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A Caribbean Cruise: Diving into the Depths

St. Barts (Photo Credit: Carolyn Spencer Brown)
St. Barts (Photo Credit: Carolyn Spencer Brown)

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The start of my magical New York to Barbados cruise on Silversea’s Silver Spirit wasn’t so magical: crazy winds, torrential rain and air turbo for most of the short flight from Baltimore to JFK in New York. When our driver deposited us -- in the still driving rain -- at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on the Hudson River, Silver Spirit was shelter from the storm.

I soon came to appreciate just how fantastic a shelter. Our real estate on this 11-night cruise, with stops in Bermuda and six ports in the Eastern Caribbean -- is a Silver Suite. Cheerful and, at 746 square feet, spacious, it has a bedroom, living/dining area, walk-in closet, a bathroom, itself two rooms, and a large veranda. I’ve lived in apartments smaller than that.

My father, who is my go-to traveling companion, and I were among the last to board and we made our way quickly to Tor’s Observation Library for the 6 p.m. sail-away. Situated on the bow, just three doors down from our cabin on Deck 11, the library doubles as a bar at night, combining two of my favorite things: books and beverages.

Updated July 24, 2019

The sail-away was extraordinary. The library offers panoramic views and it was there that we watched the Manhattan skyline light up as darkness descended while the rain, as if on cue, stopped. The fevered rush that we felt as we scanned the skyline softened to a hush as we sailed past the Statue of Liberty, her torch aloft and lit. All around me, passengers were shooting videos and photos -- but quietly, and with something that felt like reverence.

I’m excited about what lies ahead. I’ve always felt that islands are something we treat ourselves to in our travels and this itinerary -- Bermuda, Tortola, St. Kitts, St. Barts, Dominica, Grenada and Barbados -- is, but for Bermuda, new to me. Join me for my day-by-day report from Silver Spirit about what this part of the North Atlantic and Caribbean looks like, feels like, tastes like. First up, a day at sea.

A Sea Day

When the captain gave his noontime public address announcement, we had sailed more than 200 nautical miles and the closest land from our position in the North Atlantic was Cape Charles, Virginia, on the Chesapeake Bay. I had to laugh. I live in Maryland in a small town on the Chester River, a tributary of the bay. It’s a watershed that has become a part of my wiring.

Sea days can be as lazy or hurried as you wish. It’s your call. Mine? Lazy. My Fitbit will not be happy with me today. I put the “Still Relaxing” sign on the cabin door this morning, unpacked and examined the suite a little more thoroughly. Every suite on Silver Spirit has a butler, and ours, Albert Magsino, had outfitted the bar with the same beverages that live in my fridge at home: Diet Pepsi and chardonnay. I also came to have an even deeper regard for the cabin with its Jacuzzi tub, three -- count them three -- bathroom sinks, personalized stationery and, to my dad’s delight, an espresso machine. The best part of the day: Albert used his superpowers to fix my wireless keyboard, which is why I’m up and running today.

As the captain noted in his announcement, we are on approach to the Bermuda Triangle in the eastern part of the North Atlantic, where dozens of ships and airplanes have famously disappeared in mysterious circumstances. No matter, the bad karma is not stopping passengers from lounging on the pool deck or partaking of onboard activities like trivia, salsa dancing and gaming lessons. There are also enrichment lectures on sea days -- as examples, on this cruise there will be twin talks on Lord Horatio Nelson’s journeys in the Caribbean. I used the day to explore the public spaces of the ship.

I actually sailed on Silver Spirit shortly after it launched in 2009, but much of the ship seems different to me. Here’s why. In 2018, the ship underwent a two-and-a-half-month makeover. To put it simply, the ship was cut in two and then “stretched” by 49 feet. The redo resulted in the addition of 30 guest suites, increasing the passenger load from 540 to 608. The pool deck gained some ground but the biggest add, to me, are the new eateries: Arts Cafe, a kicky, bright space serving light fare; Silver Note, a small supper club; Atlantide, open for all three meals; and Indochine, open evenings only. Also new: an outdoor pizzeria above the pool deck and an expanded La Terrazza, a popular spot for breakfast and lunch buffets.

Dad likes buffets and there is none better than the lunch buffet at La Terrazza. The highlight today was a seafood offering that included green mussels, fresh Maine lobster tail, oysters, shrimp, King crab legs and salmon fillet. The sommeliers also change up the wines at every meal; the one I tried today was a crisp white from the Alsace in France.

