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Dominica 2012



 Eastern Caribbean 2012 Itinerary
 Saturday, March 10  Depart San Juan, Puerto Rico
 Sunday, March 11  Tortola, British VI
 Monday, March 12  Philipsburg, St. Maartin
 Tuesday, March 13  Basseterre, St. Kitts
 Wednesday, March 14  Roseau, Dominica
 Thursday, March 15  Bridgetown, Barbados
 Friday, March 16  day at sea
 Saturday, March 17 return to San Juan, Puerto Rico

The 22nd SSQQ Cruise will take place over Spring Break in March 2012. This cruise will be very similar to last year's Virgin Island 2011 cruise except that we will visit 5 completely new islands.  This trip will include the spectacular rugged and undeveloped island of Dominica with its 9 volcanoes, including the Boiling Lake in the Valley of Desolation.

Like last year, we will travel again on the beautiful RCCL
Serenade of the Seas. This ship features a lovely Atrium dance floor as well as a Ballroom Dance floor on another deck.

This part of the Caribbean is as an island-hopping paradise.  There is an entire chain of tropical islands stretching from Puerto Rico all the way down to the northern shores of Venezuela in South America.

Most Americans know very little about this region of the world. 

There are the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands, the West Indies and the Virgin Islands, as well as the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Grenadines.  It will be fun to discover more about this part of the world as we visit 6 of the most popular Caribbean islands.

Once you review the pictures, you will see the Virgin Islands and the West Indies are unusually similar in makeup to the Hawaiian Islands. That is no surprise since volcanoes helped create these islands.

The Virgin Islands trip is special for two important reasons. Unlike our Western Caribbean trips which visit just 3 places, this particular trip hits six different beautiful islands in six days! This trip is a sightseer's dream voyage, especially if you are a fan of tropical islands.

There are 7,000 islands in the Caribbean. The Eastern Caribbean is an island-hopping paradise.  Not all of these 7,000 islands are inhabited.  Anyone with a decent sailboat can usually find a deserted key somewhere for a trip ashore if you want to get away from the world. Given the balmy weather, sleeping the night under the stars on your boat isn't such a bad idea either.  Anyone searching for a little personal freedom would definitely find this an attractive location.

Although you do have to factor in plane fare to Puerto Rico, the price of the cruise fare is actually priced less than our Western Caribbean trips out of Galveston.

As most of you know, we visited the Eastern Caribbean last May 2011.  So in a sense there is a 'same time next year' feel to this trip.  What is different is that we are hitting 5 completely different islands, including Rick's favorite, Dominica, a rugged, almost totally undeveloped island with 9 volcanoes, seven of which are due to erupt any day now. 

Best of all, our trip takes place over Spring Break!  Finally we have a cruise scheduled at a time the teachers and educational people can join us.

 Inside Cabin, Category N $637
 Oceanview Cabin, Category H $807
 Balcony Cabin, Category E1 $1007
 Prices are per person, double occupancy
Last Year's Trip

So where did we go on the 2011 trip?  Like this year's cruise, our trip originated in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.  You are going to really like San Juan.  This was a fascinating city indeed.  During our cruise, we visited St. Thomas, St. Croix, Antigua, St. Lucia and Grenada.

You are almost certain to be interested in what happened on last year's trip, so click May 2011 Trip and visit last year's trip.


1 San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is one of the largest islands in the Eastern Caribbean. Puerto Rico's landscape encompasses mountains, underground caves, coral reefs, white-sand beaches and an incredibly massive rain forest that supplies fresh water to most of the island. At the same time San Juan, the capital of the commonwealth, is a big city with a bustling business district, glitzy resorts and casinos, as well as one of the most stunning examples of colonial life in the Western world.

San Juan is known as "La Ciudad Amurallada" (the walled city). San Juan was founded in 1521. In 1508 Juan Ponce de León founded the original settlement, Caparra, now known as Pueblo Viejo, behind the almost land-locked harbor just to the west of the present metropolitan area.

A year later, the settlement was abandoned and moved to the site of what is now called Old San Juan. San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean and is the second oldest European-founded city in the Americas

San Juan is a major port and tourist resort of the West Indies and is the oldest city under the U.S flag. The metropolitan area known as San Juan has 3 distinct areas: Old San Juan, the Beach & Resort area, and other outlying communities, the most important: Río Piedras, Hato Rey, Puerta de Tierra, and Santurce.

Many believe San Juan is a small Spanish colonial town with but a few bustling avenues. However this impression does not aptly describe the breath and depth of this fine old-world city. Modern-day San Juan encompasses a vast metropolis that covers seven unique and distinct districts. This makes for an eclectic combination of sights and sounds that is essential to the wonder and joy of visiting San Juan.

Old San Juan/Puerta de Tierra

This is a 465-year-old neighborhood originally conceived as a military stronghold. Its 7-square-block area has evolved into a charming residential and commercial district. The streets here are paved with cobbles of adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag; they were brought over a ballast on Spanish ships and time and moisture have lent them their characteristic color. The city includes more than 400 carefully restored 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings. The Old San Juan attracts many tourists, who also enjoy the gambling casinos, fine beaches, and tropical climate. More tourists visit San Juan each year than any other spot in the Caribbean. A leisurely foot tour is advisable for those who really want to experience this bit of the Old World, especially given the narrow, steep streets and frequently heavy traffic. To really do justice to these wonderful old sites, you'll need two mornings or a full day.

Old San Juan has several plazas: Plaza de San José is a favorite meeting place for young and old alike. At its center stands the bronze statue of Ponce de León, made from a British cannons captured in during Sir Ralph Abercromby's attack 1797. The plaza is skirted by a number of historic buildings.

Abutting Plaza San José is the Plaza del Quinto Centenario (Quincentennial Square), opened in October 12, 1992. This plaza is the cornerstone of Puerto Rico's commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World, has a sculpture that rises 40 feet. The monumental totemic sculpture in black granite and ceramics symbolizes the earthen and clay roots of American history and is the work of Jaime Suarez, one of Puerto Rico's foremost artists.

Plaza de Armas (arms square) is Old San Juan's main square, on San José Street. Features four statues representing the four seasons; all are over 100 years old. It was carefully planned as the main city square and has served as a social meeting place for generations.

