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St. Vincent & Bequia

Dec 14, 2018 – Kingstown, St. Vincent & Admiralty Bay, Bequia, the Grenadines

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

The 5,000-passenger MSC Preziosa docks before we anchor, so their passengers are crowding the dock area and the downtown. Some of us walk the few blocks to the town, where there are festivals and busy open air markets. I soon return to the ship to escape the heat and chaos.

An excursion is late returning passengers to the ship, so we depart Kingstown at 2:00PM instead of 12:30PM. I’m concerned, since I have an excursion scheduled for a 2:15PM departure from Bequia, the next island. The Cruise Director assures us the excursion will run, since it is a short trip to Bequia.

I try some roast suckling pig for lunch. The crackly skin is pretty tough and the meat is dry, so I use some gravy to make it edible. There is a 30 knot wind in the harbour by lunch time, and the crossing to Bequia is exceedingly rough, with the ship rolling wildly – passengers are struggling to not crash into things and each other. Welcome to the Windward Islands!

Our Magical Coast of Bequia excursion this afternoon is delayed but still leaves from Port Elizabeth as promised. It isn’t pleasant because of the high winds and being on a speed boat means we are pitching and banging wildly. The crew are constantly asking us to move to a drier part of the boat as they struggle to put up tarps to keep us from getting completely soaked. Nobody can hear the narration describing the sights we are passing because of the roar of the engines and the strong wind.

Moon Hole is one location where the waves and wind subside, so we can actually take some photos and hear the fascinating story behind the place. Nearby is an old whaling station at Sempler’s Cay. Apparently residents of Bequia still have the right to take a whale or two each year, but it hasn’t happened for awhile.

We also go around West Cay to see the airport (unimpressive) before retracing our route. The last stop before we return to the ship is to swim and snorkel at Princess Margaret Beach. Due to the late start, it is almost sunset by the time we arrive, so it is pointless for me (and others) to go in the water, since we won’t see anything and we only have 20 minutes. Some go in for a swim anyway, while the rest of us stay aboard and enjoy the rum punch.

Map showing the points-of-interest for our speedboat tour of Bequia
Map showing the points-of-interest for our speedboat tour of Bequia

The ship’s servers and kitchen staff all parade through the dining room at dinner this evening, and sing “We Are The World” waving flags as the rest of us wave our napkins. Tomorrow the cruise is over – we dock in Bridgetown, Barbados. After returning to my cabin, I pack everything in my big travel bag, and put it out for the porters to take ashore tomorrow morning. I’m feeling a bit nauseous due to the extreme pitching of the ship as she takes the strong winds on the nose. Once I finish packing and go to bed I am fine, and sleep well.

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Antigua

December 10, 2018 – Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I am up early this morning to take the tender at 9:15AM for my Segway tour. We are met at the dock by a driver who takes us across the island to the largest city of St. Johns, where we hook up with the Segway tour company. They spend quite a bit of time instructing our small group on how to operate the machines safely, since we are all newbies.

Then we are off, following our tour guide as she talks to us with radio earphones, keeping us on track, safe, and describing the sights. Our first stop is at the Minister of Tourism’s estate on top of a ridge, where we can take photos while overlooking the beautiful harbours, coastline, and an abandoned sugar mill.

We next stop at beautiful Runaway Beach (see banner image above) for a refreshment break. Before the new airport was built, small passenger aircraft would land on the hard sand on this beach. Fort James is our next stop – an abandoned fort with lots of cannons still on the rock walls overlooking the harbour. We scoot along Fort James Beach, and then back to the starting point.

Map of Segway exploration route near St. James
Segway exploration route near St. Johns

Our driver takes us back across the island to Falmouth Harbour, where our ship’s staff are staging a barbeque lunch on the local beach. I stop to have some lunch, but take the next tender back to the ship and then relax with a beer while on deck overlooking the beautiful harbour. A steel band comes aboard in the early evening to play Caribbean beats before the ship sails out of the harbour.

