Life, LIBERTY, and the Pursuit of a Sweet Vacation – St. Lucia.

Wise words once spoken by a Mr. Milli Vanilli…
“Whatever you do don’t put the blame on you
Blame it on the rain yeah yeah”

Thursday already?.. Where was the time going? I woke up around what I think was 6:30. It was earlier than I liked, but since I didn’t have to jet off the ship right away, I could take my time having breakfast and getting around. My excursion was set to meet up around 9:15 off the ship. This morning, Carol would be joining me for a tram ride through a rainforest. I was looking forward to all the photos I could take and having a beer or two with her. I contemplated what I might do with the rest of the day as well. To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of touristy stuff to do in the port town of Castries. There were souvenir stands if you walked a little ways down the main street there. If you kept walking for some time, there was even a public beach, but it was backed by a highway. As much as I loved St. Lucia most of it’s beauty was found elsewhere on the island. Particularly the to the South. We were going to head North though, so fingers were crossed the north would be just as eye-catching.

Pulling into the channel, the sky right over the ship was a nice shade of blue, but clouds were gathering. While having my breakfast I checked the weather forecast and it was rain, rain, rain, rain. I know that being in the Caribbean at this time of the year rain can definitely be part of deal. I also realized that going to a rainforest we would be subject to rain anyways. Oh well, a rainy day in St. Lucia is better than a rainy day at home or work. I was going to make the best of it, no matter.

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I got myself together and wandered the open decks as we sailed in. Sailing in behind us was Royal Princess. I took a few photos before it began to rain. I wandered up to Serenity where I could have some cover for my camera and gear but watch as we sailed in. About the time we were tying-up, the sky opened and it began to pour. There were a couple of others up there with me in Serenity. A couple, one guy sleeping on a couch, and an officer sitting near me at the bar. He had some sort of computer and I could only guess he was checking email or something… On that note, internet service this cruise was great. Very reliable and relatively fast. While waiting for the gangways to clear, the ship began making announcements that the crew would be practicing emergency drills, including lifeboats, and that the port side of deck 3 would be closed. Cool. I would’ve loved to have some photos of it, had it not been raining.

I gave it a little time and then made my way down to the gangway to de-bark the ship. It was still raining, but no biggie. Ponchos were available on deck 0 right before the gangways, but my great roommates had packed extra ones and gave me one. I really wanted to bring the Nikon, but didn’t want to risk getting it wet. Problem solved.

Off the ship and on the pier, I made my way into the “mall” there at port. I looked around a little bit for any cool souvenir that I’d really like to take home, but found nothing really stuck my fancy. It was still a little early, but I decided to have a seat at Chef Bobby’s for a little while. I was early for drinking, honestly, but oh well. I took a seat out on the balcony with a nice view of the ship and ordered a couple Piton Lagers & basket of fries. The ship blew its alarm and horn a few times indicating the beginning of the lifeboat drill. People on the Facebook page I was on mentioned that all the port side boats were out dancing around in the water. That would have been cool to see. Instead I sat there and enjoyed my beer and fries.

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9 came around and Carol sent me a message saying that she was having issues getting her excursion ticket since the staff was currently in the lifeboat drill. I made my way over to the meeting area where I hoped she would also be, given they had it straightened out for her in time. I met with a few others that were part of the group under an awning out of the rain. I mentioned that one more was coming, and it was like they already knew. Within a couple of minutes, Carol was able to join us and we headed off for our bus.

St. Lucia is land of the Toyota Noah. Literally, they are everywhere. If it wasn’t a Noah, it was a larger Toyota bus which is what we got. We took off within a couple of minutes heading into the northern part of the island. Weather was still less than desirable. Our driver or what I assumed was the guide in the passenger seat didn’t really point anything out as we went along. The higher we climbed the mountain roads, the more farm-like things began to appear. There wasn’t much dissimilar with Dominica. It also appeared that most of the island’s lower-income residents seemed to reside inland to the north. People were going about their daily routines as we drove past. Roads were narrow and occasionally we had to slow or stop to let others past first.

The un-official vehicle of St. Lucia
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It took roughly 30 minutes, but we arrived at the rainforest reserve with the tram. It looked like a pretty nice place. We met our real guide once we were there and it was recommended we use the restrooms before the tram ride. The guide handed out ponchos for use. After a brief break, we headed up as a group to get on the tram. There was some instruction before we were allowed to get on. The main points were, “if you drop it, it’s gone, you can stand up, but only briefly, and do not lean over the sides.” Fair enough. The loaded us onto the gondola by what they assumed our weights were. Carol and I were in the second row. with people in front and behind us. In the very back was our guide.