One thing I really like about Silver Spirit is that there are options for those of us who don’t want to dress up for the occasional formal night with its required tuxes or dark suits and ties for men and cocktail dresses or pantsuits for women. Not my jam. What’s nice is folks who prefer to dress down can do so at several of the restaurants or, as in our case, order room service. At 7:30 p.m., Albert covered our table with a white cloth and served up a delicious filet mignon with asparagus and mushroom fricassee.

Up next: 24 hours in Bermuda.

24 Hours in Bermuda

Bermuda is only 21 miles long and, at its widest, 3 miles, but this island in the North Atlantic (the land closest to it is the Carolinas) packs in so much natural beauty and history that I’m grateful we will be overnighting here, giving us 24 hours in total at port.

As we sailed into Hamilton, the British territory’s capital, I was reminded of cruising on the Danube or the Seine, where trim and nimble river ships dock in the heart of, say, Budapest or Paris, right at history’s front door. So it is here. We pulled into a berth on Front Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, placing us mere steps from colorful storefronts and restaurants, the Bermuda Historical Society Museum and the City Hall & Arts Centre. It doesn’t get better than that.

From our initial approach in Hamilton Harbour, it’s clear the city is eye candy -- a pleasing vista of white-roofed pastel colored buildings: pink, yellow, blue, green, ochre, cream. Up close, Hamilton is a cultural mashup of all things British (pub grub, red postal boxes, vehicles with right-hand drive) and an island vibe defined by the Caribbean to the south of us (the architecture, island cuisine and families who trace their heritage to places like St. Kitts and Barbados.) Notable too are the men you’ll see, like props in a play, wearing Bermuda’s signature uniform: a button-down or Polo shirt, Bermuda shorts in all manner of colors and patterns and Bermuda socks. (The English Sports Shop, with multiple locations, including one on Front Street, is a good source for Bermuda shorts for both women and men along with locally designed resort wear. The knee-length shorts, I learned, originated with the British army for wear in hot climates and, here, anyway, they are considered appropriate business attire.)

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Bermuda’s uniform. Photo by Ellen Uzelac.

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There are three places you don’t want to miss when you visit Bermuda: the easily walkable Hamilton, colonial St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and, way out on the westernmost tip of the island, the Royal Naval Dockyard, where the big cruise ships dock. Best yet, with 24 hours in port, it’s a completely achievable to-do list. Worth noting: On your drive to St. George, you will see some of the iconic sites that Bermuda is famous for: pink sand beaches, golf courses where initiation fees start at $120,000 and $10 million-plus homes. This is an expensive place. To bring it down to a relatable level, our guide, Chum, told us a pound of grapes costs $6, a watermelon, $15 and a gallon of gas, almost $9. The average cost of a two-bedroom home? $1 million. As Chum framed it: “You go into the supermarket with $50 and come out with tears in your eyes.”

Good to Know

Currency. The Bermudian dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar. As a result, American currency is accepted everywhere.

Logistics. If you wish to visit St. George and the Royal Naval Dockyard, here’s my suggestion: On your first day in Hamilton -- and you will arrive in the afternoon -- book the Colonial St. George shore excursion that the ship offers. It’s a four-hour guided tour in a minivan that accommodates just six passengers. The ride is comfortable, and the drive top-notch with stops to admire a pink sand beach, private golf course and alluring bays. The next morning, take the Sea Express ferry to the Dockyard. The ferry terminal is a couple of blocks from the ship. It’s a quick 15-minute ride and costs $4.50 each way. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi but the drive could take as long as an hour. Spend as much time at the Dockyard as you like and when you return, explore Hamilton. Note: Tourists are not permitted to rent cars in Bermuda, but they may rent scooters or battery-operated minicars that can accommodate two people.

Bermuda is famous for its pink sand beaches -- pink due to the coral bits that are in the sand. Horseshoe Bay, with its gleaming blue water and swaying palms, is the most well-known of the pink sand beaches. It’s a nice place to rent a lounge chair and umbrella and sip on island cocktails. Take bus no. 7 to get there. Not all of Bermuda’s beaches have pink sand. Others that do, accessible by bus, are John Smith’s Bay, Warwick Long Bay, Shelly Bay, Church Bay and Clearwater.

