St Kitts

Monday 26th February 

DSC_2095 In 1623 St Kitts was the first Caribbean island to be colonised by the British.  From there the British moved out to other islands so St Kitts has always been known locally as the “mother” island. Michael was the driver for our tour around St Kitts and what a great guide he was too!

DSC_2099

The British heritage was plain to see, they had to take the glass out of the phone boxes though as it was just too hot.

DSC_2101

At times it was very uncomfortable to hear the things that had gone on in the past. Where this fountain now stands used to be the the stage where slaves were auctioned. It’s sad to think that this activity took place in the shadow of the Anglican Church. Michael told us that under all the big houses around the square were cellars where the slaves were kept before being sold. It was very sad and very sobering to think back to those awful days!

DSC_2122

These two houses, although not in the best of repair, had a great view of the sea.

DSC_2075

This picture was taken as we passed through one of the many towns on our trip.  It does look a bit run down, and there were many more places that looked a lot better, but I haven’t got a photo of those.

DSC_2054

This is a picture taken from Brimstone hill fortress.  We were lucky with the weather again and got some great views.

DSC_2073

DSC_2040

Michael’s son joined us for a short ride back home from the shops; what a little cutey he is!

Goodbye Tourists!

One of the stops was  at a place called Bloody River, so named because the French and the British massacred hundreds of the native Carib indians to prevent a rebellion, and the resulting loss of life caused the river to run red with blood. As we got out of the coach we noticed these children from a local day care centre waving at us, so we all waved back and as we got back on the coach to leave they all called “goodbye tourists”. So cute!

DSC_2086

St Kitts is another stunning island and I think we need more time back here to explore.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Barbados

Barbados

Thursday 23rd February

IMG_1009

Bridgetown, Barbados.  A short walk from the cruise terminal brings you in to a rather run down version of what the UK was like in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

IMG_0978

Barbados is known throughout the Caribbean as “Little England” for the market town atmosphere, the cricket ground and signposts giving directions to places such as Hastings and Worthing. The Cathedral and Parliament buildings still look great, it looks like they may have just been refurbished.

IMG_0982IMG_0985

A short walk from town is Carlisle Bay which has a fantastic beach.   (As I am writing this blog the t.v. news is showing the bad weather and snow at home, I hope its all gone by 9th March!)  We enjoyed a couple of hours there sunbathing and swimming but as the sun got higher it became too hot for us, so we decided to go for a drink in the shade.

IMG_1003IMG_1004IMG_0998

Whilst in the bar we decided to see if we could get a taxi tour of the island, and after a little bit of negotiating we arranged for Freddie to show us around. The first port of call was St John’s Church on the east coast. We got there just as a wedding was finishing and one of the rather posh looking guests remarked that we were a little late, and as I was dressed in shorts and t-shirt I replied “so I got all dressed up for nothing then”!

IMG_1014

We had the taxi to ourselves and he said that it was his job to take all the photos, and as you all know how shy and retiring I am, I was delighted it be able to get some pictures of the two of us together.

Version 2

This waitress was happy for me to take her photo and with a bit of cropping I might enter it in the on board photo competition.

IMG_1056

At the far end of the island the Caribbean sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. There are some terrific waves to be seen here.

IMG_1059

Some take people a little by surprise……………

IMG_1068

Some are little too far away to cause problems but they still look impressive!

 

P1120029

Thanks Freddy for a great trip around Barbados, we would definitely love to come back and see you again.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Martinique

Fort de France

Saturday 24th  / Sunday 25th February

Martinique is a French island situated in the heart of the Caribbean archipelago between St Lucia and Dominica. Typically French, yet typically tropical.

DSC_1963

We decided to explore the island by car, so Kev and I set off as soon as we were berthed to search for a car to hire. This proved to be easier than we thought and we were back at the ship within the hour to pick up Val and Jane. It was just as well that Kev was navigating as the road signs weren’t much good!

P1120067

After an hours drive we stopped at a roadside coconut stall and I tried a fresh coconut for the first time ever! Delicious!

P1120069

Val was telling me that certain birds like to eat them as well, but she couldn’t remember the name!

IMG_1151

We had a great drive up the central mountain through the rain forest and back down to a bar on the other side of the island. I was driving, so just to keep everyone on their toes I dropped one of the front wheels down one of the very deep gutters that they have by the side of the road, that woke everyone up! As I was driving I didn’t have any time to take photos, that had to wait until we reached the beach.