Once situated, we began to ascend in the gondola. Our guide pointed out flowers, plants, trees, and if she was fast enough to notice, types of birds. She would try to joke a little bit but I guess with the rain, we weren’t that receptive of the tourism humor. Along the sides of the tram line you could see areas were people could zip line. I was actually impressed and thought that it would have been a much better thing to do had it not been raining and dreary. It probably extended about halfway up the mountain. Our gondola was moving at snail’s pace and I had honestly become somewhat bored with it. There was occasionally some cool stuff to see, but it wasn’t much that I had not seen before and the weather, once again, was a real bummer. I had my Nikon under my poncho, so that I was able to take photos on occasion, but getting up to take photos in it were pretty awkward.  It was a relief then when the gondola had reached the top and turned around. Now in front of us was the view of the north side of the island. Pretty cool despite the rain. We were also now at level with the rainforest canopy. I hoped to see a few more birds. I was rewarded with a couple humming birds and a hawk that watched as we slowly crept by.

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By the time we had reached the bottom, I probably couldn’t have been happier. I was feeling pretty antsy and wanted to stretch my legs a little. There was a short walking tour offered, but I instead wanted to take photos of plants around the base. Besides the plants on the tour were the same. At the base was a souvenir shop and small dining area. We were offered a refreshing and actually really good drink that was a mix of passion fruit and something else I can’t remember. I would have asked for more, but the woman handing them out didn’t seem to be very inclined. I headed into the souvenir shop and contemplated a t-shirt or two. I settled on a Piton Lager shirt and coconut magnet.

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Out in the open area I walked around and took photos while waiting for the bus. I also joined Carol who was talking to some Britons whom had joined the ship the day before in Barbados. They were pretty cool and seemed to be having a great time. We joked about the weather being an “english summer” and talked cars for little while as one or two were Rolls Royce mechanics. In conversation it occurred to us that the bus was taking a long time to get back. Our guide offered us some rum punch, but none of us were really interested. The wait was beginning to get annoying by the time the much nicer replacement bus arrived. With it, a much nicer replacement driver as well.

We made our way back through the winding roads. School had just released and children were heading home by themselves in what is nowadays a rarer sight in the U.S. I have to admit that while we didn’t drive through the more touristy areas, the southern part of the island still seemed to have much more beauty and charm to it. Not that the northern part lacked character.

When we were dropped off, I decided to visit the souvenir tents and “flea markets” up the street from the pier. It was a narrow walk along the street to get up there with traffic passing closely by. Once there I was greeted with somewhat pushy people trying to sell their stuff. I thought about getting a license plate but decided I’d just head back to the “mall” at the port. Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice a dead rat laying along the curb. Outside the mall, a man was selling cold Piton Lagers our of an iced barrel. I thought about it for a second, but decided to head inside and look around again now that all the shops were open. Maybe there was something I could bring back. Inside the mall I spent a little while looking for such things. I happened across a rather odd painting of a submarine on a staircase wall, wondering why it had been put there.

Uhh.. what’s this about?
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I gave up, also telling myself that I had already bought some stuff on the excursion and when I was in St. Lucia in 2013. I didn’t really need to buy anything else. Carol had already gone back on the ship and I decided I’d follow. There wasn’t much left to do anyways.

Back onboard I had some lunch. The staff at Pizza Pirate had been nice enough to set aside some gluten-free dough for me. While I had taken my medicine, and it was necessary, it was nice to know that they were looking out for me. The pizza was just as good as ever to boot. I had my pizza, a shower, and decided to head to the outside promenade on deck 3 for a while. I’d use the ship’s wifi and catch up a little more on stuff back home. I had a nice view of Royal Princess as well. Carol joined me again for a little bit. She headed back inside and I did the same shortly after for a little bit of a nap.

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When I woke, it was going on time for sail-away. The rain was nice enough to let up for our departure. As we backed out of port and spun, it looked almost certain that the stern of the ship was too close to shore. Thankfully the captain is the master of the vessel and not me as it was no big deal for him. I like to speed and with my luck would have reversed right into the Royal Princess.

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After sail-away. I enjoyed another dinner in the dining room with my excellent wait staff. I won’t deny that at first, the idea of being at a table by myself wasn’t ideal. They really made it a good experience though. Not only where they on-point with orders, but they had my food prepared fast, and delivered hot. I didn’t order desert but once, so I was out of the dining room in less than an hour! A++! They received extra tips from me for sure.

This night there wasn’t too much going on and I had trouble finding people. I wound up walking around the ship and people watching. I happened across one girl from Britain who boarded in Barbados. It was her first cruise. We talked about cruising and bucket lists. It turned out she had been to 6 of the 7 continents and was looking to see Antarctica in the next year. I was pretty amazed at some of her experiences. I felt like my cruise stories were nothing compared to what she’d seen but she (at least made it seem) was interested in everything I had to say. She liked the trip so far, but it was only her second day.

It was going on 10:30 and I figured I’d probably just call it a night. I went back and found my roommates had the same idea. I hoped the next day would bring better weather for my catamaran excursion to Nevis.

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