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Stinger-PR's DAWN of an era: A NCL Dawn review (Thanksgiving week 2018)

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1 minute ago, lily23 said:

Love your review !!! Leaving Sunday on the Dawn ,so excited !!! Any chance you have the room service menu ? Thank you !

US TOOOOO!!! YAY!

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Enjoying your review.  I was on the repositioning cruise out of Boston just prior to your cruise so it's interesting to see some of the different experiences you are having with food, service, etc.  It was our very first cruise ever so we had nothing to compare it to but found both the food and service to be awesome everywhere we went onboard.  Due to it being a repositioning cruise it was not crowded, we waited for nothing anywhere - dining, drinks, getting on and off the ship, and it had very few children.  I will continue to read because now you are about to hit some of the islands we visited so I can get another's perspective not only of the Dawn, but of the islands 🙂

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Great reviews - this will be our 3rd NCL. We have never been to Antigua and I was wondering if you could tell me what you did or how you got around?? I am having such a hard time finding a rental car and thought maybe at this point to try hiring a taxi for the day. We have 8 people though so it may be kind of difficult

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I hope all is well with you and you are just busy 🙂  Is there any way you could post the remaining Daily's?  You are the only one with a review of this cruise and it is nice to see those before going.  If not, I completely understand.  Am super anxious to read the rest of your review as we leave 2/17.  Thanks again!!

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On 1/26/2019 at 3:55 PM, Island girlz said:

Great reviews - this will be our 3rd NCL. We have never been to Antigua and I was wondering if you could tell me what you did or how you got around?? I am having such a hard time finding a rental car and thought maybe at this point to try hiring a taxi for the day. We have 8 people though so it may be kind of difficult

Actually I'm starting on Antigua right now and it might just be the longest, most photo intensive part of this interminable review. Thanks for sticking around!!

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7 hours ago, tpnebraska said:

I hope all is well with you and you are just busy 🙂  Is there any way you could post the remaining Daily's?  You are the only one with a review of this cruise and it is nice to see those before going.  If not, I completely understand.  Am super anxious to read the rest of your review as we leave 2/17.  Thanks again!!

Thank you for asking. Yes, I've been super busy since the renovations at home are now full blast and work has been heck these past few weeks. Thanks for sticking around!!

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You're in luck. I'm starting on it now!!

 

"The best laid plans of mice and men..."

 

Boy has it been difficult to get back to finishing up this time!! Anyway, here we go!!

 

Day 4: Antigua!

 

 

So this was the big question mark for us since I had never been to Antigua and DW had been there once some years back and had a horrible experience about it. It has been a few years now but she says she remembers being tormented by way too pushy taxi drivers and street vendors. She says it got to the point of being obnoxious and she got so upset that she (and part of her group) decided to skip Antigua and return to the ship. Needless to say she approached coming back and spending a day there with some trepidation. To make matters worse, there is so, so little, recent, information about Antigua here and we had no friends who had visited to give us any feedback. We were basically running blind! And THAT had me nervous. So after some thoughts about what we wanted to do, we settled for a simple island tour and after some searching decided to book a tour with Scenic Tours Antigua.

 

Although old, the few reviews we found, were mostly positive about this outfit and its operator Sean Beazer. For $38US per person we were to have a 6-hour tour of different points of interest around the island, including Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, the Blockhouse ruins, Shirley Heights, a drive across a forest “en route to one of our finest white sandy beach” (which is never mentioned by name). The price was the same if you decided for time at the beach or not. So we filled out the form online at their website and paid the 50% deposit. We got an email from Sean Thanking us for booking and some extra details about the tour. As requested, we confirmed receipt of the email. This was all done 34 days prior to departure.

 

On Nov. 16 (two days prior to departure) we got an email from NCL informing us that our port times at Antigua had been changed and that instead of a 8am-5pm stop, we were now having a 10am-7pm stop. I quickly emailed Sean to inform him about this change and was baffled with his response:

 

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So, let me get this straight: This guy waits until less than 48 hours before we’re supposed to be on the ship to tell me I can either get two more people to join, pay for two ghosts or cancel AFTER I emailed him about a change of port call time??? If I hadn’t emailed him we might’ve gotten on the ship and have no idea about our cancelled tour until we arrived at Antigua and would have been left at the dock lost and clueless as to what to do at this island. I guess DW memories were going to be refreshed all over.