Plaza de Colón (Columbus square) was originally called St. James Square was renamed in 1893 to honor Christopher Columbus on the 400th anniversary of his discovery of Puerto Rico; bronze tablets at the pedestal of the Columbus statue record important episodes in the explorer's life.

Plazuela de la Rogativa (plaza of the procession) was built in 1971, features a modern sculpture depicting a procession of religious women commemorates an event that took place on the site in 1797. During the spring of that year, a fleet of British ships led by under Sir Ralph Ambercrombie sailed into San Juan Bay, meaning to launch an assault on the city and take control of the colony. When the attack was foiled, they undertook a naval blockade of San Juan, hoping to starve the residents into submission. As the towns people began to despair of any help from soldiers garrisoned in the inland towns, the governor ordered a rogativa, or divine entreaty, to ask the saints for assistance. The women of the town formed a procession through the streets, carrying torches and ringing bells. The British, hearing the commotion and seeing the moving lights, decided that reinforcements had arrived and quickly sailed off.

The Plaza de Hostos is located near La Casita, features artisan displays, snack stands, and traditional piragüeros, who sell shaved ice topped with tropical fruit syrup.

Paseo de la Princesa

Paseo de la Princesa skirts the curved walls of the old city, greeting tourists with shops, cafes and a delicate fountain along its shoreline path. One of the most pleasant San Juan attractions, the street is a nice way to take in the Caribbean sun on an afternoon stroll. Lined with flowers, statues, palm trees and all sorts of things you'd expect on a stylish little street, Paseo de La Princesa connects the port to the city gate.

From the path laid out by Paseo de la Princesa, Old San Juan shines. The promenade is home to a large number of cultural events, and a wealth of people enjoying the midday ritual of a glass of Piragua, a tasty mix of ice and tropical fruit syrups. You definitely won't be the only person drinking one.

Paseo de la Princesa Old San Juan offers views of nearby Isla de Cabras that is home to an old Spanish prison. A fountain marks the street's end. The prison is now home to Puerto Rico's tourism headquarters. But the imposing fortress walls that line the street seem unchanged since the day they were constructed. Much like the nearby El Morro and the most popular San Juan attractions, this street is steeped in the city's colonial history, with its 1600s architecture fully preserved.

Another of the San Juan attractions found on Paseo de la Princesa is the Racies/Roots Fountain. Full of bronze statues celebrating the city's rich cultural heritage, it's often the stopping point for couples and/or partiers, (depending on the time of night). The terraced decks nearby are perfect to take in the ever-changing San Juan scene, and are often the site of musical performances throughout the week. Another attraction along the pathway is one of the original six gated passageways, known as the Puerta de San Juan - of the six, it's the only one remaining.

The Paseo de la Princesa has become such a staple of tourism in San Juan that the promenade has been further developed in the past ten years, offering wondrous looks of El Morro and panoramic views of the port, rocky cliffs and the rest of the city. But it's the original half of the pathway tracing the old city walls that brings in the majority of tourists. Of all the attractions in the Old San Juan, this is one of the most visited spots because what you see changes with the time of the day. Whether it's the sunset performances, sun-drenched views or midnight strolls that you would like to see, the Paseo de la Princesa is a great place to get acquainted with the city of San Juan.


El Morro, the word itself sounds powerful and this six-level fortress certainly is. Begun in 1540 and completed in 1589. San Felipe del Morro was named in honor of King Phillip II. Most of the walls in the fort today were added later, in a period of tremendous construction from the 1760's-1780's. Rising 140 feet above the sea, its 18-foot-thick wall proved a formidable defense. It fell only once, in 1598, to a land assault by the Earl of Cumberland's forces. The fort is a maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts and ramps. El Morro is studded with small, circular sentry boxes called "garitas" that have become a national symbol.

The views of San Juan Bay from El Morro are spectacular. The area was designated a National Historic Site in February of 1949 with 74 total acres. It has the distinction of being the largest fortification in the Caribbean. In 1992, the fortress was restored to its original historical form in honor of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of Puerto Rico. El Morro Fortress is a National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service. The fort is open to the public daily from 9am to 5pm

Castillo de San Cristóbal (San Cristóbal Fort) is El Morro's partner in the city's defense. Built in 1634 (completed in 1771), was considered the Gibraltar of the West Indies. San Cristóbal was supported by a massive system of outworks that provided defense in depth and is one of the largest defenses ever built in the Americas. It rose 150 feet, covering 27 acres of land. As if its size and height weren't sufficient to intimidate enemies, its intricate modular design was sure to foil them. A strategic masterpiece, it features five independent units, each connected by moat and tunnel; each fully self-sufficient should the others fall. Open daily from 9am to 6pm

The Fuerte San Gerónimo (San Gerónimo Fort) was built on the opposite end of San Juan to strengthen the city's defenses. The fort is located behind the Caribe Hilton Hotel, with small military museum in Puerta de Tierra.

The Santa Elena Battery building with a long chimney-topped bunker was the formal army storage area.


The Parque de las Palomas (pigeon park) is located at the top of the city wall, this park overlooks the restored La Princesa Jail, now a government office with an attractive art gallery. The park is the perfect spot from which to enjoy a magnificent view of the harbor, city and mountains.

The Muñoz Rivera Park is an spacious ocean side park with large trees, landscape gardens and wide walks, located on Jesús T. Piñero Avenue. The park is open Tues-Sun 9:00am - 5:00pm.
Other parks include: Martí Coll Linera Park, and Central Park (with facilities for jogging, baseball, calisthenics and tennis).

El Yunque Rain Forest

When you're in San Juan, don't miss the opportunity to witness the pinnacle of natural beauty by exploring Puerto Rico's El Yunque Rain Forest. It features more than 240 species of trees, hundreds of miniature orchids, and what was once believed to be the Fountain of Youth.

El Yunque Rainforest is located 25 miles southeast of San Juan. It hosts a number of unique plant and animal species such as the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot and the tiny coquis (indigenous tree frogs) that serenade the evening hours. It is a very gentle forest. In fact, there are no poisonous snakes! The El Yunque Rain Forest is a cool, mountainous, sub tropical rainforest located on the Eastern side of the Luquillo Mountains. The actual rainforest is at the top; you must drive to the top of the road and hike up to see the cloud or dwarf forest.

