We took a tour in an air-conditioned, closed vehicle this time which went all around the island. The guide was knowledgable and hilarious, she clearly loved her work. There was one stop at a restaurant/bar where soft drinks and mixed drinks were served, and there was a somewhat co-ed restroom facility which lacked certain expected amenities. There was a beautiful botanical garden there and we wished for more time to explore - the stop was only about 20 minutes long. There was another stop with a great scenic view.
We tried to do some souvenir shopping, but everything in the shops either looked the same or was overpriced. It was too hot to press on so we gave it up and went back to the ship for a swim and a dip in the hot tub.
We had a great experience here, but not through the cruise line. There wasn't anything listed for this island, so we went on the local Chamber of Commerce website, and found the fabulous Yellow Submarine! We pre-arranged this via email, and looked forward to it more than any other excursion, and it didn't disappoint. It was a unique and entertaining experience. This is a boat with a glassed-in deck below, and the top looks like - a Yellow Submarine! They even played the Beatles song as we boarded. This attraction is run by a French couple, and the wife must be a marine biologist, very knowledgable. They were very skilled at taking us out where we could see tropical fish, coral reefs, sea turtles and a shipwreck quite clearly and get great photos. Highly recommended.
Back in port, there was a great ice cream shop, which unlike any other ports of call, not to mention the ship itself, had many non-dairy selections. We hit it twice! Well worth it.
We spent some time on Shell Beach, very beautiful, clear water, covered with shells, but somewhat hidden and hard to find from port, and very expensive to rent umbrella chairs. Clothing optional.
We tried to meet up with some of our new friends so we could hire a cab together, but we kept missing each other, so we went on our own. At the port, we asked advice from a security person, and she recommended that we hire a cab from inside the port, and choose someone who is clearly a registered, legit driver - she warned us against just going out with one of the independent drivers who pounce on you when you leave the port. We took her advice and ended up with a great driver who should be awarded an honorary degree in local history. Our main stops were the Romney Garden and the Batik shop, where we could see a demonstration of the technique, and buy clothing directly from the artisans. We ended up doing most of our gift shopping there, and spent more time there than we intended. Got ourselves each a nice shirt, and got great stuff for the family. The guide kept in touch with us about time, and did the best he could made sure we had enough time to explore the old fort, which was a very moving experience. We had originally agreed on a price for a certain amount of time, and he was very fair with us on the rate for extended time. We also walked around a bit and saw and photographed a downtown park with a unique and lovely fountain.
We had a magical experience on a dolphin and whale watch cruise. The young men in charge were clearly experienced and knowledgable, as well as pleasant, entertaining, and helpful. Soft drinks and a lethal looking mixed drink were offered. We saw an amazing display of dolphin activity, schools and schools of dolphins leaping high out of the water to signal to their friends that there was food there. Feeding time: our timing was perfect. Didn't see any whales, didn't care. The crew in particular was helpful with getting photographs, going so far as to take passengers cameras to the upper decks and take some great photos for them. My husband the photographer was in heaven!
Back in port, we again attempted to boost the local economy with some gift shopping, but in the craft marketplace, the locals have what they surely think is an effective way to make sales, but they have no idea how much business they are turning away with their aggressive approach. We literally were not allowed to browse at all, because they kept interrupting and trying to show us stuff we didn't want. It was relentless. Ended up buying a couple of island logo t-shirts that fell apart in the wash. And we washed them at home, cold/delicate cycle, inside out and hung them to dry!
We happened to dock on a Sunday, when everything was closed except for a couple of straw market stands, so there was little to do. However, we respect the fact that some things are sacrosanct and that not everyone is open for business 24/7. A group of us took an island tour in an open vehicle, the island was beautiful, the driver was very knowledgable though the exhaust fumes were intense at times. We got to see a beautiful mural painted along a wall commemorating an historical event, and there was a rest stop with a great view and extremely clean facilities. There was also a stop at a high elevation with a panoramic scenic view at the site of a restaurant that is undergoing renovations.