 

So this left me scrambling to find someone to book with in less than 2 days before possibly losing communication until we actually arrived at Antigua (we wouldn't be paying for WIFI on the ship). Most operators replied with a “Sorry” due to the same reasons as Sean. You see, apparently, there’s a law, rule, agreement, whatever... in Antigua where the minimum amount of passengers needed to contract a tour operator is 4. Anything under that and you either pay for the extra empty seats or get someone to join. So for those of you out there cruising solo or as a couple and don’t know anyone else on the ship that has intentions of doing a tour in Antigua, think it over and do your research way ahead of time since you could be left out in the cold with no tour.

 

We even got an email from Gordon Antigua Tours with the following:

 

Hello Angel,

It would be a pleasure to give you a tour of our beautiful island.

 

I usually group up small groups together but if only two adults book in total then the taxi/island tour will cost USD$60.00 for each adult (no complimentary drinks and snacks included) plus USD$8.00 per person to enter the Nelson Dockyard National Park. If you book this tour then you will have to purchase your own snacks and drinks.

 

If I book others and I have at least four adults booked then the taxi/island tour cost will be reduced to USD$50.00 per person and you will be served complimentary drinks and snacks plus USD$8.00 per person to enter the Nelson Dockyard National Park.

 

Awaiting your reply,

Gordon

 

So, if four people pay and four people go on the tour, they all get drinks and snacks. But if two people PAY as four but it’s only them two you get no snacks or drinks. Really dude???

 

Anyway, we found a comparable tour with Antigua Premier Tours. On Sunday Nov. 18 (the day we sailed) we got an email from Carl saying that there were spots available for one of their tours. They actually have various tours and we were offered a spot on the South Coast tour which for $48 each included stops at Nelson's Dockyard, Dow Hill Interpretation Center, Shirley's Heights, Fig Tree Drive, Cades Bay, Pineapple Farm. We wanted to have a sample of some of the alleged 365 beaches of Antigua and specifically asked if the tour included beach time.

 

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So as you can see we were specifically told that YES, beach time was included (even though there’s no mention of it on the tour description). On the other hand, something else was stated as included with the price and never happened:

 

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The only water we ever saw was the one we bought ourselves upon arriving at Nelson’s Dockyard. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

I thought about a $20 total increase in price and a tour time cut in half compared to the Scenic Antigua offering and decided to book it anyway since, by then we had realized that we were out of options and it was either book with Antigua Premier out have a “walk-around-the-shops-and-look-around-since-I-have-no-intentions-to-buy-anything-here” kinda stop on what would be our first time together in Antigua and than would have sucked for us. I decided to go for the tour and emailed Carl Back. He sent us a confirmation email with details, meeting and payment instructions (we were to pay in full on the day of the tour).

 

Whew!!! So hopefully that was a disaster avoided!

Edited by Stinger-pr

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So the day started uneventful. As usual I got up for my sunrise picture but I was a bit late today and the sun was already up.

 

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I got my sunrise picture and since we weren’t docking for another 3-some hours, I went back to bed. But a less than an hour later DW had other ideas and convinced me to head over to the buffet for breakfast as we were approaching the harbor of St. John. I had my usual omelette while DW went a different way with hers, especially when she saw that they were making fresh waffles. At least I was still trying to convince myself to stay on a diet. Key word there: trying. And I was failing miserably!!

 

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While at breakfast we were taken on a small grand tour of the harbor since about halfway in, the ship was turned around and brought to port on reverse. I wouldn’t say it a beautiful bay, but it’s definitely more interesting and prettier than Barbados.

 

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Beyond the waters of they bay, the views of and around St. Johns were amazing. A couple of huge houses or hotels (maybe?) caught my eye, as well as this imposing church below. It would be one of many, many, many that we would see during our day there.

 

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By 9am we were back at the room getting our stuff ready for our day on shore. I was also on the balcony every now and then taking pictures and just looking around.