The intrigue of visiting the El Yunque rain forest is only partly in the observation of the varieties of plants that have managed to grow and adapt to the copious amounts of year round rainfall and winds near the top. The magic of El Yunque is in the pristine beauty, the sounds, the quietness and the serenity

Condado Beach

El Condado, as the locals say, is the island's most glamorous district, featuring boutiques, a variety of restaurants, and some of the finest hotels on the island. Contrary to popular belief, many nationals do reside here in the exquisite turn-of-the-century mansions. You'll notice the populace on any given day to be a good balance between tourists and locals. If you are an avid jogger, you'll love the expanse of open area.

Isla Verde

Isla Verde is home to high-rise apartment buildings, huge clubs and luxurious hotels. This area is actually part of the municipality of Carolina, connected to San Juan via several highways and streets. It spans from the Punta Las Marías area (adjacent to Ocean Park) to the land just beyond the International Airport. Its nightlife is exciting, and the enormous balneario, or public beach, is where locals and guests come to sunbathe and get their fill of people-watching.

Hato Rey

Hato Rey is several miles from Old San Juan but is easily accessible. It is the island's central commercial district, where the local wheelers and dealers conduct their business. Thus, its restaurant scene caters to more business people than anywhere else on the island. Roosevelt, the district's residential area, can be found just off Highway 52. It is one of the most famous venues for nightlife in San Juan, and the Plaza Las Americas, the Caribbean's largest mall, is also located here.


Both the Santurce and Miramar districts are located just off Condado and Old San Juan, but north of Hato Rey. Santurce was originally an upper-class neighborhood and entertainment. Today, there are office buildings and abandoned structures with a small but very good marketplace (Plaza del Mercado). A major campaign is under way by City Hall to restore the sector's vitality.

Río Piedras

This district is known as University City because it houses the University of Puerto Rico. Visiting Río Piedras is enlightening for those who want to explore the real Puerto Rico first-hand. The district has a traditional Plaza del Mercado and a very hometown atmosphere.

Old San Juan/Puerta de Tierra

Paseo de la Princesa

El Morro Fortress

El Bano Grande

El Yunque Rain Forest

El Yunque Rain Forest

El Yunque Rain Forest

Hato Rey

2 Tortola in the British Virgin Islands

Tortola, Capital City and Yacht Paradise

Tortola is the sailing capital of the Caribbean's most popular cruising destination.

An island of contrasts…from the hustle and bustle of the capital Road Town, to the peace and tranquility of Sage Mountain national park, to the beautiful un-crowded beaches… you'll find everything you are searching for in Tortola.

Famed the world over for its spectacular sailing, the BVI's yachting community congregate on Tortola and many a sailing adventure is masterminded in the island's numerous bars and watering holes.

Cane Bay and Smuggler's Cove

Tortola isn't just for yachters.  The bevy of beaches offered by this charming island has left many a seasoned Caribbean traveler speechless.
From Cane Garden Bay to Smugglers Cove and from Little Bay to Lambert Beach this island has some seriously breathtaking beaches.

You can while away many an hour on these white, palm fringed beauties - sipping cocktails or dipping your toes into the warm, clear, blue waters.
After a tough day at the beach Tortola won't disappoint the hungry, or thirsty visitor.

There are a huge array of watering holes and restaurants on this island - whether you are looking for cocktails on the beach with sand between your toes, or five star restaurants with gourmet food and wine.

Snorkeling and Scuba

Swim with dolphins at Prospect Reef, head to Brewers Bay for some excellent snorkeling, shop 'til you drop in Road Town for island trinkets, jewelry and crafts or find your inner 'dude' and learn to windsurf, kite surf or boogie board.

Tortola is fast becoming recognized as one of the Caribbean's top dive spots. It has numerous dive sites for undersea exploration and offers crystal clear waters, abundant sea life, stunning coral gardens, canyons, tunnels, caverns, grottos, and shipwrecks.

Tortola provides a unique and visually stunning setting for world-class diving. The outstanding underwater visibility, year-round warm temperatures, healthy coral and wide variety of exotic dive sites provides the ideal environment to enjoy this underwater sport.

For real thrill-seekers there are a number of fascinating shipwrecks lying scattered across the ocean floor around Tortola. If you're a novice, discover the sheltered wreck of Chikuzen off Tortola's East End, a 268-foot steel-hulled refrigerator ship. More advanced divers can explore the Rhone off Salt Island, a British mail ship sunk in a storm in 1867, generally recognized as the best dive site in the Caribbean.

Tortola is home to some of the most scenic and untouched beaches in the Caribbean. For surfers, boogie boarders or those that just love to play in the waves, the beaches on the North Shore have the most wave action. Despite the waves, the beaches on Tortola are incredibly safe, having long steadily sloping sand banks where you can walk right out and only find yourself waist deep!

Snorkeling is possible on most beaches although some have more active coral and sea life than others.

Hiking Opportunities: Beaches and Sage Mountain

If sailing the seas isn't your idea of fun, there are many opportunities for walking and hiking in the BVIs.

For starters, take a walk on the beach. Tortola beaches have been voted the "best beaches" by Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine.

Tortola has plenty of fun activities to offer the landlubber. Don your walking shoes and hike up Sage Mountain to witness the traces of primeval rainforest that can still be found.

Tortola offers the cool slopes of Sage Mountain National Park, where traces of the primeval rain forest can still be seen at higher elevations.

On its mountain ridge walkers can also observe local Caribbean life with its gentle laid-back rhythms, farms, settlements, and churches.

The Mount Healthy National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park boast rock outcrops and vertical ghuts, or dry valleys, that expose the deep, rich earth of this volcanic island.

O'Neal Botanical Gardens

If something of a bit more leisurely walk is what you had in mind then the J.R. O'Neal Botanic Gardens in Road Town offer peaceful walks through pergolas and pathways covered with colorful vines, as well as a miniature rain forest and fern house.

