Day 5 – St. Thomas
We had been to St. Thomas many times before and we had done much of what there was to do so we contemplated staying on the ship but at the end decided to take a tour of the island and visit the Butterfly Farm. In the past we had usually left Victor with in-laws onboard or just taken him to a beach but he was now ready to explore with us. We booked a 4-hour tour of the island in an air-conditioned van (most tours there are done in the open-air trucks that I prefer but it was a very hot day). We had previously docked in the new port a bit outside of town but this time we were docked right in downtown, very close to the stores and the gondola ride up the hill.
After we left the port we drove up on the narrow, winding roads (somewhat scary actually because you barely avoid the other cars coming down the road) up to the highest point on the island which is a great overlook point and the home of the best Daiquiri. On the way we stopped and “Nelson’s Chair” (not much left except a view) and a couple of other spots for photo ops and when we got to the top we were left to wander for about 30 minutes.
There is a big souvenir store at the top and a huge terrace from which you can see the blue water and the other nearby islands. Then, we were taken back to downtown while the driver gave us a bit of history of the island. There is definitely a lot of poverty on St. Thomas and a lot of houses that have suffered hurricane damage and were never fixed. But at the same time there are a lot of pretty colorful buildings and the downtown area is buzzing with activity. I am not one to shop for diamonds or perfumes but there is a whole street with such vendors for those you wanted to buy duty-free. I’m not really convinced you get a better deal and I’ve discovered that most times alcohol is actually cheaper onboard but I guess it’s the excitement of bargaining that brings a lot of cruise passengers to the stores.
After the tour we visited the Butterfly Farm which was right across the street from the ship. While the farm is not the largest in the Caribbean and none of the butterflies are native to the island it was still a unique experience. Victor loved smearing his hands with banana juice and having the butterflies land on his hands.
There is actually a pretty amazing parrot show while you wait where the birds do some amazing things – ride roller-skates, talk and ride bikes. This was definitely a highlight of the trip for the kids.
In the afternoon we decided to try Emerald Bay beach and just relax. We had previously been to Coki Beach (nice clean beach but a bit out of the way) and Megan’s Bay (to me it was a bit overrated and there was only one restaurant on the entire beach). Emerald Bay was OK and there were some facilities but I have to be honest that I do not think that St. Thomas has the best beaches in the Caribbean.
I think you just have to discover ones that work for your family so we will keep trying. But so far the beaches that we have been to have been very quiet, no umbrellas or chairs and few restaurants. So if you are looking for an “authentic” unexplored beaches you may love it but I like my beaches a bit more active.
Day 6 – St. Kitts
This was our first time there and boy, do we want to return for more!
I had booked a private rainforest tour through Poinciana Tours and David, the owner, was amazing! We were his only clients that day and although the ship has booked him to take care of a large group on a ship tour, he assigned one of his helpers, Tristan, to work with just the 4 of us so we get an amazing private treatment. We saw so much more than the poor folks on the ship tour which were in a group of 50 or so.
David picked us p from the port and drove us to a place near his house which is just down the street from the famous Batic Factory. Even is you have no interest in Batic this place has such amazing grounds and such lush landscaping that it is a must-see. While we were there we had a taste of the rainforest climate when the sky opened up and poured down on us for about 15 minutes followed by the most amazing rainbow.
From the Batic Factory, Tristan took us on a great tour of the rainforest. He had grown in this area and knew everything and truly gave us a picture of life on the island. He also pointed a lot of plants that the locals use as medicine. Victor was most fascinated by a large plant that would hide its leaves if you touch them – that was like a magic in his eyes, as well as the natural leaf “tattoo” that Tristan painted on his hand.
We saw huge drum trees, crossed creeks and were able to swing on a vine several times (yes, I am no Tarzan and almost dropped myself in an attempt to look gracious) but at the end it was an unforgettable experience. Victor did amazingly well and did not complain once from the walking. After the hike we were taken to David’s front yard and served local fruit (bananas, coconut, mango) as well as home-made banana bread.
We had arranged for David to take us to a beach for the afternoon and he took us to the best beach on this whole cruise -- South Fryers Bay. Situated right where the Pacific meets the Caribbean sea, it is not a large beach but was just perfect.
Lovely, silky smooth black sand, super calm water and the best fish tacos. There is also a wooden platform tied in the middle of the water so we all swam there and laid out in the sun for a bit. We truly did not want to leave and promised ourselves we will be back soon.