ABOARD CRYSTAL SERENITY_Pinch me, please. Is it really the eighth day of our cruise already? It’s going by so fast.
Outside our balcony door is the green, lush and tropical island of St. Lucia. Renowned for its natural beauty, it’s a picture postcard day, with high white clouds dotting an azure sky. The only thing that could spoil our day ashore is wearing CAMOUFLAGE.
That’s right: Guests are advised that it is against the law in St. Lucia for civilians to wear CAMOUFLAGE clothing or carry any items made of CAMOUFLAGE material. Oh well, that CAMOUFLAGE suit and matching tie, along with Pam’s CAMOUFLAGE purse, will just have to stay in the closet.
Before we depart for an island sightseeing tour, we grab coffee and pastries in the Bistro on deck 6. Looking around, something seems amiss. No wonder: The lavish holiday decorations are gone. Actually, they’ve been removed pretty much throughout the ship. While we miss them, it’s hard to disagree with that old dictum — nothing is over like Christmas.
Plans are already underway for New Year’s, with guests encouraged to place pre-orders for their favorite champagnes and sparkling wines, to be served at whatever restaurant they may be. Pam, who loves a good champagne, places an order for one of her favorites — Veuve Clicquot. It’s a new decade — let’s celebrate!
Ownership of St. Lucia ping-ponged over the centuries between France and England, and ultimately landed with the latter. It became a British Commonwealth in 1979. Interesting to note that the harbor where we’re docked at Castries, the capital, is actually the flooded crater of an extinct volcano. Let’s hope it stays that way.
There is one volcano, Mount Soufriere, where visitors can walk through areas of boiling Sulphur and bubbling mud. I think there’s one shore excursion that includes an upclose and personal experience there. While there’s never been a recorded eruption, we’ll just admire it from a distance. St. Lucia is also famous for the two volcanic cones — the Pitons — that rise dramatically from the sea, as well as being a playground for celebrities and the setting for several movies.
Our tour is “St. Lucia Splendor.” The group is split between two small buses and we’re off. One thing to note: A rep from Crystal has joined all of our tours to both make sure everyone is accounted for and also as an observer, which I think is smart. An island of many lush, green hills, we quickly ascend through a series of switchbacks and soon have a great view of both the harbor and our ship.
Our first stop is the Pink Plantation, a 160-year former plantation house (painted pink) and restaurant, surrounded by tropical gardens and an art studio where silkscreened craft items are created. The gardener gives us an informative tour of the native plants (who knew they grow avocados here the size of coconuts). It’s all quite lovely, and made us wish we had time to stay for lunch on the veranda overlooking the harbor area.
The other highlight was a visit to the quaint fishing village of Anse la Raye, which our guide said looks like Castries did at one point before it became the city it is today. They say if you want the best local fish, this is the place, and we believe it. Fishing boats old and new hug the sandy shoreline while chickens run free in the streets. The island is a well-known producer of bananas, so while there we bought two bottles of “Banana and Honey BBQ Sauce” and “Banana Ketchup,” both very tasty.
We had another stop at the Eudovic Art Studio, where we saw a local woodworker do his magic carving pieces of driftwood and tree root. Amazing.
Plus a photo stop for a sweeping view of one of St. Lucia’s most iconic attractions, Marigot Bay. It was one of the better tours, made more so by our friendly and personable tour guide, Danya.
Back on Serenity, we waste little time finding the nearest open dining option — it’s been a while since breakfast — and just make it to Silk before closing time for the lunch service. Top it off with a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s, and we’re good to go for the afternoon’s festivities. In this case, that includes another trip to the laundry room.
We’ll squeeze some rest before starting our evening, which includes another music show at the Stardust Supper Club and dinner at Waterside. You really can’t say enough about just good the food is on this ship. The menus are extensive enough to find something to your liking, and I’m pretty sure if you don’t see it, they’ll do their best to get it for you. One guest told me she rated it “six stars.” That must be the same as “off the charts.”
Day nine will find us in Barbados for an overnight, and where we’ll celebrate New Year’s Eve. Get the champagne ready!
Cover photo: View of Castries harbor, Marigot Bay