Guadeloupe

Columbus landed on Guadeloupe in 1494. The Spanish tried to settle there, but the Caribs beat them away. The French were more successful and defeated the Caribs in 1635. 500 French colonists settled there and soon introduced African slaves to work the sugar plantations.

Britain wanted the island and took control in 1759, but by 1794 the British were defeated by the French. In 1810 the British took control again, but it was short lived because, in the Treaty of Paris, Guadeloupe was given to the French.

In 1946 Guadeloupe became a Department of France and in 1974, Guadeloupe and other islands were constituted as a region of France.

So that’s the background. Why am I telling you this? Regrettably it poured with rain all day. It was a maiden call for QV and a very disappointing one. In a brief break in the downpour, we ventured into the town, Pointe-a-Pitre.

It was not a pretty place. Poor pavements, high pavements and a total lack of dropped kerbs made it difficult to make progress with a wheelchair. Eventually we came across a square, with a pretty market – pretty because the majority of the goods for sale were colourful bottles of rum and rum punches.

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Barbados

Taking photos out of the equation appears to have worked. But here are a couple of photos showing the East or Atlantic coast of Barbados. It is quite different to the calm and tranquility of the West coast.

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Barbados

I am hoping that everything I write gets published this time. I will limit the photos in the hope that the written word prevails.

Jane and I first came to Barbados to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in 1998. After much research we booked into the Royal Pavilion through Kuoni. We were due to fly out on the Saturday and on the Friday I received a call from a lady at Kuoni to tell me they had overbooked at the Royal Pavilion and that we would not be able to stay there.

I was not happy! I said I wanted to speak to her line manager. I got short shrift from her. She said we could stay at the Glitter Bay (then a very good hotel, but now apparently converted into apartments) next door, but that If we didn't like that we could have our money back! Can I speak to the MD please? Another lady called me back. The MD. An all women operation. She promised a suite at the Glitter Bay and for us to eat dinner every evening in the Royal Pavilion. Sounded good and we settled for that. It proved to be an excellent deal.

Since then we have been to Barbados a number of times on cruises on QM2, QE, QV and Regent's Navigator. We have usually taken a taxi to our favourite places, but this time, as Cunard had sorted out an adapted vehicle, we booked a tour.

After a morning around the port, Jane, Kim and I set off with Chris the driver and another couple, Richard in a wheelchair and Kath his wife. The route took us up the West Coast. We drove past the Sandy Lane and into Holetown. I knew that Dennis and Shaz Hall were having lunch at the Lone Star and it was my intention to run in and surprise them if we drove by. Sadly we turned off to the right and into the centre of the island before reaching the restaurant.

After a very bumpy journey we arrived at the Highland Centre close to the highest peak on the island. The views across to the East coast were dramatic. Jane and I realised we had been there before. After a rum punch we drove down to the East coast, with its wild beaches and high waves and eventually back to the ship in Bridgetown.

This was not the greatest itinerary for wheelchair users because the roads were poor and all of us were shaken about for over 3 hours. Such a tour should have kept to the island main roads, which are good. There are plenty of places to visit without using the narrow and poor roads in the middle.

As we left Barbados the Captain announced that the weather in Guadeloupe the next day would be much the same, with temperatures in the early eighties.

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Apologies

For reasons I do not understand yet, this blog is not publishing the whole of each of my submissions. Nor is it publishing the photos within the text, but is grouping them all together at the start. Sorry.

One of the problems that is with us on the ship is that frequently the satellite connection is weak and it takes ages (at vast expense!) to download a submission. I will consult with my blogging guru, Sam Scrutton, and hope to get back on an even keel (!) shortly.

First, it's Guadeloupe for the day.

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St. Lucia

Jane and I were last in St Lucia in 1981. I had found a deal at the Halcyon Beach Club, just north of Castries – 3 weeks for the price of 2 and children free. We only had Louise at that time, and we all had a fantastic holiday. Great food and drink and unlimited waterskiing and sailing. The  hotel is now owned by the Sandals group and is known as Sandals Halcyon.

