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Sunday, 4 February 2018

Sunday 4th February - Barbados

Beaching it in Barbados
So today we are in Bridgetown Barbados. We had already told the shorex team that we didn't want to escort any tours today so we've got the day off. As an added bonus, it's a long day ashore and we won't leave until 10 o'clock tonight. What are we going to do with all this sun? Sadly Peter has to work and catch up with his online students so we decided to spend the morning using the free Wi-Fi in the terminal, and after an early lunch, we , and Chris, the creative writing instructor, would spend the afternoon on a beach.

Now if you look at TripAdvisor the best abeach in Bridgetown is the Boathouse which has very much a party atmosphere and the booze flows freely. But it's a bit expensive if you're not really a partyloving drinker, so last year Peter and I found the Pirate Cove right next door.  (I should point out that the Boathouse is cheap for cruise ship crew). Using the beach itself is free, but if you want to use a lounger and parasol then you'll need to pay a few dollars for the rental of, which is exactly what we did.

OK, so I'm not really a beach person. But I do like swimming and particularly snorkeling, and where better to snorkel than in the Caribbean. It wasn't the best of days in Caribbean terms, in fact it was a bit cloudy and overcast and it even rained a few times. But the sea was warm and I had my contact lenses in, and my snorkel, and my goggles, and I was as happy as the proverbial pig in ... Last year Peter bought me an underwater camera and I was able to use it to film the fish as I swam.

I still haven't worked out how to use the camera though, and didn't film the couple of more exciting fish that I managed to see, but I did get an excellent short clip of a large shoal, which I totally bored Peter and Chris with later.

After a few hours, we headed back about 5 o'clock, mostly because Chris hasn't brought any cigarettes with her, but also because the rain was becoming more persistent and the air was getting cooler too. (So what happened to the fabled Caribbean weather?)

And the reason that I mentioned crew rates for The Boathouse?  Well, on return to the ship, I bumped into one of the staff that had taken advantage of those rates. Absolutely hammered and hysterically funny trying to maintain a professional image. Just class!

So that was Bridgetown Barbados. Tomorrow we are visiting the port of Castries, on the island of St Lucia and escorting an all day tour. Let's hope it's a good one.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Saturday 3rd February - St George's Grenada

One of the beaches on Grenada's coastline.  Very pretty
Another hot sunny day on another hot sunny Caribbean Island.  This is the life isn't it.  We were supposed to be parked on the pier in Grenada, 'cept some hulking great Yank ship has taken our space.  The captain told us a couple of days ago that CMV booked the slot and has confirmation of the booking, but apparently money talks.  The Royal Caribbean ship is much bigger, with more passengers, so the Grenada authorities decided to allow them the berth and make the little Magellan anchor out in the bay, so everyone has to tender across.

We're escorting again - Discover Grenada - a tour of 4 1/2 hours.  It's mostly scenic driving, firstly around the coast, then through the the spice and banana plantations in the middle of the island, along the edges of the rainforest and back out to the coast and Fort Frederick.  There are a few stops thrown in of course.

The buses are quite small, only 20 seaters.  It was chaos loading them - I ended up on bus number 11, but my CMV paddle said number 8.  We were late getting to the buses anyway, and then we had to wait for about 20 mins for the final passengers to turn up because they had missed the tender boat that the rest of us were on. We were easily half an hour late starting

Our first stop was at the Dougaldston Spice Estate, where we were first shown how cocoa beans are turned into chocolate, and then given a brief show and tell re the various spices that are produced in Grenada.  I was that impressed with what I'd learnt, I ended up buying some of the pure chocolate that is produced in the area to use to make drinking chocolate.  Apparently I have to dissolve it into boiling water, simmer for 5 mins, strain, and then add milk and sugar.  I'm told that I'll know that it's the real thing due to the oil of the chocolate on surface of the cup.  I can't wait to try it.
This is how the cocoa bean looks when the pod is first cut.  A bit ugh! actually.  The farmers can tell when the pod is ready, because it starts to heat up as the beans start to ferment.  So there you go. 
Then the beans are fermented for a bit longer - 8 days they told us.  After the fermenting bit, they are dried on tables like this.  When the beans are dry and you bite into them, they really taste of chocolate, not quite Lindt or Cadbury's, but chocolate nevertheless. 
Driving through the countryside was pleasant.
And Annadale waterfall was nice.  The island has had an unexpected amount of rain in the last month, so the falls were full, and young men took it upon themselves to leap into the plunge pool in the interests of photography and making themselves a few bucks.  I missed the picture though.
Annandale Waterfall
We finished at Fort Frederick, with these excellent views.  As usual, I managed to find an lizard of some sort.
Our excellent view included being able to watch the Royal Caribbean block of flats sail off.  Unfortunately, logistics prevented the Magellan from being able to move in and take up the berth.
Another lizard.  I have no idea what type though. 
As I said, the tour was supposed to last about 4 and a half hours.  We set off late, and then we had the easy, relaxed, no worries attitude of the Caribbean driver to contend with, add a return tender journey, and we didn't get back to the ship until nearly 3 o'clock.  Everybody was starving and ready for afternoon tea. We worked out that it wasn't worth trying to get back to the island for the remaining time that we had, because the tenders would add an hour in travelling time.