IMG_1156

What a lovely beach it was too, this was the place that Kevin and Val set of for a couple of years ago and didn’t make it (more later)!

DSC_1982

The beach was so quiet considering it was a Saturday afternoon, and it was great to stroll in the warm water taking in the atmosphere.

IMG_1161

This is the spot that several years ago Kev and Val arrived at by bus whilst on another cruise. Kev is the king of organising his own tours whilst travelling and never normally leaves any stone unturned.  However, on this occasion he had forgotten to find out what time the bus returned to the ship. When the driver told them the bus returned at 5pm and Val knew that the ship sailed at 4.30pm Kev realised he had a problem. When they couldn’t get a taxi Val began to panic…………. so to cut a long story short this is Kev hanging his head in shame and Val demonstrating how they got back!

IMG_1173

Sunday morning we set of to explore Fort de France only to find that everything was closed! The only thing open was a bar which had run out of white, red and rosé wine and the coffee machine had broken. So I thought that I would have a practice at taking a few selfies with Cormac and Mary, I think I need to do a bit more work!

DSC_1994

The French influence on the architecture is plain to see……….

Version 2

Martinique is a lovely place,  you really do think you are in France, the only way to tell you are in the Caribbean at this time of year is by the weather!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

St Lucia

St Lucia 

Friday 23rd February

P1120031

Today we are on another P&O organised trip, we were a bit concerned after our trip to the Pacoche Nature Reserve in Manta, which turned into a muddy fiasco. But P&O refunded our money and reassured us that there wouldn’t be any problems with this trip.

IMG_1084

So we set off on our trip to the rain forests of St Lucia, and it did what it said on the tin and rained! The drive to the Aerial Tramway was very exciting, a small coach took us at great speed over the pot holed roads, and at every hairpin bend the driver crashed through the gearbox with the dexterity of Lewis Hamilton. We were all relieved to have arrived safely.

P1120042

It rained quite heavily at times…………

P1120048

But despite the rain it was wonderful to ride above all the lush vegetation and see all the flora and fauna.

IMG_1116

And get close to the local wildlife. Well done P&O, the Aerial Tramway was a great success!

DSC_1902

Back in Castres, the main town in St Lucia, it was very busy and bustling with energy.

DSC_1908

The market stalls were of all different shapes and sizes, some like this had a limited stock but it was all very fresh!

DSC_1903

The indoor part of the market had a sign with a couple of polite requests.  Jane agreed with the no smoking but was a little disappointed with the other request!

DSC_1905

But back outside all was well again!

DSC_1929DSC_1926

Friday night and everyone was finishing for the weekend, looking relaxed and ready for a couple of days off.

DSC_1932

Traffic was quite chaotic, and there were lots of jams on the back streets…… in fact there was jammin everywhere you looked!

DSC_1951

Back on ship we were treated to the sounds of a steel band before we set sail for Barbados.

IMG_1122

What a great atmosphere, and lovely way to start the evening.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Tobago

Tobago

Wednesday 21st February

 

IMG_0894

This doesn’t look like the Scarborough I know, its far warmer! Hang on it has started to rain , thats more like it!

IMG_0933 2

Kevin negotiated a taxi ride all around the Island,he nearly got into fisticuffs (but that another story!)  This was one of the first view points of our tour, this is a far more lush island and had a great “feel” to it from the start.

DSC_1765

This island was a lot more laid back than some of the other islands that we have visited so far, this is one of the gift shops that used high pressure sales techniques to obtain their money!

DSC_1774

This one was so laid back that it wasn’t even open!

DSC_1783

Next stop on the trip was a beach bar in a tree………….

DSC_1787

Plenty of gaps for a lovely gentle breeze to waft through……….

DSC_1785

Great views from the window, and a lovely freshly squeezed fruit juice inside.

IMG_0901

A couple of local characters were jus chillin on the corner.

IMG_0923

A lot more shopping action here at this stall!

DSC_1795

We took a picture of this sign and now we can’t remember why!

DSC_1846

We didn’t actually get to this bay (Englishman’s Bay) but it looked absolutely stunning, Maybe next time!

IMG_0943

What a way to display your wares………

DSC_1877

It certainly caught Jane’s attention!

DSC_1826

This is called an immortal tree and there are very many around the island.  They look stunning.

DSC_1892

This is Michael, our tour driver for the day.