 

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One thing I noticed was the color of the water. It has a strange color to it since it's a milky greenish hue which I believe may be due to the bay not being too deep since, when the ship started using her thrusters to swing around and approach the dock it kicked up a hell of a lot of mud all around the ship. It was even more noticeable when maneuvering dockside since it turned up so much mud that it looked like milk chocolate spilled over anti-freeze! It's not the clearest but it's a hell of a lot better than San Juan!

 

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I also noted this boat:

 

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This is the ferry to the nearby island of Barbuda. I’m guessing the passengers were kindda pissed since they had to wait quite a long time until the Dawn had docked before they could make their approach to its own dock, adjacent to the cruise piers (the one with the blue roof on one of the pictures above).

 

We disembarked around 10:10am and made our way out towards the meeting place at the Antigua Harbour Cafe (which is right in between both cruise piers) for our 10:30am meeting. We were docked on the north pier (Heritage Quay) so when we got to the end of the pier we took a right and walked along the boardwalk for about three minutes.

 

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This was our meeting point: Antigua Harbor Cafe.

 

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At our meeting place we met our guide Carl who was waiting for us along with a woman, maybe in her late 60’s and her grown boys, who were maybe late 30’s, early 40’s. Carl verified the details with us and we were on our way. Then we saw something that made my blood boil. We saw a guy with a sign for Scenic Tours Antigua. So either they DID have tours for that day or miraculously they found more people for their tour but didn’t have the courtesy or professionalism to even try to contact us to let us know in case we were still interested. I wanted to throw this guy in the water but my better judgement (and an eyes wide-open, “just keep walking” look from DW) made me turn the other way and say nothing. But trust me, it wasn't easy!

 

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We walked for a few minutes to a parking lot outside the dock area to where Carl had parked his van. While not a big van, it was in good shape and had good, working AC!!

 

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That's Carl right there on the left.

 

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The tour started as expected with Carl introducing himself again, giving us a little backstory about him and asking where we were from. To our surprise, the woman and her sons were also from Puerto Rico, although if it wasn't for Carl asking we might've never know since until that moment neither of them hadn't said a word. Carl continued giving us some insight into the history of the island, it's culture and the people while driving away off the St. John area.

 

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We weren't taken to any points of interest in St. John itself but i was expecting that since there was no mention of it in the tour description. He talked about the economic hardship the people had gone through at various times (including the complete devastation of sister island Barbuda by hurricane Irma in 2017), how, depending on the current government at the time, the bureaucracy had not help things along and showed us a few projects along the way that had been half built then abandoned due to politics and said bureaucracy.

 

Soon enough we were out on the countryside and we were amazed how similar the Antigua countryside looked to the plains on the southwest part of Puerto Rico between Ponce and Cabo Rojo. Carl zipped by a lot of places he mentioned during the way and barely slowed enough to see the place before he finished talking about it. We also zipped by an abandoned sugar mill and were given a small lesson about the sugar cane- dependent economy they had for many years (very similar to Puerto Rico) before actually the first market disappeared and they transitioned to tourism as the main driving economical force.

 

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Proud as any Caribbean native from any other island, he made a point to stop at a billboard where the faces and names of important people from Antigua. Yup… a billboard. Not a monument, not a plaque, nor a statue. A billboard… By the side of the street. I was hoping they's have a better memorial or monument. But we get it. We're also proud of our important people. BTW how about Edgard Martinez being inducted to the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame!!?? See?? We're all Proud!!

 

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Speaking of pride and sports, he was also very proud about their love of Cricket and its history on the island. He sounded even more  proud when we stopped to admire (from a distance) their spanking new Cricket stadium. It apparently was a gift (?) from the Chinese to the people of Antigua and Barbuda. He also said it was state of the art and beautiful inside and could be converted to a soccer field as well. Although it sure looked great on the outside, we'll just take his word for the rest since we never even made it near.

 

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Anyway, we continued in our way and a few minutes later it started. We stopped at one of the many, many, many churches I mentioned at the start of this part of the review. I can't remember the denomination but we just stopped in front of it, on the street, for pictures, and moved on.

 

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So here's some of the ones we saw. And trust me, this is just but a small sample!

