Here's the last bit about our cruise - the Port Days.
Barbados - We were talked out of going to The Boatyard by our taxi driver. (There is a theme that emerges as we go from port to port.) Instead, we went to another spot on Carilsle Bay pretty close to the Boatyard but without the fees. Taxi was $12 to the beach for the two of us. We rented chairs and an umbrella from the taxi driver's buddy ($10) and ended up going on a boat ride to snorkel at the shipwreck and by the giant turtles for $20 each from one of the vendors on the beach. We had a private tour on a boat that probably could handle a dozen people. We had brought our own snorkel and mask from home but used his flippers and life vest. (It would not have cost any more to use his masks or snorkels.) There were several others from our cruise on the beach. On the way back to the ship, I asked the driver (who returned to pick us up) if Rhianna was going to be in town any time soon and he excitedly told me about her upcoming visit in August. He claimed to know her and said she is very good to the people of Barbados. All in all, we had a good time in Barbados.
St. Lucia - we had the fortune of knowing someone - Christelle - who grew up on the island - to take us on a personalized tour. She spends winters in St Lucia and the rest of the year in Wisconsin. (There is quite a difference between Wisconsin winters and St Lucia winters!) Anyway, she took us to both the Atlantic and the Caribbean costs, to the sulfer springs near the volcano, to the Pitons and gave us a running commentary on the flaura and flana of the Island. We had an authentic St Lucian lunch at a loverly place called Fond Doux Holiday Plantation where they make chocolate. There were tons of pictures of Prince Charles and Camilla who had visited the plantation in 2008. We almost missed this excursion as we didn't have a specific meeting place but we eventually found each other and had a great day.
Antigua - our only rain of the trip was this morning. We didn't plan an early day so we had a leisurely breakfast and made our way to the first floor to exit the ship only to see that it was pouring rain and our plan was to go to a beach... so we turned around and went back to the ship. It cleared up about an hour later so we tried again. It was still a bit overcast so we explored the port area (shopping) and visited the main church of the town which in being renovated after a leaky roof turned into a massive termite problem. They are about 70% done with the renovation and let us wander around in the unfinished building. (Never would have been allowed in the US!) Afterwards, we found a taxi to take us to the beach. Originally, we wanted to go to Valley Church Beach, however, it started raining on the way there and the driver told us that he thought we could avoid the rain by going to a different beach instead. I think we ended up at Fort James Beach although the driver called it Runaway Bay. Our driver knew the people at the restaurant where we were dropped off. It stayed rain free for the rest of the day and we headed back to the ship a couple of hours later. Our same taxi driver picked us up. and took us over to the nearby abandoned fort (Fort James) before heading back to the ship. Antigua was the only island that we hadn't been to before and I was a bit sad that we didn't really see the beautiful beaches we heard so much about. Despite the overcast day, we still had a nice time.
St Maarten - for this port, we joined up with 12 other Cruise Critic folks on a private tour with Bernard's Tours. We had organized this via our Roll Call and it ended up being a fun time. The tour bus was comfortable and air conditioned. We went to the Westin Dawn Beach for a photo opportunity and then to see a bunch of iguanas. The main stops of the day were at Orient Beach (not the nude section!), Marigot Bay (for shopping and a visit to Serafina's French pastry shop) and then to Maho Beach to see the planes land and take off. I have to say that Maho Beach was just crazy. Or rather, the people there were crazy. They got as close as they could to see the planes take off and basically stood in an area specically to be in the exhaust of the departing planes. It was kind of surreal. It was entertaining to have the planes come so low to the ground near the beach as they landed. I'll post a few pictures to try to show you - but there are much better pictures on the internet.
St Thomas - for our last day, you guessed it, we went to a beach. We brought our snorkels and masks and were hoping to go right from the beach. We started out wanting to go to Sapphire Beach but our driver encouraged us to try Coki instead. In this case, it wasn't that she was directing us to her buddies, but rather that she didn't want to drive all the way to Sapphire. She convinced us that the snorkeling off the beach was better at Coki and a couple of people near us on the beach said that they agreed as well. We thought that the beach was very nice but small and the snorkeling was decent. We didn't stay long as the beach this day as we wanted to have some pool time and sauna/steam room time before we left the ship - so we went back around 2pm.
Here are some pictures from our Port days.
All in all, we had a great cruise.