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Caribbean Holiday Cruise - Part IIAuthor: arubalisa (More Trip Reviews by arubalisa)
Date of Trip: December 2006
The itinerary was terrific and our reason for sailing aboard the Galaxy for a second Christmas in a row. 3 of the 4 kids had been to some of the islands already. Those were the islands we chose to spend the day at the beach. Grenada and St. Lucia were the 2 islands that 7 of the 10 of us had never visited so those were both places to tour and explore rather than lounge.
My husband and brother took the four kids via ferry over to the Baths for a few hours. This was the second time for my brother and his family and they loved it just as much as the first time. The rest of the family played "make believe it is a day at sea" and lazily stayed aboard the ship to enjoy our first day of vacation.
My husband and I decided to relax poolside. Nice and quiet and no trouble finding a lounge chair as there were on most other days. My parents celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary this year and my Mom had lost a stone in her wedding ring. What better way to spend Christmas Eve than for my parents, along with my grandmother and their 3 grandchildren in tow, to head off to their favorite jeweler, Ballerina, for a replacement stone as well as a gemstone ring for each of the girls. My grandmother would never leave without a little trinket for herself, so just for the "heck of it" purchased for herself a diamond circle pendant. The store invited them to stay for lunch but they opted to venture back to the ship and spend the rest of the day at pool.
I had never been to St. Lucia and was not sure what to expect. Everyone beforehand kept "warning" me that the people here were very very poor. Well, aren't just about all the Caribbean islands like that? So I went with an open mind, it could not be poorer than the Dominican Republic and as a matter of fact, I thought it was better.
For this day, for our family of 10, we had booked a private tour with Cosol Tours. Excellent value for the money and a tour delivering everything which was promised. Cosol is young and lively and showed us all the highlights: a drive through the capital Castries, a view of the Governor's House and stop for pictures of the harbor, a Banana Plantation, Marigot Bay, and the fishing villages of Anse La Raye and Canaries. We also drove through the rain forest and on to Soufrière and a view of the Pitons, as well as a stop at Toraille Water Fall and Botanical Garden.
Cosol stopped for sample of local island favorites: fish cakes, Johnny cakes, bananas direct from the tree in front of you, and cassava bread. He was also generous in stopping for photo opportunities and they are many. The island was not entirely great mountain peaks as I had pictured in my mind. Spots such as the Pitons and Anse La Raye are some of the most picturesque I have seen in the entire Caribbean.
None of us "kids" have ever been to Hawaii nor seen an active volcano before so taking a tour of the "drive in" Volcano, Soufrière, was quite impressive for us novices. There are hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. The only thing missing is lava and pyroclastic flows. This was fine by me. The kids of course whined about the ever present smell of sulphur. Gee, guess that is why this area is also considered a "sulphur spring".
Oh and did I mention that Cosol also keeps a cooler in the back of the bus/mini-van filled with refreshments?
The kids I think were a little grouchy to start out on this tour. Yes, a day at the beach might have been nicer. This was just the same old being driven around in a mini-bus with someone talking at you. Wow though, Sunsation Tours definitely delivered what they promised on their website, "we choose driver / guides who are communicative". You could not help BUT be interested. This was one of the most thorough tours I have ever taken.
Our driver gave us a running commentary on the economy, geography, history, flora and fauna, politics ...you name it we most likely talked about it. St. Lucia was nice and picturesque, but Grenada somehow had more allure for me. First off you can not but sympathize with these people who survive mainly on agriculture and tourism. Both came to a screeching halt when Hurricane Ivan struck in September 2004 as a category four hurricane with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. The island suffered destruction of 90 percent of her agricultural crops as well as the same percentage of loss of roofs to structures. Considering the tiny island nation of Grenada, pre-hurricane Ivan, produced 20% of the world's supply of nutmeg and it will take the new nutmeg trees 7 - 12 years to begin reproducing, things on the island are very tough for her people. BUT the attitudes of everyone is unbelievable. The Grenadians were proud, upbeat, friendly, enthusiastic and gracious.
The Nutmeg Processing Stations are cooperatives and the majority are still closed. We took a guided tour of the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station. The guide has worked there since 1965, he is one of only 6 employees still working at the station. Pre-hurricane Ivan there were 150 employees working here. While we were at the station an older woman came in with her nutmeg to sell to the cooperative. She offered a plastic shopping bag such as the ones we acquire at the grocery stores here in the states. The growers were selling their nutmeg (these are actually the seed off the trees) to the cooperative at about $4 for the best quality grade. At that rate she is going to need a lot more nutmeg to make a living.
The tour showed the processing steps of sorting by grade/quality, cleaning and aging. After aging, 3 months I believe, the seeds are then packed whole into 50 pound sacks and sold to companies (some in the US) who take the whole product and break it down for the mace, oil, etc. and spice itself.
We stopped on the roadside on many occasions, if only for our driver to call out to someone walking by to pick something off a nearby tree so 9 people did not have to go tumbling out of the van to view it. His requests were always fulfilled with a smile. We saw besides bananas, plantain, cocoa, citrus, fruits of all varieties, avocados, root crops, sugarcane, corn, flowers and more flowers and of course nutmeg trees.
Our driver stopped at a small roadside store where we were given a demonstration on nutmeg and all of its parts and end products and then we were free to make purchases of our spices. Very very low key and no pressure to buy whatsoever. Other highlights of the day included: Annandale Waterfall and Garden, the view of Carib's Leap, Grand Etang National Park & Crater Lake, plantations, a few fishing villages, the coastline, the rainforest and a short stop at the beach.
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