Caribbean

St. Kitts & Nevis

The last time we were in St. Kitts was in 2009 on a cruise where we ended up taking an entertaining island tour. The tour took us to Caribelle Batik and Brimstone Hill Fortress, which are must see stops in St. Kitts. After leaving the fortress the tour guide/driver drove over some sharp rocks, which of course caused a flat tire! This is one experience that has always stuck with me since part of the group got stuck changing the tire! This time we decided against another island tour of St. Kitts and we weren’t interested in going to any of the beaches on St. Kitts either. I then started exploring the idea of going to a nearby island for the day.

Technically St. Kitts is a dual island nation referred to as Saint Kitts and Nevis. You may already be familiar with Nevis from US history, thanks to Alexander Hamilton. St. Kitts is the larger island and home to the capital of Basseterre; Nevis on the other hand is both smaller in size and population. Now both St. Kitts and Nevis are covered in a tropical rainforest and interestingly both islands have volcanic origin. St. Kitts technically has a mountain reaching over 3,700ft (Mount Liamuiga).

St. Kitts

Sailing from St. Kitts to Nevis

For our day in St. Kitts we ended up taking a tour to Nevis. This is one time I would recommend a cruise line tour since the ferry schedule does not always work for the port schedule. If you are interested in the tour, the tour we took through Princess Cruises was Nevis Island Tour, Beach & Lunch. The title of the tour basically sums up the tour experience in a few words, but I will of course go into more detail!

For those wanting to go into St. Kitts, the docking location was not really convenient this cruise since there were other cruise ships visiting the island. The Pacific Princess drew the short end of the straw and ended up docking in an industrial area. Since we were on a tour the location had no impact luckily. The boat to Nevis met us right near the docking location for the Pacific Princess.

WR6jC0tgRUivb+8WYE4AGw_thumb_3ebbThe boat ride from St. Kitts to Nevis took around 45-minutes to an hour. Nevis is actually about 2-miles to the Southeast of St. Kitts. Now the boat used to cross the channel was fascinating since it felt like a large party boat. Truthfully, I’m not sure if the boat was really meant to cross a channel but we made it both ways at least! The boat dropped us off in the town area of Nevis and it later picked us up at the beach. Disembarking the boat was easy since it was on a pier. Now for those with mobility problems or someone who doesn’t want to embark a boat in sandy water, this tour may not be for you. (Note: I do recall people were surprised we got back on the boat at the beach. Some of the participants had on tennis shoes and were not prepared for a water entry)

Once we were in Nevis there was a line of vans waiting to pick up all the tour participants. The van portion of the tour took us around Nevis for about 2 hours. Right after boarding the van in Charlestown we drove past the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. Now I do have to admit I was disappointed we did not stop at the house where Alexander Hamilton was born. Instead we had a quick photo opportunity from the van, which caused most of my photos to be pretty blurry. The house is considered to have great historical value to the island and I think this was a huge missed opportunity for the tour. I personally would have loved to stop at the house and walk around!

After the quick drive-by of the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, the tour guide took us to the Bath Hotel and Spring House. Not to be Debbie Downer again, but I do think this part of the tour could have been skipped for something else. We mainly looked at the springs and had the opportunity to walk around a little. To be truthful there was not much to look at during this stop, which was too bad because Nevis was a neat island. The hotel is no longer in service and needs significant repairs. If the site was restored, I think this could be really interesting historical site. Unfortunately, it felt like much of the Bath Hotel and Spring House has been left in disrepair.

Next, we were driven around the island for a while and then stopped off at the Golden Rock Inn. This property stretches up the slopes of Nevis Peak and is one of many historical plantation inns on Nevis. The Golden Rock Inn is a small hotel (11 rooms) on 100 acres of land. The property is rather fascinating since it is steeped in history and dates back to the 1800’s. The former sugar mill has now been turned into a suite. Besides the history of the buildings, the property has an extensive tropical garden with beautiful fauna and flowers. The property is also home to Green Monkeys and a wide array of birds. From my understanding the property also features hiking trails for guests, which we did not have the chance to explore before leaving. If I was staying on Nevis for vacation, this property looked like a great relaxing hideaway.

