ABOARD OCEANIA RIVIERA, DAY 5 — After two days at sea in a wind tunnel, we are docked at St. Johns, Antigua. Population 80,000, it and its sister island, Barbuda, are part of the Leeward Islands, or the Lesser Antilles if you like. This is our first visit, and we have opted to take the “Best of Antigua” excursion and get acquainted.
Oceania has this shore excursion business down to a science. We traded in our tickets for numbers and our tour was promptly called. The tour guide was waiting to escort us to a nearby bus. It all went as smooth as the vodka in last night’s cocktail of the day.
Our half-day tour included a scenic drive to Down’s Hill Fort, where we would see a multimedia presentation, stops at Block Hill Lookout and Shirley’s Heights Fort, and concluding with a visit to Nelson’s Dockyard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The tour guide was pleasant, knowledgeable and patient, and our bus was up to the task (Translation: The A/C worked great).
We learned about the history of the island, and how it was an important trade hub for Great Britain, hence the hilltop forts with their gun placements. Today it serves as a finance center, and home away from home for the rich and famous, such as musician Eric Clapton, who owns a complex of homes on a rocky crag off the coast. The views were indeed spectacular.
At Nelson’s Dockyard (named for Horatio, of course, who spent three years here), we walked the grounds and got to sample the island’s famous rum punch. At 151 proof, sip it slow.
Back on the ship, we headed to the Terrace Cafe for lunch. Unlike other buffets at sea, servers place the food you select on plates and waiters will carry your plates to the table, if you so choose. We appreciate the focus on cleanliness.
As evidenced by these daily dispatches, the ship’s Internet works fine. You choose the plan you want, then log on with one device at a time.
In the afternoon we head for Martinis, the piano bar on Deck 6. Like most places on the ship, the vibe here is good. Cushy and elegant furniture, nice artwork and later in the evening, live piano music. Our only complaint, and this is ship-wide in the bar and dining spaces, is how about dimming the lights just a little? Those bright lights don’t exactly set the right mood.
Tonight’s dinner is in the Grand Dining Room. Service from the white-jacketed wait staff is superb, and so is the food. In that department, we haven’t been disappointed yet.
Since we were up and at ’em early for a tour tomorrow, we make an early evening of it and skip the lounge show. Tomorrow we dock in Fort De France, Martinique, with another early-morning excursion planned.
December 26, 2016
Photos by Gerry Barker