Queen Victoria arrived in Castries on time and was berthed and secured by 7.00am. She was followed in by P&O’ s Britannia and then by Fred Olsen’s Balmoral.

Cunard have arranged a number of wheelchair friendly tours for this voyage and we took advantage of their tour of the north west coast which left the ship at 8.30am. Bruno was the driver and Mitch was the guide. Here’s Mitch – a very bright young man with an amazing vocabulary.

The plan was to drive south from Castries to Anse La Raye, a small fishing village. It was not much of a place. Most of the men were sitting in the Main Street doing very little. Possibly that was because it was a Saturday, possibly not. Most of the fishing boats on the beach were in poor condition and the nets were strewn about and in disarray.

Inevitably the women were  working. On a street parallel to the one where the men were lolling about, the women had stalls selling the usual tourist ‘tat’. Sadly they didn’t appear to be having much success in selling to the numerous small tourist wagons that arrived while we were there.

Next we turned north again and stopped for refreshments (compulsory rum punches) looking down on Marigot Bay. A beautiful bay regularly used in Hollywood movie scenes.

As we continued north, the traffic ground almost to a halt. Mitch was keen to get us to the final destination – Pigeon Island – and we made it, but it took 30 minutes longer than it should. We circled the National Park. It had been a lookout station when the French and English fought over St Lucia.

Sitting out in Rodney Bay at anchor were 2 cruise ships – a Thomson vessel, which I had seen earlier in the day on the horizon as it passed Castries, and the 4 masted Wind Star

We then set off on the journey south, but again met a traffic jam. Clearly the tour people at the ship were getting concerned because Mitch kept getting calls. When we did get back some 45 minutes late, it became clear why there was some anxiety. Three people in wheelchairs were waiting with their companions for another tour in the same vehicle! What a shame for them. Their trip would have been dramatically shortened.

As we drove through Castries, it was buzzing.

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Antigua

What a great day in Antigua. Prince Harry was here a couple of days ago, but on hearing that we were arriving today, he shot off to St Kitts. We hope to catch up with him shortly.

Marlene Sanders had organised the day for us, and she arrived with Jenny Holloway exactly as arranged. We met at Sunseakers, a clothing store at Heritage Quay.  We then poured Jane into the car and set off for the south coast and Shirley Heights and Nelsons Dockyard at English Harbour. Marlene knows the island well having had homes there for more than 30 years and she made an excellent tour guide.

This is one of the views from Shirley Heights. Spectacular.


Then it was down to Nelson’s Dockyard. Colin and Derek had apparently been left at home to carry out some chores, but we found them in a bar in the Dockyard. Inevitably we joined them for our first Rum Punch of the holiday.



A bit of background. In the 18/19 centuries, Antigua was the principal Eastern Caribbean Naval base for the British. Nelson, Rodney, Hood and Jarvis all made the dockyard at English Harbour their headquarters. Construction of the dockyard where it is now began in 1725 and when Nelson was appointed in 1784 it was fully equipped. Later it fell into disrepair, but it has been restored beautifully and English Harbour is now a base for modern yachts and motor cruisers.



After a conducted tour of the dockyard with Colin addressing us on the history, we crossed to the old gunpowder magazine, now converted to a restaurant aptly named Boom. We had a wonderful lunch looking out over the harbour, washed down with some excellent wines.



The Sanders and the Holloways were in excellent form! Colin then drove us back to the ship to round off a brilliant first visit by us to Antigua.
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Mid Atlantic

Mid Atlantic was not good for the internet and my blogs have been incomplete for which I apologise. Parts were published but parts were not.

We are now approaching Antigua and so I hope for more success with blogging. We arrive at Heritage Quay, St Johns early tomorrow.. We are meeting Colin and Marlene Sanders, who have a home in Antigua, and Derek and Jenny Holloway who are staying with the Sanders at the moment. What Colin has in store for us we do not know! I imagine a tour of the island and possibly lunch somewhere and perhaps a beer. We shall see and I will report later.