Once we were done touring the Golden Rock Inn we then headed to lunch at the beach. The tour included lunch at a local restaurant, LIME Beach Bar. Typically, most cruise ship tours with lunch have been a bust over the years but this turned out to be a fantastic meal. We had a choice of barbecued chicken or fresh fish with salad and rice.

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This was a no-brainer and we all selected the fresh fish. The fish was moist and not overcooked, plus was a huge portion! We had around an hour for lunch and once we were done we could head to Pinney’s Beach right by the restaurant. We ended up waiting for a bit since it started to rain (more like pour). In the rain Pinney’s Beach looked a bit dingy, but cleared up once the sun came out!

We had about an hour to spend at the beach before heading back to St. Kitts. We actually could use the lounge chairs and umbrellas for free since we had dined at LIME Beach Bar. The tour description noted we would have to pay to use any beach chairs and luckily this turned out to not be true. The beach was popular with locals and there were quite a few people around since the holidays had started. There were also some other beach bars around besides the restaurant we ate at. We ended up just using the lounge chairs for the day. I would recommend wearing water shoes since there was a lot of glass on the beach, which was a problem encountered at most beaches in the Caribbean this vacation.

As noted earlier the boat actually picked us up directly at the beach. To me this was convenient because we didn’t need to clean-up before entering a van. Some tour participants were not prepared to step into the water and climb onto a boat. If you decide on a tour to Nevis from St. Kitts, just plan ahead for a beach entry. This is something the tour description did not mention, which could be a problem for some individuals. As we were leaving Nevis the sun came out and we had a gorgeous view of the clear water. With the sun finally out, Pinney’s Beach looked rather nice! The trip back to St. Kitts took around 45-minutes to an hour.

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This tour was a great alternative to St. Kitts for the day and I highly recommend visiting Nevis since the island does not have the commercialized feel of other Caribbean islands! Personally I really enjoyed Nevis and hope the island will be able to keep her charm.

 

*Note: During our time at Pinney’s Beach there was an incident that occurred with a group of individuals harassing marine life. Even if the incident was insignificant to some, I am still disgusted a group of passengers from the Pacific Princess (who were not kids or young) felt the need to remove a sea creature from its habitat. The poor sea creature was passed from person to person for photo opportunities and was out of the water for an extended period of time. When something was said to the passengers about putting the sea creature back in the water, they begrudgingly responded to the request. Later the sea creature was removed again by the same group for photos. I can only imagine the outcome for the sea creature after being out of the water for extensive periods of time.

Please remember when traveling to respect wildlife and marine animals. It truly does not matter how small, large, or inconsequential an animal may seem, you should not touch or remove wildlife from their habitat. Everyone needs to take responsibility when traveling, even if its just a friendly reminder to tourists about keeping their hands to themselves!

St. John, USVI

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_364bThe first stop of the cruise visited the US Virgin Island of St. John. If you aren’t familiar with the US Virgin Islands, the islands are a territorial region of the United States and include the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. Typically, most cruises lines stop at St. Thomas, which is the most populated island in USVI and a massively popular cruise port. This cruise itinerary was on the unique side because it stopped at St. John instead. Not often do cruises lines include St. John on the itinerary.

An interesting fact about St. John is over half the island is a US National Park. Trunk Bay, one of the most famous beaches in USVI, is located on St. John and is also part of the US National Park Service. Furthermore, the beach at Trunk Bay has been voted as a top ten beach by Conde Nast Traveler. If Trunk Bay doesn’t meet your needs, there are numerous other beaches on the island, including Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, and Hawksnest.

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Now some of you may already be familiar with St. John because of a trip over from St. Thomas. The ferry from St. Thomas to St. John is a popular day trip for some cruisers since St. John is just a short ferry ride away. If you plan on taking the ferry back and forth, definitely make sure you have enough time!

Cruise ships anchor just outside Cruz Bay for St. John, which requires a short tender ride. Additionally, Cruz Bay is where the local ferry docks. The area around Cruz Bay features restaurants, bars, and shops. When we were in St. John there were a few other cruise ships visiting, which definitely caused the island to feel packed from the beaches to the town. This is definitely an island that should limit the number of cruise ships.

