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Hidden Treasures of the West Indies

19th February to 6th March 2019

Antigua to Barbados aboard the MS Serenissima


Tuesday, 19th of February 2019 - St. John’s, Antigua

After a long flight from London we arrive this evening in St. John’s, the capital of Antigua. We board the buses for the short drive to the port where MS Serenissima is berthed at the pier. We are gret by the crew who orientate and settle us in for our first night on board.


Wednesday, 20th of February 2019 - St. John’s, Antigua


After a quiet night alongside we have fresh energy for a sightseeing tour of Antigua this morning. At 8:30 a.m. we board small buses and take off from St. John’s to the southern side of the island. Along the way our guides explain the highlights like the many local churches, villages and the brand-new cricket stadium, dedicated to Sir Vivian Richards and built by the greatest cricket nation on Earth, the People's Republic of China. Our first stop is the Dows Hill Interpretation Centre, where we watch a short movie on the history of Antigua. The views from the hill are magnificent and we can even observe some birds in the surrounding greenery. The green-throated carib is looking for nectar and a pair of the lesser Antillean bullfinch is hopping from branch to branch. From Dows Hill we continue to Fort Berkeley, where we get a good view of the Atlantic as well as the Caribbean side of the island. From here it is only a short drive to Shirley Heights with the remains of the old guardhouse and a fabulous view of English Harbour. The final stop is Nelson's Dockyard, a sprawling complex of heritage buildings and marina, which is a UNESCO world-heritage site and one of the major tourist attractions in Antigua. At 12:15 p.m. we head straight back to St. John’s and a delicious lunch on our little ship. In the afternoon we have the chance to join a cricket tour and meet some of the local legends or just relax on one of the beaches or wander the streets of St. John’s. At 5:30 we meet in the Andrea Lounge for the mandatory safety drill and 6:30 p.m. we meet the expedition team and get an introduction to the ship and its facilities by Cruise Director Neil Horrocks.At 7:30 p.m. Captain Etien Bonačić invites us to the "Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party" followed by the "Welcome Dinner".




Thursday, 21st of February 2019 - Oranjestad, St. Eustatius, Netherland Antilles


 At 7 a.m. we find ourselves moored to the tiny pier o the island of Sint Eustatius or "Statia" as the locals like to call it. Soon after breakfast the keen hikers take off to explore "The Quill", a 600m high volcanic cone with a deep central crater. Minibuses take us through the capital town of Oranjestad about halfway up the mountain. From Rosemary Lane we take the "Quill Trail" through dry rainforest to the crater rim. It takes roughly 1 hour and on the way we find some hermit crabs. Our guides explain the vegetation like the "gum tree" (Bursera simarubra) and the Silk Cotton Tree (Ceiba pentandra). From the crater rim we have a view into the deep crater, which contains a pocket-size rainforest. There are also some birds in the trees and we spot a few Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola) and a pearly-eyed Thrasher (Margarops fuscatus). Just before noon we are back at Rosemary Lane and the minibuses take us back to the ship for lunch. The other option this morning was a guided tour of Oranjestad, which took in the museum, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Old Synagogue and the fort. In the afternoon we are free to explore the town on our own with shuttle-buses running between the museum and the ship. It is a very quiet town and we don't see many locals in the streets. At 6:30 p.m. we meet in the Andrea Lounge for a mandatory Zodiac and snorkel briefing and cruise director Neil talks about our activities tomorrow. Afterward we get our snorkel equipment for the trip and then it is time for dinner.


