Friday, February 24, 2012

Holiday Cruise, Day 5: St. Lucia

Our next stop was St. Lucia, one of the Windward islands of the Lesser Antilles (see map in previous post for reference). We docked at Pointe Seraphine (northwest, near the capital, Castries).
Map of St. Lucia (source)
View of Pointe Seraphine from the cruise ship:

Pointe Seraphine, Saint Lucia

We sailed from there to Pigeon Island National Park (further north, almost to the top tip of the island) on an 85-foot "pirate ship" schooner named "Liana's Ransom". The weather was perfect.

The schooner had a crew of "pirates" who were fun and interactive, and, of course, they were dressed in pirate costumes. Some of the views on the way to Pigeon Island:

Pigeon Island:

Ed, Daniel, and I hiked up the peaks while Cindy and Ed (Sr.) hung out at the beach. Bernadette wasn't feeling well that day, so she unfortunately didn't make the excursion.

Fort Rodney (named after British Admiral George Rodney) was built atop the lower of the two peaks (called Fort Rodney Hill, to the left in the above photo) in 1778. Pigeon Island is about 25 miles from Martinique (which we could see in the distance, but it didn't show up very well in the photos we took), so it was an important British observation and defensive site. Some views from Fort Rodney:

Fort Rodney, Saint Lucia
Overlooking Martinique from Fort Rodney (Martinique is in the distance to the far right)

Pigeon Island Saint Lucia

Pigeon Island Saint Lucia

Pigeon Island Saint Lucia
Signal Peak
Pigeon Island Saint Lucia
View of the causeway connecting Pigeon Island to the mainland
The taller peak, Signal Peak, is 359 feet tall. Pigeon Island was joined to the mainland (Gros Islet) with a man-made causeway (shown in the above photo) in 1972 to form Rodney Bay Marina. We continued up to Signal Peak for some more photos. It was very steep and rocky, so it was more of a workout than we anticipated!
Pigeon Island Saint Lucia
View of Fort Rodney from Signal Peak

Pigeon Island Saint Lucia
View of Rodney Bay from Signal Peak

We hiked back down and sailed back to Pointe Seraphine. We had a little extra time to check out the shopping area. Ed got some great shots of local flora there.

Pointe Seraphine, Saint Lucia

Pointe Seraphine, Saint Lucia

Pointe Seraphine, Saint Lucia

Pointe Seraphine, Saint Lucia

We wish we had more time to see more of the island. I especially wanted to see more of the Pitons (on the southwest coast of the island). We'll have to go back some time!

And here's a nice gradient of the sky at sunset as we left port:

Sunset at St. Lucia
Our next and final stop before heading back to Miami is St. Kitts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Holiday Cruise, Day 4: St. Maarten/St. Martin

All three of the ports of call (St. Maarten, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts) were in the Lesser Antilles, which are part of the West Indies. Our first stop was the Dutch/French island of St. Maarten (Dutch side)/St. Martin (French side).

Map of the Lesser Antilles (source)
Map of St. Maarten/St. Martin (source)
We docked at Philipsburg on the Dutch side and took a tour of both sides of the island by bus.
View of St. Maarten from the ship in port at Philipsburg

We rode to Marigot, the capital of the French side, where we stopped for a little shopping.

Crossing the Dutch/French border
We saw several iguanas along the way
Marigot Saint Martin
Marigot, St. Martin
You can see Fort St. Louis in the background of the above photo (and a closer shot in the photo below). It is the island's largest historical monument, built in 1767. We didn't get to stop there for this tour, though. Maybe next time....

Fort St Louis Saint Martin
Fort St. Louis, St. Martin

We continued on to Grand Case, where we boarded a semi-submersible boat for a 45-minute tour of the coral reefs surrounding Creole Rock. We saw a boat named after me as we were boarding!

Grand Case Saint Martin
View of Grand Case, St. Martin from boat
Creole Rock, Grand Case, Saint Martin
Creole Rock, off the shore of Grand Case, St. Martin
We went down to the lower level of the boat to get a look at the sea life and coral reefs as a marine expert explained what we were seeing.

The weather held out just long enough for us to get back on the ship and see a nice rainbow before leaving. It was a nice tour, but we wished we had more time there, which we wished at every port.

Next stop is St. Lucia!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Holiday Cruise, Days 1-3: At Sea

We celebrated Christmas and New Year's Eve on an eight-day cruise with both sets of parents (apparently, this is unusual...)! We also celebrated our anniversary and both sets of parents' anniversaries. We went on a Carnival cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We were on the ship Carnival Valor (which the girls had sailed on to the Western Caribbean in 2009). Ports of call were St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts.

Carnival Valor cruise ship
Carnival Valor
We took approximately a billion pictures (we combined pictures taken by six people), so I'm going to break this up into parts (by days at sea and ports of call). If you're wondering why it took so long to post about this, that's a lot of photos to sort through and pick just a few to highlight on the blog.

We embarked and sailed from the port of Miami late afternoon on Christmas Eve.
View from the ship leaving the Port of Miami
Christmas day was pretty low-key and relaxing. They had a large gingerbread scene on display, as well as Christmas trees, garlands, and other decorations throughout the ship.

Part of the gingerbread display

Carved watermelon Christmas wish in casual dining area
We had an "elegant" night (i.e., we were supposed to get dressed up for dinner) and we all met the captain.

Us with the captain
At dinner, they brought each couple a special dessert and sang to celebrate our anniversaries. Our table was huge and round and the lighting was kind of dark in the dining hall, so it was kind of difficult to get good photos of all of us at dinner.
Daniel and Bernadette (Jennifer's parents) at dinner
Cindy and Ed (Ed's parents) at dinner
Us at dinner
For the next couple of days, we were at sea. It was kind of nice to have a couple of days to relax before getting to our first stop. We amused ourselves on the water slide a few times. Well, some of us went more than a few times. Daniel and Ed, Jr. lost count of how many times they went down the slide.
Ed on the water slide

Jennifer on the water slide
Ed got a shot of Daniel doing what he enjoys most:

We also figured out that the hot chocolate was a fountain drink (no extra charge!), so it became part of our daily routine to stop for hot chocolate in between meals. Or ice cream. Or both. Together.

Next up is our first stop: St. Maarten/St. Martin.