Last Updated: 19-MAR-2016

Cruise 2012 - The ride down and the first few days on the ship

We decided to rent a car to make this drive and selected a Dodge Caravan as it had lots of room for four people and luggage. As usual I used Alamo as I generally get the best deals. The caravan was a 2011 and the final cost was around $600 for two weeks unlimited mileage. In the end we put 2400 miles on the car. And had no issues. Since four of us were going this was the best option. This worked out so well that I may do this from now on in our trips to Florida.

We left at 4:30 am. NC by 8:43

SC at 11:07

GA at 14:08

Florida at 15:34. This was a new record for me as the weather was good and no traffic issues at all.

We drove 1,060 miles and stayed at Comfort Inn & Suites on West Indiantown Road in Jupiter, FL. With me doing all the driving that was about my limit for the day. The Inn was ok but it was on the edge of a bad neighborhood. We had no issues.

The next day we only had 67 miles to go. We killed some time by driving down Ocean Blvd. from West Palm Beach to Ft. Lauderdale to check out the beaches and the nice homes.

DAY 1 -- MON DEC 10

Various views of Port Everglades, Florida

We parked at the garage near the ship. Paid $165 for the 11 days.

Departing right on time

DAY 2 -- TUE DEC 11

The new Cabin - COOL - PRIVATE - and up where we belong !

Taken from the first page - Our room was on the lower Promenade deck room 381. Ken was immediately NOT impressed. Vacations-to-go upgraded us and I really wished that they did not. First, with people sitting right outside the room on the outdoor walkway you could not have the shades open in the evening / night. Yes, during the day people could not look in to the room but again at night it was not the case. Also, you could really not see out of the room. Mary and I enjoyed looking out in the mornings to see where we were.. And you could hear the people walking by, banging chairs and such. And being that the area outside our room was a smoking zone we could smell the smoke from time to time. This was going to be a LONG 12 days.

The first night was one of the worst we have had cruising. The KITCHEN was right above us and all night long you could hear various noises and banging of various things.. To add to the adventure the room was way too hot.. We asked for a fan and they gave us one. More on that later. Most of the cruises we go on are hot because of the demographic of the ship. The 80+ crowd likes it warm and we plan for that. But this was warm and humid with no air. So day two we started complaining (we were not alone as this entire section of the ship was hot) and asked to be moved. At first they said they had no rooms but then they told us that they had a balcony (only one) and that for $800 we could upgrade. The room was 165 and we took it immediately. They knocked $50 off and we moved up to a cooler room with a view. Monika & Dave also moved down one level to a much quieter & cooler room.

We kept the fan too, as when we got where it was warmer, this room became warm too.

First sunset at sea - as usual a generally empty ship

Possible - Zodiacal light - being that we were hundreds of miles from any city it was possible. Caused by sunlight scattered by space dust in the zodiacal cloud, it is so faint that either moonlight or light pollution renders it invisible.

DAY 3 -- WED DEC 12

Another day at sea. Only photos were at sunset.

Day 04, DEC 13, Philipsburg - St. Maarten

This was the first stop and Mary had picked a private shore excursion via speedboat from Philipsburg. Our ship arrived an hour late so we hurried off the ship and walked to the bar where the boat is docked. They were waiting for us. They had two speedboats. We were on a boat with a large family of Asian descent from Toronto. The weather was bright and sunny so we headed out.

We went through the Simpson Bay lagoon drawbridge and through the French side. Lots of nice boats and mega-yachts. We saw lots of sailboats moored in the French side because it is much cheaper to moor there versus the Dutch side of the lagoon. We then started going faster on the open sea past Marigot and Grand Case and into the Anguilla Channel. The waves started getting higher and rougher. Revving the motors was fun and we went 40-50 mph. The kids were screeching with delight and we were having a good time. Unfortunately we had to turn back because we couldn't make it around the point because the waves were too strong. So no snorkeling at Tintamere, no stop at Pinel island or Orient beach. Oh well we can't control the weather. We headed back to a small beach on the French side and ended up at Grand Case to eat lunch.

The lunch stop was a local bar which served red snapper and plantains. Delicious and as fresh as you can get! Later we heard that they had cancelled the previous 2 days trips due to rain. Therefore We were lucky we got to go out at all! So the waves were still affected by the storms.

We did snorkel at a calm site where we saw lots of fish but no coral. This island is not known for its coral. They fed some of the fish and the water clarity was pretty good, despite the wave activity stirring up the bottom the previous few days.

Heading out on the boat tour

Cruising thru Simpson Bay Lagoon - we passed under Simpson Bay drawbridge. Checked out the large ships docked at Isle del sol Marina

We then went under the Sandy Ground Bridge to continue along the coast.