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St. Barts

Dec 9, 2018 – Gustavia, Saint-Barthélemy

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I get up late and spend my morning spotting Caribbean islands and sea birds (Frigates and Boobys) as the Royal Clipper slowly approaches St. Barts. First is Sint Maartin/St. Martin, then striking Mount Scenery on the island of Saba, and finally the northern islands of St. Barts itself. We anchor near Grande Vigie in Gustavia harbour by 11AM. The 3-masted clipper Stad Amsterdam is anchored in the outer harbour near us. There are the usual complement of super-yachts docked at the marinas in the harbour (see banner image above).

My afternoon excursion today is aboard a charter sailboat, and includes sailing to the leeward side of the island, with a stop at a beach and cove for swimming not too far from Gustavia. I go for a swim in the lovely warm water, and walk the beautiful uncrowded beach. There are snacks and beer served after our swim, as we sail around the windy point back into Gustavia harbour. All-in-all, a sublime and relaxing day!

Sailing excursion route to swimming beach

Saint-Barthélemy is a department of France, and like all of the other French Caribbean islands, it is an expensive place to visit or to live on. That said, all these French islands are also noticeably better off than the other Caribbean islands colonized by other European nations.

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Day at sea – to St. Barts

Dec 8, 2018 – Day at sea – Dominican Republic to Saint-Barthélemy

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

A day at sea between ports, passing by Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

I sleep in yet again this morning to 8:45AM, but it doesn’t matter since today is a sea day. After getting cleaned up a bit, I wander down to the dining room for breakfast: ordering a cappuccino to start, have some fruit, yogurt, pastries and a pancake.

The captain gives an interesting presentation this morning titled “Everything”, which covers the questions posed to him from passengers over the last few days: sailing ship configurations, navigation and GPS, and the physics of how to sail ships with sails. Amazingly, he has written a PhD on using Super-cavitation for fast underwater propulsion – a subject I knew nothing about!

Our course is 090 due east with a stiff wind on our nose, so no sails are set today. We pass by Puerto Rico this afternoon, so I turn off my cellular data roaming, since I don’t have a roaming plan for the US, only the other Caribbean islands.

Lunch is served on deck from the Tropical Bar. It was quite a spread…it took the staff an hour to haul everything up from the kitchen to serve to us. They work hard, and for long hours! My cabin steward gets some time off in the afternoon.

I attend a presentation given by a passenger this afternoon which profiles his working life aboard the Union Castle Line on the Royal Mail route between London and South Africa. It was somewhat interesting to see glimpses of life at sea in the 1950s and 60s for the passengers.

The wind is strong and it’s also hot outside this afternoon, so I stay in the Piano Bar working on my journal and photos while sipping a cappuccino. Later in the afternoon the clouds come in, making it more pleasant outside as the sun sets.

I join a table for eight for dinner this evening: five from the UK and two from Canada (Sidney, BC, but former Brits). I have a bunch of Internet time to use, so this evening I work on my photos and manage to post a new album to Facebook.

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Dominican Republic

Dec 7, 2018 – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I sleep in again this morning, but leave my cabin by 8:45AM to have a cappuccino and some breakfast. The ship is sailing along the coastline of the Dominican Republic for quite a while until she pulls into the port of Santo Domingo at noon. I’m on deck while the ship is being cleared by customs and immigration, and ask Camilla, the Tour Director if there are any spaces left on today’s city/walking tour. She indicates there are two spots left, so I take one, even though I’ve arranged to walk the town with my friends as well.

We are some of the first to disembark the ship, find our way across the busy street in front of the cruise terminal, and climb the stairs up into the historic colonial zone. The local kids have been let out of school to have their lunch outside, and I get some cute photos of them. We walk around the old cathedral (Catedral Primada de America), but I soon peel off and return to the ship. Walking around in the heat of the day is not my idea of fun!

I have some lunch in the dining room and then grab my camera bag before debarking again to board the small tour bus for this afternoon’s excursion. Our first stop is across the river from where the ship is docked to see and photograph the Christopher Columbus monument and lighthouse. His remains are in this massive concrete monument, but we don’t go in. He landed here in the New World, representing the King of Spain. By most accounts, he was the first European to reach the Caribbean.