 

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It got to a point that DW and I were giggling all the time, since every time we saw a church, even when Carl didn't mention it, we looked at each other and and jokingly whispered "church!" 🤣🤣

 

Carl explained to us that the people of Antigua and Barbuda were very religious and that there were churches of basically every denomination at some point on the island. We definitely believed him since we saw a whole bunch in the way to our first (official) stop at Nelson's dockyard. I say official since we made an impromptu stop at the ruins of an old windmill. He pointed it out from the road and asked if anyone wanted to take pictures of it and the two guys said yeah (they wanted pictures of almost everything from then on which made the road trip drag a bit from there). As soon as Carl opened the van door he said two things: don't go near, it's private property, take pictures from here and “5 minutes”. Wait… if we can't even go near why bring us here? Ughh….

 

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We eventually made it to Nelson's dockyard, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. By the time we got there (it wasn’t really s short hop from the dock) it was hot and humid (but we

Re used to that) and we were thirsty. We asked Carl about water and he just went “yeah, yeah… inside) Once inside the information center area Carl paid the $8 per person entry fee (included in the tour price) and handed us over to a guide.

 

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We were asked if it was OK if it was an English speaking guide to which we had no problem but the woman and her sons were kinda indifferent to it and we soon learned why; they knew very little English. One of the sons seem to know a bit more than the woman and his brother but not much. For the brief 10-15 minute “guided tour” lasted we had to translate a lot of things to them.

 

Anyway, once past the information desk we entered the tourist market. There were like a dozen with merchants selling the usual touristy shirts, trinkets and souvenirs. But they were all seeking almost exactly the same things!! And not helping the matter, everything was expensive too. The good thing was that we were able to buy some cold water from a guy with a cooler full of water and sodas. Which was great since we hadn't seen any refreshments from Carl the whole way and he disappeared before we could ask about them again. After buying our drinks we skipped the market and headed with our guide and our co-tourers (is that even a word???) to the main tour area.

 

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The guided tour was indeed short and the guide talked about the history of the area, its conservation and its current uses. And then we were set off to explore in our own with a map and some literature of the area. This was not really as bad as it might sound since the dockyard is simply beautiful place and it is definitely a working place. Most (if not all) buildings are occupied with everything from a small convenience (not souvenir) store to a museum, a bakery, two small inns, a marina, restaurants and a sail repair shop that has allegedly been in operation since the blockade was originally built.

 

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The convenience store had a ceiling so low that i had to slump over to be able to walk inside. I'm 6’2" tall and that ceiling could not have been more than 6’ at its tallest. The beams in the ceiling made it worse. Look below at the ice box and the trash cans and compare to the size of the doors!! No, there are no steps down as you enter in case you're wondering.

 

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We wanted to taste a bit of the local finger food at the bakery so we ordered some “meat patties” and a sodas which came to about $8 if i recall. They looked similar to the “empanadillas”/empanadas we have in PR but they tasted very different. We found the seasoning of the meat horrible and couldn't bring ourselves to even eat half of it. I'm usually more adventurous on these matters than DW and even i couldn't do it. It was too bad we didn't get the experience we were hoping for.

 

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We wandered around for maybe 30 minutes and started to make our way back to the van, near the market area before our allotted 45 minutes were up.

 

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Although we didn't get to go in and look around, there's a museum along with a gift shop here.

 

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The Admiral's Inn was one of the few buildings with rooms that you could stay on and one of at least three restaurants that we saw at the dockyard. It was not a tall structure but it was very long.

 

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Past the entrance to the Admiral's Inn, ooking back to where we came in through. That building to the right center is another part of the Inn.

 

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I can't sem to find any pics of the menu but I can tell you it was quite expensive.

 

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Then our 45 minute limit came and went and the rest of our tour group were nowhere to be seen. We waited and waited and eventually Carl asked if WE could go back and get them. Really dude?? How about turning on your van, turning on the AC and letting us, the paying customers, seat down and cool off while you, the tour operator, go look for your missing tourists?? Nope… we had to go back, waste 15 more minutes looking for them only to come up empty. We returned to Carl and waited some more. We ended up waiting an extra 30 minutes for them and Carl found them, leisurely strolling through the market. We told them we even went back to look for them and the woman shrugged and said “when the guide finished talking we took a few pictures around and came right back. We've been here waiting for all of you. Say what, woman?!?! DW looked at me then at her and sarcastically laughed while squeezing my hand… hard! I kinda understood the signal and said “let's go then” and pulled her away. We were fuming. But these people were not ruining our day. No way!!  From Nelson's dockyard we continued on towards the other side of the bay and Shirley Heights.

