Saturday, 31 October 2015

A Mooch around Madeira.

After 5 days at sea and some 2500 miles across the North Atlantic we arrived this morning (Friday) at Funchal, Madeira.


After several previous visits, where we spent most of the time in Funchal, we decided to take a tour to see some of the island. With our dining friends David and Gina, and Nicola and John we found Luis and his taxi who took us on a fun-filled 3 hour tour around some lovely view points and ‘watering’ holes. Here we’re looking down on Funchal with “Arcadia” in the distance on the right.


The tour took us past terraces of banana plants …….


…… and grapevines, from which they make the traditional Madeira wine.


Moving on further and reaching higher and higher, Funchal started to look quite small.


Eventually we reached the highest point of our tour. We’re told Cabo Girao boasts the world’s second highest cliffs at 1932 feet!


James now seems to be completely over his life-long fear of heights! This glass floor, suspended over the cliff edge ……..


……. allows you to look directly down to the beach below!


Descending from the dizzy heights of Cabo Girao, Luis took us to the lovely fishing village of Camara de Lobos where, back in the 1950’s, Winston Churchill spent many hours of his holidays painting.


It’s a quaint and picturesque place – it just happened to be raining when we got there. As it was warm rain it wasn’t too much of a problem.


We took shelter in a bar where they place great emphasis on the fact that Madeira is the birthplace of Christiano Ronaldo. They pay homage to him with bananas!


The bar just happened to specialise in the one of the island’s traditional cane-sugar based rum drinks. James was very interested in the method of production ….


……. but all of us were interested in its consumption! David, James, (Luis), Gina, Doug, Nicola and John enjoying the first of many samples that were offered to us during our sojourn.


The harbour area of Camara de Lobos was very pretty despite the damp conditions.



Getting back to Funchal in the afternoon we had a chance to have a wander around and visit the ‘Traditional Market’.


Some of the “Door Art” is amazing. Fancy having this as your front door!


The sun came out eventually and we were able to enjoy a stroll through the main streets ………


……… and eventually back to “Arcadia” (berthed next to her sister ship “Oriana”) ready for the last leg of the voyage, and our journey home to Southampton.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A Chill-out in St Lucia and Barbados.

Having seen some of St Lucia during our last visit we decided to stay ‘local’ around Castries, the capital of the island. Our only need to be in town itself was to sort out some phone problems and, although being in a “Digicel” shop isn’t the best place to spend your free time, it did have the most wonderful air conditioning! Added to that, one customer spontaneously broke out in a rap rendition and he was quickly joined by other customers who were waiting for service! They certainly know how to pass the time in the Caribbean.


Asking a friendly taxi driver, Marcus, to take us to a quiet beach he said he’d take us to a “perfect” beach just 20 minutes away from the town. One has to be a little sceptical sometimes but Marcus came up with the goods and took us to our “own” beach.


The whole beach is raked by hand to removed leaves and debris. There was shade from the trees which lined the beach and we had a fabulous afternoon sun bathing, swimming and watching the sand crabs build their burrows in the wet sand.


They carry out armfuls of sand and throw it away across the beach. It’s a very relaxing and intriguing way to spend a few hours!


This is just half “our” beach – the other half is behind James in the first pic.

We left St Lucia at 7:30 in the evening on Friday for the short and steady trip to Barbados for Saturday morning.


We woke up in Barbados to a steel band playing lovely old English melodies on the quayside just below our balcony.


A long way down they might have been but the music filled the dock. Here’s a close up of these nice people who played for the ship all day.


Looking out on the starboard side of the ship there were two of the grandest yachts we’ve seen. Both were equipped with helicopters on the upper rear decks.


The biggest vessel in port, however, was “Arcadia”. Notice the cherry-picker at the bow. The ship is continuously being painted and repaired. This morning it was the turn of the port anchor and surrounding area to have a spruce up


We hired a car to travel round and see a bit of the island of Barbados as last time we spent a couple of days enjoying the capital, Bridgetown. The sun was scorching and too hot to lay on the beach so, after stopping and having a little walk around Speightstown, we found some shelter under a tree at a ‘watering hole’ next to the sea ………….


……… where the rum punches really hit the spot!


Doug collected some seed pods from this gorgeous bush – hoping that they might do well in the ‘sunny’ climes of Selsey!


After a pleasant trip to sea a little of the island we just had to stop at Worthing. You just have too! Sunny Beach (not to be confused with all the other sunny beaches) was quiet and sunny (surprise!) and Coral Cafe provided the loveliest of settings and light lunches at 3 o’ clock in the afternoon.


To mark the end of our terrific five-island Caribbean adventure we asked the “flower lady”, who we used last time, to make us up an arrangement for our journey home.

Next stop is Madeira, over 2500 miles away, so we have a few sea-days to enjoy before we get there.

Friday, 23 October 2015

St Maarten (with your life in your hands!).

“Arcadia” arrived at the island of St Maarten at 7:30 this morning (Thursday). It’s an island of two nations as it’s shared between the French and Dutch. There were three other cruise ships in port on this small island and to beat the ‘rush’ we had an early breakfast and were off the ship by 8:15. After collecting a hire car we decided to go to the capital of the French side of the island, Marigot. What we didn’t know until we got there was that the people were revolting!

The town centre was cut off and the police were stopping traffic from going in, so we parked up and walked into town centre in the sweltering heat - which we’re getting fairly used to by now.