We then drive back into the colonial zone and are dropped off at the cathedral. Our guide gives us a narrated tour of the many interesting and historic buildings in the colonial zone: Catedral Primada de America, the Alcazar de Colon, the National Pantheon, and the National Monument commemorating national heroes.

We continue walking down the Calle las Damas a favourite haunt of the Vicerene Maria de Toledo, niece of the King of Spain and wife to Diego, son of Christopher Columbus. Apparently she used to walk there on her way to Mass with the other ladies of the court, hence the name Calle las Damas (Ladies Street).

As we cross the Plaza España, there is a giant Coca Cola Christmas tree display setup on the plaza in front of the impressively reconstructed house of Diego Colon (Columbus), who was a viceroy for the Spanish colony. It is fascinating to learn how the viceroy and his family lived, and to see the beautiful artifacts placed in the various rooms where they were originally.

It starts to pour rain just as we re-board the tour bus, and are taken along the first part of the city’s Malacon near the port, to the Presidential Palace (a photo stop I didn’t take advantage of), and drive through Chinatown on our return to the cruise terminal. We arrive about 15 minutes before the gangway is pulled up, so I’m glad I took the organized tour since the ship is guaranteed to wait for you! Thanks to our very good tour guide, I certainly have lots of interesting information about the city’s history, and better understand the country’s context in the Caribbean.

I watch a beautiful sunset as our ship leaves port, bound for St. Barts. We have a sea day tomorrow, which I am glad of. I have dinner with three men in their 70s who are best friends, and who travel together once or twice each year without their wives. They are wine connoisseurs who are working their way through the ship’s wine list, to the great pleasure of the wine steward!

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Day at sea – out of Jamaica

Dec 6, 2018 – Port Antonio, Jamaica to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic aboard the Royal Clipper

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

Map of a day at sea between Port Antonio, Jamaica and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
A day at sea between Port Antonio, Jamaica and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

I sleep in until 8:30AM this morning since this is a sea day, and go to the Piano Bar for pastries and a cappuccino. It’s much quieter in this area than the main dining room, where the feeding frenzy is well underway.

I decide to climb the rigging to the crows nest this morning, so I get my GoPro action cam ready with a head strap, leave all my other stuff in the cabin except my room card, and head forward. The sports crew are there to put on a harness, clip you onto the safety line, and give instructions. Getting to the passengers’ crows nest involves climbing a rope ladder to the mid-point of the second forward mast, where there is another sports crew person up there to help unclip and for safety. Two or three passengers at a time are in the crows nest, since it is quite a big platform.

After climbing down, I’m thirsty, so I go to the nearby bar on deck for a couple of good-tasting German Flensburger draught beers. I have a chat with the German guy who was ahead of me in the climb, and a couple of Brits. I also go forward and spend some time on the bow net watching the bow wave dancing in the sun glint (see banner image above).

At lunch I sit with a couple from Thunder Bay (Ontario, Canada). We talk about our travels in southern Africa, and South Africa in particular. The food aboard the ship is very good, and they offer lots of variety, including vegetarian. Drinks are reasonably priced – 3.50€ for a glass of Flensburger draught beer, which is about CAD$4.25 Smoking is allowed in designated spots outside only, which is fine with me. Close to half the passengers are German, but the English-speaking Americans, Canadians, and Brits are the biggest combined group, with French-speakers being a small third group.

I go to the top deck forward near the bridge to observe the sunset, and see the Green Flash. What I observed might be better described as a green glow, since there was some cloud on the horizon partially obscuring the Sun. I captured it on video with my iPhone.

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Port Antonio, Jamaica

Dec 5, 2018 – Port Antonio, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I sleep in until 8AM, get dressed and go to the dining room for breakfast. I have a cappuccino with some pastries, fruit, and a spoonful of scrambled eggs. The ship arrives in Port Antonio on schedule at 10AM. There’s a pretty serious crunch as the ship makes contact with the concrete pier in the stern. The crew make some repairs while we’re docked.

I find this sailing ship is a photographer’s dream if you look up at the fantastic rigging and sails, and it is also a nightmare, because there are lines and masts everywhere obstructing clear views overboard!