 

 

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Actually, that wasn't bad at all!! It was a very interesting and beautiful place and we had a good time at Nelson's Dockyard.


 

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Great review! I will be Checking in for more info since we will be doing this cruise  late Feb. Keep up the good work.

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We are booked through the Scenic Tours Antigua so now I am a little nervous.  I don't remember reading any of those things when making the reservation.  I will let you know how it goes as we leave on 2/17.

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This is a great review! Can't wait for the rest! Moreso looking toward our cruise now in March!

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15 hours ago, dopey1956 said:

Great review! I will be Checking in for more info since we will be doing this cruise  late Feb. Keep up the good work.

We are late February also, and let me tell you how hard it was  just to  get someone to contact me.....about anything!!

From rental cars to tour groups - not sure if these people are really into making money. I finally got lucky just yesterday, and that was after 3 weeks of back and forth "no contact" with anyone. Hoping the van we were finally able to book (privately - we have a group of 8) works out for us - time will tell

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9 hours ago, Island girlz said:

We are late February also, and let me tell you how hard it was  just to  get someone to contact me.....about anything!!

From rental cars to tour groups - not sure if these people are really into making money. I finally got lucky just yesterday, and that was after 3 weeks of back and forth "no contact" with anyone. Hoping the van we were finally able to book (privately - we have a group of 8) works out for us - time will tell

Hi island girlz, we are going with a group called car quest on feb. 24.

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14 hours ago, dopey1956 said:

Hi island girlz, we are going with a group called car quest on feb. 24.

Same as us - can't wait........so cold. We are in Warminster, PA, about 40 minutes north of Phila

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So, upward and onward we went (literally). We were then taken to the Dow's hill interpretation Center which sits on a tall hill (nooo...really?) across the bay. Up there the views of the harbor are spectacular!! And we got our first take of that as soon as we got off the van when we arrived.

 

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We made our way to the information center where various artifacts were on display but we never even got to see them. You see, as soon as we got to the information area we were hurried along into a peculiar room with low stools in the center. Along the wall in this room various stages of the history of Antigua are represented  using audio, video, archival footage and diorama-like scenes. The concept is that as the narration goes on, various parts of the room lights up (as the previous one goes dark) and spotlights things relevant to the narration and you swivel on the stool towards the area being discussed. It was a simple presentation that looked silly at times but was very informative nonetheless.

 

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As soon as the presentation finished we were escorted out another door to the Dow’s Hill courtyard with even more stunning views of the bay and Nelson’s dockyard across and below.

 

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DW always has a thing for taking pics of me, well... taking a pic!! haha

 

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I still need to work on these "artistic" shots.

 

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At one of the many marinas in the harbor I spotted this huge yacht simply named “GO”. It’s a spankin’ new ship delivered last year to entrepreneur Hans-Peter Wild who’s company is into the production of ingredients for the food and beverage industry and is the owner of the global brand Capri Sun!! (yeah. I looked that one up too!!)

 

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Edited by Stinger-pr

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In total we were at Dow’s Hill about 30 minutes. But you’re so into your surroundings that those minutes go fast. We were being called to the van just as we were making our way to the visitor’s center so we didn’t get to see the artifacts on the way out either. We got in the van for a short 4 minute ride to the Shirley Heights area which sits just at the edge of a cliff. Once more we were treated to incredible sights of the ocean below, part of the coast line and some interesting building complexes in the distance.

 

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One of those interesting complexes was the St. James Antigua all-inclusive beach luxury beach resort. This is up there in the Ritz Carlton strata with prices in low season (summer) of about $430 a night and during the high season with a minimum required stay of 5 nights!! And that will set you back some $2800 plus plane ticket which can be quite expensive as well.

