Welcome back for the second installment of Southern Caribbean on Norwegian Dawn! St. Kitts was the third stop on the cruise, and I opted for the St. Kitts Scenic Railway excursion, which turned out to be a great choice. The train circled the island, with the views becoming increasingly spectacular as the tour progressed. Rum drinks were served, but what was really intoxicating were the scenes of the magnificent volcano capped in puffy clouds, mountains rising out of the flattest plains of lush green fields, grasses blowing in the breeze, and cute, pastel house dotted villages. Locals waved to us every step of the way, warm welcomes complementing the warmth of the noon-day December sun and temperature in the 70s. This was paradise.
There was time to spend at port after the train ride, and in contrast to the peaceful glide through the countryside, the port was bustling with a fun, party-like atmosphere. It was fun to stop in at the local shop, purchase the local beer (Carib – a personal favorite so difficult to find in the U.S. – such a treat!) and wander the streets beer in hand (something that would be impossible at home!) taking in the laid-back island atmosphere and people watching.
Antigua was the next stop – an alternate stop to St. Maarten which was substituted on the itinerary due to hurricane damage. I did not book an excursion for this port as none were posted until the last minute, so instead I opted for a self-guided tour. There was a tremendous contrast between the touristy shopping area close to the port dominated by tourists and the streets further out where primarily locals were to be found. Sadly the area appeared poor and in need of some repair and restoration.
The church above is an example of this. The two towers stood out like exclamation points from anywhere in town (and even from our cabin’s balcony!) enticing me to approach. I didn’t realize until I could view it up close the urgent need for restoration. I was very glad to have been able to, hopefully, do my part to help the local economy doing some shopping at the port and paying my port taxes. Once back on the ship, I settled in on the balcony to enjoy what turned out to be the most spectacular sunset views of the entire cruise, with layers of deep blue, purple, orange, and yellow bleeding into each other in a stew of brilliant color as a backdrop to the dark outlines of islands. My imagination drifted to the days of pirates commandeering these incredible views – the ultimate Caribbean treasure. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful day.
The final stop on the trip was St. Thomas. I was expecting to be underwhelmed, because I tend to enjoy destinations the more exotic they are and St. Thomas is a U.S. territory, but I could not have been more wrong. St. Thomas ended up being a highlight of the tour!
Upon arrival, we were enthusiastically greeted by locals in vibrantly-colored local costumes energetically dancing in the street, including one on stilts! I had booked an excursion to Megan’s Bay beach – ranked one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic, and shopping and Charlotte Amalie. Our tour bus stopped at a thrilling scenic overlook high above Megan’s Bay, and then continued down the mountain to the shores of this magnificent beach. The tour guide claimed that the beach was damaged during the hurricanes – but other than palm trees being propped up by wooden braces I couldn’t tell. The beach stretched on so long it was easy to escape the crowds by strolling further down the vast shoreline. The water was warm and crystal clear, and the sound of the waves rushing in accompanied by peaceful silence was a delight to my ears. I wanted to pitch a tent and stay there forever!
We proceeded into Charlotte Amalie afterwards, where high-end shops, especially jewelry shops, were over-represented, but I did manage to find a couple of real local gems, in particular a shop featuring the work of artists capturing the beauty and spirit of St. Thomas. As an Art History major in college I found their wares irresistible, and picked up a painting, photographic work, and drawing for my home office. The scenery here was so unforgettable that I wouldn’t need these reminders, but I would cherish them nonetheless. After shopping I did a self-guided tour to view the unique Danish architecture and brilliant, bright pastel colored structures abundant in both St. Thomas and the Caribbean.
I left St. Thomas determined to pack up and move! (At least eventually!) I have traveled extensively throughout the U.S., and never encountered a more delicious expanse of eye-candy anywhere else on U.S. soil.
Back to the ship and it was time to return to San Juan, overflowing with amazing memories and a long checklist of places to which I “absolutely must!” return to. This includes the Dawn cruise ship itself, which will have its own post, (video tour included!) after our next Dawn cruise coming up this March!