So that was our day in Grenada.  Tomorrow we are in Barbados.  

Friday, 2 February 2018

Friday 2nd February - Scarborough, Tobago.

So yesterday was a seaday.  Peter did his art classes as usual, he's still under the weather, and he was exhausted at the end of it. I helped set up and clear away as usual.  Nothing particularly different, except one of the younger passengers who we chat to regularly has been unexpectedly propositioned by another.  I say unexpectedly because we both thought the guy was gay!  He's also a good 20 years or so older than her, and although she has politely told him she is not interested, he doesn't seem to have understood the statement.  The fact that she has a partner at home hasn't deterred him either.  He's started to appear in the places she normally hangs out, so she has had to take on a bodyguard.  I say bodyguard, I mean a very lovely and very polite gentleman who stays with her and ensures no unwanted advances.

To be honest, her admirer seems harmless enough and no doubt he'll come across someone else to turn his attentions to sooner or later. For now  Peter and I find it amusing that she's got herself into this predicament. That'll teach her not to listen to serenading guitar players.

And today we woke to find ourselves on sunny island of Tobago.  The weather is a little cooler than it's been in Brazil, but then, we are a few more degrees north of the equator.  It's still hot and sunny though.  Just what you'd expect of the Caribbean. Tobago is billed as an "Eco Destination", with rainforests, beaches and coral reefs. There are over 6000 species of plants and animals on the little island, which is only 26 miles long and 7 miles wide.  Oh, and they race goats! (Yes really.) Just the sort of place I should love.
Peter and I are escorting today - "The Panoramic South", basically an on the bus off the bus tour.  In a way we quite like doing them, because they are relatively short and relatively easy.  On the other hand, they are not tours we would normally want to do ourselves, because they are mostly a series of photo stops and visits, with a tour guide to explain.  Peter and I both prefer to be able to wander off into the "wilds" of wherever we are, at our own pace, investigating whatever we find interesting.  (I say "wilds", I mean any street, path, lane or bit of waste ground that we've not wandered across before).

The excursion was OK.  Not one of our favourites, but we did get to see some excellent views from Fort King George and Fort James. As usual the guides explained things as we went along.  What I found interesting was that they reported an increase in tourist trade since the last hurricane which caused a fair amount of damage to many of the surrounding Caribbean islands.  Tobago escaped unscathed, and as a result can recieved the cruise ships, for which they are grateful as they need to boost their economy.  At the moment they have a 40% unemployment rate, and one of their main sources of income, banana's, has been decimated due to desease.
We were back to the ship in time for lunch, and then it was time for us to go out and have a look around for ourselves.  Peter, as always, needed to find wi-fi.  There was free wi-fi at the terminal, which I used to successfully upload a couple of blog posts, but it didn't suit Peter, so he went and find a bar with a good router and settled down for a few hours. I decided to take a walk through the town, past the various stores and offices, noisy bars and busy streets, and find the Botanical gardens, which are only 5 minutes away from the cruise terminal.

I liked this fruit and veg shop, it all looks delicious.
The birds thought so too, and blue grey tanagers hopped around the upper sections, stealing bits of banana where they could.  This birds are a bit blurry in this picture, but you can see where they've been helping themselves.
At the gardens I had plenty to keep me occupied. I really need to find out a lot more about lizards and ghecko's, I have seen so many different types on this cruise.  Here's another, although I think this might be a skink.
And this spectacled thrush just looks weird.
Having spent a little while in the gardens, I made my way back to Peter, expecting him to be ready to leave, since all aboard was at 17.30. On the way, I passed a couple of bars that seemed to be in competition with each other in terms of which could make the most noise.  Both blared out dance music so loud that damage to ear drums was very likely if you stayed in the vicinity for more than an few minutes.  People inside and out were laughing and drinking and dancing, a party atmosphere building up.  The middle of the road between the two bars was like a crash zone, with the different music tracks coming at you from each site.  The noise was almost intolerable.

I got back to Peter, and it turned out we still had another hour, so our return walk was leisurely, taking in the colours and the bustle of the streets.  We got to the music bars, and couldn't resist.  The dance music was so loud, the beat took control and I dragged Peter into the grotty bar area to dance.

Sadly it was time to get back to the ship, but we left thinking that we liked Tobago.  The people are freindly, the island felt safe, and we left it in a happy mood. Maybe we'll go back for  a holiday?

We ended a brilliant day with a brilliant moonrise.  It appeared amazingly large and beautifully bright orange on the horizon, looking more like the sun than the moon.   Tomorrow we will be in St Georges', Grenada.  Peter and I are escorting again, "Discover Grenada", but we should have the afternoon to ourselves.  I'm looking forward to it.