Friday, 22nd of February 2019 - St. Kitts & Nevis

Another day, another island! In fact we plan to visit two islands today, St. Kitts and Nevis, which form a federation and an independent country. At 8:30 a.m. our Zodiacs take us into the marina of Basse-Terre, the capital of St. Kitts. We have the coasters again to explore the island and we drive north along the west coast of St. Kitts. Our first stop is "Brimstone Hill Fortress", a massive fort, 200 m above sea level and built by the British colonial power. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national park. We have beautiful views of the coastline and the lower slopes of the Liamuiga volcano, while the summit is covered in clouds. Some of us are lucky enough to get a glimpse of some of the introduced monkeys, which are considered a pest on the island today. From the fortress we drive back along the coast, past the airport of St. Kitts to Timothy Hill. From here we have a magnificent view over Frigate Bay and the Atlantic as well as the Caribbean side of the island. At noon we are back in the small marina and our Zodiacs take us back on the ship for lunch. During lunchtime we reposition to the neighbouring island of Nevis and around 2 p.m. drop anchor in front of the capital of the island, Charlestown. Once we are ashore we hop on minibuses and take off on a tour of the highlights of Nevis. We visit the birthplace and museum of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the U.S.A., the hot springs near the historical "Bath Hotel", the oldest hotel in the Caribbean and the Nelson Museum. The highlight of the tour is the Botanical Garden, which holds a large variety of tropical plants and some spectacular birdlife, in particular the purple-throated Carib, a beautiful hummingbird. We drive back through Charlestown, where everybody seems to enjoy the Friday evening by having a drink in a local bar. At 6 p.m. we are back on board and at 7 p.m. we meet in the Andrea Lounge for a recap by Conrad on the plants and animals we have seen in the last few days and by Colin on crabs. Also Neil gives a briefing on our activities on Montserrat tomorrow. It will be another exciting day on a new island. At 9:30 p.m. we have the chance to join Neil in the Andrea Lounge for a fun Caribbean-themed Trivia Quiz.



Saturday, 23rd of February 2019 - Little Bay, Montserrat, British Overseas Territories

We are back in Britain for today as we visit Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory. The Zodiacs take us ashore at 8:30 a.m. and we hop onto minibuses for a tour of the island. We are rather excited, because for the first time tourists from a ship are permitted to visit Plymouth, the former capital of the island, which was devastated by the eruption of the islands volcano in the late 1990s. Pyroclastic flows from Soufriere Hills buried the town under up to 60-70 feet of ash and rocks. As we wait for the police to escort us into the restricted zone we have a look at the remains of a former luxury hotel. The roof has collapsed under the weight of the ash and the Olympic-size pool is filled with rubble and vegetation. We also go for a short walk on the main road of Plymouth and see some of the buried public buildings. Nature has very rapidly started to reclaim the abandoned area and many buildings are completely overgrown. From Plymouth we drive up to the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory (MVO), which closely monitors the mountain today. We see a documentary of catastrophe and have a chance to buy some souvenirs. We also spot some birds in the vegetation around the observatory like the American Kestrel and the Crested Antillean Hummingbird. From the observatory we drive to the Museum and Botanical Gardens and have a short walk through the displays. In the Gardens we spot a rather large lizard on the ground which is a member of the Ameiba-family. We finish the tour on "Woodlands Beach", where we enjoy some refreshments and a rather powerful rum punch. Unfortunately the surf is too high to go for a swim, but we are entertained instead by a one-man Reggae Band. Most of us go back to the ship for lunch, but some stay on shore to watch the England versus Wales Rugby game in a local bar. The afternoon is free and we have the chance to go ashore again for a walk or a visit to a local bar. By 5 p.m. we are all back on board and at 5:15 p.m. Roy Clare gives his second presentation: "Nelson - a tradition owed to 1066?" At 7 p.m. we meet again in the Andrea Lounge for a recap on the volcanoes we have seen so far and a briefing on our activities tomorrow.


Sunday, 24th of February 2019 - Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

The wind was quite strong during our passage from Montserrat to the French Antilles and it is still blowing up to 30 knots as we anchor in the bay of Les Saintes, Guadeloupe. Les Saintes is a small archipelago just south of the main island of Guadeloupe and a popular destination for day-trippers. The transit with Zodiacs looks quite rough, but our skilful Zodiac drivers manage to get us ashore relatively dry. From the small jetty in Terre des Hautes we join a tour of the island. The main attraction is Fort Napoleon, which houses a small museum and offers fantastic views over the island with its many coves and bays. It is also surrounded by small gardens and we manage to spot a number of hummingbirds visiting the many flowers. The Catholic Church and the Town Hall are the highlights of the town walk and we are free to go back to the ship for lunch or stay in town. In the afternoon we can explore the island on our own or just relax on one of the many beaches. At 5:30 p.m. the last Zodiac heads back to the ship and we have plenty of time to brush up and get ready for dinner. Just before dinner we meet in the Andrea Lounge for a recap and briefing on our activities tomorrow.


