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VanCoerte

QM2 Christmas Caribbean Cruise

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Looking for tips (particularly for the islands) for the Christmas Caribbean Cruise on Queen Mary 2.

 

My husband and I have made a dozen crossings on QM2, so we know her well.

But we've never done a cruise on her (in fact, I've only done one cruise and that was many years ago) ...

So I'm wondering things like

1) how do the tenders work? when do they tell you what time the tenders leave the ship, and return?

2) what are the most important things to know in terms of getting on and off the tenders with the least hassle?

3) what do you suggest we do on the islands? book an excursion? go off on our own (which is what we normally do in places like Europe)?

4) what do you suggest for Antigua?

5) what do you suggest for Barbados?

6) what do you suggest for St. Kitts?

(NOTE: Sadly, we won't be making the usual stops on St. Thomas and St. Maarten, because of the hurricanes.)

 

Thanks in advance for any info you can give me. Much appreciated.

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Two tender ports ... Antigua and St. Kitts.

Are there several tenders at each port, in each direction?

Are the lines long? Is there a "best time" to get on and off?

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Come join the roll call: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.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.

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Two tender ports ... Antigua and St. Kitts.

Are there several tenders at each port, in each direction?

Are the lines long? Is there a "best time" to get on and off?

Yes there are several tenders going each way. If you do an organized Cunard excursion you will be tendered with the group. Otherwise you and your party must obtain tender tickets which are distributed at a set time and place which is listed in the daily program. Once you get the tickets, it will list when you may access the tenders. Going back everyone waits in line for the tender, Cunard excursion or not.

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If you don't mind spending some time on beaches some suggestions. For Antigua we usually travel to Valley Church Beach, we find it to be one of the nicest beaches, safe and picturesque with the usual white sand, usually fairly quiet outside school holidays. We used to book a taxi there but Cunard have now added this to their excursions. You can google it for more info. For St Kitts we travel to Cockleshell Bay, again a very nice beach. Barbados we go to Blue Monkey Beach. A short way out you can snorkel with turtles. Usually a glass bottom boat will stop by the beach and for a relatively small amount they will take you for a trip past Sandy Lane with its pink umbrellas then they stop to let you snorkel above a wreck where you can get a good experience with turtles. A water proof camera for this trip is always useful.

Edited by robbie_3

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I've seen Possible Tender for St. Kitts in the past but this time they don't appear to be hedging on it.

 

We're not visiting on our originally planned day which complicates matters.

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It's too bad that Cunard stopped the "high speed" Xmas cruises out of New York. The last one was in 2010, when the QM2 put the pedal to the metal and cruised at 24+ knots and was in the Caribbean in two days. I think we did 10 ports of call during our 15 night cruise? It was wonderful.

 

Enjoy!

Kel:D

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Yes - you're preaching to the choir!

I've written many a letter to Cunard asking them to return to the 5-day crossings that the QE2 used to do.

My contention is that they would get an entirely new group of people with younger demographics if the crossing were shorter. As it is, the average American with only 2 weeks off does not want to spend one of those weeks getting to Europe.

I have spoken with many, many people who say they would do it if it were 5 days.

But Cunard insists that most of their clientele like the longer crossings. My response to that is: then take a cruise.

Their extension to 8-day crossings was clearly a failure (thank goodness!) So we're back to 7 days.

Even the 6-days crossings that she did for the first two or three years would be better. I'd willingly pay the fuel surcharge.

But, alas, they're not listening.

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It's too bad that Cunard stopped the "high speed" Xmas cruises out of New York. The last one was in 2010, when the QM2 put the pedal to the metal and cruised at 24+ knots and was in the Caribbean in two days. I think we did 10 ports of call during our 15 night cruise? It was wonderful.

 

Enjoy!

Kel:D

 

I think that it was 14 days with 6 ports, but yes, it was wonderful.

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I think that it was 14 days with 6 ports, but yes, it was wonderful.

 

Hi Brigitte.

 

I remember you and Tom were the big organizers of our Roll Call. I think this is one of your traditions!:D

 

It was (for some reason) a 15 night cruise and I found this doing some research (our old roll call):

 

Looks like, at this point, it won't be that crowded at the ports we are visiting:

 

Wed. Dec 22 -- Grand Turk -- joined by the Silverspirit

Thu. Dec 23 -- Tortola -- joined by the Queen Elizabeth

Fri. Dec 24 -- St Maartin -- joined by the Equinox, and the Serenade OTS.

 

Sun. Dec 26 -- Curacao -- joined by the Carnival Miracle.

Mon. Dec 27 -- Grenada -- no other ships

Tue. Dec 28 -- Barbados -- joined by the Silvercloud, the Prinsendam and the Millennium

Wed. Dec 29 -- St Lucia -- joined by the Serenade OTS.