I am on the shore excursion Highlights of Port Antonio. First stop in our minibus is to view Trident Castle, a German-built modern castle located on a beautiful cove, which mainly caters to weddings. We don’t go into the castle, but instead carry on to the Jamaica Palace Hotel, which is our first stop. It is a very striking hotel, and has surprisingly reasonable room rates starting at US$120/night. We are given a Rum Punch welcome drink, and a tour of the extensive grounds including their art gallery.

Jamaica Palace Hotel plaza and villas

Along the way, we learn about the resident crocodiles in Springs area, and how the national fruit Aki opens naturally and is eaten with salt fish (the national dish). We make a stop at the Blue Lagoon, which I find underwhelming. Trident Castle, Jamaica Palace Hotel, and Blue Lagoon are all touted as being used as locations for movies.

Frenchman’s Cove, beach, and freshwater stream

Our last stop is Frenchman’s Cove, where there is a private beach for us to lounge on and swim from. There is a freshwater stream beside the beach flowing into a saltwater cove – both of which are very pretty. Unfortunately, the water in both is quite cold, so I don’t bother trying to swim or snorkel, instead preferring to sit on the beach in the shade of a palm tree. The beach is not crowded, and we have a couple of hours here to enjoy ourselves before returning to the ship.

All 44 sails are set as we leave Port Antonio and then they are taken down again once the Sun sets and the ship is underway. Being a square-rigged sailing ship, the Royal Clipper needs a following wind to actually proceed under sail. The southeast winds we are encountering are virtually on the nose of the ship, hence the reason for the sails being taken down when the ship is underway, although the stay sails are often left up to improve the ship’s stability.

At dinner this evening, I’m seated with a Texan couple who are both real characters. She submitted a request for one of the desserts appearing on the menu this evening – Floating Island with prune. I ordered it, and found is was pretty nice – thin custard on the bottom, merengue, and a dollop of pureed prune.

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Boarding the Royal Clipper

Dec 4, 2018 – Boarding the Royal Clipper & departing Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I sleep in until about 8AM, meet my friends downstairs for breakfast, and then it’s time to return to my room to pack. We check out at 12PM, check our bags with the hotel and go across the street to the Starbucks at Doctor’s Cave Beach for coffee, snacks, and to hang out for awhile. We return to the hotel lobby and leave for the ship a bit after 3PM for a 4PM check-in.

We have to clear Jamaican customs and immigration before we embark the ship. They shake us down for a Departure Fee of US$35 each, applicable to anyone who stays in Jamaica for more than 24 hours! Once aboard, the usual cruise ship check-in takes place, where they take passports, preauthorize a credit card to pay the shipboard account, photograph everyone, and issue a passenger ID card to run the accounts on and for leaving/returning the ship at the various ports-of-call (in place of a passport).

Unfurling one of the four stay sails as the ship departs Montego Bay

After everyone is aboard, there is a lifeboat drill, which is conducted in English, German and French, so it takes quite awhile! I go to dinner with my friends, where we are seated with an American and two Brits. The meal is lovely – I have escargot and a salad to start, sea bass for my main course, and three almond cookies with strawberry sauce for dessert. I finish with a cappuccino, which costs 2.50 Euros (CD$3.75).

The crew set two of the four staysails during the evening departure of the Royal Clipper from Montego Bay. They play Conquest of Paradise every time they raise sails on the trip, which gets a bit tedious after awhile!

Champagne is served on deck as we depart the port. It is a lovely evening with warm tropical breezes in my face. Despite not having stabilizers, the ship rides surprisingly well as we pull offshore for the overnight passage to Port Antonio – a small town further along the coast of Jamaica.

