After spending the night in San Juan, it was off to the port to embark on a Pirate’s island-hopping journey (sans pillage and other objectionable activity!) through the Southern Caribbean for 7 days aboard the Norwegian Dawn. She’s a fine ship – meticulously well maintained and brimming with a wealth of great entertainment and bounty of good food – but that is for another post, for the highlights of this trip are the magnificent islands – a strand of fine gems dotting the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. I wore it well.
The first stop was Barbados, the southernmost point of our itinerary. Despite the fact that it was December and snowing when I left home, in Barbados it was in the mid 70s with a gentle breeze of sun-drenched, fresh-scented air. I would be meeting some new friends this day – the “green monkeys” of Barbados, on the Green Monkey Encounter and 4×4 Adventure excursion.
To my surprise, I was greeted by far more than adorable monkeys, but tortoises and deer as well. These animals were fearless – approaching people with reckless abandon, allowing for very close contact (sans touching – the sign warned they bite!) and amazing photo ops. The monkeys also interacted with each other – grooming each other, screeching at each other, and chasing one another swinging limb to limb through the trees. They sat on the tortoises, who showed no indication of minding. Surrounded by monkeys, out in the open – not in a zoo, this was a truly unique experience (despite the joke-cracking about the monkeys down here from the Caribbeans who claim they have been overrun a la “Planet of the Apes!”) After our visit with the monkeys, we proceeded to scenic areas for more amazing photos as long as we could evade the distraction of eager local vendors.
The final leg of the journey involved a 4×4 romp through the jungle, our rum punches sloshing out of plastic cups as we bounced around in our seats. It was great fun! Barbados was a beautiful island, with crystal clear water beaches, an upscale economy, and architecture unimpaired by hurricane damage (our tour guide advised us this is because of the location of Barbados and wind stream in the area.)
Martinique was the next day’s port – and the highlight of the trip. Happy to brush up on my college French, I wasn’t just in Martinique, I was in France. Martinique remains a region of France, rather than having become independent as many of her sister islands had done. Transported to another culture, and with magnificent scenery of mountains plunging into ocean, black sand beaches, and the most vibrant flowers I’d ever witnessed, it was “très magnifique!”
We stopped at the church (shown above) of Sacre Coeur, said to be a miniaturized version of the landmark church in Paris. The residents I encountered on Martinique patriotically displayed their admiration for their compatriots in continental France. The tour bus traversed steep mountainside roads, bright colors splashed along the roadside in the form of beautiful flowers. Enormous peaks shadowed deeply plunged valleys – those with a fear of heights be forewarned. We continued on to a rum factory, DePaz, which showed the process of creating this intoxicating (literally) drink. The rum was prepared in gigantic vats, and aged in perfectly crafted barrels. The best part, of course, was the tasting at the end of the tour – especially since it was the finest rum I’d ever tasted – sweet but not overbearingly so. The final stop on the tour was the local museum, which had displays on local famous (and infamous) citizens, and some historic artifacts. Outside cannons lined the elevated overlook, wary of battles against the British in bygone days.
A local woman was selling beautiful handcrafted objects that were a delight to view along with tourist trinkets. Hot in the December sun (!) I picked up a handcrafted fan with a brightly colored plaid pattern traditional to the island. Looking back, I regret not further expanding my collection of souvenirs with her enviable wares. She had some beautiful dolls in traditional textiles that stand out in my memory. Good news, I have an excuse to return (not that I didn’t have one already!)
It was back to the ship again after another amazing adventure, and time to gaze from my shipboard balcony at the bold orange sunset blanketed in blue and violet ribbons you expect to see in paintings more than in real life. A perfect end to a perfect day.
Stay subscribed next time for Part 2: St. Kitts, Antigua, and St. Thomas. A review of the Dawn will be covered in a future post.