We ended up walking around Cruz Bay since the island was busy and we weren’t sure how the weather would turn out (ended up being a hot day!). First, we started out by exploring the wharf area and shops. Next, we moved over to Mongoose Junction, which is supposedly the a “world-famous premier shopping and dining destination” (according to the Mongoose Junction website).

After checking out the shops we stopped at St. John Brewers, which had a small tap room at Mongoose Junction. The tap room was being expanded in December and the new section was still under construction at that time. Once the new tap room is complete, I’m sure the new space will be well utilized!

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Now one thing I was not sure on was the beer production scale on St. John. It seems much of the beer produced by St. John Brewers is actually brewed on the mainland of the United States. I’m sure there is a small production facility on St. John, but most of the bottles are all coming from the East Coast. This is becoming rather common in the brewing industry today with contract brewing across the United States.

Overall the tap room was small but had a local feel to it and the service was good. I was really disappointed though the tap room did not offer a beer tasting flight. I really like having a tasting flight when visiting a brewery because this allows you to try the product and experience all a brewery has to offer. Unfortunately, this prevented us from really trying the beer by St. John Brewers. I ended up trying their Winter Ale since the Wheat Beer I wanted was not available due to a keg problem. This is a different style for me to drink since I’m not typically a fan of Winter Ales (unfortunately the name and tasting profile of the beer now escape me). I do recall I enjoyed the beer and the spicy notes to it.

Overall St. John was a fun day, though an extremely hot day. If you have the chance to check-out St. John while on a cruise or a trip to St. Thomas, I highly recommend popping over to St. John for a day.

Cruising the Pacific Princess over Christmas and New Year’s

Please excuse the delay in my post, time got away due to work and moving! Normally I would post a day-to-day report for cruises, but I only ended up IMG_0197taking photos of the ports. At some point in time, I’ll post individual posts for each destination. For our cruise, we sailed on the Pacific Princess over Christmas and New Year’s.

Now this is not the original Pacific Princess from the Love Boat. If you aren’t familiar with the current Pacific Princess, this ship is the former R-Three of the defunct Renaissance Cruises. Princess Cruises actually used to own two more former Renaissance ships: Tahitian/Ocean Princess and Royal Princess. Unfortunately, Princess Cruises has sold the other R-Class ships over the last few years. The Tahitian/Ocean Princess is now with Oceania Cruises and the Royal Princess is with Fathom (soon to be with P&O Cruises). I actually had the opportunity to sail on both other ships and they were similar (if almost the same) to the Pacific Princess.

Originally, we had booked the cruise and cancelled when I thought I was moving in 2016. We decided to rebook when I stayed in Florida for another year. The cruise had a unique itinerary for Princess Cruises; with a handful of new destination’s we hadn’t previously visited. We were very happy to be able to rebook the cruise for the itinerary (plus we found a great new cruise travel agent who values us and our bookings).

Destinations Visited:

  • St. John, USVI
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Barbados
  • Martinique
  • Antigua
  • Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Now the ports were fantastic (which I’ll discuss in other posts) but I found the cruise to be on the different side, which is why I also had a hard time writing this post. I love the small ships since the cruises usually have unique itineraries, but this is the first-time the odd moments outweighed the positive moments.IMG_0203

Cabin: This cruise we had two different cabins: 6003 and 6036. My parents were in 6003, which is Penthouse Suite. This suite would be a great location for cruises sailing through the Panama Canal or the fjords of Norway. The only downside to the location is movement (if you get sea sick, probably not a great location). I was in an Obstructed Oceanview cabin (6036). Most cabins on the Pacific Princess have couches but the Obstructed Oceanview on Deck 6 does not. This cabin though was the perfect size for just 1 person. Most times the cabins next to me were empty because of entertainers coming and going throughout the cruise. My only complaint sometimes on the cabin was the occasional noise from the cabin next door at night (super thin wall and you could easily hear the TV).