Shopping in Tortola is a bit of an adventure. There are no shopping malls here, and familiar, multinational brand names are few and far between.

What these islands do have are unique Caribbean crafts, surf and beach wear in abundance, jewelry, island gifts and souvenirs.

Be prepared though to go hunting around the many small shops and boutiques scattered across the island if you don't immediately find what you are looking for.

Road Town, Tortola, is the main venue for island shopping. There are a few jewelry stores around the cruise ship dock, offering a vast and impressive selection. Also near the cruise ship dock is a Mill Mall shopping centre.

Across from Waterfront Drive lies the old Main Street of Road Town. This is an incredibly narrow, winding street that is crammed with small tourist gift boutiques, restaurants, a coffee shop, bakery, book shop, island jewelry stores, interiors shops and much more.

It's well worth a wander down this road, which is quite literally a trip down memory lane, and reminds us all how shopping used to be. At the Western end of Main Street, you'll stumble on the rear entrance to Pussers Road Town Pub and Store - a good place to stop for a well-earned air conditioned break.

The Harbor of Tortola

Scuba and Snorkeling Paradise

Cliffs at Tortola

Smuggler's Cove

Cane Bay

3 Philipsburg, Sint Maarten (St. Martin)

Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

This tiny little island is only about 15 miles wide and 20 miles long, but still manages to have a split identity... it belongs to two countries - France and the Netherlands!  How weird is that?

Even weirder, on four different occasions, England owned the whole island.  Three languages are spoken here.

The Dutch control the southern half with about 60% of the area while France controls the north with the other 40%.  Unlike other shared islands of the world - Ireland, Timor, Cyprus - there is no violence or dispute. There has been a spirit of friendship for the past 350 years. 

The border is almost imperceptible and people cross back and forth without ever realizing they are entering a new country. All the same, each side has managed to retain much of the distinctiveness of its own national culture.  For example, you can be walking down a street and the signs change from French to Dutch... just kidding.  That only happens in Houston.

Oddly enough, there is one other Caribbean island that is also shared by two countries.  Can you name it?  Answer below. 

Philipsburg is the capital of the island of St. Maarten. Marigot is the capital of St. Martin, the French side.  The population of the two sides is virtually the same.  Surely they have fun with the annual soccer championship match.

The Dutch side appears to be more prosperous.  Philipsburg is where our ship will dock. It consists of four parallel streets squeezed between Great Bay, where the cruise ships dock, and Salt Pond, where salt was made many years ago. The vision of a previous generation of island leaders was to maintain the Creole houses on the shore, providing arriving boats with a look back into the island's past. For the most part, this has been done as the larger hotels sit at the edges of town or just around the rocky promontory that separates Great Bay from Little Bay.

The entire area has been improved greatly over the last few years. The harbor was dredged so that cruise ships could tie up at a new terminal. The sand from the dredging was used to replenish Great Bay beach and a boardwalk was built running the length of the beach. In addition, Front Street was beautified with paving stones, benches, new sidewalks, palm trees, and cast iron streetlights. Parking was eliminated, making the street a mile long shopping mall. New parking was added along Pondfill and at Bobby's Marina at the same time.

Philipsburg may be only four streets deep and one mile long, but it contains everything that anyone, and especially a tourist, needs. All St Maarten is duty-free, but Philipsburg has shop after shop each trying to outdo the others offering electronics, alcohol, jewelry, linens, perfume, and more.

Are you a gambler?  Do you feel lucky? Find out how your luck is running at any of a number of casinos.

Restaurants abound. Some of the oldest and finest on the island are here and the seafaring Dutch accepted waves of immigrants, obviously there is fine French and Creole cuisine but also Chinese and Indian. The boardwalk is lined with beach bars some with hot dogs, some with high class. Take your pick.

Connecting Back Street, Front Street, and the Boardwalk are a series of short side streets, typically jammed with small souvenir shops and a few hidden cafes and restaurants. Many of the shops sell a similar assortment of tropical shirts and bric-a-brac, but you also can find mom-and-pop shops selling smooth flavored rums and Indian crafts.

St. Martin is 144 miles southeast of Puerto Rico. At only 37 square miles, this is the smallest land mass in the world to be divided between two governments. In the early 1600's both the Dutch and the French established small settlements on the island. They fought together to prevent a Spanish invasion and decided to share the island.

According to local folklore, the island was divided by a walking contest between a Dutchman and a Frenchman. The Dutch control 16 square miles, and the remaining 21 are under French control. To this day, the Dutch still claim the Frenchman cheated by running.

Duty-free shopping, 12 European style casinos, and lively bars keep Philipsburg, the capital of Dutch St. Maarten, bustling with activity.

As this is an island of 2 different countries, French is the official language of St. Martin and Dutch is the official language of St. Maarten, but the main language used on both sides of the island is English. Currency in St. Maarten is the Netherlands Antilles florin (the guilder) and it is the Euro in St. Martin, but the US dollar is accepted on both sides. Stores will have prices listed in both local currency and US currency, with change given in like currency.

Everything from watches and jewelry to linens and swimwear can be purchased on this duty-free island. Electrical products and Italian leather goods are also "good buys". Some of the best prices in the Caribbean can be found in St. Maarten. In fact, I found on numerous visits that the liquor on St. Maarten is cheaper than in St. Thomas. Be aware, however, that the same generous customs allowance permitted for goods purchased in St. Thomas does not apply here. Speaking of liquor, guavaberry, an island liqueur made with rum and rare local berries, can be purchased at the Guavaberry Company and makes for a unique island purchase.

This is another of the island gems that lends itself so well to dividing your time between power shopping and lounging at a world-class beach. You will find a wonderful visitor information center right at the foot of the A.C. Wathey Pier where you can find tours and local visitor information.

On the Dutch side, Simpson Bay and Mullet Bay are the most popular beaches. Water sports equipment can be rented at Simpson Bay. For convenience, Great Bay and Little Bay are right downtown, but do not offer the most pristine conditions. Although there are numerous beaches on the French side, Orient Beach stands out as stellar. Alive with energy and activity, Orient Beach is the best location for para-sailing, beach bars, people-watching and just limin' ("hanging out" Caribbean style beaches", this definitely makes the top 10. Although Orient Beach is known as a clothing optional beach (as are many beaches in Europe), it is very possible to spend the day at Orient Beach without feeling the necessity to shed your bathing suit.

