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April005

Ports of call in the Caribbean- what to do?

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We are doing the two week Caribbean Cruise in early March, in and out of Bridgeport. It is port intensive, no sea days! Our preference is to spend our days just wandering if we are in a cute town, or to join snorkelling expeditions. A balance of both. We are unfamiliar with the Caribbean and I am having a hard time getting a sense of what ports are good for wandering, seeing local sites, having a cup of coffee vs those that are better to do a snorkelling excursion. We plan to rent a car in Phillipsburg, St Maarten and drive to Marigot for lunch, and I assume that Gustavia St Bart’s and Castries St Lucia are good to wander.

Other ports of call are: ( sorry the list is long)

Port Elizabeth, Bequia

Trois Islets, Martinique

Basse Terre , Guadalupe 

Charleston,Nevis

St.Johns,Nevis

Carambola Beach,St Kitts

Sopers Hole, BVI

Basseterre, StKitts and Nevis

Terre -de -Hauts,Guadalupe 

Saline Bay, St Vincent and the Grenadines

 

Any recommendations for which ports we should arrange a snorkeling trip vs just visiting the town?

 

thanks in advance for any insights!

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I wouldn't book anything for Carambola Beach because that's where Seabourn lay on the wonderful beach barbecue, water sports, caviar in the surf etc.

 

I shall watch your thread with interest as we are visiting a few of your ports on the Sojourn in December. 

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I've just checked what we're doing and we have booked a SB excursion at Martinique to snorkel at two sites (Anse-Dufour and the Bat Cave) but our port is Fort-de-France on Martinique so I've no idea if that would be available for you, as your port is different. 🙂

.

 

 

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Thank you for listing your ports, it's very helpful.

 

Saline Bay is likely beach BBQ, in addition to Carambola beach.  They may not do Caviar in the Surf at Saline Bay, perhaps just the BBQ and water toys. 

 

Terre de Haut Guadeloupe, does the itinerary say Ile des Saintes ? If so this is a gorgeous little island, one of my favourites in the Caribbean. The tender drops you off in the centre of the town which is rather quaint, very French. It's like stepping back in time. It's a good place to walk around, or there's a pleasant beach fairly close by. 

 

I've been to a few other ports on your itinerary on Seabourn, will write more tomorrow when I can check my notes about them.

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While you will be in the idyllic Caribbean, for the most part the less idyllic is the ports you dock in.  Depending on the island being volcanic or coral will dictate the black/brown sand to white sand beaches. Sorry we scuba and Barbados is our go to place for that but Seabourn offer a variety of Cat / Snorkel excursions.

Sint Maarten/Saint Martin are still recovering from hurricane Irma. While big improvements it is still not there yet. If you arrive in port with the usual crowd of mega ships Philipsburg & surrounds turn into one big parking lot. I’d suggest a Plan B on the car rental thing.

 

Tender ports you have tend to be the more quaint and easy (small) to walk around, such as Terre de Haut, Trois Islets. 

From the stops you've listed:

Carambola & Saline Bay are Beach BBQ days (weather permitting) so just tender ashore and have a great day.

Sopers Hole is largely a sailor hangout, lots of nice sailboats, if there is a boat over to Jost Van Dyke (Soggy Dollar) is always worth a visit.

Port Elizabeth is a quaint village, we took in the Hegg Turtle Sanctuary which gave a great tour of the Isle also.

Basse-Terre there was an inquiry on this board about a hike to the Volcano, which is an offered excursion, it is worth a go. Otherwise not our favorite part of the island.

Basseterre St Kitts is a nice town; take a look at the St Kitts Scenic Railway tour.

Antiqua, Nelsons Dockyard for history and some nice yachts. Port again can be mega ship magnet.

Castries downtown is a dump (IMHO) we always gone with something involving Pigeon Island.

St. Bart's is well St Bart's, lovely place ($$$$$), we have taxied to the hot spots and last time stayed in Gustavia & walked over to Shell Beach and had the best squid lunch ever at Shellona.

Hope this is of some help & you get to spend some time in Barbados pre or post cruise.

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Yes, Isklaar, the port is Iles des Saintes! Thank you for the positive heads up. And Cantara, thank you too. Lots of good advice. We will forgo the town of Castries and head to Pigeon island for some snorkeling...

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Wow, what a small world indeed!  Assuming our travel arrangements go as planned, while you are disembarking we will be embarking on the next identical cruise!  Being as this will be our first Seabourn cruise, I've done more research than we normally do when we cruise on a mass market line (we usually just go with the flow and don't plan anything, but I want to get as much as possible out of this cruise).

 

So far my research is consistent with the great advice you've already got on here and I agree that some of the ports are also frequented by mass market lines, but many of the islands on the itinerary look quite idyllic!  Even for those larger ports, I actually looked up each port schedule and, as of now, there are never more than 2 other ships in those ports the days we are scheduled to be there (I understand that can change, of course). 

