I felt like Alice in Wonderland (with camera), dazzled by gleaming glass staircases embedded with brass clock gears, crystal chandeliers sparkling overhead and spiral staircases with thick gleaming wood handrails, unable to decide which of the 14 floors I was supposed to be on! The staff worked hard to make our experience comfortable and shiny and several times I got back to my cabin in the evening and found a white towel monkey or teddy bear snuggled up or swinging at the end of my bed. I loved being pampered by no less than 3 waiters who made a point of learning what you liked and bringing it for you before you asked. (A bit like like being a kid with a wonderful mommy again?!) I felt totally spoiled!
Dining was a fabulous affair each night, allowing friends to catch up and share what they’d done during the day and trying new dishes cooked to perfection. Lots of new dishes! A highlight of dinner for me was when all the wait staff on each of the 3 storey, open restaurant floors would get together and serenade us and entertain us on the magnificent, central, circular staircase. Wow! Unfortunately my photos don’t do it justice and I hope someone sends me one to share here.
Our dance instructors were world class – my favourites were Simone from Italy and Teddy from New York – and the dance classes were great. There was also an afternoon dance every day – that I made once or twice. And a late night dance every night. This was in addition to the dozens of dances and parties that were going on in various parts of the ship, all of which we were welcome to join. There was an ice rink with daily shows – that I didn’t manage to get to – and a theatre or two with various shows that I made on a couple of occasions, for literally ten minutes or so. There was so so much to do. On the last day I lay by the pool for a few minutes with a coffee and sat in the hot tub – I didn’t want to leave the ship without having at least tried out the pool area!
Our ports of call were St Croix, St Maarten, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados. For the first two days I was so full of what there was to do on board the ship that I didn’t get off?! In fact both St Croix and St Maarten sort of slipped past my radar before I fully adjusted to where I was. Not true: I did look out of the window at them and longingly think that I should be going ashore…
On the third day I attempted to catch the sunrise at sea – and missed it by about ten minutes. Luckily another dancer was there with his far better camera and sent me his photo! So, this sunrise here is the one I just missed. He also sent me a sunset (see below), which is gorgeous.
I wanted to sample the Caribbean so I ventured to a local Antigua beach via water taxi and rented a sun bed and umbrella on a crowded Caribbean beach (near the karaoke?!) and played in the surf.
There were vendors selling jewellery and bright coloured shirts and dresses and offering massages in the sun or to plait your hair. I fully intended to buy gifts and have someone slowly rub oil, deep into my skin… Next time. In retrospect I wish I had ten more afternoons like this one – which despite the crowd (my ghosts are getting quieter?) was really fun?
On the fourth day I managed to get myself organized and arranged a tour! Perched in the back of a 4 x 4 Jeep with about 8 or 9 other tourists I drove (glad I wasn’t driving!) up steep, twisting, hairpin bends; hiked in a rain-forest; tried rum punch and walked along the shore. This was easily the most fun and memorable tour and our guide, Gary, was great.
He had studied history and was full of information about how the delicate mimosa plants were used by plantation owners to track runaway slaves… It closes tightly for several hours whenever it is touched.
We all touched a mimosa plant. He crouched in a deep hollow inside a massive teak tree, where slaves hid until the search party had been called off so they could run up into the ‘haunted’ part of the mountain where no-one would want to follow them for fear of not returning. I couldn’t shake the sadness and fear those thoughts brought up for me and I find it hard to believe that any man can be so cruel to a fellow human being?
Respect and freedom are definitely important needs for me and life without them is, for me, unbearable. They must have been important for Gary too as he was hoping to become a community policeman.There was a Catholic church – or a personal shrine/statue of Mary by every front door in St Lucia. Catholicism seemed as popular today, after independence as when the French owned the colony, which I found interesting? Actually the French and the English fought over St Lucia and the Island had changed hands about 16 times over the year?
In Barbados on day 5 there were only a couple of Anglican churches (mind you I might have missed some) and much less evidence of religion although the British had left other evidence of their presence in the way of architecture, street names and driving on the wrong side of the road! The Caribbean side of this island is lush and treed with a turquoise sea perfect for swimming.
The Atlantic side is barren and rocky with grey ocean crashing on the rocks and beaches – dangerous for swimming but apparently popular with surfers. I must admit I fell asleep and missed most of this tour but I did notice the difference in scenery. Somehow a luxury coach isn’t anywhere near as exciting as an open 4 x 4? Plus I was just plain exhausted! (And, of course, feeling trapped in a coach, herded from place to place, wouldn’t be my forte? I guess my ghosts were at play, ‘helping’ me sleep?!)
The last day of the cruise was spent at sea, returning to San Juan. By this day – the last day – I was just coming into my own and getting comfortable with my new cruising schedule. If I was to take anything away from this cruise it would be that in future I would plan my every moment aboard carefully. There is so much to do and only with careful planning can you hope to fit in at least some of what you want to do.
I guess that’s part of Royal Caribbean’s cunning plan: to tease you with so many activities that you absolutely have to come back? Part of me would also separate dance workshops from a cruise so I could enjoy either one or the other better – I chose ‘dance’ most of the time and if my 4 x 4 experience is anything to go by, I missed enjoying the Caribbean: the ‘cruise’. On the other hand it was wonderful being part of such a large dance family and having new friends everywhere I went?