Thu. Dec 30 -- St Kitts -- no other ships

Fri. Dec 31 -- St Thomas -- joined by the Madam

 

Any rate -- I was very impressed with our ability to race down to the Caribbean in only two days!

Enjoy!

Kel

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Hi Kel, Of course you are correct. I remember when we were tendering in to Grenada and seeing that beautiful view of the QM2, what an amazing sight. 15 days and that wonderful itinerary, no wonder we were so impressed. When they changed to 12 days, they said it was to accommodate families with children. That sounded reasonable, but now I'm wondering if it was just to "slow things down". Anyway, yes, it was amazing. Thanks for reminding me.

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The 14/15 day holiday cruises from New York to the Caribbean with all the ports were really good and also what we thought of as 'good value'. After we went on one of the shorter, slower trips from New York we decided that it wasn't 'good value' and wasn't as enjoyable for us - it seemed as soon as we got to the Caribbean we were on our way back! Decided not to take this holiday cruise any more.

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Apologies for the terrible quality of the photograph but this was 2009

 

b2e5fee6be4d343fc418fce086a163c7.jpg

 

I would still rather be on QM2 for a short cruise than in soggy,cold Wales !

Have a great time.

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Yes its a little different for us Brits as we get the lovely transatlantic and NY stops in between that makes it more special, would love to have a few extra ports as we too feel the Caribbean part is a bit short, but lovely none the less.

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I would still rather be on QM2 for a short cruise than in soggy,cold Wales !
To the uninitiated, "The Vale of Glamorgan" sounds mythical, sort of like "Uther Pendragon." ;)

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To the uninitiated, "The Vale of Glamorgan" sounds mythical, sort of like "Uther Pendragon." ;)

 

Yeah, and not meaning to get too silly here, for some reason the name Glamorgan often reminds me of Glocca Morra and the song "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?", about a fictional Irish village, from the Broadway Musical "Finian's Rainbow". Now I've got that song ringing in my head! :)

 

Regards, John

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To the uninitiated, "The Vale of Glamorgan" sounds mythical, sort of like "Uther Pendragon." ;)

Well we do have Saints, castles and dinosaurs so maybe we are ....

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Here's my next question ...

How long do we have on each island?

I'm not sure how to choose an excursion, because it doesn't say what times it leaves.

What I'm trying to get at is:

Let's say, on St. Kitts, I want to book an excursion to Romney Manor. THEN I want to take a taxi to a beach for 2 hours.

Is all that possible? How do I schedule ahead of time without more info?

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I saw port times at an online TA site. Let me look them up and I'll post here. Cunard doesnt like to disclose them in advance, which either gives them operational flexibility or (more likely, in my opinion) discourages independent excursion planning...

 

OK, here we go. I'll be coy and mention that I found this on a US "90 Day Ticker" website where cruises can be found on sale after the final payment date. No idea whether these are reliable, though...

 

27 Dec - Antigua: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM

28 Dec - St. Kitts: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM

29 Dec - Barbados: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

31 Dec - Amber Cove: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

 

Note that your independent excursion operator is likely to be aware of our port times before we are....

Edited by Underwatr

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In response to your specific question, it should be no problem to do as you desire, just planning on the date. I booked an island tour in St. Kitts that drove clockwise from Basseterre, visiting Romney Manor and continuing around, and some people asked to be dropped at Carambola Beach Club following the tour and it was no problem, and plenty of time to do so if you begin before lunch.

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I saw port times at an online TA site. Let me look them up and I'll post here. Cunard doesnt like to disclose them in advance, which either gives them operational flexibility or (more likely, in my opinion) discourages independent excursion planning...

 

OK, here we go. I'll be coy and mention that I found this on a US "90 Day Ticker" website where cruises can be found on sale after the final payment date. No idea whether these are reliable, though...

 

27 Dec - Antigua: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM

28 Dec - St. Kitts: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM

29 Dec - Barbados: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

31 Dec - Amber Cove: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

 

Note that your independent excursion operator is likely to be aware of our port times before we are....

 

Those port times match what I have found on four different US travel agent sites (including the one I think you found them on based on your hint). The Amber Cove timing also matches what is shown on Amber Cove's own port schedule. Normally I use a couple other cruise calendar web sites to cross check, but those haven't been updated with the itinerary changes. So those timings are the best I have been able to come up with at this point.

 

Regards, John

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(Underwatr ... sales after final payment???)

Cruise fares sometimes drop after the final payment date, when cancellation penalties have kicked in for North American passengers and the line does what they have to do to fill the ship.

 

Waiting until there's a cancellation penalty helps dissuade passengers from canceling their higher priced booking and just rebooking at the lower price.

 

It can be a good idea to watch for fare changes prior to final payment but watching closely after it's too late to take advantage can be frustrating.

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