We snorkeled off of the La Samanna Resort. Was ok. The tour operators dropped lots of bread in the water to attract the fish

Stopped off of the famous Maho Beach to wait for an approaching plane - nothing but we have been here on past cruises and saw lots of action !

Impressive ship with a helicopter

Sunset being blocked by Allure of the Seas - Everytime we see this hidious ship we pray it flips over and sinks so we can video it !

Because we were here till 11pm we took a walk out into the secure port area for some night shots.

Tonights towel critter

Day 05, DEC 14, Basseterre, St. Kitts

At St. Kitts we decided to go to a beach since we had seen the island through an island taxi tour previously and we had taken the scenic rail trip. We heard from fellow passengers that it broke down during their trip and they had to walk to a road and take a bus back unhappy customers!

Our beach however was lovely and uncrowded. We took a taxi for the short 3 mile trip $3 pp one way to Frigate Bay Beach. There was a guy associated with a bar that came down to rent us a beach chair and umbrella for $10 per couple. We thought that was quite reasonable and starting sunbathing and snorkeling. Mary went off to the left along the rocky shoreline and saw a sea turtle! The water was calm and lots of fish a beautiful day. Saw some corals which bright and healthy and others appeared to be bleached. Mary read that coral in St. Kitts were suffering from high sea temperatures, but since she saw a lone sea turtle not there due to people feeding it, she felt the ecosystem was somewhat healthy. Beyond the rock which had a cactus growing on it, you could see Nevis. The weather is the best we have seen in our 4 trips to this island, since you could see the top of Mt. Liamuiga.

Easy to get the taxi (van) back to the ship ($3 pp). This was for 4 people and we heard that taxi drivers were demanding more for a less full cab. Ken was happy since he drank some beer from St. Kitts, Carib, at the beach bar.

Frigate Bay Beach

Interesting microclimates - Dry on the right and wet on the left

Nevis Island / Peak a potentially active volcano (el. 3,232 ft) located appx. 8 miles away

The ride back to Basseterre. Back to the ship to take showers, eat lunch then out to the duty free port area. This is tacky but Ken likes it since you can get reasonable cold beer if you look at the side streets, not the bar in the middle. We had bought liquor here in the past but it looks like the port at St. Martin same stores and clothing, liquor Ship prices were better in most cases.

Left side driving

Various views from the ship. Looking north at Mt. Misery (el. 3,792 ft.) Its a active stratovolcano. The last verified eruptions from the volcano were about 1,800 years ago, while reports of possible eruptions in 1692 and 1843 are considered uncertain. This visit was the clearest we have had here in 4 previous visits

Nevis Island

Walk around town where you can get a drunken monkey !

Frigatebird - sign that you are in the tropics. We do see these in south Florida in April.

Olivees Mountain from town

Parked next to Carnival Victory which came out of San Juan. It was a 7-day cruise and I was amazed at how many Puerto Ricans were on it.

Looking down at Frigate Bay Beach where we spent the day

Mt. Views of St. Kits on a excellent day

Looking at the north end of St. Kitts (Brimstone Hill Fort & National Park) and beyond to Sint Eustatius (Caribbean Netherlands) appx. 25 miles away.

Even Better.... St. Kitts, Sint Eustatius and in the distant center Saba over 50 miles away.

More St. Kitts views during sunset


Its packed ! St. Kitts in the background

Guessing as I forget to write down where this was, but I think it is Montserrat (British Overseas Territory) with the glow of Antigua to the left and Guadeloupe to the right. Impressive orion constellation overhead.

The 7pm 80 degree ship crowds... For most people this is probably in the top ten most perfect weather evening of their lives... Yes, where are they ?? Inside... Which is good for us !

Long halls

Tonight's towel critter

Went out after dinner. Guessing this is Guadeloupe because of the light on the coast, then more light over the mountains.

Day 06, DEC 15, Kingstown, St. Vincent

Next stop was St. Vincent. I had dreamed of going to the Grenadines which is the sailing capitol of the Caribbean. This island is the least touristy of the Grenadines and they are now building an international airport. We took a shore excursion with the ship because we were unsure about hiring a taxi and Ken thought it was a rough port. So we took the botanical gardens Bus tour. It was very well done and the guides truly loved their island. They even sang to us native songs.

Kingstown was dilapidated but the people greeted you as you walked to the market. The market was full of local fruits and spices. Monika and I bought locally made necklaces in the entry to Kingstown. They were made from bamboo, calabash (bottle gourd) and mahogany native to the island.

Because I have google Sky on my phone I was able to predict and identify various Celestial objects. We knew that at this latitude (14 North) we would be able to see the southern cross around 4-5 am each morning. We tried to see it in April from Marco island, FL (25 north), but because it was on the horizon the humidity level can affect the view.

