Posted November 13th, 2017, 03:16 PM
Come join the roll call: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/show....php?t=2399132
For this trip we'll be tendering in Antigua and St Kitts. For Antigua the ship anchors a ways out from English Harbour so you get a good view of the ship on the ride back - try for a seat up top if you're inclined for some good opportunities for a photo. This is the first time in six QM2 cruises that we've tendered into St. Kitts so I'm not sure where we'll be deposited. Hopefully it will be near Porte Zante (the tourist village at the Basseterre pier where normally we tie up) but I've also seen ships at the deep water harbor a little to the east, which would be less optimal.
The tenders will run continuously throughout the stated port schedule. There may be a bit of a rush at the start of the day, particularly if many excursions are scheduled to depart right at the beginning. When demand to go ashore exceeds immediate capacity they'll issue numbered tickets so it works more or less first come, first served with priority to tour groups leaving the ship. But after an hour or so they suspend the need for tickets and you just queue at the tender lounge on Deck 1.
After an unfortunate incident a year or two ago on Queen Elizabeth they have begun a check to ensure passengers are capable of safely stepping unassisted between the tender platform and the tender itself. This check consists of being able to step across a gap of about 18 inches. Since we didn't go ashore at any tender ports last year I haven't personally seen how this check is conducted, whether it's performed on everyone, etc. but hopefully it will help prevent a repeat of the accident without inconveniencing anyone.
In Antigua the tenders will drop us off a short walk from Nelson's Dockyard, which has a naval history museum, shops, restaurants and bars. For most anything else you'll need to book an excursion or hire a taxi once you get on land. We've been once; we went with another couple and hired a car to take the four of us on an island drive (I wouldn't call it a tour, really) and had lunch at an oceanfront resort midway through the drive. This year I hope to see more of the dockyard and the facilities there.
In Barbados we took a shuttle from the pier to the middle of Bridgetown to see what was there. We had lunch and returned to the ship but that was a little underwhelming. This year we've booked the submarine Atlantis excursion from the ship. It appears that the suitable Atlantis times aren't available privately from the operators themselves. You could easily hire a cab to take you to a beach from the port area, I think.
In St. Kitts we normally walk around Basseterre a bit but since I don't know where well be dropped that complicates matters for just striking out on your own. There will be many buskers offering guided tours of the island, I'd say any of these would be as safe as any other in terms of getting you around and back in time for anchors aweigh. There are several sites worth seeing on St. Kitts. Romney Manor is a restored old plantation house, originally now we by an ancestor of Thomas Jefferson. There's a batik workshop and store on the grounds. Brimstone Hill is an old fortification dating to the 18th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Good views across the water to St. Eustatius from that part of the island. Probably worth a visit but nice only ridden past.
You may read about the Sugar Train in tour books for St. Kitts; on days when a cruise ship is in the only way to book the train is via a ship's excursion.
On St. Kitts you'll be able to hire a taxi to take you to any of a number of beaches (some at fancy hotels, some rustic) and retrieve you at a set time later in the day. We enjoyed Shipwreck Beach. It's a bar and restaurant almost seemingly made from washed up boards and planks. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available and drinks are right nearby. There was also a raft to swim to an a snorkeling area. I'd go back (and might).
We've never been to Amber Cove. Since it's owned by Carnival most of the activities there will be aimed at cruise ship tourists but I think you can take a cab into Puerto Plata or most of the commercial sites mentioned in the excursions brochure for Amber Cove.