 

All that said, as of now we are doing ship excursions on 5 of the days.  We left the Carambola Beach and Saline Bay days open (figuring those would be the beach picnic days).  If it helps, we tried focus our ship excursion days on the bigger port days (just to get us out of the crowd), but there were two we signed up for on two smaller islands that we just really want to try (the plantation and turtle sanctuary tour on Bequia and the old rum and new chocolate excursion on Ills des Saintes), but both of those are under 3 hours so we should still have time to tour on our own after.

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1 hour ago, raphael360 said:

Our favorite tour by far on this Itinerary   is the  Stars and Stripes Regatta in Sint Maarten. See https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147347-d2226924-r132985268-12_Metre_Regatta-Philipsburg_Sint_Maarten_St_Martin_St_Maarten.html

I love that too!   We’ve done it twice. Amazing.  I’ve been a winch wench and a grinder!

Edited by galeforce9

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Port Elizabeth Bequia was one of the prettiest stops on any of our Caribbean cruises. A quaint but very small town, with some pretty shops and cafes. Not a lot to see but all authentically Caribbean, relaxed and unspoiled. Great for a slow walk around. Amazed to find a local plumber was from my home town in Scotland. 🙂

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2 hours ago, auldlassie said:

Port Elizabeth Bequia was one of the prettiest stops on any of our Caribbean cruises. A quaint but very small town, with some pretty shops and cafes. Not a lot to see but all authentically Caribbean, relaxed and unspoiled. 🙂

Port Elizabeth Bequia was our favorite stop last February. We spent several hours at Princess Margaret Beach which is relatively short walk from the tender drop off dock.  We rented two loungers and an umbrella from a local for $10 US and sat near Jack's Beach Bar (http://jacksbeachbar.com).  Very nice beach, not crowded.  We did not eat at Jack's but will do so on our next trip.  We watched the chef buying his catch of the day from a local fisherman; it doesn't get any fresher than that.  

 

 

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I am leaving in a couple weeks for Seabourns 12 days of leeward islands so some of this info is quite helpful for me also. I do really need some advice on our St Johns, Antigua stop as we are there on a Monday until 11 pm. Does anyone have suggestions for the evening?

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What a timely thread! Doing exact itinerary, but a bit sooner! Great advice so far. Looking forward to Isklaars next post too. Being a beach lover does anyone have a ‘must not miss’ one for this itinerary? My last Caribbean cruise was just after the hurricane in ‘17 with both the islands and Odyssey not at their best. Not the fault of the islands in their case I must stress! Some options for the bigger islands would be great too (St. Lucia, Antigua in particular).

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Lioncub, just to let you know that I haven't forgotten! My trip notes are on a hard drive which is currently abroad.I thought I'd find them in the cloud but the file isn't there. Hoping to be able to add a lot more detail to the thread by early next week, depends if I go to office abroad this week. 

If not I'll rely on memory instead. Which I'm afraid will be a poor substitute 😄

 

in the meantime I'll add my voice to the enthusiasm on this thread for Bequia. Another gorgeous little island that somehow feels like a pleasant step back in time.

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We were on this cruise last December and will be joining again on November 30 this year. A timely escape for the developing English winter.

Already lots of useful input to your initial post and I’ll add my own observations on some of the ports.

Like you, snorkelling is important to us but last year was nothing to get too excited about. The hurricanes last year, and again this year, take their toll in terms of murky waters. However, I do remember we took a ship’s excursion in Bequia last year which was a catamaran and snorkel trip; really good with plenty of fish to see. 
Although we did not do it last year, we have previously taken the catamaran excursion in St Lucia down to the Pitons where there is a marine reserve and usually good snorkelling. The other place in St Lucia, as mentioned by others, is Pigeon Island (a St Lucia national trust area). Easy snorkelling off the islands beaches and pretty clear water. It’s an easy taxi ride from the port to Pigeon Island but suggest to pre-book a taxi to bring you back to the ship. There is a hotel near the exit to Pigeon Island which may be useful.

Gustavia used to be a good snorkelling area but I do not know how the marine life has recovered from hurricanes the past couple of years.

Overall, all the French speaking ports on this itinerary are idyllic and perfect for just wandering around and never far from the sea. St Barts is really expensive (but a favourite stop for us - especially Shell beach for the sea and St Jean for the beach restaurants (not sure if the Pink Parrot restaurant still has its daily fashion show - unreal!!) The other French speaking ports more reasonable for shopping or eating/drinking. Don’t forget your Euros!

A great Caribbean itinerary. Enjoy.

 

 

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Thank you everyone for their input so far, I am beginning to formulate the ‘ perfect ‘trip!  Looking forward to your information, Isklaar.

 

Basseterre, Haut Terre, and Pigeon Island.....many duplications of names!