 

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As as a side note: we have been looking into a land vacation on one of the East/Southeast Caribbean islands and have always run into a brick wall when it comes time to purchase plane tickets. You see, if you live in PR, like us, you have two options: A plane from PR to the islands (most of which require at least one or more stops between islands) which can get insanely expensive. Or you can get a plane to either Miami or Orlando and fly back to the islands and do it n reverse when returning. Besides being expensive is simply ridiculous time wise. For example, a “cheap” ticket from SJU to St. Kitts can cost at least $325 per person on an awesome good day but on average it will run you over $400 each for an hour and 15 minute non-stop flight on a small plane. There aren’t even direct flights from SJU to Barbados. Those few regional airlines that fly there from SJU make anywhere from two to 4 stops!!! You might even have an overnight layover at one of the islands. Or you can go through MCO, FLL or MIA like I said before. Sooo...other than on a cruise, you will see very little Puerto Ricans vacationing on these neighbor islands unless they really have the moolah. So close, yet so far away.

 

Ok, so back on track, another structure that was pointed out to us was this one below, belonging to one Eric Clapton!! Yup... All of THAT!

 

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As we were told, there are quite a few celebrities that either spend a lot of time in Antigua, others that come regularly to vacation there. Apparently, Antiguans are not really star-struck and could care less, for example, who Eric Clapton was. As long as he spends money on the island since they need all they can get. This is where Carl and I started a lengthy conversation (maybe the only real conversation of the tour... by ANYONE) about the hurricanes that hit PR and Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda. Barbuda was hit by hurricane Irma really, really hard. As in about 90% of buildings on the island were left partially or completely destroyed and unusable, hard. Since then, the Barbudans were brought to Antigua while Barbuda was rebuilt, which in itself has created tons of tension between the residents. According to Carl, A lot of Antiguans were not only now sharing their island more intimately than before but were also rebuilding in Barbuda. But the problem arose that more Antiguans were working on the rebuild while less and less Barbudans did. This has the two-island country on pins and needles since the Barbudans are now seen as spoiled brats, with numerous demands as to how things get done but doing very little themselves to make things right and rebuild their own houses while other work on them, sometimes even as volunteers. Just when I thought we had it bad in PR I hear things like this and realize we were darned lucky!!

 

After a few more pictures around Shirley Heights, including the The Blockhouse which, of the two standing structures, is the best preserved of the area. A fact more incredible since it apparently was the gunpowder storage building!! Aren’t those usually the first ones to go??

 

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This is the other building:

 

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Our stop was a quick 15 minutes and we started to make our way back to the ship via the rain forest area of the island, which was very different than, for example, El Yunque in PR. It looked drier. I couldn’t get any good pictures due to the van’s tinted glass (made everything look purple) and because Carl just zipped through it all. At one point Carl asked if we wanted to try some local fruit, to which we politely declined. I have no idea what the heck the lady in front understood (remember they knew little English) but they said sure.

 

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So we stopped at a roadside stand, Carl got out and bought I can’t remember what, and passed it back. So what do they do? They look at it, smell it and pass it back to us!! *****?? What did Carl say about this? Nothing… Not even a sarcastic joke. By this point he wasn’t really invested in the tour since basically the only ones listening and asking questions were us so either he didn’t see them simply pass the fruit they said they wanted or he simply didn’t care. Before long we were along the coast and stopped (this time at my request) at two points where you could see some beaches, including the also mega expensive Curtain Bluff resort. The waves at the beach looked huge, BTW.

 

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We also got a glimpse at all of Darkwood beach, which is one of the most mentioned beaches to go over at the Antigua Forum. It looks like a nice stretch of sand with chairs and umbrellas and a water park full of inflatables. If we ever come back to Antigua, this might be a destination we’d consider. And it actually was when we were looking for things to do and beaches to snorkel at. But since, according to almost all over at the Antigua specific forum here on CC, the waters around the island tend to be not so favorable for this. So we decided for an island tour for this time.

 

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By then we realized that apparently the "beach stop" part of the tour was simply a "There's a beach, we stop, we go" kind of deal. I was debating as to ask about it or not but decided to keep quiet since by this time all I wanted to do was get off this van! It wasn't a total loss since it served to get our bearings as to the location of often mentioned places like Darkwood, Jolly Beach (yeah, we zipped by it as well), Morris Bay, Jaqui O's Beach House (nice beach with chairs and all behind it) and of course, Darkwood, among other places I had read about.

