The cruise terminal at Bridgetown is in the commercial dock area, so rather ugly and busy with container movement on dockside. It's about a 20 minute walk through this unattractive zone to the town. We found the town did not have much to offer us. Few buildings of note, scores of jewellery & duty-free shops, but nothing "touristy" for a short visit. Perhaps if we'd had a guide, there may have been places of interest.
We joined a minibus at the port for this half-day tour around Basseterre,the Brimstone Hill Fortress and Romney Manor, the home of Caribelle Batik designs. Our local guide was knowledgeable and keen to illustrate his country. The fortress is impressive, being built by slaves for the British, besieged by the French and re-taken by the British. It has dozens of cannon on the ramparts and stupendous views. Romney Manor has beautiful gardens and remains of a rum factory, but we didn't have enough time there. There were demonstrations of the technique of Caribelle Batik and product for sale. Overall, a good trip.
St Maarten is split between Dutch and French populations. The port of Philipsburg is Dutch and the official currency in the Dutch Guilder. We were taken through this pretty town, whilst our guide described its places of interest. The butterfly farm was the highlight and you had to feel priveleged as these beautiful creatures danced around you and even perched on your hand. We then crossed to the French side and its capital of Marigot, which had a huge street market to take the tourist EURO! Fortunately, both sides took the US dollar. The guide was enthusiastic and informative and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
We took the tour "North Shore and Pusser's Landing" which was a half-day trip by open-sided bus. (really a big Ford flatback with seats) The driver was also our guide and spoke to us over a single tinny tannoy speaker, which was very difficult to hear/understand, especially with his particularly heavy accent and hanging-on for dear life as we careered crazily over potholed roads. We started in Road Town, with a tour round the streets, but our driver's commentary was poor, such as "That's a school" , "That's a hospital" etc, which we could have worked out for ourselves. He told us nothing of the history or culture of the island, and, due to the set-up, ie. no way we could speak to him whilst moving, there was no opportunity to ask.
The highlight was advertised as Sage National Park, but we only saw the gift shop, where we were given a complimentary Rum Punch. The trip was 40 minutes shorter than advertised, which time could have been used to actually go in the National Park, as we had expected. Maybe we were just unlucky with this particular driver, but it was not a good trip.
We went for the "Highlights of Antigua" half-day tour, which included Blockhouse Fort and Shirley Heights, relics of its colonial past. Our guide on the minibus was brilliant. However, the highlight was a visit to Nelson's Dockyard with a guided tour by specialist staff who could bring its history to life for us. As it happened, there was a short rain shower 5 minutes into the tour, and the guides abandoned us. Although we were able to wander around after the rain, without informed commentary it was all a bit lost. Other Dockyard guides had done the same with their groups. They should all be sacked! This spoiled an otherwise excellent trip.
Roseau is a pretty little town and the "Trolley Train" excursion goes from the promenade, around the town and up to the botanical gardens. The guide was brilliant, clearly proud of his country and anxious to impart as much local knowledge as possible. We spent quite a while in the gardens and his knowledge of botany was so impressive I asked if he was a student doing part-time guiding. He replied, modestly, that you "owe it to the tourists to know your subject" so he'd done his research. An excellent short trip. (90 minutes)