Monday, 25th of February 2019 - Point-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France

Early in the morning we reposition the short distance from Les Saintes to Point-à-Pitre, the capital of Guadeloupe. The morning excursion takes in Grande-Terre, the flat eastern part of Guadeloupe. We visit the cemetery of Morne-à-l'Eau, which is famous for its black-and-white checkered graves. From there we continue to the former Beauport Sugar Mill, which was founded in 1863 and has been turned into a museum.  We also get a train ride on a short track into the cane fields. The old trains used to bring the sugar cane to the factory and have been fully restored. Alternatively we could explore Point-à-Pitre on our own and visit the markets or the Catholic Church. We see quite some run-down and even burnt-out buildings and trash, but also attempts to make the city prettier. The street art in particular is quite striking. The afternoon excursion starts at the Carrère Distillery, which produces the Montebello Rum. We get a guided tour of the distillery and have a chance to sample and buy the rum. The tour continues to the botanical garden of the "Domaine de Valombreuse" situated in Petit-Bourg. We have more than an hour to either walk around on our own and enjoy the peace and tranquillity or follow our tour guide through the gardens. We spot a number of birds like the ubiquitous Green-throated Carib, the Bananaquit and a Green Heron. Some of us also get a short glimpse of the shy Bridled Quail-Dove (Geotrygon mystacea), which quickly disappears into the adjacent rainforest. Our last stop is the "Cascade-aux-Écrevisses" or Crayfish Waterfall, which is situated in Guadeloupe National Park. It is a popular swimming spot for the locals and we are not alone. But it is late in the day and quite cool. So finally we manage to take a picture of the falls without any humans in the water. On the way back to the bus we find some birds at the edge of the parking lot. One turns out to be a Pearly-eyed Thrasher and the other one a Brown Trembler (Cinclocerthia ruficauda), a new bird for our wildlife list. At 6:15 p.m. we are back on board and soon after MS Serenissima leaves the berth in Guadeloupe and sails for our next destination Dominica.


Tuesday, 26th of February 2019 - Cabrits, Dominica

We have spent the night at anchor near the cruise terminal of Cabrits on Dominica. Unfortunately the pier was destroyed by a hurricane and therefore we have to use our Zodiacs for the landing. From the landing site just below the former British garrison of Fort Shirley we take small buses and drive to Morne Diablotin National Park. It is a drive of 1 hour first along the coast of Dominica, through the town of Portsmouth and then up a narrow and steep road into the mountains. We pass plantations of bananas, taro and yams and finally arrive in the park. The National Park protects the rainforest and its inhabitants and offers a number of walking trails. We plan to hike part of the syndicate trail and hope to see some of the endemic birds, in particular the parrots. The forest clearly shows the damage done by the last hurricane. Many trees have been stripped from leaves and branches and are just recovering. Therefore it is quite light in the forest and birds should be easy to spot. Unfortunately they seem to have a day off and apart from a few Bananaquits it is very quiet. Nevertheless the landscape is impressive and we all enjoy the 60-minute walk. On the way back we stop for the mandatory rum punch or alternatively one of the local beers "Kubuli". 

After lunch there is a chance to go on a nature walk with Conrad, take a taxi to a local beach or join the excursion on the Indian River. This is the only navigable river on Dominica, but only in rowboats. At low tide it is very shallow, but our skilled oarsman and guide gets us all the way to a small bar and garden in the middle of the jungle. On the way we see Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, Pelicans and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. At the little bar we get a rum punch and have some time to wander around the gardens to look for birds. We finally get a short glimpse of the Red-necked Amazon Parrot, endemic to Dominica and a close-up look at a Purple-throated Carib. On the way back our guide shows us the place where some scenes of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" were shot and just before sunset we are back at the pier. At 7 p.m. Neil gives us a briefing on our options tomorrow and a sneak peek on the next days.