Caribbean Bound: Sea Daze

The mood onboard Silver Spirit on sea days is super relaxed. How could it not be? Not when your most difficult decisions might be whether or not to indulge in a hot stone massage or attend a premium wine tasting? Take part in a blackjack tournament or crush it in body sculpt boot camp? Catch the late-night cabaret in the theater or watch on-demand movies in your suite? Or choose all and sundry.

The pool deck would have been prized real estate but we’ve been dogged by rain showers. Lots of us have phones today that display the outside temperature along with the “Feels Like.” It’s called the “Real Feel” on the TV channel that tracks the ship’s position. Nautical talk, right? The real feel is in the mid-70s, but wet.

I borrowed a book from the library: Andrea Camilleri’s “A Voice in the Night,” the 20th installment in his Inspector Montalbano series. This sentence, on the first page, pretty much sums up these back-to-back sea days: “A decidedly anonymous day, but he liked it precisely because of its lack of character.”

Here’s another way of putting it. In today’s go-go-go world, a sea day can provide this indulgence: time, unhurried, to spend with someone you care about. Dad and I live on separate coasts and, although we talk every day, we see each other most on cruises like this one. Except for attending a couple of lectures, he and I did little but read and relax -- in real time.

In the British Virgin Islands, Dad Takes the Wheel!

After two lazy sea days, with no deadlines or demands, I woke up in a bit of muddle this morning when my alarm went off. It’s the start of five days in five ports. Luckily for me, we’re in Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands, on the island of Tortola. It’s a small island, just 21 square miles. Even the writeup in the ship’s daily newsletter, while extolling its natural beauty points out that there’s little here in the way of historic sites, concluding: “In any event, you come to Tortola to relax.” Works for me.

Indeed, the big reveal here is nature -- what it gives and what it takes away. We saw a bit of both today. To the good, we visited an out-of-the way beach called Smuggler’s Cove that I don’t have the words to describe. How many times can you say white sand beaches and water the color of pick your shade of blue? For me, it’s a beauty so pure that it simply fills you up. What I wasn’t expecting was the devastation still in abundant evidence caused by Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017. All over the place are collapsed buildings, boarded-up houses and piles of destroyed boats and cars that look like metal carcasses. Tortola remains in recovery mode but what hasn’t changed here is the essence of the place: a palpable can-do spirit, fantastic beaches and islands (more than 50 islands and keys in the British Virgin Islands, only 15 inhabited) that have drawn boaters to this region for decades.

When I selected our shore excursion, Tortola Jeep Tour & Beach, I somehow missed the self-drive part, which means my father, in our Jeep, and three couples in theirs, drove to secluded Smuggler’s Cove on unpaved pothole-riddled roads -- up steep hills and down, up and down, hard left, hard right. Close my eyes, close my eyes, close my eyes. Finally, as we get onto level ground, the guide, leading us from his yellow Jeep just ahead of us, intones on our walkie talkie: “This is going to be the bumpiest bit of the road folks, take your time.” To which my father replies: “Why do they call this a road? That’s a pretty liberal interpretation.”

I loved it that we -- and I say we because we bonded following that harrowing drive -- were just eight people on the tour. And Smuggler’s Cove was delightful not just because of its natural beauty but, also, of all things, Nigel’s Snack Shack, run by the charming Nigel Mathias. When I Googled it later, I couldn’t believe all the reviews, hundreds of them. The place has a great vibe and features the Painkiller, a regional rum drink, spiced with nutmeg, and dishes like fish or chicken grilled in foil, British Virgin Islands-style. When it comes to service, Nigel will tell you, there’s no in-between, only above and beyond (catch your own? Nigel will cook it for you).

It’s Sunday and little is open when we return to town except for Tortola Pier Park, a collection of shops and restaurants and tourists, lots of tourists, next to the dock. Docked next to us: a cruise ship with 3,500 passengers. It’s massive with almost six times the number of passengers as are on Silver Spirit. It’s a reminder that good things come in small packages.

Good to Know

The official currency, even though we’re in the British Virgin Islands, is the U.S. dollar.

All beaches in the British Virgin Islands are public. Three beaches that are easy to get to by taxi from the dock: Brewers Bay, Long Bay and, most popular of all, Cane Garden Bay. Cane Garden has umbrella and chair rentals as well as restrooms, bars and restaurants. The water in Tortola is lovely but some of the sandy bottoms are rocky so best to bring water shoes.

