Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sailing the Caribbean…seven days – seven ports

If sampling the Caribbean islands in the lap of luxury is what you’re looking for, you can do no better than sailing on the Royal Clipper. It’s sailing now out of Barbados, offering seven ports in seven days. 

The Royal Clipper doesn’t follow the crowd when it comes to selecting ports of call. When there is an option, they choose to avoid the large commercial docks and rather drop anchor in the more authentic ports such as Falmouth Harbor in Antigua. Here, you’ll rub shoulders with dozens of members of the real sailing community instead of fighting the crowds of mega-cruisers in the larger ports.

St. Lucia was our first stop and we took the first opportunity to go ziplining in the rainforest. Great fun. 12 ziplines of varying lengths and height in a lush forest setting. A very personable guide gave us a good overview of the island as we took the tour bus to and from the Adventure Park.

In Dominica, we dropped anchor off Roseau. I did the Middleham Falls and Sulphur Spa hike.  It was very strenuous hiking (as advertised)on slippery slopes, across streams and creeks but we got to see some beautiful waterfalls. We then relaxed and savored a wonderful lunch at a remote B&B run by Auntie Joan, who makes a great rum punch. All the food was grown locally and quite tasty. The hot springs were next, but people only had 30 minutes to enjoy before the bus headed back to the boat. Relaxing in a volcanic heated pool could easily have been enjoyed for hours instead of minutes.

Others on the boat opted for the easier hike to Trafalgar Falls and then the Champagne Snorkel at one of the top five snorkeling sites in the Caribbean. Underwater geothermal springs release thousands of bubbles of warm gasses giving you the feeling of swimming through a glass of warm champagne.

In Falmouth Harbor on Antigua, we strolled the docks and admired the sailing vessels of the rich and famous. There were dozens to see and they were breathtaking, including the Maltese Falcon and Mirabella V - whose mast was even taller than the Royal Clipper’s. We also walked to the historic Nelson Boatyards - a reconstructed Williamsburg-type village that was very interesting.

The more adventuresome on the boat went swimming with the stingrays or on a kayak eco tour. Those who yearned for even more sailing adventures had the opportunity to race a pair of Ondeck’s Ocean racing yachts.

Midway through the cruise, we stopped briefly at Basseterre and later that day at South Friar’s Bay, both on St. Kitts. Needing to catch up on my photo editing, I opted to relax and stay on-board that day, unfortunately missing the beachfront barbeque lunch which I heard was wonderful.

Those who went on the St. Kitts scenic rail tour got to ride the same narrow-gauge railroad that originally served the sugar plantations about a century ago.

The following day, we wandered off by ourselves on Terre-de-Haute in the Iles de Saintes. In about fifteen minutes, we had entirely crossed the small island to its eastern shore where six-foot waves were crashing on the beach. For over a half-hour, we were the only two on a mile-wide beach. Walking back, we explored a unique above-ground cemetery where each grave contained a little mini altar with photos, flowers and memorabilia.

In Martinique we actually docked in Fort de France and were met as we went ashore by a reggae band and a choice of duty free shops. We strolled into the city and did some final last minute shopping before we returned.

After arriving in Barbados on our last day, we had hours to kill in the Barbados airport before our return flight. We took the opportunity and crossed the street and had lunch at a local place called Pugs. Sanitation is not their specialty, but if you can get past that, I had the tastiest fish luncheon in years with their Flying Fish special. Fish, rice and a little salad, along with a rum and coke for $8.50. I must find somewhere else that serves flying fish – it was so tasty.

Those seven days were a fantasy of fine dining aboard the Royal Clipper with daily explorations of ports I’d never experienced. The cruise could not have been more perfect.

To learn more about the Royal Clipper ship itself, read my other article “Perfect Sails on Perfect Seas” or visit their website .

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