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Cotswold Eagle

Enchantment 5-17 December 2011, Southern Caribbean - review with pictures

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Hello David

 

Nice job on the review, I always think I am going to get time to do one and then never get it done.

 

Happy New Year

 

Keep up the good work and we will talk soon.

 

Brian J

 

Hi, Brian. Happy New Year to you and Linda, too!

 

David

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We glide into the port of Philipsburg on this divided island of St Maarten/Martin just before 8. There are no other ships here, but we are joined by the Costa Luminosa later in the day. The weather has taken a turn for the better and we have blue skies, with occasional white clouds, and temperatures still in the mid-80s. I can see there is a small modern shopping area just off the pier, but I have plans this morning and no time to explore!

 

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As I mentioned, this cruise had a lively Roll Call and one of our number, Bob (also known as wvufan), had arranged a private tour for 10 of us this morning. We meet by the notice board next to Guest Services and head ashore to a pre-arranged rendezvous point with Joyce Prince, our guide and companion for the day. As it happens, Joyce was slightly delayed because of a road closure and traffic congestion, but she called someone she knows will be at the port, who finds our group to let us know.

 

The fabulous Joyce Prince

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Joyce first of all took us up to a vantage point near the pier for a photo opportunity. She drives us around in her air-conditioned van and provides us with commentary from the drivers seat. We next drove round the Front and Back Street areas of Philipsburg, before heading inland to explore different neighbourhoods, stopping occasionally for photos. There are no formalities crossing from the Dutch to French sides of the island, just signs to let you know you are in a different country. Our first major stop is at Orient Beach, a long and beautiful stretch of sand on the French side. As many will know, the far right end of this beach (looking towards the sea) is regarded as a clothing optional area and some of our company (Bob!) head off in that direction with a glint in their eye for a skinny dip, after establishing a camp. All the beaches here are public access, which does not stop some vendors of beach chairs and umbrellas aggressively defending their territory (prices appear to vary considerably if you want to rent). I decided to retain my modesty and my swimming shorts (newly purchased yesterday in St Thomas, as I forgot to pack for the beach when leaving a freezing UK!), and I had a pleasant swim in a warm sea, although there is quite a swell Orient is on the Atlantic side of St Martin. I am not really one for lying on a beach, so the hour or so here was perfect for me (but apparently not long enough to remember to take photos of the beach, Im afraid)

 

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After some discussion we head to Lolo's restaurant for lunch (ribs or chicken and plenty of sides, basically). There are several restaurants in the same spot by the side of the road and a good mixture of locals and tourists utilising them. The food is basic, but tasty, and after we have had our fill we head back to the Dutch side, via Marigot (the French capital), to visit the famous Maho beach, which I have been looking forward to for a long time.

 

Lunch at Lolo's

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Marigot harbour

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Up next - Maho Beach and the "surely that's a Photoshop job" photograph!

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Excellent review, and beautifully written! We were parked next to you on the Explorer in Labadee. It was our first time there, and we were mostly impressed, but I would love to see the "before" pics.

 

Thanks and Happy New Year!

 

Teddie

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LOL! I'm a Baltimore Ravens fan living in Virginia so for the past 10 years, I've had to suffer on Sunday afternoons watching the Red(dead)skins! We rarely get a televised Ravens game so to know they are in the playoffs is great! BTW: you really did not need to watch the entire Eagles/Redskins game to know the outcome...hope you enjoyed watching!!:)

 

Now for important stuff: I'm enjoying your review and pictures!! Beautiful... I wanted to do a 12niter out of Baltimore to the southern carib. but could not get anyone to go with me--scheduled for March 2012. Your review will be the cruise I did not get to take--show me everything you can! thank you and enjoy the playoffs/Super Bowl 2012.

 

Oh, you missed a treat - it's a great itinerary :) Give me a call next time, I'll go with you!!

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Excellent review, and beautifully written! We were parked next to you on the Explorer in Labadee. It was our first time there, and we were mostly impressed, but I would love to see the "before" pics.

 

Thanks and Happy New Year!

 

Teddie

 

Thank you. It was a beautiful day in Labadee, wasn't it. And two beautiful ships, in their own ways. I really like the photo I posted of them both side-by-side. I didn't post this one earlier, now I have an excuse....

 

I'll definitely do that before and after thread, should be an interetsing discussion.

 

All the best,

David

 

A Royal Caribbean canyon

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I appreciate the review! I was off the Enchantment in April, so it was nice seeing the memories, but when we go on the Explorer in November these are the ports we're visiting so it gives me a preview of whats to come and what to do. Beautiful pictures! I can't wait to see the rest!