Makeshift road blocks had been built in quite a few places in the town and arguments were taking place all over the place. We didn’t feel threatened but we didn’t take any photos!


Instead we drove to Maho Beach (better known as airplane beach!). This was a ‘must’ for us as it was our first visit to St Maarten. We found a quiet, and very swish, bar away from the beach area to have a couple of thirst quenchers first(very important in such heat!)


This is Doug looking very ‘cool’ with a chair that matched his shirt(!). Actually, we were both sweating likes pigs but still enjoying this wonderful setting.


Turning to the beach, where things were very much more hectic than the bar we’d just been in, we waited in anticipation for our first plane landing! You can see the runway on the other side of the fence on the right and it’s a tight squeeze for both cars and pedestrians at this spot!


The warning signs are there for a reason as the planes both land and take off on the same runway and the take off position is right next to the road and beach!


It gets very crowded when a plane is expected.


Some planes are quite small but still have to fly in low over the beach.


Other planes are much bigger …….


….. and some are enormous and come in very low! We took some video of several larger aircraft and one of the Air France planes came in much lower than the one in this pic.

Finding a much quieter beach further down the coast (we were the only ones there!) we enjoyed a nice swim, or maybe “bath” would be more apt (!) before realising that our exit from the beach had been cut off by the incoming tide! We managed to escape but James didn’t realise that rock climbing was one of his skills!


After a very hot and exciting day we returned to “Arcadia” ready for a slightly earlier departure time of 4:30. Before departing ourselves the gigantic “Freedom of the Seas” left before us and we watched it head off into the sunset.


Our own journey away from St Maarten gave us the most wonderful sunset.

Well - with our, already very impressive, Caribbean suntans (and our lives still intact!) we now head, at 21knots, to arrive at St Lucia in the morning.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Antigua and a Caribbean Treat

On Tuesday morning, before most passengers were up, “Arcadia” docked in St John’s, Antigua.


It seemed like an old haunt to us as we got off the ship but we’ve only been once before. The town’s very vibrant and colourful with a lot of the older wooden shacks in various forms of romantic decay and it’s well worth spending an hour or so wandering and socialising in some of the many cafes and bars.


While we were in one of the cafe/bars we were found by a really great guy called Mangesh. He was one of our wonderful waiters on a previous cruise and, on this occasion, it became our turn to wait on him for a change! We had a great half hour enjoying his company before he returned to his duties on the ship.


The cruise terminal is very close to the town and the ships seem to overwhelm St. John’s and everything else around them.


There’s some interesting wildlife swimming around in the pale blue waters of the harbour.



After the necessary “internet time” first thing in the morning we took a taxi the short distance to rather strangely named ‘Jolly Beach’ where, …………


…… after walking up to the end (where no one else is prepared to walk to!) we had the beach to ourselves to enjoy the incredibly warm Caribbean waters (and its incredibly hot sunshine!).


Although we saw less of the island than we did last time, we still noticed that the housing stock is not that good.


As we left St John’s at 5:30 in the evening it’s incredible ……..


……. how, even mid-sized, cruise ships completely dwarf the little town.

Today, Wednesday, we arrived at tiny Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. It’s the largest of about 50 islands in the group. The islands belong to the Leewards and are wedged between Puerto Rico and the Windwards. Volcanic and hilly and very green, Tortola is a very pretty place.


We teamed up with two of our dining friends, John and Nicola, and hired a car to explore the island. It wasn’t long before we just had to stop and take photos of the first of many breath taking vistas. From almost every viewpoint you can see the many tiny islands which make up this group.


Just as we were talking about stopping for a drink we came across a lovely bar ….


……. with another stunning view to enjoy.


And, just as we restarted our journey, we saw one of the many intriguing wildlife inhabitants! While we were watching these amazing characters one of them dived from the sky in front of us, down into the water like a bullet and surfaced with a large fish - which it swallowed with great ease! 


After leaving sea level, you rise very quickly up into higher parts of the island where some people have some very nice views! The highest point is Mount Sage at 1710 feet.


In the higher regions there were a lot of air plants “growing” on their host trees. Very different from seeing them attached to rocks and for sale in the UK


The gods blessed us even more than normal today as, just as we were talking about having some lunch, this marvellous place just appeared by the side of the road. Seemingly very remote, “Sebastian's on the Beach” is, as it says, ………..


………… on the beach. And what a beach! As the surf came right up to the open front of the restaurant ………..


………. we could not have wished for a more heavenly spot to enjoy a spot of lunch with two lovely people – Nicola and John. (Oh, and that’s Doug as well!)


After lunch Doug brought our very swish $60, (all inclusive) for the day, hire car up to the restaurant  so that John didn’t have to walk so far.


We noticed that the general housing stock on Tortola was rather better than that on Antigua.


The stunning views across the water to the many surrounding islands seemed never ending as we journeyed around the island


After our fabulous trip around most of this lovely island we arrived at a viewpoint over towards the capital, Road Town, where we could see “Arcadia” in the distance. While John stayed to take advantage of the air-conditioning in the car the rest of us braved the sweltering heat of the island for a quick photo shoot.


One last surprise for us before the end of a glorious day was to come across these beauties feeding in the shallow waters of the Beef Island Channel. We were certainly blessed during today’s adventure. Well done Tortola – you came up trumps!