Wednesday, 27th of February 2019 - Martinique, France

Today we are visiting Martinique, another island of the French Antilles. MS Serenissima anchors in Grande Anse, in the SW of the island. We take the Zodiacs ashore and land on a beautiful beach. From here we take the buses to the "Martinique Heritage Tour". The first stop is the "Musée de la Pagerie", the birthplace and childhood hood of the future Empress Josephine, who lived here until she was 16. After a short walk around the buildings and checking the flowering plants in the gardens for birds, we continue to the city of Le Francois, home of the well-maintained Clement Plantation House and rum distillery. It is surrounded by 17 hectares of lush gardens. We get a guided tour of the facilities and have the chance to taste some of the products of the distillery. As usual we exit through the gift shop and some of us even buy some rum. The most expensive one was distilled in 1952 and is only € 1500 per bottle. On the way back to Grande Anse we enjoy the landscape of southern Martinique and the skills of our driver, who safely navigates his big bus along the narrow and winding roads of the island.  The last bus is back at the beach at 1:45 p.m. and shortly after we are back on board, where the hotel staff has kindly kept our lunch on the stove. At 2:45 p.m. the Zodiac shuttle service commences and we enjoy the afternoon on the beautiful beach with swimming, sunbathing and strolling along the promenade. At 5:30 p.m. the last Zodiac returns to the ship and MS Serenissima leaves Martinique. At 7 p.m. we meet in the Andrea Lounge for recap and briefing and Franz talks about the catastrophic eruption of Montagne Pelee in 1902, the active volcano on the northern half of Martinique. Neil introduces us to the plans for tomorrow and the day after and at 9 p.m. we dock in Castries, the capital of the island nation of St. Lucia.


Thursday, 28th of February 2019 - Castries, St. Lucia

We spent the night moored quietly alongside the pier in Castries and are well rested to head out in the buses on our tours. The "Pigeon Island Hike" takes us to the north of St. Lucia. Pigeon Island is a national park and connected to the main island with a causeway. It consists of two steep hills with Fort Rodney on one of them. Our guide takes us up to the Fort and explains the history of the place. From the Fort we have a beautiful view of the Atlantic as well as the Caribbean Sea. A few very energetic fellow passengers even climb up to the higher and much steeper hill nearby. On the way down we get a very good look at an American Kestrel and a few Grey Kingbirds.  At 11:30 a.m. we are back at the ship just in time for lunch. The alternative tour this morning visits the home and garden of the Soni family. The place offers stunning views of Rodney Bay. We are free to wander around the grounds and enjoy freshly made cakes, accras and juice, before we head back to the ship. The afternoon tour visits St. Marks and the Pink Plantation House. From the house we have a panoramic view of Castries and the harbour. We get a guided tour of the house and gardens and get to sample St. Lucian bakes and accras. Of course we also get the mandatory fruit juice or rum punch. At 5:30 p.m. we are all back on board and MS Serenissima sails for our second destination on St. Lucia, Soufrière. The day is not over though. After the recap at 7 p.m. a BBQ on the open deck is waiting for us followed by a Caribbean Party with DJ Neil.


Friday, 1st of March 2019 - Soufrière, St. Lucia

Yesterday evening we covered the 18 miles between Castries and Soufrière and spent a quiet night at anchor in the bay. We wake up to a panoramic view of the bay and one of the famous "Pitons". At 8:30 a.m. we take the Zodiacs ashore for a tour of the surroundings of Soufrière. The first stop is at "Diamond Botanical Gardens, Spa and Waterfall", which opens early just for us. Our guide takes us around and explains the various plants and the history of the place. We also manage to spot various birds on the flowers, mostly the usual suspects like Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, Grey Kingbird and Purple-throated Carib. From the Gardens we continue to the "Soufrière Volcanic Field", which is an assortment of fumaroles and boiling mud pools. Some of the water and mud is used for therapeutic purposes and is supposed to cure a lot of ailments. There is a strong smell of rotten eggs in the air, which originates from the hydrogen sulphide released by the volcano. Our last stop is Morne Coubaril Estate, a plantation, where we learn about the production of cocoa and chocolate and meet Noel the donkey. After a drink and some refreshments we return to Soufrière and the ship. In the afternoon we land at another jetty on the northern end of the bay. Here we have the chance just to enjoy the beach and some swimming and sunbathing or snorkel along the rocky coast. We have a spectacular view of the bay, the ship and one of the triangular "Pitons" in the background. At 5 p.m. we have the chance to attend rear admiral Roy Clare's talk: "Barbados: Once a timely destination." At 5:30 p.m. we are all back on the ship and at 7 p.m. we meet in the Andrea Lounge for our recap and briefing on our activities tomorrow. After dinner we join Neil in the Andrea Lounge for his entertaining talk: "It shouldn't happen to a cruise director."