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For those who dont know, the attraction of Maho Beach is not the beach, which is a scruffy strip of sand. Nor is it the bar next door, even though it does a roaring trade. The attraction is that across the small road next to the beach is the perimeter fence of the Princess Juliana International Airport and the final approach takes planes right over the beach. Right over and very low!

Joyce delivered us to Maho just as some afternoon flights (including some heavies ) were coming in and we leapt out of the van (OK, youve seen the lunch photo, leapt is a relative term) and started taking photos. By sheer luck, one of the first photos I took turned out very well, and is the classic Maho beach shot I have seen so many times and envied. See if you can spot which one!

 

Take note!

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Nice parking, Joyce

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Touch down

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Here it is - my favourite

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We stayed at Maho for a while, and some of our number ignored the warning signs and lined up to take the jet blast of a departing aircraft. One of them, who should remain nameless (lets just call him Hank) was blown over on the beach, so I can only imagine the force for those who like to cling to the fence! We had run out of time for shopping in Philipsburg itself, but still had time for a browse round the port complex, before returning to the ship for our 4.30 pm all aboard. We set sail shortly afterwards, pushing back from the pier leaving the Costa Luminosa behind and enjoyed a lovely sunset on this warm evening.

 

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Readers who have been paying attention, will realise this was Sunday, so the Boleros lounge was showing NFL games. I skipped the headline show, El Gaucho (I have seen this act before) to watch some football. Tonight was our second formal night and I enjoyed some beef and veal ravioli (not the biggest appetiser I have ever been served!) and some pretty tasty beef stroganoff. I havent mentioned my dining companions recently they were feeling much better after some time on land and were getting into the cruising spirit, including not being shy about ordering whatever they wanted at dinner (an appetiser for dessert, two appetisers instead of an entrée go for it!) with the active encouragement of Kirat.

 

Later in the evening, the Royal Caribbean Singers and a Quintet from the Enchantment Orchestra were performing jazz in the Spotlight Lounge, which made a good change from the usual house bands. A great day here in St Maarten and a wonderful thing about this 12 night cruise is that after a week on board, we have two more stops to go, as we set course for Antigua.

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I appreciate the review! I was off the Enchantment in April, so it was nice seeing the memories, but when we go on the Explorer in November these are the ports we're visiting so it gives me a preview of whats to come and what to do. Beautiful pictures! I can't wait to see the rest!

 

Thanks for the kind words, I hope I can give you a flavour - I have tried to show what is right at the pier, as that helps get orientated I always find. I know some of my Roll Call are lurking, so I'm sure we'll be able to answer any questions you may have.

 

David

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I like the Maho Beach photo's! I'll be there in October on Allure of the Seas and Maho is my destination for the day! Thanks for a very good review. :)

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:)David, what a beautiful pictoral review! Thank you so much for posting so we can all see it. Brings back such beautiful memories. Hope we all cross paths, on sea, again! Next time, don't be so quiet, in the back of the van!!

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We arrive in St Johns, Antigua just before 8 am, and join Celebrity Constellation (or Conny, as I will learn to call her) in port. We are both berthed nose in alongside a pier, which seems to take us right into a downtown area. It is hot (probably the hottest day so far) and sunny, with some clouds rolling in, but for the first time this cruise (and very inconveniently, as we will find) there is no wind at all, not even a slight breeze.

 

Downtown St Johns as we dock

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The first thing I noticed inside the ship this morning is that a gingerbread village has appeared overnight, next to the large Christmas tree in the Centrum (you can see the tree in the cooking demonstration photos earlier). More on Christmas decorations later, for reasons that will become obvious. Suffice to say for now, so far we have had trees and garlands around the ship, but the village display adds another level of holiday feeling.

 

I have another excursion planned today, booked beforehand with RCI. I am going on a sailboat racing experience (not the Americas Cup excursion available in some ports, but similar). My keen interest in the wind speed this morning becomes obvious! Originally planned as an 8.30 am excursion, I received a note in my cabin the other day to say that it had been put back to 10.30 am - three of us from the Enchantment joined with seven passengers from the Constellation, oops, Conny, so I suspect they put two excursions together. We meet on the dock between our two ships, and are taken to a small air-conditioned van for a 30 minute drive over the island to Falmouth Harbour. The interior of the island appears to be very impoverished, and to be honest the shopping area near the port did not appeal greatly as we walked and drove through it. It is a narrow entrance from the ship area and one has to run a gauntlet of quite pushy vendors.