The last three days on the ship have been really hot. Kim reported seeing hoards of Brits out with their towels bagging sun beds soon after daybreak today. And there are some very red bodies about the place. Some just lie there all day, moving only to get a plateful of food and a pint.

Our table at dinner.

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Speakers at sea

Cunard roll out a number of speakers to keep us entertained during long spells at sea. Some them are described as “Celebrity Speakers”. People like Terry Waite, Martin Bell, Kate Adie, Digby Jones, the late David Frost, John McCarthy, Murray Walker and people of that ilk.

On this part of the voyage a man was introduced as the Celebrity Speaker, although his name rang no bells with me. It was said that he had a football background. Many of you are football fans, so perhaps you can identify him? Email me with your guesses. Generous prize for the first correct answer.

We have settled into the sea day routine and the weather has improved dramatically.

Today the sun has shone all day and temperatures have been in the mid twenties. Bearing in mind that the average age of the passengers must be in the region of 75, the sight of half dressed bodies laid out round the pools is not pretty.

Our dining companions are great fun. Peter is a retired university Prof. His wife Lucinda also worked at the same University and they now carry out research together. They live in Buxton. Roger and Pat come from Mansfield. Roger is retired from what was originally Metalbox and becomes Captain of his golf club on 1 January. John is a great raconteur after a career in plastics. Dinner is always great and a highlight of the day.

I have had problems with the ships internet which is slow. It makes it very difficult to move photos from one device to another – I will use the camera more.

We have moved on to Tuesday. Another beautiful day and lunch alfresco with the Caribbean band entertaining us.

Mike says there is a photo of him in Dubai’s Barasti bar with Richard Bland, Ian Young and the Stoneham crew during or after the Saints recent match with Liverpool. If you have it, please email me a copy.

The draw and clean sheet against Liverpool clearly gave Blandy a lift because he finished his final round one under in Dubai’s DP World tour championship. It was the culmination of a magnificent season in which his winnings have been massive and have moved him to 102 in the World. Watching him in the final group on a number of occasions this season has made us all very proud of him.

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The great ocean

The first of seven days at sea has proved to be very relaxing. Nick Brewer thinks I have too much time on my hands. That may be true because Kim, Jane's companion/carer, is proving to be a gem. She has adapted to life at sea very rapidly and is great company.

There has been a fairly heavy swell throughout the day, as a result of storms to the north, but the movement of ship has not been too dramatic. But having said that, the Entertainments Director has just announced that the musical show due to be performed tonight, is being postponed because of the conditions.

One of our dining companions, John, last night told of the Cunard tour he took yesterday to the Pazo De Oca gardens and a local vineyard. Towards the end of the day at the vineyard John decided to buy some bottles of the local white wine and as he stood in the queue to pay he saw the minibus driving away.

There should have been 12 of them in the bus, but the guide had miscounted. It flashed through Johns mind that the ship would leave without him, and that he would be flying to Antigua to catch up with the ship! In time the bus returned, after one of the guests realised that John was not there.

At the table for dinner, John a widower, evens up the numbers and there are two other couples, Roger and Pat and Peter and Lucinda. It seems to be a very relaxed, easygoing group.

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La Coruna

We tied up on the berth at 8.00 am on Thursday. It was chilly and misty but the Deputy Captain reported that sunshine was expected later. That proved to be the case.

La Coruna is in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain. The port appears to be popular with cruise lines now. We have been here 3 times in the last two years. It is a good stop off port for ships wanting to take a more southerly route to the US or the Caribbean and also good for an early stop on a Mediterranean cruise. The berth is in the city and it’s an easy walk.

La Coruna is only 40 miles north of Santiago de Compostela and the shrine of St James the Apostle. Pilgrims still flock to the tomb and many of our fellow travellers did so today.

We left La Coruna at 5.15 pm GMT on Thursday. We arrive in the dock in Antigua, our next port of call, on the morning of Friday 25 November at 9.00 am local time. There is an excellent PRIZE for anyone who can calculate the average speed that QV will need to achieve to get there on time. I look forward to receiving your responses.

This is the Palacio Municipal in a magnificent square with Jane and Kim.

 

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