 

The tour said something about Fig Drive, which must’ve been a street we passed somewhere because we never heard the word “Fig” once. We were shown a pineapple plantation (which is actually wholly owned by the Government) and were given a quick lesson about the pineapple industry in the island. Then, about 45 minutes after we departed Shirley Heights we started to see the ship in between the buildings and knew we were almost back in town.

 

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How can there be so much traffic in such a small island??

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Roughly 4 hours after departing on our adventure we were back at the shops area. We paid (and admittedly grudgingly tipped) Carl for his service and were off for the ship to grab some late lunch since we still had almost over 4 hours before all aboard time and were already darned hungry. We took a few pictures along the boardwalk and got to the smallest checkpoint I’ve seen on any of the islands we’ve visited.

 

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BTW, if you take this pic in the afternoon, you will not have to brave the lines that formed in the morning to do so. Very few people were standing around for a picture here in the afternoon.

 

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The checkpoint was on this wooden shack where, one by one you show your ship card and pass through a metal detector that is either broken or all show since they never ask for your bag you pass through with everything you’re carrying and not once did the thing go off.

 

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Thankfully there was no line to board the ship and we went straight to our lunch spot, O’ Sheehan’s. We ordered water, a soda and a beer and some wings and waited….. And waited…. And waited. We waited just over 30 minutes for two orders of wings each (a total of 4 orders) and when they finally arrived, two orders were scorching hot, one was barely warm and one was missing. BTW, DW had the Buffalo BBQ (top) and I had the Jamaican Jerk (bottom) and both were delicious even if some were not as hot as others.

 

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It took around 6-7 minutes more for the 4th order of wings to arrive. Granted, the place was very busy but 30 minutes for wings?? I ordered a total of three beers and the turnaround time for each one was very long as well. All in all, we were there for over an hour and all we had was wings, soda and beer. This is the longest we’d had to wait for our food here. But the food was still very good and the beer cold so other than the wait, we didn’t complain much. We decided to head to the room to rest a while before heading back to look around the shops. While at the room I made a sudden movement with my head that caused me to get really dizzy.

 

I was diagnosed a few years back with a fluid imbalance in my ears that caused sporadic Vertigo. Although it’s not always disabling but sometimes sudden movements of the head at weird angles can trigger an episode and this time it did. So I had to take some Bonnies (brought them in case we got sea sick) and laid a while. DW decided we would not be heading back out while I was feeling like that and we ended staying in the room watching TV. Boring… I know!

 

Now, either no one was used to late departures or Antigua closed their shops early or who knows, but we had a 7pm sail time and the ship was loosening the mooring lines well before 6:30pm (all aboard time). By 7pm we were almost at the entrance to the bay. I had never experienced a cruise leaving before it’s scheduled time either on a cruise I was on or one stopping in San Juan. Maybe those by MSC and NCL that arrive as late as 5pm to PR (quite a disappointing stop if you ask me) and leave at around midnight do the same thing but I don’t know.

 

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Anyway, with me feeling a bit less whirly, we went out to dinner at the Aqua MDR and were seated with menu in hand by 8pm with absolutely no wait for a two top. It was kinda weird that there were almost as many appetizers on the menu than main courses.

 

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We both had the Cheesy Mashed Potato Croquettes which arrived in about 10 minutes and were hot and delicious!

 

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For our mains, we boring Puerto Ricans ordered the New York strip steak with french fries, one medium-well, one well done. 25 minutes after ordering and just 15 minutes after our appetizers arrives at the table, we had our plates in front of us and both were hot and the stakes were perfectly cooked. DW was not inherently juicy since it was well done but mine was still juicy and both were tasty.

 

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When we were done we were ready for dessert and were handed our dessert menus. I ended up having a few scoops of ice cream and DW ordered the warm bread pudding which was so dry that even the sauce you pour over it didn’t soften it enough. Too bad since the rest of the service had good food and a great pace. Again we were in and out in about an hour but never felt rushed at all.

