Monday, October 1, 2012

Caribbean Cruise - St. Lucia & Antigua - SkyRide Aerial Tram, Reduit & Jolly Rogers Beach

Day 7 - Antigua

I had done a lot of research on Antigua before we left and knew it was an island of many beaches so we figured out we’d just spend the day lounging on a beautiful beach.  A lot of people recommended Valley Church beach so we decided to try it out. Cabs at the port are abundant though each cab driver insists they know the best beach only because they are getting kick-backs from the people who rent chairs at that particular beach. 

Valley Church looked gorgeous at first - azure blue water, mountain views and not a ton of people. The water was warm and flat. However, most of the beach is covered in shells and very rough sand (good for shell collectors but not good for bare feet) and the water creates very large strong waves right at the point where you go in because of the very steep incline. It was dangerous to leave Victor to splash in the water by himself so we decided to look for another calmer beach. 

We found a driver who told us he would take us to a much better beach which turned out to be on the same bay, but 5 min away, Jolly Rogers Beach. It was in essence the same beach but with somewhat less shells. Same steep incline in the water though so, again, we stayed for a bit but had to constantly watch Victor so we did not stay long. I would not recommend these two beaches for families with small kids because of this incline but for older kids it would be no problem and the water is truly beautiful.

On the way back to the ship yet another driver told us if we wanted calm waters we should have gone to the opposite side of the island but at that point we had spent a lot of money and a lot of time moving from place to place so we were just happy to go back on the ship. 

Day 8 – St. Lucia

This was our first time on the island and after a lot of research I had pre-booked tickets to the Aerial Tram Skyride which I felt was an exciting yet laid back option for our group. The ship has tours to the tram that cost quite a lot of money so we booked tickets directly on their web site and hired a car for the day which was cheaper than taking taxis back and forth. I was surprised that the drivers did not want to negotiate the price like we have done in most other places. It appears that there is somewhat of a "mafia" in St. Lucia and only one company is allowed to offer rides from the port. They keep their prices fixed because there is no competition. You are also told to pay in advance for the whole day so there is really no incentive for the driver.

The ride to the Skyride is about 45 minutes from the port and the taxi took us through some of the residential areas to give s a feel of the island. It is very colorful and we noticed all the houses were on stilts (raised from the ground) which was odd. It is also a large island and if you only have one day you really have to pick what you want to do – we initially wanted to do the volcano hike and the tram but it would have been impossible with all the driving in between.

The tram ride was nice though we did not see anything interesting but the trees. No animals, no birds, it was a ride through a forest pretty much. 

They told us that because of the zip line, which goes right below the tram, all the monkeys and birds have moved away from this area as they are scared of the noise.  It was exciting to be so high up and see the huge tree canopies beneath you but if you are afraid or heights do not go -- going up was fine for me but coming down I had a few moments of panic. 

The ride is longish (over 1 hour) and towards the end of it Victor got bored  and wanted to go on the zip line which we kept seeing below us from the gondola. It actually seemed like an OK zip line and not too fast and we saw some little kids going on it so maybe next time. 

One of the most fascinating things we saw was actually a little botanical garden at the bottom of the tram ride where we saw these beauties

After the Aerial Tram we asked the driver to take us to a calm beach for the rest of the afternoon and he took us to Reduit Beach. It was an OK beach with turquoise blue waters and green lush mountains in the distance. However, the sand was quite rough and full of shells so, while OK for kids 4+ I would not recommend for very little ones.

 I think next time we’ll hike the volcano though the aerial tram is a good option if you have kids too young for some of the more intensive adventures that St. Lucia offers.

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