Activities & Entertainment: Most of the activities on board were either non-existent or a sales pitch (too much focus on selling spa treatments!). A few times we ended up watching people play Wii during the day since there was relatively little going on. Even a gem stone event was highly attended due to lack of events (though can’t complain because we won a free pair of sapphire earrings). This was a surprise compared to past cruises on the Tahitian Princess and Royal Princess. Unfortunately, a cruise director can sometimes make or break a cruise. In this instance, I felt the cruise director was poor and was rarely seen (I actually only saw him one time during the entire cruise). One disappointing factor to me was the times for entertainment in the evening. Evening entertainment times were switched around many evenings, which virtually made it impossible for second seating to attend.

Service: For the most part service onboard was good, especially in the bars. We frequented the Casino Bar many nights due to the great drinks and service. The bar staff knew our names and cruise card numbers within the first few days. Service was also exceptional in Sabatini’s and Sterling Steakhouse. One area service was a hit and miss was the Club Restaurant. Our waiters for dinner were nice, but the service varied every evening. Some nights we felt extremely rushed through dinner and other nights the servers just disappeared. I also have to praise the shore excursion department who were extremely helpful after a poor tour in Martinique!

Food: Food is definitely a topic that is subjective; everyone has different tastes and preferences. Some people raved about the food on board while I found it average at best. The food in Sabatini’s and Sterling Steakhouse was fantastic, along with the grill onboard. Another positive was the food from room service, which always arrived quickly and hot. My main issue was with the Buffett and Club Restaurant. Usually the smaller ships with Princess Cruises have a great reputation for food, which has been the case in past cruises. This time I found much of the food to be on the less flavorful side (putting it nicely!). It seemed like the chefs were afraid to use spices and herbs! The Chicken Korma for lunch one day had no flavor or spice. I love Chicken Korma but the dish was absolutely sad. This became a pattern throughout the cruise with many of the dishes being bland.

Christmas: Princess Cruises does a fantastic job at celebrating Christmas onboard. IMG_0187This actually was my 5th or 6th Christmas cruise (lost count!). Typically, the ships have Christmas trees throughout and a large gingerbread display. There also is a large Christmas carol event in the atrium on Christmas Eve. One special touch is the dinner menu on Christmas Day, particularly the dessert menu. We ended up ordering both a Gingerbread Soufflé and the English Christmas Pudding for dessert. The Christmas Pudding (also known as Plum Pudding) is probably the best and most traditional Christmas dessert Princess makes!

New Year’s: New Year’s Eve was truly the most festive night of the cruise! This was also my first time on a cruise celebrating the New Year. The bars were decked out in New Year’s signs and shiny decorations. In the Club Restaurant, each table had noise makers and hats for the guests. The noisemakers were entertaining since it drove a few of the passengers nuts! The ship really was in a jovial mood on New Year’s Eve. Most bars had some sort of New Year’s celebration but the best part was the party on the open deck. We ended up buying 2 bottles of Champagne and celebrated the New Year by the pool.  The pool area had live music, streamers, and entertainment. The ship also rang in the New Year by sounding the horn at midnight.

Passengers:  Surprisingly for a holiday cruise there were very few families. I do know cruises on the Pacific Princess are typically more expensive and attract an older crowd, but the dates of the cruise fit perfectly with most school schedules. It was surprising to me there weren’t a few more families on board. I estimated less than 15 kids were on the sailing (including passengers and families of crew members). In some respects, it was nice not having a lot of kids but it also lost some of the holiday feel as well.

Truthfully this was an odd grouping of passengers and I felt it was important to mention some of what went on. Some passengers were incredibly friendly while others were down right strange. Unfortunately, this was the first cruise where I felt uncomfortable by the treatment of older passengers towards those younger. One evening we were verbally jumped on by an older woman who talked at us forever. She first started out by making a snide comment about what I was wearing (I was wearing a dress to my knees with a sweater – something I would actually wear to work). Another evening an older man actually verbally attacked a family with a young child in the dining room (this family never came to the dining room again). Now yes, the kid was loud many evenings, but verbally attacking a young family on a cruise is over the top. Sadly, the family will probably always remember the experience and associate the cruise with this negative experience.

Final notes: Overall this was a cruise with a great itinerary but definitely a different cruising experience. To be truthful, I feel a bit turned off of cruising at the moment. I don’t need 24/7 entertainment and great quality food, but the Pacific Princess left me feeling underwhelmed.