 

IMG_0952

After our drive we were coaxed in to this bar by the sound of the reggae music and the sound of laughing from fellow passengers.  The rum punches were small but very potent!

IMG_0957

This young lady thought that I was Daniel Craig and asked for a picture of the two of us together.  I was slightly reluctant but relented in the end!

DSC_1893

Jane spotted her favourite wine waiter out shopping and he gave her one of his winning smiles.

IMG_0961

Well we all made it back safely to the vicinity of the ship, but whenever Kev wears that shirt it always takes us a lot longer to get through security!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bonaire

Bonaire

Monday 19th February

DSC_1660

We were joined in port by Aurora’s big sister Britannia. You realise how big the Britannia is when you see it next to our ship. I’m very happy with the size of our ship, I can find my way around very easily now after nearly 7 weeks, if I was on anything larger I would worry that I wouldn’t find the restaurant!

DSC_1665

Kevin had read  quite a lot about a quiet beach a short walk from the ship, that would be  ideal for snorkelling. Well it was a short walk for Kevin and I with our sensible walking shoes on, however for Jane and Val, our resident fashion icons with their sandals and flip flops it was more of a struggle!

DSC_1658

When we finally got there it was paradise.  There were 4 other people on the beautiful white sands of the beach and as you can see the sea was lovely and clear.  We found a tree to hang our clothes and to get some shade and then headed  for the water. The dark strip that you can see is a coral reef. Kev was the first in and he was astounded at the variety of fish that he had seen within the first 5 minutes. He said that this was the best spot he had ever been to and he has visited quite a few!

DSC_1676

So I thought I would stop mucking about taking silly photos and join him!

 

Version 3

Then this little fellow came along and kept me amused for a little while longer.

DSC_1684

Meanwhile Jane, in a moment of complete madness, decided to roll around in the sand! Unthinkable I hear you say, and she wasn’t drunk!

DSC_1679

Kev was having a few problems teaching Val how to snorkel, and at one time it looked like things were getting a bit fraught. But as it happened it was only that the mask  kept moving! Well done Val, as this was the first time EVER that she has had a go with the mask and snorkel. She loved it!

DSC_1677

No, this is not Ursula Andress from Dr No, its Jane washing the sand off herself and having a go at snorkelling.

DSC_1688

A picture of Kev with his heavenly body……..sorry heavenly t-shirt! Do you think he is holding his stomach in?

DSC_1697

This chap was looking for some lunch…………..

DSC_1699

It might be a little bit too high……………

DSC_1707

But not if you are hungry enough !

DSC_1716

Talking of which…………this was where we had the BEST tuna burger ever. The fish was caught in the morning and we had it for lunch…….superb!!!!

DSC_1714

Well all good days have to come to an end………

DSC_1722

So we decided to elongate it by having a couple of rum punches…….

DSC_1721

And watch the wildlife hard at work sitting on top of some poles…..

DSC_1726

All that exertion has made my cheeks go red…… or could it be the rum punch……..more on that tomorrow!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Aruba

Aruba

Sunday 18th February

IMG_0830

Aruba is one of the smaller Caribbean islands and is 19 1/2 miles long by 6 miles wide at it widest point. It is a very flat island with only 3 small hills. The very dry climate means that not much grows here and most of the fresh fruit and vegetables are brought here daily from nearby Venezuela.

P1120019

Today we were going to catch a bus to the far end of the island to visit the lighthouse and take in the view from one of the 3 hills. Unfortunately not this one though!

IMG_0817

Before the bus trip we had a wander along the sea front and got another picture with the ship in the background .

IMG_0847

Well this is the lighthouse, much like many others I have seen!

IMG_0852

And this is the view from the restaurant on top of the hill, not quite like many I have seen!

DSC_1617

The ship didn’t leave until 9.30pm, so that gave us a chance for a stroll into town in the evening and watch the sun go down.

DSC_1619

And to get a few different photos.

DSC_1640

And also to wear my new shirt.

DSC_1642

What a coincidence another man with great taste in shirts (someone mentioned Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger)

DSC_1647

Well blow me down with a feather!

DSC_1646

My god they are everywhere, and they wash well, this one was bought 3 years ago.  (Yes, I know it has a different coloured background.)

Aruba was a nice place, but I wouldn’t rush back unless I wanted to sunbathe all day, not much else to see on this island.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cartagena

Cartagena

Friday 16th February

DSC_1596

This is the first time that we have arrived at a port to find that  the entrance is through a zoo……….and gift shop, of course!