St. Kitts: On the Cusp?

St. Kitts isn’t so much about beaches, although it has them, but history and culture. And it feels, right now, like this former British West Indies island is on the cusp of change. Consider that tiny Basseterre, the quaint capital where our ship docked this morning, installed its first three sets of traffic lights in 2018. The Park Hyatt, the first in the Caribbean, opened a year ago and several new hotels -- a Ritz-Carlton, Six Senses and Ramada -- are in the pipeline. Look around and you’ll see plenty of evidence of development underwritten by the Chinese, including a 350-unit condominium seaside complex called Happy Life.

A second pier to accommodate cruise ships is in the works to help satisfy the island’s hungry economic driver: tourism. There’s a hangar that caters to private jets and an international airport with nonstop routes to New York, Newark, Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Toronto. And on Frigate Bay, where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean, there’s a billboard that teases: “Live your dream.”

As our guide Winston said: “Business isn’t good. It’s great.”

Yet this is the same small island where it’s routine to see goats feasting on grass in people’s yards, chickens on the loose and homes and shops that at first glance appear rundown. Authentic, perhaps, is a better description. Some of the original structures in the walkable capital date back centuries, including those that surround Independence Square, once the site of a slave auction market. St. Kitts and neighboring Nevis gained full independence in 1983 after centuries of rule by the British.

It only takes an hour to drive around the island. On our Silversea shore excursion, Best of St. Kitts and Fairview, we did it in four with stops at a batik factory, a museum that was a French plantation in a former life and Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built of hand-cut stone. Designed by the British and built by African slaves between 1789 and 1805, it stretches across 40 acres and, at 800 feet above sea level, has spectacular views.

Notable during our tour was something we did not see: fields of sugar cane. The crop was once the lifeblood of St. Kitts and the island is now defined in part by its absence. The market for sugar collapsed in 2005 and, in years since, the once lush expanse of sugar cane fields has gone dormant and the abandoned manufacturing plant has devolved into a rusted-out relic.

I ended my afternoon here on the second-floor balcony of Lemongrass, a restaurant on Bay Road a few blocks from the cruise terminal. It offers a menu that pays homage to Thai and Caribbean cuisine with dishes like green curry conch, local lobster simmered in a Thai red curry, and poached snapper in ginger soy sauce. My choice? I went full on local with stewed mutton, veggies, and beans and rice. Even better than the food, which was terrific, was the view, which offers a window into the heart of Basseterre. From my perch, I could see The National Museum, the octagonal Circus, patterned after Piccadilly Circus in London, and yes, a few of those traffic lights.

People-watching is a terrific pastime no matter where you happen to be. Today’s cast included a couple of police officers sliding by on Segways, crew members enjoying a few hours off ship and, as everywhere, folks with their eyes directed not around them but at their screens. Not me, not today, not when there’s so much to see.

Good to Know

The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar. However, most taxis, shops and restaurants accept U.S. dollars although you may get change in local money.

Silver Spirit has a particularly robust offering of shore excursions here, including golf at Royal St. Kitts, a rainforest safari, ziplining, a Caribbean cooking and tasting tour, a catamaran snorkel and cruise, and a trip to the neighboring island of Nevis.

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Port Zante, St. Kitts. Photo by Ellen Uzelac

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Logistics. Port Zante is the festive 30-acre shopping and dining area where cruise ships dock. But it doesn’t represent essential St. Kitts at all. Just outside the port, within a few blocks, are the National Museum, Independence Square, the Circus and, on Bay Road across from the ferry terminal, a farmers market. There are also duty-free shops, boutiques and art galleries near the Circus.

There are three popular beaches, with their mixture of black and golden sand, within a quick taxi ride of the pier: Frigate Bay (a 10-minute ride, $12 each way, or $3 each if shared by four people), South Friar’s Bay (15 minutes, $16 each way, or $4 if shared) and Cockleshell Bay (20 minutes, $28 each way, or $7 if shared). Frigate is a local’s favorite while South Friar’s, known for its snorkeling, is a bit quieter. Cockleshell is the most visited with a deep bench of amenities: bars, restaurants, free Wi-Fi, a changing room, and chairs and umbrellas for rent.

