The Caribbean and Home
After our stop at Devils Island, Seabourn Quest headed north to Barbados, the first stop on the Caribbean segment of our Grand Americas voyage.
March 18 – At Sea enroute Barbados
Sunday, March 19, 2023 - Barbados
After a day at sea, the ship docked in Barbados, joined by three other cruise ships, including one new cruise ship looking like a large blue yacht, the Ritz Carlton Evrima. Just as in many of the ports where we dock, the ports also handle commercial cargo, so we are often bussed to a terminal at the port entrance where we meet up with our shore excursions or shuttles to the town center. Patrick and one other couple hired a taxi and drove to the northern end of the island, about 25 KM away, to St. Nicholas Abbey, a sugar mill and rum distillery that has been in existence for 350 years. The Jacobean era mansion dating to the 1600’s is well preserved and the main floor is restored as a museum period piece with traditional furniture.
The windmill (and later steam) powered sugar mill utilized slave labor until the British abolished slavery in 1833, but evidence suggests the freed African slaves were still treated like slaves until the mid 1880’s, a dark side of Barbados history.
We tasted the rum produced by the distillery but decided that even the least expensive bottle of 5 year old rum was not worth it at $70 per bottle.
Following our tour, the driver took the beach route back to Bridgetown, past massive villas, most gated. We passed the one belong to Rihanna, the singer, who is a native of Barbados and revered by the in habitants. There is even a Rihanna street, located where she grew up in a poor community in Bridgetown.
Today is Sunday, so most shops in Bridgetown were closed, so after the beach drive we headed to Carlisle Bay and the beach. The admission fee was $10, which gave you a shared umbrella and a beach chair. After the drive and tour of St. Nicholas Abbey we were a little hungry, so ordered fried flying fish and coconuts spiked with rum and then had a brief swim in the warm waters before returning to the ship, which departed at 1700, for our next stop, Martinique.
Monday, March 20, 2023 – Martinique
Seabourn Quest docked at the French island of Martinique shortly after 0800, with rain and brisk winds threatening the snorkeling expedition planned for that day. While we were waiting to go ashore, and massive P&O ship, the ARVIA, new in 2022, docked alongside us. The ship held 6,000 passengers and 1,800 crew and provided shade all day, towering over Seabourn Quest.
Twenty five of us headed down the dock and boarded the snorkeling boat. We headed across the harbor to the “Bat Cave”, our first stop. The weather cooperated and the sun provided good visibility to see a number of colorful fish. After one hour we moved to another location and anchored in front of a beach where we swam above massive sea turtles feeding on the vegetation on the bottom, about 12 feet below us. The weather remained sunny, but the brisk winds gave us a wet ride back to the ship, but the rum punch and other rum drinks took off the edge, since we were wet anyway.
Seabourn Quest had a ABBA themed Sail Away party on the pool deck and the passengers on the ARVIA participated, waving and dancing on their balconies along with us. There were more of them just on that side than the entire number of passengers on our ship. When we departed they were still singing and dancing along with us.
March 21, 2023 – St. Johns, Antigua
Our arrival into St. Johns was delayed by one hour, since we were the last and smallest of five cruise ships docked in the harbor. Nonetheless, most shore excursions were only slightly delayed, including our kayak and snorkeling excursion to the windy west side of the island. The kayaks were all sit upon doubles and the paddle was in the mangrove swamps. We paddled upwind first, but only saw a few thinks, like conchs in the shallow water near the mangroves. After a one hour paddle we stopped at a stingray feeding station and saw the large stingrays swimming below us, before heading to Bird Island, a nature preserve, where we snorkeled in very warm water around coral formations in surprisingly good shape. Returning to the pier we had time for a brief shoreside walk before the ship sailed at 1700.
March 22, 2023 – Carambola Beach, St. Kitts
Seabourn Quest arrived off Carambola Beach at 0900 and anchored a few thousand feet from the jetty and tender dock. Seabourn had reserved the Carambola Beach Club for the entire day and spent much of the morning shuttling supplies ashore for the BBQ and beach celebration, including their signature “Caviar in the Surf” event. The caviar was served from a paddle board in chest deep water and the caviar was delivered from the ship by the Captain driving a Zodiac right to the beach. Many of us walked into the water for our caviar, and the waiters were also in the water pouring champagne into chilled glasses. A large tent housed tables for the meal, which featured BBQ (broiled) spiny lobsters and all the side dishes, including burgers, sausages, salads, etc. The setting was informal, lats of bare feet and swimsuits as we enjoyed the food and company. By 1630, we had returned to the ship, the beach was restored and we headed for San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Thursday, March 23, 2020 – San Juan, Puerto Rico
As sunrise approached, Seabourn Quest approached the harbor entrance, passing beneath the imposing mass of Castillo San Felipe del Morro “El Morro”, the citadel protecting the harbor entrance to the natural harbor. The ship docked at the foot of old San Juan, so it was walking distance to both fortress San Cristobal and El Morro, as well as the colorful streets of the old town, with many restaurants and shops. The ship docked shortly after 0800.
The old town was crowded with visitors, especially since a large cruise ship with 6,000 passengers docked a few minutes after we arrived.
Disembarking was delayed for a 100% immigration check of all passengers and all crew. We not allowed back on the ship until 100% of the passengers had been cleared. That process took until 1000, when we allowed back on board after waiting in a large drafty terminal until the process finished. Following that, the ship had a US Public Health inspection and a USCG safety inspection, with crew drills which took until 1330 to complete. Meanwhile, guest services, like restaurants were either closed or had limited services.
At 1700, Seabourn Quest sailed out of the harbor and set a course for Miami, 2 sea days away, passing north of Cuba and east of the Bahamas.
The evening culminated with a special “Route 66” celebration for the 163 passengers on board for the entire voyage. The dinner was typical diner food, with burgers, lobster rolls, pulled pork sandwiches, potato and macaroni salads and desserts. The crew was lined up on both sides as we entered, all dressed in 50’s and 60’s costumes.