The south end of Orient Beach, near Club O, is reserved for naturists. If you venture to the other end of the beach, it is very doubtful that you will encounter any nudity. If water sports, such as windsurfing, kayaking, and jet-skiing, snorkeling or diving do not interest you, then you can always try your hand at a little black-jack at one of the European-style casinos. Horseback riding, golf and hiking are other alternatives. As for plain old-fashioned sight-seeing, a visit to the Butterfly Farm provides an opportunity to see rare and exotic butterflies amidst flowers, waterfalls and music.

Trivia Question Answer:  Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola with Cuba and Puerto Rico as its neighbors.  However, unlike St Martin/Maarten, the Dominican Republic and Haiti are no longer controlled by European interests.  They are countries, not territories.  Unfortunately, the two countries sharing the island don't get along well due to the extreme poverty of Haiti. Unlike St Maarten/Martin, Hispaniola remains a troubled island.

Island-Hopping with a sailboat

Great Bay

4 Basseterre, St. Kitts

St. Kitts is short for St. Christopher Island.  About two and a half miles southeast lies Nevis, the sister island.  Together, they form an island nation known as St. Kitts and Nevis.  There doesn't appear to be a bridge, but surely the ferry runs all day long.

St. Kitts is about twice as large.  Basseterre, which is located on St. Kitts, serves as the capital for both islands.  Although the official language is English, 90% of the population is of African descent.

Like many of the Caribbean islands, St. Kitts possesses natural beauty, sunny skies, warm waters, and white sandy beaches.  The entire population lives on the coast.  A dormant volcano in the middle of the island is so steep that no one can live there.  This mountain has an interesting name - Mt. Misery -

Christopher Columbus first spotted St. Kitts in 1493, when it was populated with native tribes, but the Europeans didn't colonize until the British arrived in 1623. Its strategic location and valuable sugar trade led to an advanced and luxurious development that was among the best in the Colonial Caribbean.

St. Kitts is unusual in its care for its natural resources.  This island that has set aside more than a quarter of its land as a National Park.  Its lovely rainforest is actually expanding in size rather than shrinking.

An island surrounded by new and untouched dive sites, marked by massive beds of coral, teeming with fish of every stripe and color.

Vast, green, wind-furrowed sugarcane fields, a huge dormant volcano, dense tropical forests, beautifully restored plantation homes converted to inns and an abundance of wild, green, vervet monkeys, brought to the island by French colonists, greet the visitor to St. Kitts. This 65 square mile island was established in 1623 as Britain's first colony in the West Indies.

In 1983, St. Kitts and its tiny sister island, Nevis (2 miles away) became independent nations. This easy-going island of unspoiled natural beauty is a blend of sunlight, sea and abundant vegetation. The picturesque capital, Basseterre, lies on the Caribbean shore near the southern end of the island. Balconied white colonial houses surround the central, octagonal Circus, designed in the style of Piccadilly Circus.

Here you will be surrounded by wildlife, from chattering gray-green monkeys and scurrying families of mongoose, to roaming cows, goats, and black-bellied sheep.

Here you can drive or hike through the Valley of Giants, zip line over the rainforest or climb up to sit yourself in the cradle of Sofa Rock, once the very cap of a still smoldering volcano that you can climb to the very edge of, then be guided down 1000 feet to its steaming crater floor.

Once called the Gibraltar of the West Indies for its domination of 18th century battles, St. Kitts so honors its past with careful restoration that the UN has designated Fort Brimstone a World Heritage Site, and it is a living museum of historical exploration.

Most of the shopping is located at the Pelican Shopping Mall on Bay Road, in Basseterre, or in the shops on Liverpool Row and Fort Street. Souvenirs and local handicrafts, such as, island baskets and leather (goatskin) goods are the best buys. Another popular item is batik (cloth dyed using wax) found at Caribelle Batik at the Romney Manor.

Take a short stroll around Basseterre. Wander around Independent Square and the Circus, before making plans to venture to other parts of the island. The top historical attraction is most definitely Brimstone Hall fortress and well worth the trip about 9 miles outside of town. Part of a national park, in addition to its historical significance, provides breathtaking views of the surrounding islands.

From there make sure to visit Romney Manor, home of Caribelle Batik. This unique shopping/viewing experience should be high on your list of priorities while in port. A day at the beach is always an option. Banana Bay and Cockleshell Bay, lie side by side, and provide a beautiful 2 mile stretch of white sand. Frigate Bay on the southeast peninsula, near Basseterre, is another good choice. Here you can enjoy horseback riding on the beach. Kayaking and hiking in the rain forest are other active diversions. Perhaps one of the best excursions is a 6 hour catamaran trip that visits Pinney's Beach in neighboring Nevis. This 4 mile stretch of golden sand is the location of the 4 Seasons Resort. Pinney's Beach on Nevis is one of the grandest in the Caribbean. A lagoon that evokes the South Pacific awaits near the beach's windward edge.

St. Kitts' beaches vary from black sand in the island's north, to gray or white sand in the south. Friar's Bay Beach, a favorite of many locals, is also good for families, thanks to its calm waters and food stands. With its reef-protected waters, ideal for both swimming and snorkeling.

Beyond the sandy beaches, natural attractions are abundant on both islands. On St. Kitts, adventurous types hike up Mount Liamuiga through the rain forest to the crater rim of a dormant volcano. Among the trees of the cloud forest are a variety of rare birds, as well as green vervet monkeys. Dive sites off the western coast of Nevis vary from thermal vents to the high shoals near Booby Island, where Southern stingrays and hawksbill turtles are found.

If you are a history buff, there are several historical sites to visit.

St. George's Angelican Church -- In the early stages of the French occupation of Basseterre, a Roman Catholic Church, named Notre Dame, was erected by the Jesuits. Notre Dame was burnt to the ground in 1706 during the Anglo-French War by English soldiers who were billeted there. The Church was re-built by 1710 and re-named St. George's. From the 1720's, it became a place of worship for the Anglicans. It was damaged again in the fire of 1763, but once again restored. The earthquake of 1842, followed by the hurricane of 1843, reduced it to ruins, and an entirely new building was planned. But the congregation continued to worship in the ruins until a new church was consecrated on the 25th March, 1859. Seven years afterwards, it was gutted in the Great Fire of 1867; and was re-roofed, and restored in 1869. In a series of hurricanes since 1989, the church was again damaged but restoration work has since been undertaken on the building.