St. Barts: A Slice of France in the Caribbean

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St. Bart’s. Photo by Carolyn Spencer Brown.

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After exploring islands dominated by British influence these last few days, it was nice to switch things up a bit. Mais oui, we are in the French West Indies and my day will definitely include Pouilly-Fuisse and pommes frites.

After tendering from the ship to tiny Gustavia, we hired a taxi to drive us around the 9-square-mile island famous for its red-roofed hillside bungalows, secluded coves and pristine beaches. You can get a good snapshot of the island in an hour. It’s a mountainous landscape with lots of viewing points for photo stops. Our driver spoke French, with little English, but it didn’t matter. It was enough to soak in the scenery.

The wealth here is quiet but obvious. There’s a reason it’s called the Cote d’Azur of the Caribbean. Gleaming mega-yachts are moored around the harbor and Gustavia hosts 200-plus boutiques with marquee brands like Longchamp, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Hermes and Prada. Many of the boutiques are clustered on Rue de la Republique, where the tender is stationed. (This is the only port on the itinerary that can’t accommodate cruise ships so they anchor offshore and passengers ride a tender boat from ship to shore.)

It’s easy enough to stroll the streets of Gustavia, the island’s capital, in an hour, as I did this morning. The shops and many historic sites of interest snug right up against the harbor -- among them, Le Musee Territorial at Wall House, which has artwork, traditional costumes and documents that detail the island’s history.

I confess I spent most of the morning dodging in and out of shops, trying to outwit the rain and a fierce wind that turned my umbrella inside out. My solution for a day dashed by inclement weather? Food and beverage. I took refuge at Le Repaire, a stylish cafe just across from the tender dock. When Ma Cherie Amour started playing, I felt transported. “…In a café or sometimes on a crowded street…” A short time later, during a break from the rain, I walked to Restaurant Galawa, which the taxi driver had recommended. There I enjoyed -- what else? -- prawns, pommes frites and Pouilly-Fuisse. Mais oui.

Good to Know

As in France, the euro is the official currency. However, U.S. dollars, considered the second official currency on the island, can be used almost everywhere.

Logistics. Taxis, located at the tender pier, are available to give you an orientation tour of the island, which is what we did, or take you to a beach. An hourlong tour costs about $90. Be sure to negotiate the price in advance. If you’re going to a beach, arrange with the driver for a pickup time.
Beaches. For such a small place, St. Barts has an abundance of beaches. Shell Beach, or Anse de Grands Galets, is a quick walk from the tender dock and has a restaurant and lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent. The beach of St. Jean, near the airport, is close to several popular restaurants. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent there as well.

In Dominica, Laughter and a Trolley Tour

The thing that strikes me most about Dominica (DOM-IN-EEK-A) isn’t what you see but what you hear: laughter.

Not that the visuals aren’t stunning. Roseau, the capital, is a riot of color -- Caribbean vernacular architecture that reminds me of New Orleans, the verdant green palette of the rain forest, which covers most of the island, and the luminous blue-green shades of the sea.

But it’s the laughter that lingers. As Vivian, our “don’t worry, be happy” guide, told me today: “I don’t worry about nothing. God will take care of it all. Yeah, mon.” His response when someone asks how he’s doing? “Give thanks. Everything else will follow.” He speaks English, the island’s official language, with a Creole lilt -- a reminder that the French occupied Dominica before ceding it to the British in the late 1770s. It’s an independent nation today.

During the ship-sponsored Roseau Highlights by Trolley Train tour this morning, Vivian shouted out to passersby: “Hello brother, hello sister.” It’s messaging that even carries over to bumper sticker choices. How’s this for bumper sticker wisdom? Laugh with Many. Child of God. Happiness is a Choice, Not a Result. And I liked this polite sign, posted on a small house we passed: Please don’t knock. Call.

It feels like people here have something to say.

Dominica’s No. 1 industry is cruise tourism. It’s off the grid for pretty much everyone else, due, I suspect, to the sparseness of first-rate hotel accommodations. No wonder, then, that the nation’s marketing tagline is: Discover Dominica. A lot of folks confuse it with the Dominican Republic to the northwest, which it isn’t, as the island’s promotional brochures are quick to point out.