 

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After dinner we took advantage that there was basically no lines to have our pictures taken with the, unfortunately, uninspiring photographers on the ship just to kill time before we went to one of the late night shows. Today’s pictures came out horrible! The poses were bad to sometimes ridiculous. I’m 6’2” and one of them had me standing and then slouched over a “high” stool backrest with my arms crossed over the backrest which came out so bad that you could see my blurred back contorted behind me. This was the ONLY night where we didn’t pick not even one picture as one of the finalists to be purchased later on. I don’t think we spent 5 minutes going over them before putting them on the “Nope” side of our photo binder.

 

After that debacle we headed to the Bliss Lounge for the 10:15 showing of the Dawn Dance Battle show where 6 of the ship’s dancers (not necessarily all pro) were accompanied by 6 partners from the audience to perform certain improv dance routines following a theme they were given to try to win over the three judges and the audience. Sort of like a drunken Dancing with the Stars kind of deal. They get eliminated one by one in what turned out to be one of the most hilarious shows we have seen in any of our cruises. If you like the unpredictability of improv with the ability of people of purposely make a fool of themselves you need to make it a point to go see this show. Add in a couple of rounds of drinks from the bar and you will have the time of your life!! In a really funny twist, as they were eliminated, the losers were taken to one of the sides of the lounge where a “TV camera” was set up so they could be “interviewed” after their eliminations so they could share their impressions (which were half fed to them, half improv) as they projected the image to that big screen in the lounge itself just like in the Dance shows. It was so cool!!

 

I'm not posting pictures per se, so I don't ruin the show for you.

 

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When the show ended we started to make our way to the room when I noticed this wall with all these plaques. Incredible that I had passed by a few times and never really paid any attention to it before. But it was so cool since it had a commemorative plaque for every first visit to a port that the Dawn has been to. Of course I looked and found not one but two plaques from PR (one of them came out so blurry that I couldn’t even use it).

 

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In an ironic twist, one of the plaques (which was for the first visit in 2002) was from the PR Tourism Company which at that point was led by who a guy who, a couple of years later, would become the President of the company that I work for.

 

When we got to the room, this guy was in our bed along with the next day’s dailies.

 

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And that finally does it for our day in Antigua.

 

 

And since my absent mind forgot to program itself to post the dailies from Day 4: Antigua at the freakin’  beginning of this part, well… Here they are:

 

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Final thoughts on Antigua: We're definitely intrigued by what else this island has to offer. Apparently tour operators have a "you either tour with me or you don't" kind of attitude and there wasn't the "yes, I'd love your business" we have seen in other places. Carl, our tour guide was somewhat informative but, for the time available, he could allow for more time at the stops. A cooler with some water at least would've been very welcome. And he could've gone a bit more out of his way to liven up the mood in his tour. I mean, you're the host, man!! We DID visit interesting places and got a taste of Antigua and learned a lot about it's culture and problems as well. Would we do this type of tour here again? Not really sure... If we ever return, most likely we will make it a simple beach day. Would I recommend Antigua Premier Tours? At least the Southern island tour with Carl, no. Or maybe I would, if you'd be able to keep expectations low. Maybe with a more livelier crowd he get in a better groove. But I that day with us was his best game, man... I wouldn't want a tour with him on an off-day!!

 

 

 

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On 1/29/2019 at 8:03 PM, dopey1956 said:

Great review! I will be Checking in for more info since we will be doing this cruise  late Feb. Keep up the good work.

Thanks!! I hope I can wrap this up before then. Life has be more hectic than usual due to the ongoing home renovations but the rest is coming. I'm working on the write up for the next days as I write this.

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On 1/29/2019 at 9:02 PM, tpnebraska said:

We are booked through the Scenic Tours Antigua so now I am a little nervous.  I don't remember reading any of those things when making the reservation.  I will let you know how it goes as we leave on 2/17.

Be sure to check with them as to the status of the tour and if they have enough people to do it so as to not get left out at the last minute like we did. Just in case, look into plan B or C.

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On 1/29/2019 at 11:04 PM, Mrs.C05 said:

This is a great review! Can't wait for the rest! Moreso looking toward our cruise now in March!

Thanks! I'm sure you'll enjoy your cruise.

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