Belmont Estate Yard -- This former French property was less than 100 acres when Peter Brotherson acquired it early in the eighteenth century. In 1726 the size increased when Brotherson petitioned for additional lands adjoining his property. Sugar was extracted by means of an animal mill for most of the eighteenth century. By 1828 the plantation extended to 286 acres, had a windmill, and was owned by George Galway Mills. The size of the plantation increased to over 300 acres by the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when steam technology was introduced. By then Stuart Davis owned the property. In 1923 one of Stuart's descendants, Basil Davis, became General Manager of the Central Factory in Basseterre. It was at this plantation during the time of its occupancy by the Davis Family that the incident that led to the 'Bull Story' occurred, an enactment that has become a standard for Folk Performing groups of the island. Today, an area manager occupies the estate house and the estate yard is used in the system of management of the sugar industry now operated by the Government owned Sugar Manufacturing Corporation. Plans for the development of a Sugar Museum at Belmont Estate are being discussed.

Romney Manor

Once owned by Sam Jefferson II, the great great great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of U.S.A.) the great house was renamed Romney Manor following its acquisition in the early 17th century by the Earl of Romney. Its grounds have a great history; there is strong evidence that they were originally the site on which Tegereman the Carib Indian Chief had his village.

In 1834 contrary to the instructions of the British Parliament, Lord Romney declared his slaves free men. Romney Estate therefore became the first estate in St.Kitts to emancipate their slaves. Set in approximately 10 acres of grounds, Romney was established in the 17th century and since then has only known 6 family owners. These owners have witnessed the crushing of cane by animal power, wind power and water power. Finally however, in the 1920's all cane processing was centralised in Basseterre.

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

To get a breathtaking view of the best panorama in the Caribbean, visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress on St. Kitts, which commands a view of six islands: Nevis, Montserrat, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin and St. Barts. The St. Kitts Scenic Railway follows old sugar cane tracks on a tour of the island's most spectacular scenery. Journey through a rain forest and local villages on a hike or mountain bike ride on Nevis' 9-mile Upper Round Road.

Brimstone Hill Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of historical, cultural and architectural significance. Over the course of 100 years, it became an almost natural outgrowth of the 800-foot hill from which it emerged; a monument to the ingenuity of the British military engineers who designed it and to the skill, strength and endurance of the African slaves who built and maintained it. The steep slopes of Brimstone Hill had to be tamed by the disciplines of engineering and architecture, and at the risk and probable loss of human lives. The walls of the structures are predominantly of stone, laboriously and skillfully fashioned from the hard volcanic rock of which the hill is composed. The mortar to cement the stones was produced on site from the limestone that covers much of the middle and lower slopes. Begun in the 1690s, the Fortress finally took shape as a complete military community in the 1790s, and as such is it is a veritable time capsule of international significance. What's more, the prominent Citadel is one of the earliest and finest surviving examples of a new style of fortification known as the polygonal system.

Take a Railroad Trip

St. Kitts has one of the few remaining operational rail tracks in the Caribbean. Begun in 1910 as part of the 20th Century modernization thrust in the sugar industry, this narrow gauge railway remains in use today. It runs around the major part of the island, visiting several loading sites called 'sidings' at which the harvested sugar cane was placed into carts. There are 24 bridges that cross the ravines emanating from the island's central mountain range. The antique locomotives, hauling up to 40 cane carts, transported the cane to the central sugar factory located on the outskirts of the main town of Basseterre.

The first tract of the railway was laid between the port and the site for the factory, so that material for the construction and equipping of the factory was carried by rail. A collection of photographs taken during the construction of the railway is kept at the Basseterre Public Library.

Today the track is home to the St. Kitts Scenic Railway Tour; this is obviously a fun way to see the island.

From St. Kitts, you can see its sister island Nevis

Romney Gardens

View from Romney Gardens

Brimstone Hill Fortress

5 Roseau, Dominica

Dominica is the closest thing to a deserted island that a cruise ship will ever find.  Yes, there are people there, but not many.  As an example, Saint Martin, another island we will visit, is 33 square miles with a population of 80,000.  Dominica is 290 square miles with a population of 70,000.  Barbados, our next stop, is 166 square miles with an estimated population of 284,589 people.  You get the point.

Dominica small island nation that is known for its pristine beauty and unspoiled nature. Roseau is the main city on Dominica and serves as its capital. The beaches are just as pretty as the other islands, but the real treasure in Dominica is its hiking trails, rivers and unique culture.

Dominica is different from the other surrounding Caribbean islands due to its extremely mountainous geography.  This geography has played a major factor in the island's development.

Nine of the Caribbean’s sixteen active volcanoes are located on the island of Dominica.

Dominica’s nine active volcanoes are: Morne au Diable, Morne Trois Pitons, Morne Diablotins, Morne Watts, Morne Anglais, Wotten Waven Caldera, Valley of Desolation, Grande Soufriere Hills and Morne Plat Pays. 

Scientists are fairly certain that one of them will blow its top in the next hundred years.  However, now that SSQQ is coming to visit, the consensus is the next eruption will be sometime around Spring Break in 2012.

Thanks to all its mountains, Dominica was considered the toughest island to grow crops.  Consequently this island was ignored.  On the other hand, Barbados with its incredibly flat terrain was a real favorite for sugarcane.  That explains in a nutshell why Barbados which is half the size of Dominica has four times the population.

Dominica is home to most of the remaining Carib Indians.  The Caribs were the natives of the Caribbean before Columbus and Spain brought disease and murder to the islands. 

There is a reason for the high concentration of Carib Indians.  As the Caribs kept getting booted off the other islands like Barbados, they fled to nearby Dominica.  Dominica was pretty much their last refuge.

Nothing has changed since those days.  Dominica is still a tough place to grow crops.  Since many inhabitants of the islands grow their own food, this fact has kept the population in Dominica small. 