Our narrated 90-minute open-air trolley ride through Roseau, population 21,000, was terrific. I know, it sounds schmaltzy. But the trolley is narrow enough to navigate the trim streets here so that you really get a sense of the here and the now. And, for a short period of time, you’re part of it. Think of it as a Caribbean version of the on-off busses you see in cities worldwide, taking in the city’s highlights (like the 40-acre Botanical Gardens here) while getting you up close to a people and place: sidewalk vendors selling street food, school kids in uniforms and charming one- and two-story Caribbean homes with cone-shaped corrugated roofs built to resist hurricane-force winds. Many of these century-old “heritage homes” survived Hurricane Maria in 2017. But so many other structures didn’t and there are signs of the devastation -- popped out windows, collapsed roofs -- everywhere.

After the tour, I hired Vivian to drive me into the countryside to take a look at a landscape shaped by an average of 375 inches of rain each year. That’s no typo: 375. Tropical rainforest covers two-thirds of the island. One of the natural highlights near Roseau: Trafalgar Falls, twin waterfalls that cascade 200 feet down into a deep pool surrounded by rainforest. Passengers I talked to who hiked up to the falls said it was a highlight of the cruise -- that and their nice soak afterward in the thermal hot springs at the base of the falls.

Good to Know

The Eastern Caribbean dollar is the official currency, but U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere.

Logistics. There’s a taxi queue near the pier. Make sure to hire a driver certified by the tourist authority. Certified taxi drivers wear a lanyard with a photo ID badge. Many offer scenic tours to the countryside or beaches. Negotiate the price in advance. The cruise ship dock is in the heart of downtown, one block from an outdoor crafts market (behind the Dominica Museum) and within easy walking distance of the city’s signature heritage houses.

Mero Beach, a black sand beach, is the most popular. It has washrooms, restaurants and umbrellas and chairs for rent. The taxi fare is about $35 round trip.

In Search of Nutmeg on Grenada, the Spice Isle

I thought Dominica was going to be my favorite island of our itinerary until we sailed into the horseshoe-shaped St. George Harbour. It’s one of the prettiest harbors in the Caribbean. All I knew about Grenada was that the U.S., depending on your point of view, invaded or liberated the island in 1983. There’s still a painted sign in town that says: Thank you USA for Liberating Us.

Curious? Fearful that Grenada would fall to communism, President Ronald Reagan, at the request of the Eastern Caribbean Defense Force, authorized Operation Urgent Fury days after a coup d’etat here. The goal: to restore democracy, protect American citizens living in Grenada and immobilize the military. The intervention lasted for just under two months.

Today, it’s an historical footnote that has little to do with everyday Grenada, an island that continues to be defined by the spice trade, a rich cultural heritage and a joie de vivre that reminds me of Dominica. On our ship-sponsored Nutmeg and Waterfall tour this morning, we passed the Happy Time Bakery and the Simply a Good Time Bar. When one of the guests pressed our guide, Bertrand, for information, and he urged patience: “I come to that. Just be happy.”

The capital city of St. George’s looked so intriguing I was disappointed to leave it, but our foray into the countryside -- to a nutmeg processing center and a fabulous waterfall -- was a revelation. In village after village, we saw telephone poles, steps, walls, guard rails, boulders and snack shacks painted red, green and yellow, the colors of Grenada’s flag. Turns out there’s an annual competition each year where villages try to outdo one another with their expressions of cultural pride. Rum shacks dot the roads as well, as do government workers chopping at brush and overgrown grass with machetes.

Grenada, known as the Isle of Spice, is particularly famous for its nutmeg. Thanks to Grenada’s hospitable climate and soil, one-third of the world’s nutmeg is produced here. What was extraordinary was the processing center, a place that has changed little in the last century. Throughout the building, women sort nutmeg, bags and bags of it. Click, click, click. The sorting sounds like music, a drumbeat. Then there are the signs posted all over the work space: “Bring God’s peace inside and leave the Devil’s noise outside” and “Absolutely no playing of cards during normal working hours.” You’re not going to find that in many human resources handbooks back home. It’s as low-tech a production area as I’ve seen, yet it works.

As amazing, all that nutmeg is shipped in 25-kilo burlap sacks to places like Israel, Holland, Switzerland and Mexico.

