There will be many people considering a Caribbean cruise who would like to know what it is like to visit several islands, spending as little as a day in each! I recently visited nine Caribbean islands in fourteen days aboard
P&O Cruises flagship Britannia.
How should I plan my day to make the most of my time on each of the islands, returning to my ship having gained a flavour of the island, but still feeling relaxed?
What could visitors to Saint Lucia for example, hope to see in a single day?
The cruise was my first visit to the Caribbean, so I was very keen to see as much of the islands as possible, during my time ashore. Some cruise ship passengers will choose to take advantage of the organised ship excursions but others may prefer to organise an independent day for themselves and explore a little on their own.
Most cruise passengers are in their later years, so would not be looking to zip line through the rain forest or go bungee jumping. What I would be looking for were places to visit which were suitable for a more mature age group, during my time on this beautiful island?
Saint Lucia, nestled halfway down the Eastern Caribbean archipelago is one of the Windward Islands of the West Indies’ Lesser Antilles, The “Helen of the West Indies,”. It is known for its natural beauty and diverse range of attractions, including the beautiful Piton Mountains – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – a tropical rain forest and one of the world’s few drive-in volcanoes. Lush hillsides plunge down to pretty palm-fringed beaches and yachts bob along on clear blue waters.
Cultural attractions I was hoping to include would be the bustling marketplace in the capital of Castries and perhaps one of the idyllic fishing villages along the stunning coastline. Saint Lucia is home to world class cruise and yachting facilities and is recognised as one of the leading Wedding and Honeymoon destinations worldwide.
I took a taxi to the Lushan Country Life Experience in the Country Life Nature Park, a ten minute ride outside of Castries. I was taken on a short trek through a small area of forest taking in the flower and herb gardens by our guide, Wilma. She was very friendly and knowledgeable describing clearly all of the fruits, plants and birds we came across.
I was encouraged to taste the fresh fruits which included banana, guava, coconut and grapefruit which were all picked straight from the trees around us.
I was given a long pole to ease my movement around the paths, which were not too difficult to walk. The walk lasted about 45 minutes but it gave me a taste of St Lucian life thanks to the excellent information provided by our guide.
In Mama’s kitchen I was given some small pieces of food to sample and some information and stories about the history of the island before Independence. I very quickly realised that the pace of life in the Caribbean is much slower than Europe.
After an informative and interesting visit to the Lushan Country Life Experience I then travelled up to the North of the island to Pigeon Island, which is no longer an island at all. It is a promontory at the end of a thin roadway surrounded by wonderful beaches, restaurants and hotels.
The 44 acre island reserve was originally surrounded by water but it was joined to the mainland by a man-made causeway in 1972.
The Pigeon Island National Landmark is promoted as one of the most important cultural and historical monuments in Saint Lucia’s history. It is seen as a living museum within a beautiful natural setting.
Pigeon Island has a number of heritage attractions for visitors to explore which include the ruins of military buildings used during battles between the French and British fighting to gain sovereignty over the island.
I walked up to the top at Signal Point, an easy climb of about ten minutes which gave me a panoramic view of the sea and island from every direction. It is well worth the climb. It provided the ideal spot for some great photo opportunities of Rodney Bay. In the distant South I could also see the iconic Pitons.
I had lunch at a restaurant right next to the beach called the Jambe de Bois. It is described as a rustic café looking out across Rodney Bay. It was a lovely restaurant on the edge of the beach. It had a great menu with a few local specialities. The staff were very friendly, the service and quality of food was excellent and the prices very good value for money.
Its location is excellent for a day on the beach and is also a great spot for free wi-fi, after struggling to get any connection on my ship, it was ideal for catching up on some emails whilst sipping a nice cold Piton beer. I would recommend trying some of the grilled fish, caught fresh from the sea that very morning!
Jambe de Bois also served a good range of wraps, also at very competitive prices. I ordered two wonderful meals and four cold local Piton beers for around 20 dollars. The staff were very welcoming and the beach and sea vista, simply stunning. It made for a wonderful day at the beach.
I did not get to see much more of the island because I decided to spend most of the day lying on the fine sandy beach, which was not crowded and later swimming in the clear blue waters. You can also hire sun loungers and snorkelling equipment on the beach. A wonderful beach in a stunning location.
I thought Pigeon Island was well worth a visit and would fully recommend a visit to soak up a little of the islands history, spend some time on the beaches and stop for lunch at either of the two restaurants. Barnacles is situated on the other side of Pigeon Island and I am told also provides stunning seafront dining in one of the old military buildings. Maybe I shall visit Barnacles next time I am on the island!
Rodney Bay is St. Lucia’s tourist magnet with its picturesque crescent-shaped beach and hotels, restaurants, and shops. The Marina is one of the best equipped in the eastern Caribbean with many water sports on offer. Impressive homes dot the hills surrounding the bay, and St. Lucia’s biggest shopping mall is also in the area. A cause of the local traffic jam we met on the way, no doubt!
On the way back to the ship I took some time out to take in a little of Castries town. I started at the colourful market across from the waterfront, then sauntered down to Derek Walcott Square, the grassy square appearing to be Castries’ central point. I took a number of photographs of several eye-catching buildings, complete with ornate fretwork and stunning galleries extending out over the pavement.
I also took a quick look inside the capitals 20th-century Cathedral, its walls were covered in some brightly coloured murals painted by one the island’s leading artist, Dunstan St Omer, so I was led to believe!
Castries’ fruit and vegetable market was very colourful and lively with dozens of stalls piled high with local fruits & vegetables including bananas, plantains, coconuts, limes, breadfruit, soursop and dasheene. A real taste of the sounds and colour of the Caribbean.
The nearby craft market included a range of produce which included cinnamon sticks, nutmeg balls, sticks of cocoa and bags of spices. I grabbed a few packs of nutmegs as gifts whilst my wife was more interested in the abundance of jewellery shops, and there are a lot of them to be found on all of the islands including Saint Lucia!
I got back to my ship in plenty of time having spent a full day in St Lucia. I had experienced a little of authentic St Lucian life at the Lushan Country Life Experience, having taken a short walk amongst the fruit trees, flower and vegetable gardens. I had also heard some stories about the history of the island, the beauty and history of Pigeon Island and soaked up the atmosphere of one of its beaches, before immersing myself in the colour, vitality and sounds of a genuine Caribbean market in downtown Castries.
I had spent a wonderful day in St Lucia and am now looking forward to visiting the island again for a longer period exploring what else the island has to offer!
It is very easy to visit any of the Caribbean islands for just a day and absorb much of its culture and beauty, it just takes a little planning and research beforehand. I would fully recommend a cruise so that you can get to visit several different islands in a short period of time.
I loved every minute of the two weeks!