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  • Writer's picturesi newell

Six Islands - Cruising the Caribbean

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

Day One - Barbados

An early 3am start to get to the airport for the flight to Barbados - a very long day ahead with a four hour time difference. The Dreamliner touched down on schedule at Grantley Adams airport and we soon transferred to Bridgetown port to join the Marella Explorer for an 8pm departure on the first part of the cruise taking us north along the Windward Islands.

Before sailing, there was a brief chance to sketch three amazing industrial structures on the dockside standing like three sentries guarding Bridgetown.

Then dinner and at long last to bed.

Day Two - Day At Sea

A day at sea as we sailed north past Martinique, Dominica and Guadalupe (where BBC’s Death In Paradise is filmed). A few cocktails while sitting above the pool deck gave me the chance to sketch the ship as it sailed along the islands. The Marella Explorer, whilst still large, is dwarfed by the latest generation of ‘mega’ cruise ships, but still provides all the facilities one can possibly use in a week. Then dinner in another one of the ten restaurants on board followed by a drink in a bar with a Brazilian guitarist playing mellow tunes.

Day Three - St Kitts

Got up to see the final docking of the ship in the first destination, Basseterre in St Kitts. Berthed next to the largest cruise ship in the world, Symphony Of The Seas, our ship's pool was completely overlooked by her huge neighbour.

We’d booked a cycling tour around the southern part of the island and we joined 10 others from the ship. We visited several great viewpoints over the island and across to neighbouring Nevis where you can view both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

We stoped at Frigate Bay beach for a relaxing beer and a chance for a quick sketch.

After returning to the ship for lunch, we wandered around Basseterre the capital of this small island and I sketched some of the cool colonial houses that surrounded the town’s Independence Square.

As ever, then more food at dinner on ship and and an early night after deciding that the bike tours were fab, and we wanted to do the same again tomorrow in St Maarten!

Day Four - St Maarten

Breakfast revealed that we had already arrived in Philipsburg in St Maarten and that we were one of six cruise ships in port that day! Many of the ship’s crew had told us that St Maarten was one of their favourite stops and that the cycle route was the best of the week (and the longest). After having very much enjoyed yesterday's cycling trip run by two great bike crew (Ash & George), we decided to try out the St Maarten route on electric bikes (which made hills ridiculously easy)!

We visited both the French and Dutch sides of the island. We passed through the Dutch capital Philipsburg en route to the French capital, Marigot and had half an hour to look around (and do a very quick sketch).

We then continued on to a couple of beaches including the famous Maho ’airport’ beach where visitors from all over the world come to see aircraft dramatically land just over the beach itself. We were lucky to see a couple of planes land including a large Boeing 767 dramatically pass low overhead before we returned to interesting Philipsburg. St Maarten definitely feels interestingly different with its Dutch and French origins.

The ship was not leaving until 10pm and therefore we went back and enjoyed a very chilled evening on Philipsburg’s great beach front (including a quick watercolour before daylight was total lost)

Day Five - British Virgin Islands

An early start to disembark the ship as soon as we could in order to catch the first ferry to Virgin Gorda to visit ‘The Baths’, an unusual geologic formation situated adjacent to the beautiful Devil’s Beach.

We were fortunate to experience The Baths and beach before other excursion groups arrived and gave me a chance to try a watercolour - it's so great to see watercolour dry so quickly in the wonderful heat!

Then back to Tortola to have lunch in a British style pub and a look around the small capital of Road Town before returning to the ship for the evening sailing, watching the sunset as we slip out of the harbour.

Day Six - Antigua

The cycling trips are such a great way of seeing these islands that we decided to book the Antigua excursion too. We visited some of the best beaches I had ever experienced - Dickinson Bay in particular was stunning! Had to attempt a watercolour here with the iconic red British telephone box sitting on the beach as a main focus.

Then back to bustling St John's, a rather lovely little town that integrates seamlessly into the cruise port area - it feels like a real miniature city.

All of these islands are absolutely stunning, but Antigua is certainly one to return too some day.

An evening poolside Caribbean party and BBQ followed on the ship. Then dinner and a show in the theatre before bed.

Day Seven - Bequia, St Vincent & The Grenadines

I was particularly excited to visit Bequia as I had read so many great things about this small island in the Grenadines. Some writers have described it as 'the perfect Caribbean island'.

There is no actual port in the capital Port Elizabeth, so the Explorer anchored in the harbour and we had to use small tenders to reach land.

We wandered around the harbour along a trekking route to St Margaret’s beach and then the quieter Lower Bay beach further along the coast. The island is relatively undeveloped and the green hills form a stunning backdrop to the great beaches around the harbour.

A few swims in the crystal clear water and a sketch of the harbour with a visiting ‘pirate’ ship anchored off the beach completed a relaxing morning and was followed by lunch in one of the lovely harbour-side bars.

A great place to simply chill and sketch some of the characterful buildings along the waterfront.

Day Eight - Barbados

The final day and we decided to take a tour of the island before returning to the airport. The weather in the morning was initially overcast but improved by the time we reached our first stop - Gun Hill Signal Station, the largest and most important of the military outposts in Barbados, with military associations from at least 1697. It was named as one of the four points where guns were to be placed to give alarm in the event of an invasion.

I tried a series of 5 minutes sketches here and at our second stop, the beautiful parish church of St Johns.

Th main stop was at Sunbury Plantation House, where we enjoyed a tour of the restored house and had a very pleasant lunch before returning to the airport for our evening departure to the UK.

A great week in some absolutely stunning locations.

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