One of the things I love most about cruising is waking up in the morning to discover a new and exciting place to explore, in this case, St. Lucia.
I have only been there once before, and it wasn't a particularly memorable experience, for those of you who remember my review of Carnival Miracle, and how I ended up in the infirmary for the day after a horrible experience aboard a small boat on an excursion. (severe seasickness, leading to an episode of arrythmia).
For that reason, we avoided any boat excursions this time around, and booked an island bus tour instead.
From the island's capital of Castries, we meandered through busy downtown streets, full of people going about their workday. And then we started to climb. Up, up, up, and after the first hairpin turn I dug out a Gravol (motion sickness pill) and washed it down with my bottle of water. I was not taking any chances!
St. Lucia is a stunningly beautiful island, but its roads are a nightmare; narrow ribbons winding upwards, with the most precarious sharp turns, no guardrails, and frightening drops, my heart was in my mouth. The driver must've had nerves of steel.
One of our first stops was a monument called Inniskilling, with a breathtaking view over the island.
Situated nearby was a college they were very proud of, the Sir Arthur W. Lewis College, named in honour of St. Lucia’s 1st Nobel prize winner in 1979.
I was shocked to see how primitive it was, basically barracks-style on stilts, with open windows and no air-conditioning. All the students, young adults, were impeccably groomed and wore identical school uniforms.
I couldn’t imagine college students in North America wearing uniforms to college!
The thing I noticed most was how luxuriously green everything was, trees, plants, flowers, and beautiful vistas everywhere you looked. I suppose after a dark dreary winter in Canada, I was starved for greenery and flowers!
That goes for the brightly coloured homes we saw as well; one of the things I love the most about the Caribbean are the gaily painted houses, and this one in particular, was very bright!
Apparently, one of the highlights of St. Lucia are the Pitons, majestic mountains that many passengers I talked to had taken tours to see, but all we saw from our tour was a faint outline in the distance, obscured by cloud.
The highlight for us, was when our little tour bus stopped in the road, and backed up an extremely steep and narrow driveway, into one of the most interesting places we've ever visited.
Stony Hill is a private residence, owned by the island's chief neurosurgeon, and his wife who is in the tourist industry, and they have opened their home to tourists. And what a home it is!
First of all, it is painted pink on the outside, and has a commanding view of the ocean and harbour and most of the island. The grounds were immaculate, full of trees, bushes and flowering plants, and complete with an inviting swimming pool off the patio.
Inside the home, was like walking into a Home Design magazine; everything you could imagine in a comfortable island home.
Out on the large patio, there were tables set up and we were invited to sample some fried cod, rum cakes and fruit juices – all quite delicious. The “greeters” including the Doctor and his wife, were nothing less than gracious and friendly and made us all feel welcome.
It was a very nice stop on our island tour, and we enjoyed it very much.
The bus ride back down to the pier was much like the ride up; precarious, to say the least. I marveled at how many cars were just abandoned in the road, stripped of their wheels and other parts, and left to rust, blocking one side of the road. At one point we had to try to pass another truck which was barely an inch away from falling into a construction hole. I really had to hand it to our driver for his tenacity!
Back to the ship by noon, we rushed to the buffet for a quick bite to eat before catching another bus for our afternoon excursion to the beach. The ride was longer than expected, which cut into our beach time, leaving less than the 2 hours promised in the description of the excursion.
The beach was located in an area called Rodney Bay, and was part of a private hotel. It was extremely crowded, with beach chairs lined in rows as close as they are on the cruise ships, and barely room to move between them. Chairs were included in the price, but not umbrellas, which were already installed in the sand, and eager attendants wanted $10 to open them! We told them to take away the umbrella, and they weren’t very happy.
Besides the overcrowding, we were most bothered by the pushy beach vendors. Because the rows of chairs were so close, they were right in your face as they made their way up and down the aisles, and they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Very annoying.
At one point, I went looking for a washroom, and after a long walk, I found it, only to be told I had to pay $1 to use the facilities!
I was in a bathing suit, with no money, and rather than go all the way back, I refused, just on the principle, and told them I would go pee in the sea, thank you very much!
I later overheard someone who did use the facilities, and said it was filthy, with no paper. Glad I didn’t go!
Another factor that was not pleasant, was that all the water-sport rentals, such as jet-skis, motor boats pulling rides, etc. were constantly entering the swimming area, right up to the beach, dangerously close to swimmers, and leaving their fuel and smell behind.
The proprietors of these crafts frequently got into hostile shouting matches with each other, vying for the same passengers, and they became loud and vulgar, almost coming to blows over who saw a prospective client first.
Although the beach itself was very nice, and the weather was perfect, all in all, it was not a pleasant beach day, and when we got back, we made our complaints known to the tour desk, so that maybe they could look into, and address some of the issues for future cruisers.
It was late afternoon, and time for afternoon Trivia with my CruiseMates buddies. After a few wins earlier in the week, we seemed to only be able to reach 2nd place now, and we demonstrated this with the classic “L” for Losers pose!
(in case you’re not familiar, that’s the letter “L” made with your forefinger and thumb, held up to your forehead).
After dinner that evening, we attended 2 shows. First was the comedic magician Jeff Peterson, who was very good, and delighted us with his little dog Indie as part of the act. Why was she called “Indie”? Because she was “in de” act!!
Following that was “Canada’s Premier Comic Hypnotist” Fernandez.
Funny, I’m Canadian and I’d never heard of the guy, but his show was very entertaining, and despite not wanting to laugh at people making fools of themselves, we couldn’t help but double over laughing!
Finally, it was off to bed, for yet another early morning in another port.