Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cruzin the Caribbean - My 14-day Travel Blog (intro)

While we wait for photos and updates on the medical clinic (coming in May) I thought this would be an opportune time to post about my recent trip to the Caribbean.
Prior to sail-a-way. at the dock in FT Lauderdale shortly after arrival to our stateroom. Champagne chilled and waiting
Why the Southern Caribbean?

The answer: Why not?

I love to plan events. Each year I plan a trip to one of the many geographic locations on my 'bucket list'. Every other year I try to return to Paris (which remains my most FAVORITE city!), however, after plans for a 2013 Paris girls trip didn't work out, I decided to forgo the city of light and visit some of the islands of the Caribbean instead.

We decided the best way to sample the islands would be to take a cruise. We chose to cruise on Celebrity (my FAVORITE cruise line) aboard one of their Solstice class ships, the Eclipse (built in 2010, the Eclipse can carry close to 2,900 passengers and a crew of 1,250).  We selected a 14 day Southern Caribbean cruise making stops at 8 ports, St Thomas, St Maarten, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia, Aruba and Curacao. Our hope was to find an island (or islands ) that we would like to return to, for a longer visit.  (I posted about our cruise plans in some earlier posts and did a few stories on some of the islands on the itinerary as well, however, I know that was way back in the summer and some of you have forgotten by now or maybe you were not following this blog at that time)

So I will start from the beginning -

On April 5th, with cruise booked and tickets in hand, we boarded an early morning, non stop flight from SFO to FLL (Ft Lauderdale) on my favorite airline, Virgin America to begin our journey to the islands.  Our ship sailed on 4/6/13. It was the last cruise to the Southern Caribbean for the season.

No matter where we went on any island, we were never far from the ship!
In the Caribbean....

Most travelers think that the Caribbean is all about the sun, the sea and the sand! The majority of visitors go there to experience the natural beauty of the land, to snorkel, to inhale the clean, fresh air while relaxing and sunning on one of the many, many gorgeous beaches. Many others go to visit the native flora and fauna. Our reasons included all of the above and in addtition, we wanted to experience the distinct culture of the people on each island.

beer on the beach in St Maarten
The Caribbean is a melting pot of races. Most residents of the islands are descendants of African slaves. They were brought to the islands to work in sugar plantations. When slavery ended, they remained. The culture, religions and languages of each country are unique, due to the different monarchies that ruled during the time of slavery.
Since I have been researching the history of African Americans and the effects of slavery on African people, I was very interested in learning about slavery from the perspective of the islanders.

I spoke with several of the locals on several different islands about their Afro-Caribbean heritage. It was very interesting to me that none of the people I spoke with really considered themselves as African. They acknowledged that their ancestry was African but classified and identified themselves as descendants of the Arawak (The Arawak people are one of the tribes of indigenous peoples of the West Indies). When I spoke to them about the country of origin of their African ancestors - none could tell me. A few mentioned that the origin was probably in South Africa and none of them were familiar with the countries of Senegal or Guinea Bissau in West Africa.  Now mind you, I did not talk to a lot of people but I did speak with people associated with the tours we took as I felt that they would know the most about their history and reflect the beliefs of the islanders.

One of the biggest highlights of this trip for us, was our visit to the Kura Hulanda Museum in Curacao. The Kura Hulanda Museum is located in the Otrobanda area of Willemstad, the capital of Curacao. This is a museum that is dedicated to telling the story of slavery. I will go into more detail and post lots of pictures and a short video we shot once I get to our Curacao port of call.

an original one room slave house in Antigua (no kitchen or bathroom) - still in use - During slavery up to 10 people or more would occupy this house

@ the Grand Etang Forest Reserve
There are only two seasons in the West Indies: dry and rainy. The dry season lasts from roughly December to May and it is very hot, breezy and dusty. I can testify to that! It was definitely hot and really breezy (as illustrated by all the pictures of me holding on to my hat). If you are going to visit during the dry season be sure to pack a hat that the wind can't blow off. Many hats now reside in the waters of the Caribbean. 

From June to November it is the rainy or hurricane season. During the rainy season, storms and hurricanes develop near the West African coast and make their way across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean.  We visited some islands however that were classified as 'outside of the hurricane belt'.

I took this photo in Antigua and I swear it did not look like it was real. It was the most beautiful thing
Come back soon
In the coming days I will be posting a 14-day travel blog of our journey (along with photos of the islands, the ship and some of our new friends, (along with my personal commentary - which I am sure you don't want to miss!!)
Even if you've been to the Caribbean before I hope you'll stop back by and read about my adventures in the Caribbean. We took over 3,000 photos so it would a shame not to share them.

You know my motto: A photo is a terrible thing to waste! 

**Don't miss**
Aruba Highlights and Cultural Tour - Day 11 Outtake
(might as well post them)

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