lagoon visible that sale was collected and exported from. On the one side is the Atlantic, which is much rougher with bad currents, and so people do not swim there (although there is a new Marriot complex that has recently opened that tales advantage of a natural reef and a man made break to make it safe for guests to swim there).
We then went flying down the hill on our bike, which was a bit scary as it is steep, and cycled to a near-by beach for a glorious and much welcome swim after the heat and exercise. The sand here was almost black as I guess it is volcanic.
The bike tour people were so organized and sorted. There was a guide who cycled in front and a guy in the van who followed up and carried a large cooler with bottles of water and would stop traffic when we crossed major roads. At the end he offered us all a bottle of local St Kitts brewed beer only available on the island.
The first is a narrow gauge railway trip around the island. This railway used to ferry the sugar cane from the fields to the refining factory in Basseterre, but now ferries piles of tourists off cruise ships around the islands. Some of our party went on this and where under whelmed – not helped by all the trips running late as the train had broken down on the 1st tour of the day stranding people for about and hour and half before it got repaired.
The other is the helicopter to view the now deserted island of Montserrat. A volcano erupted there a few years ago and the entire population had to flee. The lava flowed at one point at close to 100 miles an hour, and apparently you can see the effects at the airport and most of town, which were submerged. Even in St Kitts, our bike guides told us they had an eighth of an inch of ash all over the island even though the island is about 50 miles away.
We had a wander into the town after our bike ride. Once past the “Disneyland” like cruise terminal area, which is just being rebuilt after another hurricane, you get to the old town which was much more interesting.
The shops in the cruise terminal area of all the islands are all very generic, and I think if I had not taken loads of photos of each of the terminal area and surrounds I would struggle to remember which was which. They all have loads of “Diamond International” shops, for example, and other jewelry shops which are sell standard items you can buy anywhere (maybe they are cheaper) and nothing that seems to be unique to or from the island or even the islands.
Even the souvenir shops all seem to sell the same merchandise just with the name of the island changed (much of which seemed to be made in China or even the UK!).
I kept feeling that all the islands are offering the cruise traveler a view and experience that is very generic and they should try and be more unique and distinctive to their own history and culture. I guess the cruise industry drives much of this, and also from reading they seem to fund many of the terminal developments to get better rates as well as ensure the islands can handle their ever-larger ships.
See my photos of St.Kitts: click here
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