ST. LUCIA_Hard to believe, but we have arrived at one of the last islands on this 10-day cruise, and it’s among the most beautiful, with its white sand beaches, mountainous terrain, rainforests, hiking trails, hot springs and of course, the world-famous Pitons, two volcanic spires rising dramatically out of the sea.
Many of the 50-some passengers on World Navigator have signed up for a tour of the island, and we are assembled in the Atlas Lounge awaiting departure. Enter Sean, the entertainment director, to tell us the St. Lucia authorities aren’t ready for us yet, so please be patient.
After an hour delay, we go the tender and take a short ride over to Rodney Bay on Pigeon Island. It’s the first time we’ve been here. On all our previous visits, we docked at the island’s capital, Castries. A national landmark, Rodney Bay features the ruins of 18th century Ft. Rodney, and one of the island’s most popular beaches, frequented by the locals.
We line up for another temperature check and are given wristbands to wear. I can’t help but wonder how the islands are going to handle processing the thousands of people who would visit from the megaships. For the time it would take, the tour would be over before it started.
After navigating heavy traffic, our first stop is an historic Colonial house, St. Marks, offering breath-taking views of Castries and its harbor. There’s a brief tour, followed by a sampling of rum punch and plantains, and plenty of selfies.
Next we go to The Pink Plantation, an art studio-restaurant-botanic garden where we get a primer on island vegetables, as well as an opportunity to try some island cuisine: Seafood fritters and Johnny Cakes (small, cornmeal pancakes). Paired with some golden apple cider, it was a delicious treat.
Did I mention shopping? Pam had her eye on a several hand-painted ceramic plates, but ultimately bought a set of brightly-colored placemats. It was only a warm-up for our next tour stop, Caribelle Batik, housed in a Victorian mansion high above Castries.
This was a real working art studio, where you can watch batik and silk-screening while taking in spectacular views of the island. While I enjoyed ice cream and cake served in a coconut shell, Pam headed to their gift shop where her credit card got a real workout. But I have to admit, she scored some beautiful jewelry and a gold-painted pineapple that will great in our condo.
Time to fight the traffic again and head back to the tender for lunch on the ship. Since the tour was late getting started, they keep 7 Aft open past normal closing (3 pm) so we could eat and exhale a bit.
But the highlight of the day was in the afternoon, when the captain steered us in front of the Pitons for a sunset viewing. Pam and I went to the area of the ship known as Water’s Edge, the lowest observation deck on any ship at sea, according to Atlas, where the Pitons seemed so close we could almost reach out and touch them.
Other passengers crowded outside The Dome on deck 7, cameras and iPhones in hand. It was truly an unforgettable sight, and more proof of the advantages of small ship cruising.
That night, we joined friends Deb and Jan for dinner at Porto. Seated outdoors by candlelight, tonight’s theme was food from Peru. It’s hard to overstate how good the food is on this ship.
After dinner, we headed to The Dome, where we saw there would be music and dancing courtesy of the ship’s resident pianist, Dr. Gino de Luca. But no dancing was evident. Feeling emboldened, Pam, Deb, Jan and I took matters in hand and joined Gino to not only make requests, but also grab the microphone and sing along as well. Deb and Jan won accolades for their singing, while Gino admitted it was the first time he played the ABBA hit, “Dancing Queen,” on a piano. I took a turn with Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.”
The martinis and music flowed until near midnight, when we finally called it a day. So far, no talent agents have contacted me. Guess I better stick to travel writing.
PHOTOS: credit Gerry & Pam Barker
Cover photo: A view of World Navigator at Rodney Bay
Seafood fritters and Johnny Cakes
Getting our photo in front of the Pitons
The view from Caribelle Batik
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