So we got up at 4 and the view was impressive. Also, at this time the ship has all of the lights turned off on the upper deck 13

Its the crooked cross in the center of the photo over the front of the ship - Photos blurry as ship was moving

Orion off to the west now

Arriving in Kingstown. Looking south at Bequia Island (pronounced beck-way) which is the second largest island in the Grenadines. It is part of the nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and is approximately 15 km from the nation's capital, Kingstown.

I worked at Shop -n- Save growing up in Pennsylvania and I always wondered where it went. Looks about the same

The drive up to the gardens.

This is the Botanical gardens in Kingstown, one of the oldest in the western hemsphere. It is on 20 acres and is nicely kept. They also have a captive breeding program for the endangered St. Vincent parrot. There are only approx. 500 of these parrots in the world.

Various garden views

Forgot but it smelled good !

A cinnamon tree. The inner bark is used for the spice. - Mary gets ito tree sniffing !

Various garden views - we could have spent hours here !

Nutmeg tree - The red part is where they get the spice mace.

Poinsettias a few weeks before Christmas

Various garden views

Cannon Ball Tree -

Couroupita guianensis, whose common names include Ayahuma and the Cannonball Tree, is an evergreen tree allied to the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa), and is native to tropical northern South America and to the southern Caribbean. In India it has been growing for the past two or three thousand years at least, as attested by textual records hence it is possible that it is native to India also. It's rare, but also found in Bangladesh. It's part of the family Lecythidaceae and grows up to 25 m (82 ft) in height. The "Cannonball Tree" is so called because of its brown cannon-ball-like fruits. The majority of these trees outside their natural environment have been planted as a botanical curiosity, as they grow very large, distinctive flowers. Its flowers are orange, scarlet and pink in color, and form large bunches measuring up to 3m in length. They produce large spherical and woody fruits ranging from 15 to 24 cm in diameter, containing up to 200 or 300 seeds a piece.

The Cannonball Tree possesses antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities. The trees are used to cure colds and stomach aches. Juice made from the leaves is used to cure skin diseases, and shamans of South America have even used tree parts for treating malaria. The inside of the fruit can disinfect wounds and young leaves ease toothache [citation needed]. The fruit emits an unpleasant odor and can be used as an insect repelent just by rubbing it to the skin or clothes.

Looked like a giant poison ivy tree to me.

The Saint Vincent Amazon (Amazona guildingii) also known as Saint Vincent Parrot, is a large, approximately 40 cm long, multi-colored amazon parrot with a yellowish white, blue and green head, greenish-bronze upperparts plumage, and violet blue-green wings.

The Saint Vincent Amazon is endemic to the heavily forested mountains of the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent in the Lesser Antilles. Its diet consists mainly of fruits, nuts, flowers and seeds. The female usually lays one to two eggs.

The Nicholas Wildlife Aviary Complex, located within the Botanic Gardens St. Vincent maintains a vital captive breeding and conservation program to conserve the St Vincent Parrot.

The St. Vincent Parrot is considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Various garden views

Large colored caterpillars

Views along the road from Kingston to Montreal gardens.

The current E. T. Joshua Airport and Looking south at Bequia Island.

We stopped along the Mespo Highway on our way to the gardens. This was a highpoint near 13.1650N 61.1796W where we could see south out over Bequia Island and the Grenadines. I was very impressed with this island outside of the city. It has good infrastructure, nice looking property and a nice small ranch can be bought for $150,000 or less.

This was an interesting stop as they had a toilet that you had to pay $1 us to use... And they sold beer... Which was nice !

Real safe on these mountain roads - Various views - Buses on the steep roads - Nice place to dry your laundry on a orange roof !

They were driving buses on roads like this. I like !

Montreal gardens They are high in the Mesopotamia area of the island and are covered with lush, flowering vegetation. Strolling through the walkways, walking along the brook, and then seeing the open view of the valley below is just breathtaking!

This was a hard place to find... Its located at 13.208N 61.187W

Holland America is an old people cruise line - here we had to walk a mile or two up / down hills and the old people were complaining !


We drove thru Roseau, a nice clean suburb to Kingstown, to get a view above our ship.

Was amazed at the water clarity at the cruise dock

Went back out to roam around. Free internet at the pier. The town was not that good. Was actually getting a buzz from weed when Mary was shopping. Had to keep moving around to keep out of the wind. Would NOT want to be down here at night !

China everywhere.. We see it on all the islands ! Wake up America. This is going on in your backyard and you are doing nothing !

More town views

The Eastern Caribbean Surpreme Court

Made in Japan - I think

Interesting electrical system. Looks safe to me... Nope !

Looking at the town from the ship

Sunset time

Night time town and ship views

Pleiades - It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky.

Back to our fan... On other cruises they would take our fan (to be returned at the end of the cruise) because it may not be safe. But, as you can see the one they gave us is not what I would consider safe... Oh well. It works !

The towel critter

  • On to Bridgetown, Barbados

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