DSC_1516

Lots to see……….

DSC_1513

All with beautiful bright colours……..

DSC_1472Well except for the monkeys!

DSC_1335

Old Cartagena is a lovely walled city

DSC_1362

With great views, especially  if you decide to walk the walls.

DSC_1364

You can see the modern city in the distance.

DSC_1363

But we were so enamoured with the charm of the old town that we decided to spend our day walking around this charming vibrant place.

DSC_1365

We were again lucky with the weather, the sun was shining although the wind was a little brisk!

DSC_1411

They call Cartagena the jewel of South America and it doesn’t  take too long wandering around to see why!

DSC_1406

The colonial architecture is evident all around.

DSC_1409

And the colours so bright………..

DSC_1415DSC_1428

It looks like you are on a movie set rather than a working city.

IMG_0775DSC_1452

These ladies add to the colourful spectacle, they wanted $5 for this photo and I only had $1 so one of the ladies hid her face from the tight Englishman!

DSC_1441

We had time for a little shopping but Jane thought this fruit bowl was a little over the top!

DSC_1413

Whilst Jane was in the shops I took the opportunity to take even more photos!

IMG_0778

As you know Columbia is world famous for its coffee (amongst other things).  So we thought we would try the local brew. Although coffee has been famous here for many years, coffee bars are a relatively new thing. They take their coffee very seriously, and we were lucky enough to sit next to a Colombian English teacher who was in the bar with her boyfriend. She got the barister to explain how he was making their coffee and why he had chosen the particular method to make this specific style of coffee.  I kid you not that it took 10 minutes discussion of what bean they wanted (they chose the Santander variety) before they started making it!

IMG_0781

I choose the house special, and I was a little perplexed when they brought out a chopping board onto which they put some leaves, set fire to them, and then held the glass over the smoke and then whilst the smoke was still percolating they poured the chilled coffee in. Well I have to say it was well worth all the palaver, this was defiantly the best coffee I have ever tasted!  Jane also enjoyed hers although I think the Baileys in it helped!

IMG_0777

Jane is always pleased when I indulge in the local customs, although in this case, when I was tweaking this statues nipples she did find it a little embarrassing!

DSC_1502

So after a great day in the city it was time to head back to the port, and another look at the zoo.

DSC_1567

Where I managed to pick up a couple of birds, one of which was so keen to undress me it clearly embarrassed the lady standing behind me!

DSC_1515

That kept these two talking!

DSC_1579

This one reminded me of working for a great cash & carry quite a few years ago!

What a great place Cartagena was, I would definitely like to return!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Panama Canal

Thursday 15th February

We were very excited this morning as it was time for our transit of the Panama Canal. This had been on my wish list of places to see and visit for ever, and I never ever thought I would actually be lucky enough to tick this one off my list!

IMG_0758

At about 6.45 am Panama city came into view. And what a sight it was with all the sky scrappers and tower blocks looming up in the distance in the early morning light.

P1120003

The Aurora just squeezes in to the Miraflores locks with only a matter of a few inches to spare. Here the ship is raised 54ft to the same level as Miraflores Lake.

DSC_1048

As we exit these locks you can see a far smaller ship leaving the adjacent lock.

DSC_0894

This picture (slightly out of sequence ) shows the ships at anchor waiting until night time for their transit, as it is considerably cheaper then.  We were informed that it cost £300,000 to take Aurora through!

P1110986

These new locks were opened in 2018 and allow ships 25% larger to use the canal. The new locks cost $5.4billion and now the new larger container ships can take advantage of the 12000 mile and 23 days savings that the canal offers.

DSC_1089DSC_1152DSC_0951

The first bridge we go under is the Bridge of the Americas.

DSC_0926

It looks like we only just fit under but I’m assured that we had plenty of room to spare!

DSC_1092

IMG_0764

This is the Culebra Cut which slices through the continental divide.  This stretch of the canal is 9 miles long and it is hard to believe it was built in the early 1900s.

IMG_0765

Looking back through the cut you can see the Centennial Bridge which was completed in 2004. This was built to supplement the overcrowded Bridge of Americas and can now take 6 lanes of traffic.

DSC_1005DSC_1003

The next set of locks are the Pedro Miguel Locks which raise the ship a further 31ft to the height of Gatun Lake.