 

When we reach the harbour we are given a quick safety briefing and then tendered out in a small dinghy to two identical 30 foot yachts, each of which takes five guest crew today (the maximum would be six) and has a skipper and two actual crew on board. We sailed out of the harbour and are encouraged to join in taking the helm and grinding winches. Unfortunately there is not much more wind on this side of the island, so we are unable to have anything other than a slow motion race with the other boat.

 

Our professional crew battle the conditions

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Now were racing!

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We did sail up the coast and into Nelson's dockyard. There was a big boat show here in Antigua the previous week and there are still literally billions of dollars of high end motor and sail yachts to lust after. After a couple of hours, including a swim break for those who want to jump into the sea out of a perfectly serviceable boat, we return to Falmouth and are ferried back to the dock by dinghy. Back in the office we are treated to some potent rum punch as we view photos from our sail on a big screen. The lack of wind has rather removed the excitement from this excursion, but it was great to be on the water in any case and I liked the intimacy of the small numbers involved. You can get involved as much or as little as you like and there is room to sit in the cabin, should you wish, and a 'head' on board too.

 

Ill take one of those, please

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After we returned to the dock, I spent a few minutes in the somewhat run down shopping area, then headed back on board for our 4.30 pm all aboard, before we sail away, leaving the Conny behind.

 

Shops immediately off the ship

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Thanks for the company, Conny!

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Tonights headliner act in the theatre is a good young illusionist, Haines, and his glamorous assistant and partner, Abi. Unfortunately, I left my camera in my stateroom this evening (having had to charge the battery), so I have no photos of this act, which was well worth seeing. I also missed taking pictures of the 70s party after dinner, which certainly got the ship rocking. It began with a couple of the Royal Caribbean singers doing some 70s numbers, then the crew burst in to the party many of you will know (and maybe love!). The demographic on this cruise was, ehem, skewed towards the older cruiser shall we say, but we know how to show the young uns a few moves, I can tell you. For dinner tonight I had a Caesar salad and a beautifully cooked fillet of beef. Beef is featuring rather a lot, Im afraid, but it was all pretty good!

 

Tomorrow we have our final port of call in Tortola. And after that three more sea days. Did I mention what a great itinerary this is?!

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I like the Maho Beach photo's! I'll be there in October on Allure of the Seas and Maho is my destination for the day! Thanks for a very good review. :)

 

Thank you. Try to see more of St Maarten/Martin too, but Maho is not to be missed. I think we were there around 2.30 - 3.30 pm. Joyce tailored our tour to what we wanted to see, which basically amounted to woman with no tops on, food, and low flying aeroplanes. In retrospect, it's possible the ladies on our tour didn't get a fair shout :)

Edited by Cotswold Eagle
Wrong island....

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:)David, what a beautiful pictoral review! Thank you so much for posting so we can all see it. Brings back such beautiful memories. Hope we all cross paths, on sea, again! Next time, don't be so quiet, in the back of the van!!

 

Thank you, I'm enjoying putting it together.

 

What, get a word in edgeways/wise with the Bob 'n' Hank comedy double act in full swing?! My communication skills may be better in the written word :)

 

Happy New Year,

 

David

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Thank you. Try to see more of St Maarten/Martin too, but Maho is not to be missed. I think we were there around 2.30 - 3.30 pm. Joyce tailored our tour to what we wanted to see, which basically amounted to woman with no tops on, food, and low flying aeroplanes. In retrospect, it's possible the ladies on our tour didn't get a fair shout :)

I do plan to see a little bit of Phillipsburg but I am a aviation enthusiast so spending most of the day at Maho Beach is what I have been waiting for. I'm just curious, how long did it take to get from Maho Beach back to the ship? I have heard that traffic between the Maho area and downtown can be a bit of a pain due to traffic congestion and a drawbridge. Thanks again. :)

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I do plan to see a little bit of Phillipsburg but I am a aviation enthusiast so spending most of the day at Maho Beach is what I have been waiting for. I'm just curious, how long did it take to get from Maho Beach back to the ship? I have heard that traffic between the Maho area and downtown can be a bit of a pain due to traffic congestion and a drawbridge. Thanks again. :)

 

I believe it was about 30 minutes and that a lot of that congestion is now eased, but I wasn't paying that much attention to be honest! (Maybe some of the others on the tour can help?) Also remember it was a quiet day in St Maarten, with just two two ships in port. There were cabs available at Maho to get back to the ship, but of course we had our own van.

