Port Review: Nelson's Dockyard and St. John's -- Antigua March 24, 2012
Our day in St. John's, Antigua, dawned a sunny, warm 88F with 58% humidity. We enjoyed coffee and breakfast on our balcony as the Enchantment of the Seas pulled alongside the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Braemar. We disembarked at
8:15 a.m. Those passengers taking ship-sponsored excursions met their guides holding signs on the pier. The ship allows plenty of time to disembark and meet guides: typically 8:45 a.m. for a 9 a.m. tour. Diamond's International and King's Casino are visible at the end of the pier.
We decided to hire our own guide, which is easy to do. Look for men in uniform-style shirts who will direct you to a waiting van driven by a company driver guide. We started our 3-hour tour (Richard's Photo and Video Service-red van) at 10:00 a.m. along with six other delightful British passengers from the Braemar. We paid $25 per person (plus a gratuity at the end). Our guide was very knowledgeable. He took us to a new and large cricket stadium- fun for us to see- and en route saw churches of many faiths (Anglican, Holiness, Catholic, Baptist, Moravian, Wesleyan, Methodist).
Important highlights included remains of sugar factories, with stone structures reminiscent of the island's primary industry until slave emancipation.
Believe it or not, sugar must now be imported. We also passed a rain forest area, zip line, Fig Tree Drive (fig = banana); Curtain Bluff Hotel with a view of Montserrat; Falmouth Harbor; Parliament House; Minister of Finance,
senior citizen home and a hospital. Gasoline is a pricey $14.99 per gallon.
We paid $8 per person to enter the Nelson's Dockyard National Park to see remnants of the royal artillery, the Blockhouse, atop Shirley Heights which affords a spectacular view of the English Harbor. The English Harbor served both as a port and safe haven from hurricanes. We saw properties of Eric Clapton and Whitney Houston ("Indian Creek"), ironically located near a rehab. facility.
Another highlight of the tour was "The Lookout" -- the highest point on Antigua. Do not miss the AAA Gem attraction: Nelson's Dockyard, the only working Georgian shipyard in the world named after Lord Horatio Nelson, who established a British naval base in the Caribbean. Multi-million dollar yachts were numerous. Another fun thing was to explore the village-like buildings housing a museum, sick house, bakery, restaurants, hotel, craft shops, herbal garden, working mast house, and admiral's house.
After the tour ended at 2:30, we had coffee upstairs at Hemingway's Verandah Bar and Restaurant. The Heritage Quay shopping area was a pleasant way to pass our remaining time on St. John's before returning to the ship for a 4:50 departure as the sun set on lovely Antigua.