Saturday, 2nd of March 2019 - St. Vincent & Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Today MS Serenissima is moored in her homeport and we have the morning to explore the island of St. Vincent, the main island of the country of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Our tour bus takes us through the capital of Kingstown and up to Fort Charlotte. From here we have a fantastic view of Kingstown and surroundings. Our next stop is the Botanical Gardens, allegedly the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Our guide explains the plants and we admire a sucker from the original breadfruit tree brought by Captain Bligh. We also visit the aviary, which houses a captive breeding program for the endemic parrot of St. Vincent, Amazona guildingii. We continue to Belmont Point for a view of the Mesopotamia Valley and drive past the new airport to the Atlantic coast. We stop at Villa Beach for a drink of juice or rum punch and then return to Kingstown and the pier. The alternative this morning is a snorkelling trip on a local boat along the west coast of St. Vincent. Over lunch we sail over to Bequia, the biggest island of the Grenadines. We anchor quite far offshore and have quite a windy Zodiac ride into the harbour. From the jetty minibuses take us on a tour of the island, which includes a stop at Fort Hamilton, at the Turtle Sanctuary and at Lower Bay, where we have a chance for a quick swim and a drink. Again there is an alternative tour on a local catamaran to various snorkel spots around the island. At 6 p.m. everybody is back on board and at 7 p.m. we meet for a recap and briefing in the Andrea Lounge. Franz talks about the Soufriere volcano on St. Vincent, Jane explains the Zodiacs and Neil introduces us to the plans for the next 2 days in Tobago and Trinidad. At 9:30 p.m. Neil invites us to his famous music quiz into the Andrea Lounge.


Sunday, 3rd of March 2019 - Charlotteville, Tobago, Trinidad & Tobago

Today we have an early departure for our tour to the Roxborough Rainforest and the Argyle Waterfalls. The Zodiacs quickly bring us ashore in the little town of Charlotteville and at 8 a.m. our minibuses depart for the excursion. We cross the island to the Atlantic side and after 50 minutes reach the Main Ridge area, the oldest protected rainforest in the world. It has been a forest reserve since 1776. On the way our driver already spotted a Rufuous-tailed Jacamar, a Blue-crowned Motmot and a pair of Collared Trogons. We meet our local guide and head down the track towards a small waterfall. It is difficult to spot birds in the rainforest, but our guide manages to find a White-tailed Sabrewing, a Blue-backed Manikin and a White-throated Thrush. The trail is muddy and we are thankful for the wellies, which were supplied by our guides. Our next stop is the Argyle Waterfall and as it is Sunday we encounter quite a few people. We have about 30 minutes to wander to the falls and back and only one of us is brave enough to go for a swim. There are also a few birds around here, mostly Blue-crowned Motmots and Rufuous-tailed Jacamars. On the way back we have to take a short detour due to the preparations for the local carnival, but ay 1:10 p.m. we are back in Charlotteville. The alternative excursion this morning was a trip via minibus to the Blue Waters Inn in Speyside. From here we take a glass-bottom boat to the small island of Little Tobago, where the landing on a swaying jetty is quite challenging. On the island we climb up a zigzag trail to a viewpoint. On the way we encounter Brown Boobies and Red-billed Tropicbirds. From Little Tobago we take the glass-bottom boat again and head to Angel Reef, where we have the chance to snorkel. Around 1 p.m. we are back in Charlotteville and hungry enough for lunch. During the afternoon we have the opportunity to go ashore again in Charlotteville and use the local beach for a swim or sunbath. At 5:30 p.m. everybody is back on the ship and at 6:45 p.m. Captain Etien Bonacic invites us to the Andrea Lounge for the Captain's Farewell Cocktail followed by the Farewell Dinner.