DSC_1011

Here we are greeted by members of the Aurora photography team making a DVD of the trip through the canal (and yes I did buy it and yes you can come round to see it!)

DSC_1021

These trains are called mules and they are used to pull the ships into and through the lock.

DSC_1252

Not always successfully, as this photo shows.  We were sat right beside this rail when it got caught on the side of the lock and it sheared right off!

IMG_0766IMG_0767

This is Gatun Lake, created between between 1907 and 1913 by the building of the Gatun dam across the Chargres River.

DSC_1192

With the scenary changing every moment there was always something new to see and little time to sit down.

DSC_1169

Although if you’ve done it before you might get a little blazé about it!

DSC_1299

IMG_0773

A new bridge under construction, it was very interesting to sail underneath whilst all the work was going on above!

IMG_0771

Good bye Panama Canal, a very pleasant way to spend a day!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Manta

Tuesday 13th February

Manta

Manta is the second largest port in Ecuador and is situated in the bay of Manta. The Republica del Ecuador is slightly larger than New Zealand and twice the size of England. The U.S dollar became the legal currency in September 2000. Ecuador is bordered in the north by Colombia and by Peru in the east and south. The so-called Panama hat actually originated in Ecuador and not in the Central American state as the name would suggest, more of that later!

DSC_0728

We had booked another P&O tour today, so it was with high hopes that we set off to our meeting place at the Curzon theatre to see what coach we were on.

DSC_0731

Our first stop was around the corner from the ship to where they made the tuna boats.We were both amazed at the fact that they used bamboo as scaffolding.

DSC_0741

A little further along  from the boatyard was the fish market (and good cod we have seen a few of those this trip!)

DSC_0753

The pelicans were certainly enjoying the attention from all the tourists vying  for their attention and the perfect photo opportunity .

DSC_0760

Whilst we were there the local mobile shop turned up, sadly everyone was well shod and not in need of any flip flops.

DSC_0742And as it was early in the morning the ice cream man didn’t do any business either!

DSC_0772

Our main destination on this trip was the Pacoche Forest Nature Reserve for a trek to see the howler monkeys and the flora and fauna. Before the trek we were treated to a couple of exhibitions. The first was on how to make a Panama hat.

DSC_0774

I didn’t realise how long they took to make. The top of the range ones can take up to six months to make, these feel so smooth and light but will cost you anywhere up to $1000.

DSC_0769DSC_0775

Whilst we were there a hat was put through the finishing touches

DSC_0776

And then modelled by a willing volunteer!

DSC_0780

As a person known for his sartorial taste and elegance I thought I should purchase one of these hats to enhance my already smart appearance. I think I succeeded don’t you?  So that was $40 well spent.

DSC_0785

Next on the agenda was to see sugar being extracted from the sugar cane. Maria the donkey worked the press and in a short amount of time we were able to taste the juice.  Very nice and unsurprisingly sweet. This is then boiled down to make molasses, which again was nice to taste.

DSC_0783

So then, so far so good. We set off on our trek to see the wildlife. P&O had organised about four coaches to this park, so there were about 160 people wandering around.  There was a sign saying quiet please so as not to disturb the animals. This didn’t, and couldn’t, happen with so many people altogether at one time in one spot. So we didn’t get to see anything.  These things happen I suppose…………….

DSC_0790

But the real problems began when we were led to the pathway down into the jungle…..

DSC_0794

The paths were as you would expect in a jungle – just mud. The problem was that with this amount of people descending these slopes it soon became treacherous…………

DSC_0813

With at times only a thin rope to hold on to it became more and more difficult, so much so that it wasn’t uncommon to see mud stained knees and bottoms! It was difficult for me  and nearly impossible for the 80 year olds with their sticks! (they were given fair warning that it would be hard going, however they had paid and weren’t going to give up!)

It wasn’t all that bad, however, and on the few occasions that we had some flat ground I was able to take a few photos of the flora.

DSC_0845

Hooray, we survived………with very muddy shoes!

DSC_0853

Francesca, one of the ship’s official photographers, wasn’t  best pleased with the day as her party had to turn back as it got too dangerous, and she didn’t get her photos!

DSC_0849

On our way back to the coach this pair emerged from the undergrowth dressed in camouflage gear, giving an unusual salute………

DSC_0850

They denied have been to any unauthorised meetings, but I didn’t like the way they marched off!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment