2008 WINDWARD ISLANDS

Star Clippers "Star Crapper!"

Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts, Ilse des Saintes, Martinique

Day 1, Friday, December 12 Houston - Miami
Only a 9-day trip with a late departure and a midnight arrival back home, so drive to the airport at 3PM rather than use the shuttle (same price: 9 days = $54 = Shuttle trip). I have to take expen$ive flights from Houston to Barbados. The problem is the limited number of connections, so I'm stuck with a 12-13 hour layover in Miami and had to add a night at the Miami International Airport hotel located next to American Airlines terminal, concourse E. It's convenient and not TOO expensive. The other option gave just 45 minutes to make the change in Miami which is virtually impossible. These revised times are 30 minutes later than originally scheduled. I would have preferred 30 minutes earlier, but even these are wrong. When I check in, I'm told that there will be a "slight" delay. The plane is a "bit" late (equipment problem) and won't leave until 8:10. Wrong, make that 9:00, er, 9:15 … how about 9:30. While we're waiting, two other American Airlines flights outbound are delayed due to mechanical problems. One hour time change to Miami. As it turns out, it's a good thing I took the Friday flight even though the night is the hotel room is mostly wasted. At least I don't have to worry about connections.

American AA 1294Houston - Miami 6:25 PM - 9:45 PM2:20(12:25)
.9:30 PM --- .

Day 2, Saturday, December 13 Miami - Barbados
.--- -- Miami ---- --- 12:40 AM2:10 (11:00)

Finally to the airport hotel about 1:20 AM. Grumble! After a long, somewhat expensive overnight flight, I get to spend very little time (4.75 hours) in my (wasted) hotel room, off again, including the full check-in and security. The lines are already long at 6AM.

American AA 1089Miami - Barbados10:10 AM - 2:35 PM 3:25 (18:30)

We do get on board the plane for a 10:10 departure, but there are more mechanical problems. That's four AA flights that I know of with mechanical problem delays - all in one "day".

.Miami - Barbados11:40 AM - 3:50 PM3:10 (16:20+3)

It's also another time zone further east so now 2 hours difference from Houston. Finally arrive. It takes well over an hour to get through Barbados Immigration (huge long long long line). A 5 PM arrival at the airport means a direct transfer to the ship. They start boarding at 4PM for a 9PM sailing. Finally on board the shuttle bus at 5:25 (almost dark) and after a "scenic tour" through (not) "beautiful downtown Burbank" we get to the ship in the full dark at 6:15 - barely in time to find my micro-cabin/dog house. I signed up for a Category 4 cabin but some how got assigned to this Category 5 "Dog House." It bears no resemblance whatsoever to what is shown on their web site. Even the small Cruise West cabins had more floor space and lots more desk and storage space.

On the wild and rugged east coast of Barbados, the isolated beaches are the color of sunrise, the red sands having blown all the way across the Atlantic from the Sahara. The eastern most island of the Windwards, and indeed, of the entire Caribbean, reaches out to Africa and the Old World, as if not quite part of the New. Bridgetown, Barbados is an interesting town full of contrasts. George Washington actually slept here! Trafalgar Square reminds us that the laid back, rum-and-fun-loving islands British-influenced heritage includes revered traditions like cricket and high tea but no time to see it. We can't see any of it since it's already totally dark.



Ship is the 5-masted "Royal Clipper"

Optional?? Step aboard a sleek, powered catamarans for a high speed ride to a fantastic snorkel site. Enjoy the wind in our hair as we whisk away to the home of the endangered Hawksbill Turtles where we get up close and personal with these gentle, creatures. After a short safety briefing to ensure that we are familiar with basic water safety and snorkel techniques we begin the snorkeling adventure with our knowledgeable guide. Upon leaving, we will explore the hidden bays along the coast as our guide regales us with local folklore and some fascinating historical information. Then leave the West Coast and head towards the South Coast where we visit the Berwyn Shipwreck in Carlisle Bay, home to a great variety of tropical fish and other marine life. The final stop is at one of Barbados' most beautiful beaches.

Our "Cruise Director," Timoteo Elio from Belgium, tells us that we have to sign up for any optional excursions tonight (for the first two days). Decent mini-dinner at 7:30 and into my "dog house cabin" by 9:30. The ship departs about 9:45. It's 115.7 Nautical Miles (NM) to St. Lucia. Note: I booked a category 4 cabin but got stuck in a Category 5. Maybe there were lots of requests for Cat 4 but they are sailing with only 160 passengers (holds 228) and a bunch of people got 40% - 50% discounts.

Note: the only "included" beverages are water, after-dinner coffee, and coffee or juice at breakfast. Everything else is extra. Even soft drinks are Euro 2.00 + 12.5% automatic service charge x 1.29 to get the $ amount - so almost $3.00.

Day 3, Sunday, December 14 Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Some rolling during the night, but I'm "dog" tired in my dog-house, so it doesn't make much difference. I'm up early for the "continental" snack breakfast at 6AM. We get our mandatory pre-cruise safety briefing at 10AM while well out to sea.

Marigot Bay, one of the prettiest anchorages in the Caribbean, is surrounded by lush hills and ringed by drooping coconut palms. James Michener described it as the archetype for paradise in the Caribbean. On the bay are restaurants (Doolittle's is the most famous) and inland we can visit a banana plantation. Our alternate stop, the little Port town of Soufrière was named after a nearby volcano by the French, who ruled St. Lucia before the English took it over. Locals call it the world's only drive-in volcano. Prettier sights are to be seen at Diamond Falls and Mineral Baths where we can walk the gardens and take a dip in the pool under the waterfalls. St. Lucia's lush rain forested mountains including the famous Pitons are truly spectacular. A lush island of tropical beauty, St. Lucia is part of the Windward Islands. Its 238-square miles are covered with rain forests, banana plantations, palm-lined beaches, mountains and even a drive-in volcano. St. Lucia shares the history of its neighbors, with Britain and France battling for possession, but to an even greater degree. The island has changed hands 14 times and has had so many battles fought over it that it was given the nickname "Helen of the Caribbean". The English eventually gained control until independence was granted in 1979. St. Lucia has also seen its share of natural disasters, including several fires and hurricanes. Though tourism is now the island's economic backbone, sugar cane was the primary industry from the 1800's to 1960. One of St. Lucia's most noted attractions are the Pitons, two volcanic cones rising up from the sea that have become a symbol of the island itself. Today, St Lucia offers its guests a wide range of natural charm with beautiful beaches, lush scenery, fishing villages unchanged by time and friendly Caribbean hospitality.

4X4 Rugged Beach Getaway Transportation by 4X4 vehicles Min. 12 / Max. 40, Duration 3:30, €40. (Cancelled - not enough sign up) Enjoy the beautiful and out of the way places of St. Lucia by going "off the beaten track". Set off in a 4-wheel drive vehicle on a scenic ride to explore some of the island's natural landscape. The journey takes us through small, quaint villages of Ti-Rocher, Balata and Desrameaux. The lush, green vegetation of the mountainside and the flora adorning the roadside are breathtaking. From the rolling hills the tour takes us along the rugged trail to one of the East Coast's spectacular and isolated beaches. Enjoy a refreshing swim and local snacks. Complimentary soft drinks and rum punch are also served. This tour includes travel on roads that are very rugged and we will be bounced about on this tour. We will spend around 45 minutes on the beach.

Views of St. Lucia Duration 3 hours, €27 After boarding our air conditioned bus we drive through Castries where various points of interest will be pointed out and then it is a winding drive up The Morne for a panoramic view of the city, the harbor, and even as far as the island of Martinique. We continue up The Morne to view the Inniskilling Monument. A short drive away is Caribelle Batik where we can shop. Leaving this, our journey continues along secondary roads along the hills on the outskirts of the city through small communities and scenic views highlighting the Atlantic and Carribean coasts. Stopping at a view point in La Guerre, we get a view overlooking the Marquis Estate which was once the largest banana plantation on the island. The drive continues through other communities and once in Monchy, the wonderful view of Rodney Bay and Pigeon Island. We stop at Stony Hill, a private home, for refreshments and relaxation. Then we return to the ship. Nice tour; Guide is Tony (aka "Sunshine"), who is excellent with a very exuberant personality, driver is Elvis. Nice excursion.

Waterfall Mountain Bike (ship in Rodney Bay) Transportation by van and bicycle Min 8, Max 20, Duration 4 hours, €50. We experience St. Lucia's rainforest, banana plantation and the island's most breathtaking waterfall during this exciting cycling adventure. The tour begins with a bus ride deep into the rainforest where guides meet us, issue the bikes, safety equipment and provide an orientation. Along the tour, we make several stops to learn about and possibly taste the delicious fruits. We cycle through banana plantations, ending up at the falls. Here we are served a refreshing juice and have the opportunity to swim in the cool water at the base of the falls. Along the route, we will encounter only a few gentle inclines, the most challenging taking about three minutes to transverse, and then back to our starting point. It is also advisable to wear shoes that can get wet especially as we have to cross the river to reach the waterfall. The bike ride will take approximately 45 minutes.

Trail & Beach Horse Ride (ship in Rodney Bay) Transportation by van and horseback Min 6/Max 15, Duration 2:30, €55. No thanks - better choice available.

Rainforest Canopy Adventure (ship in Rodney Bay) Transportation by van / zipline Min. 8 / Max. 22, €60. NOTE: This excursion is not suitable for persons with back problems or severe heart complications.

As planned, I skip dinner this evening (and probably most other evenings.) Weather is forecast to give us rough sailing tonight. We're to "be very careful" moving around. It's 78.5 NM to Roseau on Dominica. (194.2 NM so far)

Day 4, Monday, December 15 Roseau & Cabrits, Dominica
The night wasn't as rough as predicted though we did get quite a bit of rain. Three cruise ships in sight this morning as we stop for clearance into Dominica waters. I try their full breakfast today - the Continental snack one just isn't that great. However that isn't so great either (and is, for me, quite late) so it will be back to the snack breakfast.

Dominica is a dream-like island, full of surprises. From Star Clipper's anchorage in remote Prince Rupert Bay, the steep mountainsides and lush jungle-like beauty might remind us of a Rousseau landscape. Glide through a steamy orchid-festooned rainforest in a fascinating boat ride up the winding Layrou River. Alternatively, hike to Trafalgar Falls and a bubbling lake.

Another of Columbus' discoveries, Dominica was originally named for Sunday, the day he first sighted it. It is said that if Columbus was to revisit the Caribbean today, Dominica would be the only island that he would recognize. Today's guests will find an island rich in natural beauty unchanged by time. The only characteristic Dominica shares with its Caribbean counterparts is that the French and British fought for control of the island. The British finally succeeded and controlled the island until it was granted full independence in 1978. Similarity with its neighbors ends there. Dominica, at 29 miles long and 16 miles wide, is not the typical Caribbean imagery. Instead, it is a lush mountainous island with few beaches or over-developed tourist attractions. The entire ambiance of Dominica is based on its forested landscape. The mountain ranges stretch from end of the island to the other, averaging 3000 feet and peaking as high as 5000. The mountains provide not only a geographical backbone but an ecological one as well. Their sides are covered with dense rain forests and foliage and spawn some 365 rivers and streams with numerous waterfalls and natural pools. Dominica is a true natural paradise abundant in beauty uniquely its own.

However, once we get ashore, we see that the quality of the buildings and structures, not to mention the "roads" is far below that of St. Lucia. This is NOT a wealthy island.There are still many derelict boats and small ships littering the shoreline even all these years since the last major hurricane here in 1999.

Again we are warned of possible rough seas tonight and to be VERY careful moving around.

The first two excursions go out of Rousseau in the morning and join the ship in Cabrits. The ship sails 18.9 NM to get from Roseau to Cabrits to pick them up.

Trafalgar falls and Champagne Snorkel Transportation by air-conditioned vehicle and foot Min 10 / Max 50, Duration 4:30, €58. (CANCELLED) No thanks - not for me.

4x4 Hike to Chaudière Pool By Land Rover Jeep Min 10/ Max 20, Duration 4:30, €58. Hop on to one of our intricately painted 4WD ex-military vehicles to begin a journey to a truly amazing work of Mother Nature. No windows! No aisles! No glass barriers - just 360 degree panoramic viewing as we travel through the second town of Dominica, Portsmouth. Continue through the 'neck' of the island, passing flourishing fields of bananas and coconuts to the lush village of Bense. There are a few photo stops at the top of the village, where on a clear day we can see the neighboring islands of Marie Galante and the southern tip of Guadeloupe, before arriving at the starting point of our trail. We take a moderate hike for about 20 minutes to Chaudiere Pool (Witch's Cauldron) which is a natural forming volcanic rock pool to view a small waterfall and enjoy a swim in a large cool pool. We have the option of taking a jump of the cliff into the pool or riding the current down the 7 ft waterfall! Enjoy the scenic drive back to our ship in Roseau. Refreshments served and washroom stop will be available on the way back.

These excursions start out of Portsmouth / Cabrits in the afternoon. After than, it's another 93.2 NM to Antigua.

4x4 Hike to Chaudière Pool By Land Rover Jeep Min 10/ Max 20, Duration 4:30, €58. CANCELLED Hop on to one of our intricately painted 4WD ex-military vehicles to begin a journey to a truly amazing work of Mother Nature. No windows! No aisles! No glass barriers - just 360 degree panoramic viewing as we travel through the second town of Dominica, Portsmouth. Continue through the 'neck' of the island, passing flourishing fields of bananas and coconuts to the lush village of Bense. There are a few photo stops at the top of the village, where on a clear day we can see the neighboring islands of Marie Galante and the southern tip of Guadeloupe, before arriving at the starting point of our trail. We take a moderate hike for about 20 minutes to Chaudiere Pool (Witch's Cauldron) which is a natural forming volcanic rock pool to view a small waterfall and enjoy a swim in a large cool pool. We have the option of taking a jump of the cliff into the pool or riding the current down the 7 ft waterfall! Enjoy the scenic drive back to our ship in Roseau. Refreshments served and washroom stop will be available on the way back.

Rivers and Pool Nature Tour Departure Portsmouth, return Roseau. Transportation by air-conditioned van / rowboats. Min 14 / Max 120, (NOT OFFERED) Duration 5 hours, €42. The tour begins with a ten-minute drive through the town of Portsmouth. We will disembark the bus at the river mouth to embark in wooden rowing boats for a personal guided excursion on the river. Our guide will take us on a scenic tour of the Indian River, formerly used by the Carib Indians for trading with the Europeans. The river is bound by a huge tropical rainforest containing rare exotic birds and various species of wildlife. After the river tour we will get back in the bus for a drive to the enchanting Emerald Pool. Along this route we can see the rugged beauty of the islands' western coast and also some thick tropical vegetation, as well as banana and citrus plantations. We will then stop off for a refreshing taste of local fruit juices and punches. The tour then continues to the Emerald Pool where we can hike through the forest to view the Pool and its fifty-foot waterfall. Then we will continue down the Springfield Valley Road to Roseau and the waiting ship at the Roseau Ferry Terminal.

Wonders of Waiti Kabuli Transportation by air-conditioned vehicle Min 10 / Max 40, Duration 4 hours, €58. (CANCELLED - high water) It's all about water. We enjoy river tubing and swimming in the vivid green waters of the Emerald Pool. Waitu-kubuli meaning '"tall is her body" is the original Carib name for Dominica. The rugged mountainous landscape has produced an abundance of natural wonders such as rivers, waterfalls, lakes and valleys. We begin with a drive to the interior of the island on the old Imperial road. The Emerald Pool is our first stop. A 10-minute hike leads us to the lookout point for a picturesque view of this 40-foot waterfall, and from there we're just moments away from a quick plunge into this natural wonder! Continue our journey down the stunning Layou Valley Gorge where our river tubing experience begins. Feel the force of nature as we spin and swirl downstream, encountering a series of mild rapids while taking in the changing exotic scenery at the same time - if we can. The experienced and professional guides are only a shout away to ensure our comfort and safety all the way to the end. Back on land again, at the Hillsborough Reception Center, refuel with Kubuli Beer, made with natural spring water, or other refreshments and fresh local fruit. There is a 40-minute drive to Emerald Pool site and another 30 minutes to return to the ship.

Syndicate Nature Trail and (birdless) Bird (not) Watching. Transportation by air-conditioned vehicle (whose transmission threatens to give way during the drive) and foot. Min 20 / Max 80. Duration 4, €34. We only have 13 sign up, but they run it anyway. Start with a short (manic) drive through the town of Portsmouth on streets and roads that are sometime just a random collection of loosely connected potholes, passing the scenic Indian River and up a 1 lane (lets play chicken) road masquerading as a two-lane road to the Syndicate National Park. A Forest Guide never shows up to take us on the Nature Trail (2000' feet above sea level) showing us the local flora and (missing) fauna. We only see one parrot flying - at a distance. One of the local employees says that the birds come out mostly in the morning and seldom in the afternoon - so this was a "loser" from the start. After a bit of orange juice, the tour takes us back to the ship at Cabrits. Local guide is Brenda who has such a strong local accent and who talks so fast that we can seldom understand her. She took us on the birdless watching walk but we really didn't see or learn much. Poor tour; not recommended.

Day 5, Tuesday, December 16 Falmouth Harbor, Antigua
The ship does fairly heavy rolling overnight and continuing after sunrise. One advantage of my "dog house" being down in "steerage/kennel class" on the lower deck is that the rolling isn't as obvious or pronounced but still very noticable. I have to be careful when standing up.

The dockyards, marinas, old inns, venerable pubs and convivial crowds of sun-tanned yacht crews might remind us a bit of Newport or Annapolis, because this is the epicenter of the Caribbean yachting world. English Harbour, just south of where Royal Clipper docks in Falmouth, is probably one of the most atmospheric ports we ever encounter. It was here that a soon-to-be-famous Royal Navy Captain set up his base in 1785. Today, every faded pink brick and weather-worn bollard of Nelson's Dockyard evokes the presence of the greatest naval Commander in history.

Sighting the island on his second voyage to the New World, Columbus named the island after a Saint recognized for miracles in the Seville Cathedral, Saint Maria de la Antigua. However, there was no effort to colonize the island for over 150 years due to lack of fresh water. It was not until the English arrived from St. Kitts in 1632 that anyone other than the Carib Indians inhabited the island. The English grew cash crops for the next 50 years to sustain the island until 1674 when the first sugar plantation was constructed. For the next 300 years, sugar was Antigua's primary industry until tourism replaced it less than 30 years ago. During the sugar industries heyday, there were over 150 sugar mills on the island. The remnants of many of them can still be seen today. The island nation, consisting of Antigua and Barbuda, gained its independence from England in 1981 and has made great efforts to bolster its infrastructure to maintain the increasingly important tourism industry. Antigua has also become one of the Caribbean's largest offshore banking centers. There is no doubt that tourists are Antigua's most important asset. Boasting 365 beaches of white sand, turquoise waters and brilliant coral reefs, combined with duty-free shopping and casinos, Antigua's allure as one of the Caribbean's most attractive resort destinations is easy to understand.

Today we have a beach BBQ - sand-dogs and sand-burgers with the usual extras. Not as good as the usual meals they serve aboard. At least we get a nice view of the many luxury yachts, both power and sail, that are here for the just-finished "show and tell" where the yachts are shown to potential buyers or leasers. A mid-sized yacht goes for up to $2000/night, and up with "the sky is not the limit."

They govenment here has just recently renamed the highest mountain on the island as "Mount Obama" in honor of the new President-Elect of the USA.

After they pick up the passengers and sail, it's 64.4 NM to Basseterre on St. Kitts.

South and West Coast Island Tour Transportation by air-conditioned coach Min 10 / Max 22, Duration 3:30, €42. We will leave Falmouth Harbor (over 30 minutes late) and head north through the small local villages of Falmouth and Liberta. At Tyrells Catholic Church we will turn off the main road and onto the Fig Tree Drive, Antigua's most scenic area. We drive through the southwest mountains and Antigua's tropical forest with many fruit trees and small farms. Along the way we will stop for a short tour of the Claremont Pineapple Farm (where the van gets stuck) where the famous 'Antigua Black' pineapple is cultivated, nestled in the Carlisle Bay Valley. We will have a short walking tour of the farm and also have a taste of this wonderful fruit which is unique to Antigua. After rejoining our transportation, we will proceed along the south coast road passing several of Antigua's spectacular white-sand beaches and the turquoise colored Caribbean Sea. After passing through more local villages we will stop in the capital St. John's for one (wasted) hour in the Duty-Free shops at Heritage Quay or the historical Redcliffe Quay shopping district. There are 4 large Clorox Bottles in port so the place is jammed. After leaving St. John's, we will drive through the center of the island back to Falmouth Harbor arriving so late that we have an hour wait for the shuttle boat back to the ship waiting until after dark. This also means that we miss the evening snacks (not that I care since I'm skipping dinners). Our local guide is Jane, originally from Vancouver Island, Canada, but she's been here a while. Great personality but seems a bit "scatter-brained." Other than her personality and comments, only a fair excursion.

I don't know whether its Star Clippers lack of planning or the on-board "tour director" but they have absolutely the poorest excursion departure and return of any tour company, either bus or cruise, that I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. BAD! There are no real disembarkation announcements so its easy to miss the shuttle boat, and no communication from shore to ship which often leaves passengers waiting on shore for an hour or more.

Swim & Snorkel with the Rays Transportation by air-conditioned vehicle/boat Min 10/Max 22, Duration 3:30, €52. No Thanks. Not for me

Canopy Tour Transfer by minibus Min 10 / Max 24, Duration approx. 3 hours, €70. NOTE: This tour is not recommended for persons with a history of heart conditions, seizures, back, knee or shoulder problems or other pre-existing health problems.

Day 6, Wednesday, December 17 Basseterre & Beach, St. Kitts
No real problems overnight though we did get some major rolling just before getting to Basseterre. The optional excursions below start here and end up at a beach at another location on the island. Then after they drop us off there for our excursions, the ship sails 4 NM to Friar's Bay to pick us up.

St. Kitts' was the first successful colony in the British West Indies. Indeed, when viewed from the top of Brimstone Hill, the "Gibraltar of the Caribbean" appears to dominate everything in the Southern Sea. Shop in colorful Basseterre, play golf and tour old plantation houses. For the adventuresome there's a brisk hike through the rainforest.

Originally called the "fertile isle" by the Carib Indians, St. Kitts (officially named St. Christopher) still fits the description. A mountainous island of volcanic origin, its slopes rise up to almost 4000 feet, providing an ideal climate for abundant vegetation and one of the Caribbean's largest rain forests. St. Kitts also has the distinction of being one of the only islands the French and British ever shared. This lasted only long enough to ward off the Caribs and the Spanish before they turned on each other. Possession of the island changed several times between the two before the British took final sovereignty with the Treaty of Versailles. The British also used St. Kitts as a mother colony of sorts, sending parties out to other nearby islands to begin colonization. In many ways, St. Kitts has changed little since those days. It has never developed into a tourist mecca, as some of its neighbors have, and sugar is still its primary source of income just as it was in the 17th century. With its sister island of Nevis, just 2 miles off the southern coast, St. Kitts gained independence in 1967 and has since been striving for controlled development in an effort to maintain its original attributes. Today the island still remains quiet in comparison to other Caribbean nations but St. Kitts and Nevis are beginning to gain recognition for that reason. They are very much alive with their own unique characteristics, serene atmosphere, beautiful unspoiled scenery and palm-lined beaches.

We do get a special treat this afternoon: about 4:45 after the last tender has brought back the last passengers. We have the opportunity for a "Photo Tender" mini-cruise which gives us the chance to see and photograph the Clipper under full sail. Earlier today and yesterday the crew had been scraping places on the side of the hull and repainting with primer. They had to hurry today to get all the lady's paint (makeup) applied before she had her picture taken this afternoon. They must have done that while we were on our excursions. The tenders start out first and get well ahead of the ship, then circle around it as it catches up with all sails set. Very nice deal, and they didn't charge for it! Amazing!.

Note: I also finally found a cold-water fountain so don't have to beg for water at meals. I can now get some water anytime! And again it doesn't cost anything!!! Wow!! BIG improvement over the first days.

St Kitts Scenic Rail Tour Transportation by train / bus Min 20 / Max 50, Duration 3 hours, €76. (CANCELLED - then later after I had signed up for the other tour, they ran this one anyway) This national rail tour runs in a complete circle around the island allowing visitors the opportunity to see the entire country by rail and by road. No trip to this two-island federation is complete without the experience of traveling on the new St. Kitts Scenic Railway, one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. This one-of-a-kind narrow gauge railroad was built almost a century ago to deliver sugar cane from the fields to the sugar mills in the capital city of Basseterre. This railway now provides a fascinating way to see the entire island from the comfort of double-deck railcars built specifically for touring the island. All guests will have a seat on both levels of the railcar. The upper level features a spacious open-air observation deck with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The lower level provides air-conditioned comfort with expansive vaulted windows. Island ambiance is evoked with comfortable rattan furniture, complimentary specialty drinks, island music and a colorful narrative history of the Caribbean. Board the train for a memorable journey. The railway hugs the northeastern coastline with rippling fields of sugarcane stretching from the shoreline up to the mountains. The high volcanic mountain ranges rise nearly 4,000 feet above sea level coated with lush green rainforests. The train rolls across tall steel bridges spanning deep "ghuts" or canyons, and winds through small villages and farms. Our railway conductor will point out old sugar estates, abandoned sugar mills and windmills while giving insight into the island's unique history. Our experience is complimented by a scenic drive along the Southern coast. Enjoy the excellent vistas of Brimstone fortress, the British "Gibraltar of the Caribbean" and Middle Island where Thomas Jefferson's great-grandfather is buried and the neighboring island of Nevis where American statesman and first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was born. A truly unique experience! All aboard the St. Kitts Scenic Railway! NOTE: The actual ride by train is approx. 2 hours and the train is very slow!

The Essential St. Kitts Tour Transportation by air-conditioned mini-van Min 8 / Max unl, Duration 3:30, €38. This could very well be the Caribbean's most memorable island tour. It includes Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, Romney Gardens, Caribelle Batik Studio orientation and an interesting drive through Basseterre. Explore a 300-year-old fortress, perched on a 40-acre hilltop 780 feet above sea level, where more battles were fought than at any other single site in British and French naval history. The first cannons were mounted on Brimstone Hill in 1690 as the English and French fought for control of the island. The next 200 years saw the intermittent construction of an amazing work of architectural and engineering genius. This magnificent structure is the second largest of its type in the entire western hemisphere and one of the best preserved. Its spectacular panoramic views include coastline, country side and five neighboring islands. The Brimstone Hill Fortress, also known as The Gibraltar of the West Indies, is of world heritage value and is a recommended must-see for all visitors to St. Kitts. . There is a nice small visitors center (and a friendly St. Kitts Kitty). The only hard part is a very long very steep ramp from the center up to the fortifications level.

No visit to St. Kitts is complete without a visit to Romney Gardens and Caribelle Batik Studios. This 10-acre garden setting is quite simply stunning. It is at this glorious location that local artists produce the fabric and apparel for which Caribelle Batik has become widely acclaimed. The garden setting and picturesque experience is a photographers dream. The memories will last a lifetime. Adding to these two memorable stops was a drive through (not so) beautiful Basseterre at the start of the tour. This historic Capital City is a reminder of an original Caribbean town. Observe the traditional French architecture and Victorian structures. Old churches, West Indian cottages and a former slave market are also included in this interesting driving tour of Basseterre.

This tour is a nice fast ride through lots of (continuous) shoreline villages to the Fort. 45 minute stay turned into over an hour because the driver didn't care. Then fast drive to Batik location where 20 minute stay turned into 40. We do get a nice overlook stop at the narrowest part of the island where we can see both Atlantic and Caribbean waters. Then to the beach for another (censored) wait for the shuttle to the ship. Over an hour late for lunch. Our local guide is William, who is nice enough but seems to have the attitude that time is not important - just "whenever." The stop at the Fort was excellent and the scenery from that narrow land overlook was spectacular. So between those two stops and the "photo tender" (see above), this has been the best day of the cruise (despite William's lack of care about the time.)

Treasures of Clay Villa Plantation Min. 8 / Max. 40, Duration 2 hours, €30. (Not offered) Enjoy a leisurely visit to Clay Villa Plantation House. Tour the gardens, the house, enjoy the views. Clay Villa, once part of the Stone Fort estate, occupies a commanding position on the elevated hillside outside Challengers Village and provides expansive views of the coast of St Kitts as well as magnificent views of neighboring islands from the balconies and gardens. Walk in the Garden of Day Dreams, filled with tropical trees and plants such as ginger lilies, anthuriums and fruit trees. Stroll the Enchanted Gardens which boast a range of plants, garden ornaments, fruit trees including a 120 year old guava tree, which still bears its fragrant and sweet fruit in season. See the collection of beautiful and colorful tropical fishes in aquariums. The original wooden plantation house was built in 1763. Two other cottages, built some years later, were first located in Basseterre, but then were transported to their present location. Additional wings were included over time. See the family's coat of Arms and antique tapestries. On entering the house we feel as though we have taken a step back in time. Every wall, nook and cranny is adorned with treasures from a hand embroidered parasol held aloft, to the beautiful collection of old are rare shells, some dating back to the previous century. The house is filled with collectibles from all over the world, but especially from the Caribbeans, and will leave us in wonder. The charm of Clay Villa Plantation can be summed up in its quaintness, its mix of memorabilia, its extensive fruit and flower gardens, the magnificent views from the balconies. A collection of art including the work of Caribbean artists is located on the premises. The drive to Clay Villa is 20 min. each way. We will spend 1:15 at Plantation. The house is authentic; descendants of the owners occupy part of the house. The family traces their roots to the Carib Indians who originally inhabited St. Kitts.

I'm still disgusted at the way they did the Rail tour, but at least the Fort and scenery were very good. Now setting sail for Les Saintes, it's a fairly long run of 109.5 NM (483.2 NM running total).

Day 7, Thursday, December 18 Iles des Saintes
When I get up this morning at daybreak to escape my "dog house" it at first seems that we are totally out of the sight which is unusual. Then as it gets lighter, I can see that there is an island to starboard hidden in clouds. We don't get to "Les Saintes" and anchor until about 9:30.

Les Saintes is a thoroughly entrancing group of islands lying off Guadeloupe. The independent, self sufficient inhabitants are descended from Breton fishermen. Wealthy French investors have recently built elaborate vacation homes and exclusive resorts here. We enjoy the super beaches, snorkeling, diving and other water sports.

A cluster of eight small islands, Les Saintes lies just six miles off the southern coast of Guadeloupe. Only two of the islands, Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas, attract any tourists as the other six islands are thought of as little more than rocks. The locals are primarily fishermen known for their large boats and unique sun hats. Les Saintes have acquired a reputation for their beautiful beaches and reefs, attracting divers from around the world. However, tourism has not reached large numbers and has not yet spoiled the charm of these enchanted isles. The tender will take us to the tiny capital "Le Bourg" a lovely and picturesque seaside village.

No paid excursions offered here. The Clipper anchors off the Island, Terre de Haut ("Land of high". They just take us to the beach or marina of the capital Bourg, "a lovely and picturesque seaside village." From there we can walk around town on our own. It's a 5-minute walk uphill to the restored Fort Napoleon or we can walk around and window shop along the waterfront. Unfortunately I forgot my camera and its too much trouble to go back to the ship (that miserable tender service) so no pictures on shore. Anchoring at 9:30 and lunch at noon doesn't give much time. Nice walk-around anyway. The French Creole style is definitely different from other islands we've visited.

We get our "Escape from the Dog-House" (disembarkation) briefing tonight. Hooray! Escape!!! It's a short run of only 92.8 NM to Martinique.

Day 8, Friday, December 19 Beach & Fort de France, Martinique
After a rough night (lots of rolling), we get to Martinique in heavy fog and overcast. Fortunately it clears fairly soon. The rolling causes a minor catastrophe for those preparing breakfast - a huge crash indicating MANY dishes dropped and broken - which I can hear all the way forward in my "dog house." Our arrival and customs clearance is at 8:45 AM. Unlike the previous 4 islands we've visited, Fort de France is a modern city with many high-rise buildings. The port itself is large with several freighters and a large ferry in port. It is also a naval base - based on what was originally the fort protecting the city. Since it's a large deep-water port, we actually tie up at a large dock. Customs agents are waiting (including drug-sniffing dogs) but on an opposite note, there are local musicians (guitar player and a singer) waiting to welcome us as well. Once past a relatively scenic shoreline, the modern city has little "character" unlike Les Saintes. It's too bad I forgot my camera yesterday - not much to photograph today. Also it's very hot and humid today so back to the dog-house fairly early. Unfortunately it's hot and humid there also.

The optional excursions were cancelled due to lack of people signing up. We won't have much time ashore anyway since we are supposed to be back aboard at 1:30 and sail at 2:00. I spend a bit of time ashore then back to the "dog house."

Martinique is the classic French Caribbean island. Wild and mysterious, yet urbane and sophisticated, it is France with a tropical twist, with something for almost everyone. We will be able to resist the charms of Creole cooking and boutiques in Fort de France.

The island of Martinique, along with Guadeloupe, is France's westernmost "department". Martinique is not a colony, but actually a part of France, much like a state. The natives are considered French citizens. Martinique has been one of the few islands in the Caribbean that has always remained under the French. It holds a special place in French history being the birthplace of Empress Josephine. Although mountainous and volcanic in its composition, Martinique was originally named "the island of flowers" by the Carib Indians. The fertile soil on the island sprouts flowers and fruit like poinsettias, hibiscus, bougainvillea, bananas, papaya and pineapples. The agriculture of Martinique only accounts for part of its natural beauty as the coastline sports beautiful beaches and coves.

It's an early sailing since it is quite a way back to Barbados. Our final sail is our longest - 125.6 NM for the total of 702.6. It's supposed to be rough again tonight, possibly because we will be away from many of the islands.

Botanical Gardens of Balata and Fort de France's Heritage Transportation by bus / walking Min. 15 / Max. unlimited, Duration 3:30, €39. (I signed up for this tour, but then cancelled out early to avoid a $$ penalty. I'm not that interested in formal gardens, and definitely not in the shopping.) (CANCELLED) Leaving Fort de France, our first stop will be at Balata Church, a mini replica of the Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre in Paris, built in 1925. Situated at the height of Fort de France, it offers a panoramic view of the city and its bay. On our way we will take the Trace Road (really a track rather than a road), opened by the Jesuits in the 18th century, between enormous bamboos and giant arboreal ferns and lianas. The second stop will be at the Botanical Garden of Balata, a marvelous garden now open to the public after 20 years of grounds preparation and collection of flowers and plants by owner Mr. Jean Philippe Thoze, a botanical and landscape gardener. Walk under the trees and discover a multitude of botanical plants and flowers harmoniously placed. The reception hall is located in the renovated authentic Creole house. There is also an exhibition of native fruits and vegetables. On the way back, we will stop in Fort de France for a 45-minute walking tour to discover the main monuments of this city, like Fort Saint-Louis, a Vauban style 17th century military edifice; the "Place de la Savane," just below the Fort; former Place d'Armes, with its majestic trees - royal palms and tamarinds; the statues of Belain d'Esnambuc and Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie, Napoleon Bonaparte's wife, and the Bibliothèque Schoelcher, designed by the architect Henry Picq, contemporary of Gustave Eiffel.

Day 9, Saturday, December 20 Barbados - home (almost)
We arrive back to Barbados after sailing 703 Nautical Miles, and depending on our flight departure time, we have an option for an island tour. Since my flight is at 3:45, I can take the tour.

We check out (if we don't pay our bills, we don't get our passports back) and escape my dog house on the ship at 7:30 and the tour starts from the port terminal at 8:30. After the tour and lunch at the Plantation, the bus leaves directly for the airport at 1 PM. Its expensive, but at least I don't have to sit around the airport for several hours and a lunch of sorts is included. As we are leaving, the crew are putting up Christmas decorations.

Tour Ending at the Airport for Disembarking Guests Transportation by air-conditioned vehicle Min 8/Max 40, Duration 5:30, €47. Leaving the Harbor we will first pass through the bustling capital Bridgetown before passing through the outskirts of the city and past the residences of the Governor General and the Prime Minister. Our first stop will be at Gun Hill Signal Station. The station not only houses a small Military Museum but also offers incredible views of the West and South Coasts of Barbados as well as the Harbor and Bridgetown. We also stop at the fantastic Orchid Farm where we do a walking tour and can photograph numerous beautiful orchid varieties. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens while enjoying all this. From here we will make our way to the East Coast Road to see the pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean up close. A picture stop at the world renowned Soup Bowl, the famous surfing spot at Bathsheba, cannot be missed before we are heading up hill again to St. John's Church. Situated 800 feet above sea level, the churchyard offers us one last view of the picturesque East Coast. Our last stop before heading to the Airport is Sunbury Plantation House where we will not only enjoy a sumptuous buffet lunch but also step back in time while touring the house and see how the planters used to live many years ago. Enjoy a guided tour through this Great House built over 300 years ago. It is magnificently furnished and contains one of the country's superior collections of antiques, china and silver, as well as a most interesting display of old prints. The cellar, originally used for storing root vegetables grown on the plantation, now houses the Caribbean's finest collection of antique carriages. There is also a fascinating assembly of household items that were once part of everyday life on a plantation. Enjoy the gardens until it is time to depart for the Airport. Lunch is included during the tour but the drinks will be at our own expense. Luggage will be loaded in the coach and we will be transferred from Sunbury Plantation house to the airport.

We are about 45 minutes late leaving Sunbury House so I'm worried when we get to the airport - will we be in time? Arrive back in Barbados airport/madhouse and board my flights home. At least it's not an 'overnighter' (hopefully). However American AwfulLines strikes again - they are 3 for 3 in running late. It's more "mechanical problems." Don't they ever do routine or preventative maintenance on their planes? Eventually back to Eastern time zone. (B,OL)

American AA 1078Barbados - Miami3:45 PM - 7:00 PM4:15(3:00)
.6:05 PM - 8:55 PM3:50(2:15)

I thought I would have lots of time in Miami for a meal, even after Customs, but by the time we finally get to Miami, off the plane, through Immigration (1 hour+), get our luggage, through Customs ... I'm going to be too late for the 10PM flight. THIS TIME ... it's fortunate that American AwfulLines is LATE AGAIN. I would have missed the plane, except that ... for once, American AwfulLines being late (nor 4 for 4 with more "mechanical problems") means that both I and my luggage make the flight. Finally back to Houston time with the next flight (if I even GET to Houston.)

American AA 1811Miami - Houston10:00 PM - 11:50 PM2:50(10:05)
.11:10 PM -.

Day 10, Sunday, December 21 Finally - home
.., and finally back to Houston time as well with this flight. I hope the car is still here.

. -- 12:45 AM2:35(8.40 + 2:25)


Finally home - hopefully the car is still here. It is, and I get home about 2AM. And only 6 days from now (Dec. 27), I leave for the South Pacific (Guam - Fiji) Cruise on a nicer ship with a much better company!
MEMORIES

1 That (Censored) "dog house" I got stuck in. This will be the over-riding memory for the trip and Star Clippers! (censored!)
2 Tony "Sunshine", our local guide in St. Lucia. He was great!
3 The miserable mis-handling of the excursions transportation
4 No service while dining if we don't buy some bar drink
5 The fort and narrow land scenes on St. Kitts; great stops
6 The "photo tender" mini-cruise
7 American Airlines "maintenance problems" delays
8 Why do we have to pay for soft drinks and ice tea!!
9 Jane, our local guide in Antigua; lots of personality (though not much of a tour).



OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS - "my" choices

ST. LUCIA (Day 3)4X4 Rugged Beach Getaway
cancelled
3.5 hours€40
Views of St. Lucia3 hours€27
DOMINICA (Day 4)Rivers and Pool Nature Tour
not offered
5 hours€42
Syndicate Nature Trail & Birdless Bird Not Watching4 hours€34
ANTIGUA (Day 5)South and West Coast Island Tour3.5 hours€40
ST KITTS (Day 6)St Kitts Scenic Rail Tour
cancelled
3 hours€76
The Essential St. Kitts Tour3.5 hours€35
ILSE DES SAINTES (Day 7)None offered
MARTINIQUE (Day 8)I choose not to go on an optional tour
BARBADOS (Day 9)Tour for Disembarking Guests4.5 hours€47

AIR SCHEDULE:
American AA 1294Houston - Miami 6:25 PM - 9:45 PM2:20(12:25)
.9:30 PM - 12:40 AM2:10 (11:00)
American AA 1089Miami - Barbados10:10 AM - 2:35 PM 3:25 (18:30)
.11:40 AM - 3:50 PM3:10 (16:20+3)
American AA 1078Barbados - Miami3:45 PM - 7:00 PM4:15(3:00)
.6:05 PM - 8:55 PM3:50(2:15)
American AA 1811Miami - Houston10:00 PM - 11:50 PM2:50(10:05)
.11:10 PM - 12:45 AM2:35(8.40 + 2:25)

THE SHIP




Tonnage: 5,000
Length: 439 feet
Beam: 54 feet
Draft: 18.5 feet
Sail area: 56,000 Square feet
Mast height: 197 feet
Number of Crew: 106
Passengers: 228
My dog-house is 104 on the Commodore (lowest) deck. Wow, the "facilities" are almost but not quite roomy enough to move around in them - EXCEPT THEY LIED. Cabin is NOTHING like this. I signed up for a category 4 cabin and somehow got stuck into a category 5 "dog house." I don't think the Category 4 match either - from a quick look inside one. The web site indicates all 2-5 are the same except for location.