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I do plan to see a little bit of Phillipsburg but I am a aviation enthusiast so spending most of the day at Maho Beach is what I have been waiting for. I'm just curious, how long did it take to get from Maho Beach back to the ship? I have heard that traffic between the Maho area and downtown can be a bit of a pain due to traffic congestion and a drawbridge. Thanks again. :)

 

It is about 30 minutes each way, and the heavyweight aircraft don't usually start arriving until 12:30 and later. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get back. It is a 2 lane road and accidents can really foul things up. :)

 

Maho beach is great fun. Here's one of our photos...very similar to yours: http://www.herbytoys.com/Vaca_Images/Cruise05/AP_737.jpg

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Our final port of call. We arrive at the biggest of the 49 British Virgin Islands before 7 am and at 7.45 am I am due on the dock for the meet for the ship's Virgin Gorda Baths excursion, which I had pre-booked. I joined a very long line in the blazing sun, as this tour proves to be very popular. We were marched in line to a ferry right next to the cruise dock and take a ride to one of the smaller islands, Virgin Gorda (so named because Columbus thought the profile of the island looked like a fat lady reclining, according to the entertaining little commentary from the crew). The ride is about 30 minutes and we were served a free bottle of water.

 

The ferry - actually on the return, so sue me!

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At the dock we were met by several safari bus-style taxis for the 10 minute ride to the top of the baths. There is a walk down a steep-ish path, with a couple of places where footing can be hard to find (we were warned to bring stout walking shoes, a warning that several people have cheerfully ignored), and arrive at the Baths themselves. These are rock formations on a pretty little beach, although I could not have been paying attention because the important geological significance escapes me they look like rocks! It is then possible to scramble, crawl, climb and wade through a cave system to Devil's Bay, a larger beach, where I spend a happy couple of hours exploring and swimming. The water is beautifully clear and warm and there were shoals of snorkelers as well as fish, and guests delivered by various boats, who I feel rather look down on the bus tour! There is another path up to the top from this beach, so no need to retrace our steps through the cave system and the same forms of transport delivered me back to the dock, tired, sunburnt and happy.

 

Beach at the Baths

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Through the caves

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Devil's Bay

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Taxi!

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I took a quick shopping trip, as I wanted to buy a Caribbean gaudy shirt. There is a tented village just outside the port, which supplied this need and has the usual other souvenirs available and it is only a few minutes walk downtown to further shopping areas. As I return to the ship, I see a catamaran heading towards the dock and hear the sounds of a familiar cruising song, OOEEE. Capt'n Bob and a crew of Roll Call friends have been on a charter all day and I can tell from about 100 yards that they have had a good day!

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Thats all for today, Im afraid, but there are still more thrilling instalments to come, including a paddle board vs cruise ship confrontation, Father Christmas arrives, a lot of food gets eaten and some useful information about the ship! Oh, and the Eagles beat up on the Jets :D [Not strictly speaking part of my cruise experience]

 

I notice I failed to post a picture of Enchantment in Tortola, so here's one, taken from downtown Road Town.

 

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Edited by Cotswold Eagle

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It is about 30 minutes each way, and the heavyweight aircraft don't usually start arriving until 12:30 and later. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get back. It is a 2 lane road and accidents can really foul things up. :)

 

Maho beach is great fun. Here's one of our photos...very similar to yours: http://www.herbytoys.com/Vaca_Images/Cruise05/AP_737.jpg

 

 

Maybe same flight, a second later, different day! The beach looks very quiet?!

 

David

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Maybe same flight, a second later, different day! The beach looks very quiet?!

 

David

 

Same beach, probably the same flight in 2005. Maho Beach appears to be getting more popular! :D:):D

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Great photos and review Cotswold Eagle. My family is on the Enchantment in May but to Bermuda. Hope that cooking demo is on our cruise!:)

Edited by smalltimecruiser100

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Thank you for your great reviews and photos. When you are able to post again, would you mind letting me know how many formal nights were held during your cruise? We sail on Enchantment on Feb. 27th. The order of the ports is the reverse of what you experienced. Can you recall any one particular evening in the dining room where the menu was one that we could "miss" and dine in the Specialty Restuarant instead?

We are from Maryland, but loved visiting the Cotswolds! So glad that the "Crab ornament" found a special place on your Christmas Tree. We enjoyed lump meat crabcakes for dinner with friends who are sailing on Enchantment with us during a New Year's Eve dinner. We are Ravens fans and are totally delighted that they are in the Playoffs!

 

Thanks again!

Sandie

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