After visiting Concord Falls, a beautiful stop with wading opportunities at the base of the falls, we returned to St. George’s. It’s almost as though there are two St. George’s, the quiet harbor with colonial-style architecture where Silver Spirit is docked and, through the 340-foot Sendall Tunnel, a bustling esplanade on the bay side of town that houses restaurants, an outdoor crafts and spice market and a cruise ship terminal used by the big commercial ships. Two completely different personalities.

I walked through the tunnel, built in 1894, and searched in vain for Oil Down, the national dish, cooked in one pot, that consists of salted pork or fish, veggies, breadfruit, taro and coconut milk. Walking back to the ship on the Carenage, the street that hugs the harbor, I spotted Nutmeg, a popular second-story restaurant and bar that serves local cuisine like chicken pelau, conch fritters, and roti, a curried wrap. While there, I connected to Wi-Fi, ordered a cold Carib beer, and got this text from my pet-sitter: “It’s snowing here.” That short dispatch made me like Grenada even more.

Good to Know

The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, but U.S. dollars and euros are widely accepted.

Grand Anse Bay, some 3 miles south of St. George’s, has 2 miles of white sand beaches. It is Grenada’s most famous beach and has bars, washrooms and umbrella and chair rentals. The cost by taxi from the ship is $40 round trip.

Bridgetown, Barbados: Farewell, "Happy Place"

It’s disembarkation day, always a bit of a stress fest as folks prepare to journey home. For me, that means Maryland; for my dad, California. In all, we have traveled 2,214 nautical miles these last 11 days, engaging the world in a different way.

This was what’s called a repositioning cruise. Silver Spirit “repositioned” from Canada and New England to the Caribbean, where it will cruise for the winter season. Silver Whisper, another Silversea ship, will be sailing a similar itinerary in 2019/2020.

I’ll miss the ship -- and, I confess, the pampering. I will never forget Albert, our butler, asking Dad and me if he could clean our eyeglasses. I’m serious. Silver Spirit -- the restaurants, the suites, the everything -- is an excellent space. But it wouldn’t mean anything without the people -- butlers, cabin attendants, bartenders, the wait staff -- who work that space to lift the onboard experience into something extraordinary.

I’ve long believed that islands are places we treat ourselves to in our travels. I wish the treat could have lasted longer. It’s impossible to really know a place after a single visit to a port. What cruising does deliver, though, is a snapshot, an impression and, in some cases, a yearning to go back for a deeper look.

People talk a lot today about finding their “happy place.” I’m pretty sure I was just there.


After cruise writing for over a dozen years around the globe, our writer Ellen Uzelac discovered something on the New York to Barbados journey that she hadn’t experienced before: the sanctity of the sea day. “With three full sea days,” she says, “I just let myself be still, something I don’t always do well when I’m at home. That’s one of the gifts of travel – to find stillness in its opposite: movement.


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We all know that sinking feeling when you realize you've left something important behind, whether it's your phone in the car or your wallet at the restaurant you just left. That feeling is much worse when you're on a cruise and discover that you've forgotten something at home. While not every "oops" will upend your cruise, some will, while others can prove to be enough of headache to put a dent in an otherwise great vacation. From A to Z, we list a few critical things not to forget the next time you cruise.
How to Find the Best Cruise Bargains in 2019
It's the end of a decade, 2019, and a lot has changed in the world of cruising -- race cars, haute cuisine, digital everything -- but some tips on how to save on your next sailing stay tried and true. To uncover the best ways to land a cruise bargain this year, we spoke to travel agent experts and consulted industry surveys. What we found is that cruising shows no signs of slowing down, but getting on the right ship to the right destination might mean taking quick action. We've narrowed down the who, what, where and when of finding the best cruise deals in 2019 so you can spend less money and more time enjoying the seas.
7 Ways to Outsmart Deck Chair Hogs
In the wee hours of the morning, under the cover of darkness, they creep. Their flip-flops smack across the pool decks of cruise ships everywhere as they shuffle like a horde of zombies armed with towels, sunscreen and books. If it sounds like a scene from a horror movie, you're on the right track. We're talking about deck chair hogs -- those inconsiderate fellow passengers who rise before the sun to stake out prime poolside real estate, mark it with personal belongings and then abandon it, rendering it useless to others. If you've had enough, we urge you to stand up to these selfish sunbathers and claim the deck chair that's rightfully yours. Join the peaceful revolution by employing the following seven tips for outsmarting deck chair hogs.

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