First stop St Croix, US Virgin Islands.
After a pretty restless night, sleeping in a new bed in a room that moved I woke up to hear Trevor and Sam chatting on the balcony. Stepping outside I walked into a wall of heat and had my first glimpse of St Croix. Pastel coloured houses nestled into the side of the hills and as I looked along the jetty to the white sandy beach I could see a row of brightly coloured shops and cafés. It was 8.30am and people were already streaming off the boat towards the little town. From my vantage point on deck 10 they really did look like loads of little worker ants.
However, before we joined the throng into St Croix we wanted to explore the ship a little more. 14 decks to be discovered. We had already found the promenade on deck 5 with the shops and eateries and a four piece jazz band constantly performing happy lively music so we ventured further afield, this time to deck 12. 4 jacuzzis, two salt water pools and hundred of sun loungers were situated at the front of this deck. A running track snaked its way round the whole of the top of this (although why anyone would want to run in this heat is beyond me). Deck 13 was accessed by steps leading from the pool deck to, yes another pool deck and hundreds more sun loungers. Even with 3000 people on board you can never feel cramped here. The view was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and it wouldn’t be the last. Vast blue sea, the bluest I could have imagined as far at I could see, meeting the pale blue sky of the horizon. With the sun glistening off the waves, this was paradise.
Anxious to get into the little town, we changed into shorts and T-shirts and I mentally apologise to the citizens of USVI for my pasty white body desperate for the sun to change its hue.
“Welcome to St Croix”, a security official invited us through a gate into a little square of palm trees, bright colours and Caribbean music. Little trinket shops had Sam reaching for his money to buy his first souvenir. After about half an hour we stopped in a little café for a snack where I was offered an iced blueberry latte. As weird as it sounded it was delicious, like a muffin in a cup. Afterwards we took a little stroll on the beach before it was time to head back to the ship for dinner and evening entertainment.
Sam has been on at us for ages that he wants to eat lobster and luckily for him it was on the menu in our restaurant of choice that night. He did baulk a little when it appeared in front him, eyes and all but to give him his due, he ate it all. Trevor was also relieved as it was the only thing on the menu that cost extra so at least it wasn’t wasted.
Bellies full we wandered down to deck 3 into the Lyric Theatre where we were shown to our priority seats, definitely the best in the house. We were treated to a fantastic show from the 16 singers and dancers, completely up to Broadway standard and I hankered back to my youth and my time on the stage with envy of these talented performers. Afterwards, weary and sun kissed we went back to our cabin and sank into bed.
The next day we arrived at our second port of call, St Maarten where Trevor informed me that we were going to walk under the sea wearing a huge helmet. Although I had no idea what he meant, I was looking forward to it. First, though we made a trip off the boat into the tax free shopping centre just on the island. Sam bought a jazzy Caribbean shirt and decided to wear it straight away. Once back on the boat we got changed into our swimming gear, grabbed towels and the underwater camera and off we went.
A short boat ride took us to a catamaran moored just off the shore and we were given a talk by a Canadian guy called Mike. He showed us the huge helmets we would be wearing that weigh 75 pounds. However once in water they become almost weightless. They looked like something an astronaut would wear with a big handle on the top. We would then walk down a ladder off the side of the boat into the sea, 20 feet down where we would then be taken around an underwater trek. I was very excited now as was Trevor. Sam, however was nervous and wasn’t sure he was going to do it. After some encouragement from us he said he would give it a go and the crew said that they would stay with him so that if he wanted to go back up they would take him.
Trevor went first and I followed with Sam by my side, but only two steps down the ladder he panicked and was brought up again. I didn’t want him to worry so I said I’d stay with him but the crew wouldn’t hear of it and assured me that Sam would be fine and that they would convince him to come down.
The helmet was placed over my head onto my shoulders and I started the descent. As soon as I went under I was surrounded by the most beautiful tropical fish that darted around me in shoals, never once bumping into me. 20 feet is a pretty long way down and I had to pop my ears a few times before I reached the bottom where everyone else was waiting. We were standing on a wooden path flanked by a rail to hold on to. As we waited for the rest of the crew to join us I figured Sam had backed out but all of a sudden I saw his little feet descending the ladder holding firmly onto the hand of the girl diver. Both Trevor and I beamed at our little boy and his bravery and the girl handed him over to Trevor but stayed by his side the whole time, just as she had promised.
As we made our way along the trail the crew coaxed various sea life creatures to us and gave them to us to hold if we wanted. The first thing I held was a huge water spider, something that no one else wanted to touch. It crawled up my arm and felt like sticks poking at me, very strange. A little further along I put my finger into a sponge which sucked onto it, again a very strange feeling. The next thing I was given was a big sea urchin placed in my palm. The girl diver indicated for me to turn my palm face-down and when I did I felt the urchin’s suckers grip my hand and when it let go I felt the popping of each sucker as it released its hold.
Although Sam didn’t want to touch any of the sea life I was still so proud that he managed to walk the whole trail without panicking and going back up. Trevor took loads of photos with the underwater camera but we have yet to see if they came out or not.
After an amazing experience we travelled back to the dock by boat and then boarded the ship once again, just in time to change for dinner.
Next time we visit Antigua and St Lucia.
Pip pip me hearties.