 

As first time Seabourners particularly appreciate the mention of the beach days at Carambola Beach and Saline Bay, they were not on our radar before this thread

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59 minutes ago, Baz-t said:

We were on this cruise last December and will be joining again on November 30 this year. A timely escape for the developing English winter.

Already lots of useful input to your initial post and I’ll add my own observations on some of the ports.

Like you, snorkelling is important to us but last year was nothing to get too excited about. The hurricanes last year, and again this year, take their toll in terms of murky waters. However, I do remember we took a ship’s excursion in Bequia last year which was a catamaran and snorkel trip; really good with plenty of fish to see. 
Although we did not do it last year, we have previously taken the catamaran excursion in St Lucia down to the Pitons where there is a marine reserve and usually good snorkelling. The other place in St Lucia, as mentioned by others, is Pigeon Island (a St Lucia national trust area). Easy snorkelling off the islands beaches and pretty clear water. It’s an easy taxi ride from the port to Pigeon Island but suggest to pre-book a taxi to bring you back to the ship. There is a hotel near the exit to Pigeon Island which may be useful.

Gustavia used to be a good snorkelling area but I do not know how the marine life has recovered from hurricanes the past couple of years.

Overall, all the French speaking ports on this itinerary are idyllic and perfect for just wandering around and never far from the sea. St Barts is really expensive (but a favourite stop for us - especially Shell beach for the sea and St Jean for the beach restaurants (not sure if the Pink Parrot restaurant still has its daily fashion show - unreal!!) The other French speaking ports more reasonable for shopping or eating/drinking. Don’t forget your Euros!

A great Caribbean itinerary. Enjoy.

 

 

Hi. We’re on that sailing too. How did you get to shell beach and st jean?  We were there a few years ago on spirit but just wondered up the hill to the fort area.  I don’t see many/any taxis.  Seabourn don’t offer any trips. 

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galeforce9, shell beach is an easy walk from the tender stop. Turn right to walk into town - that’s about 3 minutes! , at the end of the road (t junction) turn right and follow the road around the marina. Turn right again and follow the road - you will pick up a small sign to shell beach. Or follow the people with beach gear! It’s a 10 minute walk from tender to beach. The beach has a restaurant and bar - and lots of shells!

St Jean beach is near the airport and you need a taxi. Usually available by the tender. Plenty of bars and restaurants at St Jean beach who can call a taxi.

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Thanks Baz-t for the tip for Shell beach. And to everyone above for their suggestions too. Very helpful. Just had an itinerary change yesterday. Sopers Hole is substituted for Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke instead. Still the BVI’s at least! For me it is a good change as I was considering a tour to White Bay anyway. Now I can spend the money instead at the famous Soggy Dollar Bar! My only sadness is that I will approach from landside and not wade ashore, hence the ‘soggy dollar’. That is unless I cheat and get into the sea and swim up to the bar!!

 

Thanks Isklaar in advance of any help, from hard drive or “little grey cells” (to quote a famous Belgian detective!).

 

Anyone done the ships tour in St. John’s Antigua called Reef Snorkel and Beach? Seems ok value (all relative of course!) but from my last memory of St. John’s is of tens of these catamarans departing the pier. It did seem decidedly touristy. Anyone have a better suggestion? Either for a beach day or boat trip?

 

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1 hour ago, Lioncub said:

Anyone done the ships tour in St. John’s Antigua called Reef Snorkel and Beach? Seems ok value (all relative of course!) but from my last memory of St. John’s is of tens of these catamarans departing the pier. It did seem decidedly touristy. Anyone have a better suggestion? Either for a beach day or boat trip?

 

 I always rent a car in Antigua, whether I'm staying at a resort of just there for a day.  Hertz and Avis have offices right by the cruise terminal.  The cars might not be the very latest models or even in perfect condition, but driving around the island is easy-peasy (especially for Brits) and things improve hugely once you escape from the tourist hot-spots near St John's.  It's worth driving as far as Half Moon Bay out on the east coast - I think it's the island's best beach and there's little in the way of facilities so it's often empty.  There is also a great beach at Curtain Bluff resort - half is the hotel, the other half is public.  And it's just nice to drive around the countryside which has some attractive villages and English-style churches. 

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3 hours ago, Fletcher said:

 I always rent a car in Antigua, whether I'm staying at a resort of just there for a day.  Hertz and Avis have offices right by the cruise terminal.  The cars might not be the very latest models or even in perfect condition, but driving around the island is easy-peasy (especially for Brits) and things improve hugely once you escape from the tourist hot-spots near St John's.  It's worth driving as far as Half Moon Bay out on the east coast - I think it's the island's best beach and there's little in the way of facilities so it's often empty.  There is also a great beach at Curtain Bluff resort - half is the hotel, the other half is public.  And it's just nice to drive around the countryside which has some attractive villages and English-style churches. 

Thanks Fletcher. I know you also said Barbados is good to drive around. 

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