On Barbados yesterday, we booked a boat tour on the Jolly Roger. And while it was fun, it wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be. Knowing that St. Lucia, today’s stop aboard the Carnival Valor, is fairly inaccessible without expensive taxi rides, we decided to book a tour again today. And again, we went for a boat ride, knowing that the wee ones are most interested in swimming and snorkeling and being active rather than sitting in a bus or car sightseeing.
At the very last minute, we decided to go on the Catamaran tour of St. Lucia that includes a stop for swimming or snorkeling. This four hour tour ($65pp for adults and $45pp for children) explores essentially the entire island from the water, showing sights from the Pitons to Marigot Bay.
St. Lucia is definitely the most beautiful and serene of the islands we’ve visited so far. In that fact alone, it’s been my favorite. We docked in the capital city Castries, which is nonetheless not large and remains fairly quaint. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of modern office buildings and more traditional structures. And it is incredibly green – and mountainous. From what we saw, the roads tend to be hilly and winding, definitely something I’d be a little leery of navigating on my own.
The catamaran tour was much smaller than the Jolly Roger ride on Barbados. There were plenty of actual chairs and tables for every one of the passengers. It was also much more of a family atmosphere rather than feeling like a party boat. The crew was friendly and attentive, making everyone feel at home.
As we began our journey, the crew provided periodic updates on what we were passing, giving us some of the highlights on St. Lucia from the fact that the main export is bananas to the UK, with twice a week shipments out, to the fact that they now get the majority of their fuel from Venezuela and store it in tankers that we passed.
They also pointed out many of the various resorts and areas to stay, and this is the first island I’d return to were I staying in one location rather than traveling via cruise ship. It was starkly beautiful in many places, and you can see that it isn’t overly populated. In fact, there are just six fishing villages on St. Lucia’s, and most remain dedicated solely to fishing although a few now court tourism. One location we passed has two five star resorts, and a third was going to be built there but the owner of the land refuses to sell.
Once we got to our protected bay where we were going to swim and snorkel, the wee ones were excited. Unlike the Jolly Roger, if you plan to snorkel, you need to bring your own gear, as it isn’t provided and you are told that you are “snorkeling at your own risk.” The catamaran gets as close as it can to shore, then puts down a ladder where you walk into water instead of simply jumping overboard.
The beach was beautiful with its black sand – as it’s not too far from the Pitons and the resultant volcanic debris rather than the white sand beaches elsewhere on the island. Once in the water, you could swim or hang out on the beach, or you could choose to snorkel, as Mister Man and I did.
We snorkeled along the edge of the island, taking care not to get too close to the rocks, which wasn’t very difficult as there was no strong current. Below the water was the nature I remembered from my visits to the Caribbean before. We saw parrot fish, angelfish, clown fish, various forms of coral, sea urchins, and more. I’ll have to go back to compare notes with the dive book to identify all the different fish we saw. Mister Man was beyond thrilled, and I enjoyed myself.
This was also the first place where we were approached by people selling items. They came in inflatable kayaks with various goods, mangos and coconuts, carved turtles, and jewelry. They weren’t overly pushy, but they displayed their wares to our boat as well as other boats that came into the bay. Little Miss is now the proud owner of three small carved turtles (at a total cost of $10) named Moosey, Moosette, and AJ.
Before we anchored, the ship’s crew did give us the heads up that there would be vendors approaching us and that many would be selling conch shells. They warned us against buying them, as we would not be able to take them home for regulatory reasons, and they didn’t want us to waste our money. I appreciated them looking out for us like that.
All too soon, our half hour in the water was over. I would have loved to have stayed longer as part of the tour, but that wasn’t an option. We reboarded, and I discovered that my husband had also purchased a coconut from one of the vendors. Everyone enjoyed drinking the coconut water and munching on the fresh coconut meat. And yes, my husband saved his shell so that he could use it as a cup for his complimentary rum punch once we again set sail.
Our cruise continued, as we traveled around the island. As this was a four hour tour, in addition to the complimentary rum punch (and pop and water and regular punch), we were served a light lunch of sandwich quarters. They included a spicy tuna salad and a cheese sandwich, both of which were tasty and very different from what you would get were you in the States. There was plenty for everyone aboard, and banana ketchup was offered as a condiment for the sandwiches for anyone who so choose. And yes, if you liked it, you could purchase bottles of either spicy or standard banana ketchup aboard the catamaran for $5 a bottle.
Shortly after finishing lunch, we approached the Pitons, the dormant volcanos on the island. It was impressive to see them rising in the distance, and I was surprised to see how green they were. They were absolutely covered in trees and shrubs from top to bottom. Apparently the volcanic soil is fairly fertile. Nestled between the two Pitons was a small village. I’m not sure how I’d feel about living in the shadow of a volcano, even one that isn’t likely to blow, but it was beautiful to see.
As we turned and headed back to our starting point, the crew kept us entertained. They played music and encouraged us to dance, something Mister Man enjoyed but caused Little Miss to hide under the table for fear she’d be called up to dance herself. They also played a fun dice game. A rope circle was placed on the deck with a pen marking a starting line. Passengers tried to throw four dice in an attempt to have them land inside the circle and add up to 19 or more.
None of us succeeded, as it was far harder than you would expect it to be. Mister Man did the best of anyone aboard, getting all four dice into the circle twice and scoring a high of 16. Everyone on the boat was cheering for him each time he tried. I managed to get all four dice in only once and had a high score of 13. It was a nice and diverting way to spend some time on the way back.
By the time we docked shortly after 2pm, the wee ones had decided this was a great tour. This was a change from when we started out and they declared they were “bored” and had “nothing to do” because we were simply sailing, their verdict fifteen minutes into our shore excursion. My parents, my husband, and I all agreed with them that the catamaran tour is well worth the time and money.
As I type, the wee ones are in Camp Carnival painting a massive volcano they helped to build two days ago. They insist that they want to stay for the water games afterwards, and only reluctantly agreed that I could pick them up at 5 when Camp Carnival closes for an hour to prep for dinner. I love that they have this space where they can go and have fun and be entertained while nurturing a small sense of independence in a safe place.
For the rest of the day aboard the Carnival Valor, my husband is planning to enter the sports trivia tournament at my mother’s behest at 5:30 before we head to dinner in the Lincoln dining room at 6. The wee ones are hoping we eat a quick dinner so they can join the prize bingo at Camp Carnival that starts at 7, but I’ve already told them that isn’t likely as dinner takes at least an hour and a half in the dining room. They did make it to the cake decorating at 7:30 last night and were picked up by 8:30, which wiped them out. I think it may be an early night for them – and for me, as I enjoyed the hypnotist’s late show last night and am tired after another day in the sun – though my husband is likely to head to the casino again for some fun tonight.
Tomorrow we dock in St. Kitts. We are planning to not book a shore excursion at this destination, as we need a little downtime after our past couple days. We are definitely looking forward to exploring the island, as it’s another Caribbean destination I’ve not previously visited.