Monday, 4th of March 2019 - Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago

We are alongside the pier in Port-of-Spain and it is another full day today, especially for the bird enthusiasts. At 6 a.m. a small group quietly leaves the ship and hops onto 2 minibuses for the drive up to the Asa Wright Nature Centre. High in the rainforest hills of the Northern Range Asa Wright is a renowned eco-lodge that offers some of the best bird-watching in the Caribbean. Keen bird-watchers can see up to 159 species of birds. After a 75-minute drive we arrive at Asa Wright and spend about an hour watching the birds from the veranda of the Great House. Luckily the rain we had on the way up has stopped and we can watch a variety of birds just in front of the house. We spot Green Honeycreepers. Purple Honeycreepers, Crested Oropendulas, Bananaquits and a number of hummingbirds. Most common among the hummingbirds are the White-necked Jacobin and the Copper-rumped hummingbird. Eventually a local guide takes us down into the forest and we find the White-bearded Manakin, the White-throated Thrush and a pair of Orange-winged Parrots. Time flies and at 10 a.m. we head back in our minibuses to arrive at the pier at 11:15 a.m., just in time for lunch. Those of us, who did not want to get up so early, have the chance to join Conrad Weston in the Andrea Lounge for his lecture: "Born to kill". Afterward we stay in the Lounge for a "Coffee Morning Social". The expedition team is also present to answer any questions on plants, history or wildlife. After an early barbecue lunch we depart of the highlight of the day, the Carnival of Trinidad! The buses take us to our Grandstand, where we get a rum punch and watch the performance. After the carnival we head straight for the next highlight, the Caroni Swamp Sanctuary. Local boats take us out through the mangroves and we watch for wildlife along the way. We spot several silky anteaters sleeping in a tree, boas, Little Blue Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets and the occasional solitary Scarlet Ibis. The Scarlet Ibis is the national Bird of Trinidad and Tobago. In a large clearing we wait patiently for the main spectacle of the Sanctuary, the return of the Scarlet Ibis. More and more of the bright red birds are arriving to roost in the green foliage. It is quite a sight and only the setting sun puts an end to our bird-viewing day. At 8 p.m. we are back on board and soon after MS Serenissima leaves Port-of-Spain.


Tuesday, 5th of March 2019 - At Sea & Bridgetown, Barbados

We spend the morning at sea and at 9:30 a.m. Rear Admiral Roy Clare invites us into the Andrea Lounge for his final illustrated talk: "Museums - not much goes on in there." At 10:30 a.m. we join the expedition team in the Andrea Lounge for another "Coffee Morning Social". At 11:30 a.m. Neil gives us some information on our afternoon and the day tomorrow in Barbados. After lunch we arrive in Bridgetown, Barbados and have to go through the usual face-check, before we board the buses for our afternoon excursion. First we have to take the shuttle to the terminal building, where the buses wait for us. Barbados is a busy cruise destination. 3 mega-ships are tied up alongside together with us and the old tall ship "Sea Cloud." Our tour takes us along the west coast of Barbados to Holetown and then inland to "Highlands", a viewpoint with a bar and a gift shop. We get our first rum punch and continue across the island to the orchid world, where we have a guided tour through the gardens and our second rum punch. We admire the orchids, the birds and some lizards. The final stop is "Gun Hill Signal Station" a historic landmark with a bar and a gift shop. We decline the third rum punch and our bus takes us back to Bridgetown and the cruise terminal. At 6 p.m. we are back on board and have to find some time to pack our suitcases.After dinner we meet again in the Andrea Lounge for Colin's Slideshow "Hidden Treasures of the West Indies".


Wednesday, 6th of March 2019 - Bridgetown, Barbados

Today it is time to say "Goodbye" to MS Serenissima! After breakfast we board our buses and leave the port of Bridgetown for a short city tour. Then it is time for the airport and our flight back to England! The memories of this exciting trip will stay with us and hopefully we'll meet again on our MS Serenissima or on another ship of the Noble Caledonia fleet. Happy Sailing!


End of Voyage

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