Overnight route of Royal Clipper from Montego Bay to Port Antonio, Jamaica
Overnight route of Royal Clipper
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Eurodam arrives in Vancouver

Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017 – Eurodam arrives in Vancouver, BC, and my return home to Victoria

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

Vancouver at night as Eurodam docks at Canada Place cruise ship terminal

Vancouver at night as Eurodam docks at Canada Place cruise ship terminal

I wake up at 4:15AM, just after the ship sails under Lion’s Gate Bridge. I get my dSLR out and take some photos of the bridge, Stanley Park, and the downtown, all lit at night. I capture some excellent photos, especially as the ship turns and docks at Canada Place. Since it is 5AM, there is no coffee available anywhere on board. I go up to the Explorations Cafe on the off chance they are open at 6:30AM (their usual opening time), but no luck! My continental breakfast arrives right on time at 7:30AM in my cabin, so I have a cup of tea, a scone and pastry, yogurt, and cranberry juice.

I pack my last minute items and get ready for departure, double and triple checking the closets, drawers and bathroom to ensure I don’t forget anything. My friends call me at 8AM saying they are ready to disembark. Although it is a bit early for our time slot, I am ready to go as well, so we meet in the hallway outside their cabin. The passengers who have Expedited Departures are ahead of us, and they are still clogging the elevators, but we manage to get to the gangway deck and scan our ship security cards for the last time and leave the ship. Canada Customs and Immigration are waiting for us in the passageways to the main cruise ship terminal. They take our forms and wave us through, not even wanting to see our passports – welcome to Canada!

We are in the terminal an hour early, but find the waiting area for the bus to Victoria. Unfortunately, there are no chairs to sit on, so we stand, waiting in line until the two buses board everyone. We are on our way at 9:15AM, right on schedule, and our bus goes straight to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. We are one of several buses on the 11AM sailing aboard the Coastal Celebration ferry, so it is a crush to get up the stairs. However, once we enter the Seawest Lounge, we leave the mayhem behind for serenity and quiet.

A two-masted schooner sailing along the Pender Island coastline

A two-masted schooner sailing along the Pender Island coastline

The Seawest Lounge has a choice of two Starbuck’s roasts of brewed coffee, so I finally enjoy some good coffee and a bit of quiet time. I go back for some snacks: sliced cheese and muffins, and a second cup of coffee, so I’m finally ready to greet the day properly! As usual, the onboard Internet service offered by BC Ferries is totally swamped, so I use my own cellular LTE hotspot to catch up with online happenings as we sail to Swartz Bay. There is a two-masted schooner sailing along the Pender Island coastline – very pretty on such a gorgeous day.

Once the bus rolls off the ferry, it makes several stops along the way to drop people off. I am dropped off a few blocks away from where I live, and since it’s a nice day, I roll my bags to home.


Sailing out of Vancouver slide show (2010 aboard the Volendam and 2017 aboard the Eurodam)

Vancouver photo gallery

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Vancouver to Hilo – day 2 at sea

Oct 3, 2017 – Second day at sea – enroute from Vancouver, BC to Hilo, Hawai’i

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

At Ginny Stibolt’s talk this morning: Rainforest: The Most Diverse Ecosystems in the World, I learn:

  • Photosynthesis and respiration are equal and opposite natural cycles
  • Only about 20% of oxygen produced is supplied freely to outside the rainforest, 80% is consumed internally to the rainforest
  • Forests only temporarily sequester carbon, unlike oceans where carbon is more-or-less permanently sequestered
  • In Borneo, 700 tree species are found in 25 acres
  • 80% of insect species are found in tropical forests
  • Old cellphones are being used in the Amazon to detect the sounds of chainsaws cutting trees, and transmitting reports back to authorities. They are powered from solar panels.
  • Costa Rica is restoring their rain forest by planting at least 15 native species of plants and trees

It is 19ºC at noon today, but when I was outside on Promenade Deck walking four circuits, I was wearing my fleece jacket zipped up because of the cool breeze. I go to the Explorations Cafe at noon for a cappuccino and have a chocolate chip cookie and a couple of little cocktail sandwiches for a lunchtime snack, since I’m skipping having a big lunch today. This afternoon the mv OOCL London container ship is very close to the Eurodam (see banner image above).

I go to see an hour-long video this afternoon produced by the BBC: Earth Inside Earth: A Privileged View. This is very interesting, highlighting wildlife photographers working in the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Desert in Jordan, with Capuchin monkeys in SE Asia, and with breeding Adela Penguins in Antarctica.