This also explains why Dominica looks almost the same today as it did in the days of Columbus three hundred years ago.  The interior of Dominica remains in virtually a pristine state.  This means every tourist is able to see stunning landscapes of incredible beauty. 

Dominica is often called the "Kauai of the Caribbean" due to its many breathtaking waterfalls.  Kauai, of course, is the rugged Hawaiian island where Spielberg filmed Jurassic Park.  Spielberg had to helicopter in an entire crew to film a scene at Manawaiopuna Falls, a location so inaccessible you can't drive there.  When it comes to waterfalls, Dominica with its 365 rivers has many spectacular waterfalls of its own.


The cruise ship will dock right in downtown Roseau at the Roseau Cruise Ship Terminal within easy walking distance of downtown Roseau.

Right off the ship you can explore the shopping areas of Roseau starting just within the cruise terminal. Be sure to explore the Old Market Plaza (once a slave trading market located next to the Roseau Museum) and the boutiques found in and around it. There are many local items to purchase that are wonderful reminders of Dominica. Local rum, wood carvings, soaps, Caribbean music, leather goods, baskets and other weaved items, lace items, silk screened materials and batiks, as well as the more traditional tee shirts and other souvenirs and collectibles.

Some of the boutiques offer art by local artists that is excellent. Be sure to keep an eye out for some exquisite pieces while exploring the shops. Several days a week the Old Market Plaza turns into a farmer's market with plenty of fruits, vegetables and flowers to please anyone and this is a great place to pick up a flower arrangement for your cabin.

Exploring Roseau is always a fun way to spend some time, however it is difficult to get into Dominica's more remote surroundings in a short visit without taking a tour.

Marla's Note:
This is a port where I would suggest joining my tour if you want to explore the mountains, waterfalls and nature of Dominica. Click Dominica for information.

Hiking and mountain climbing are good reasons to visit Dominica; its flora is made unbelievably lush by frequent rainfall. Covered by a dense tropical rainforest that blankets its mountain slopes, including cloud-wreathed Morne Diablotin at 4,671 ft., it has vegetation unique in the West Indies. The mountainous island is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide, with a total land area of 293 sq. miles, much of which has never been seen by explorers. You'll find clear rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, and boiling lakes.

The most famous of hikes on Dominica is an advanced hike to the "Boiling Lake", a deep blue lake with volcanic gases escaping from it. If you elect to do this hike, buy it from the ship to make sure that you get back in plenty of time. It is a three hour hike in and the another three hours back out and if you are here for the day, there is a good chance you could miss the ship if you are on your own.

Morne Trois Pitons National Park

It's like going back in time when you explore Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a primordial rainforest. Mists rise gently over lush, dark-green growth, drifting up to blue-green peaks that have earned Dominica the nickname "Switzerland of the Caribbean." Framed by banks of giant ferns, rivers rush and tumble, trees sprout orchids, green sunlight filters down through trees, and roaring waterfalls create a blue mist. One of the best starting points for a visit to the park is the village of Laudat, 6 3/4 miles from Roseau.

The best tour is the Rain Forest Aerial Tram, at the corner of Old Street and Great George Street in Laudat. For $65 per person, you're taken on a 90-minute tour that starts at the village of Laudat, "sailing" over the rainforest through the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Along the way, you're treated to exotic bird life, beautiful waterfalls, and much tropical flora.

Five miles up from the Roseau River Valley, in the south-central sector of Dominica, Trafalgar Falls is reached after driving through the village of Trafalgar. Shortly beyond the hamlet of Trafalgar and up a short hill, there's a little kiosk where you can hire a guide to take you on the short walk to the actual falls. In all, allow about 1 1/2 hours for the trip from Trafalgar to the falls. This is the only road or pathway into the falls, and you'll have to approach on foot, as the slopes are too steep for vehicles. After a 20-minute walk past ginger plants and vanilla orchids, you arrive at the base, where a trio of falls converges in a rock-strewn pool.

For another great way to spend half a day, head for the Papillote Wilderness Retreat. The botanical garden alone is worth the trip, as are the views of mountains and lush valleys. Near the main dining terrace is a Jacuzzi-size pool, which is filled with the mineral-rich waters of a nearby hot spring. Nonguests can use the pool for $4.50. Bring sturdy walking shoes in addition to a bathing suit.

You will want to see the Carib Indian Territory, in the northeast. In 1903, Britain got the surviving Caribs to agree to live on 3,656 acres of land. Today this reservation is the last remaining turf of the once-hostile tribe for whom the Caribbean was named. Today they survive by fishing, growing food, and weaving baskets and vetiver-grass mats, which they sell to the outside world. The baskets sold at roadside stands make especially good buys

Or you can take a taxi to Champagne Beach for some sunshine and snorkeling. Be aware the beach has small pebbles for sand, but the water is excellent and the snorkeling fantastic.
A visit to the botanical gardens is also very interesting and well worth the effort to get there and explore it. Head up Queen Mary Street (below Mome Bruce Hill) to gain entrance to the park.
No visit to Roseau would be complete without visiting the Fort Young Hotel. Constructed on the 1720 site of an old French Fort that was captured by the British in 1761 when the original Fort Young started construction, this hotel is Dominica's most notable structure.


Botanical Gardens

Wherever you go, you will see waterfalls. 

Dominica is home to the most beautiful rainforest in the Caribbean

Suspension Bridge over Breakfast River Gorge

Trafalgar Falls


Marla's Note: I am planning a group shore
excursion into the rainforest which will include Trafalgar Waterfall and Emerald Pool with a stop by the Botanical Gardens.  For more information,
click Dominica

6 Bridgetown, Barbados

Barbados is the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles. It is flat in comparison to its island neighbors to the west.  As a result, this island quickly became one of the world's largest sugarcane producer starting in 1640.  This brought startling wealth to this tiny island.  Around the time of the American Revolution, Barbados was one of the three busiest ports in North America.

Even today, thanks in large part to oil production, along with the Caymans, Barbados enjoys one of the highest standards of living of all the Caribbean islands.

Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean with enough to interest the visitor for a few hours. Its architecture blends attractive, balconied colonial buildings with warehouses and brash modern office blocks. The centre of activity is the Careenage, a marina bordered by the Barbadian parliament (home to two small but fascinating local history museums). A number of the island's major religious buildings are located within five minutes' walk of parliament, including St Michael's Cathedral and a synagogue, both standing on the same sites since the mid-seventeenth century.

Just north of the city, a couple of rum factories are open for tours, while Tyrol Cot is an unusual nineteenth-century house that was home to two of the island's leading post war politicians, Sir Grantley Adams and his son Tom Adams. Southeast lies the historic Garrison area where the British Empire maintained its Caribbean military headquarters from 1780 to 1905 - its huge grassy savanna, today a racecourse and public park, was once the army's parade ground. The ranks of brightly colored military buildings around its edge include the excellent Barbados Museum.

A little history of Bridgetown Barbados…The city was originally founded by British settlers in 1628.

Upon arriving at a protected river inlet known as the Careenage, the settlers found a small bridge across this river which they called the Indian Bridge. It is believed that this bridge was built by The Arawaks, indigenous people to the Caribbean. The bridge was then rebuilt by the British later in 1654 and the Careenage became a major hub for trading vessels.

The area eventually became known as Bridgetown and was the centre for the first government of the Windward Islands of the Caribbean.

The bridge has since been replaced by a more modern lift bridge and renamed The Chamberlain Bridge. Bridgetown is now the island's major commercial and governmental centre.

The Careenage is no longer used for trading vessels as the Bridgetown Shipping Port was later constructed. It is however now home to many yachts and catamarans. Bridgetown is often referred to as 'Town' by the locals and is our only major city.

The population of Bridgetown is about 97,000 with an area of 13.5 sq. miles. This is more than 1/3 of the entire island's population! It is therefore a very small, dense and busy city.
The best way to explore this town is by foot and should only take a few hours.

The main street of the town is Broad Street and is the perfect place to start your tour. This is considered the main area to go shopping in Bridgetown Barbados and it should take you a few hours to explore the numerous duty free shops and craft stores along this street.

At the west end of Broad Street you will find St.Mary's Anglican Church, the 2nd oldest church on the island, which was built in 1825.

As you travel east along this street you will come across a great store to visit on Broad Street called Cave Shepherd. This is the island's leading duty free shopping centre. You can pretty much find anything here from souvenirs and beach wear to high end jewelry and cosmetics.

Once you have reached the east end of Broad Street you will be in the heart of the capital and should take a moment to take a few pictures of the Barbados Parliament Building. There is a beautiful clock tower attached to it.

Just to your right there are also some other tourist attractions in Bridgetown you should consider taking a look at. These include National Heroes Square, a tiny square built as a tribute to the island's many heroes, as well as The War Memorial and Fountain Gardens.

The Chamberlain Bridge will be just behind you along Wharf Street.

Here you will find docked the many yachts and catamarans aboard which the Barbados sea turtle tours begin.

A stroll west along the beautiful boardwalk at this river inlet will lead you to the Carlisle Wharf and Barbados Heliport. The
Barbados helicopter tours begin at this heliport.

During your stroll you will notice the HMBS Wiloughby Fort, the old home of the Barbados Coast Guard Division of the Barbados Defence Force.

A trip further west from here along Princess Alice Highway will lead you past the Bridgetown Fishing Harbour and bring you to the infamous Pelican Village.

This is a shopping village which offers visitors the widest selection of Barbados handcrafts and art work. Here you can take a rest, grab some local food at the Cou-Cou village restaurant and wind down your foot tour of the city.

If you are a beach lover, Barbados beaches are some of the most amazing white, sandy beaches in the Caribbean. (Hmm... have we heard this before?)

The most well-known and best beaches in Barbados are situated along the South and West coast of the island facing the calm Caribbean Sea.

The North and East coasts, facing the rougher Atlantic Ocean, are more dangerous and swimming at these beaches is highly discouraged. The east coast is very popular with surfers.

Accra beach (also known as Rockley Beach) is by far the nicest and most popular beach on the south coast of the island and is a favorite amongst locals and visitors alike. Its popularity is due to its stunning white sand and gentle yet playful waves
If you are looking for a beach with a peaceful atmosphere away from the busier towns and luxury hotels then Miami Beach is the beach for you.

Sandy Lane Beach is the most famous beach on the island. Located along the calm west coast this magnificent crescent-shaped bay is home to the luxurious Sandy Lane Hotel. So don't be surprised if you spot some celebrities while taking a stroll.

Barbados is home to many luxury hotels such as the Hilton seen pictured.  With this being the last our islands to visit, maybe this is the day to visit a luxury hotel.  Amidst the beauty of pool vistas and lush foliage, you can lie back with a Daiquiri and give thanks for such a great trip in such a beautiful part of the world.


About Royal Caribbean's
Serenade of the Seas

This ship is a member of the Radiance-class. It is a mid-sized ship, 90,000 tons with a 2100 passenger capacity. It's most interesting distinction is the nearly three acres of exterior glass employed in its design - including glass elevators with ocean views - that incorporate the outdoors quite beautifully onboard.

The effect is simply dazzling - and there are remarkable views from nearly every public room. The decorating scheme itself emphasizes elegance, grace, and beauty, and creates quite a harmonious environment. The ship is overflowing with glass and natural light, and the center of it all is a ten-story all-glass atrium, that features live music and dancing every evening.

In addition to the beauty, the ship has a Rock Climbing Wall, Both Basketball and Volleyball Courts, Golf Simulator, Day Spa and Fitness Center, Indoor Solarium along with two Specialty Restaurants.

We sailed on the Serenade on our May 2011 Virgin Islands Cruise. This is a very beautiful ship; if you have any doubts, check out our pictures from last year's trip!

Group Hotel Accommodations in San Juan

Marla's Note: In addition to the cruise, I will be offering both pre and post group hotel packages in San Juan, Puerto Rico. More info to follow shortly on our website.


If you are interested in joining the adventure, please complete the registration form ASAP. The $100 first deposit will hold your space until the end of October when the full deposit of $250 will be due. Final payment is due by December 20, 2011.  Merry Christmas!

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