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Paul & Luiza´s World Tour

USA & 8 Caribbean Islands – 8 islands and 18 nights of rum in the sun!!

ANTIGUA & BARBUDA | Friday, 9 May 2014 | Views [1375]



USA & 8 Caribbean Islands – Orlando, Miami, San Juan (Puerto Rico), The US Virgin Islands (St Thomas & St John), Antigua & Barbuda, St Maarten, Martinique, Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad & Tobago – Fifty shades of blue!

We take the ADO bus to the Ibis Hotel near the airport and chill for the night, going out just to get a bite to eat. Next morning, we jump on another ADO Airport bus and take another flight to Orlando, Florida. We pick up a car at the airport and make our way to the nearest mega-uber-outrageously-big shopping centre (Florida Mall) while we wait for our friends and hosts to get home from work. We have some food and head to our friend Marisol's place . We arrive at night and we are welcomed by Marcelo and his mom Dea, as our friend Marisol (who we met in Bangkok a couple of years ago), is in Miami working until tomorrow. The reception is amazing. They are so lovely, warm and generous over the four days we spend in Orlando, that we are looking forward to welcoming them to our place in Trancoso, hopefully sometime soon. So, our time in Orlando is divided between hitting the massive shopping centres and outlets by day and drinking, eating, cooking and have a great time with our friends by night. We leave on a Monday morning and drive 4 hours to Miami, where, after a drive around South Beach and seeing the cute Art Deco district we return the car and take a taxi to the Miami Port, board the MSC Divina to begin our Caribbean Miami to Rio Cruise (18 nights).     

With this not being our first cruise, we kind of know what to expect and BINGO! we spend the first two nights at sea still amazed by how many people can be fit into such a ship. It is about 3,700 passengers and 1,300 crew, for a total of 5,000 people, it is insane! We talk to a few people and get to know our dinner table fellows, Silvia from Germany, Robert and Jamie a couple from Miami, and Helen, a Chinese lady from Boston who disappears often straight after dinner, lured, we guess, by the onboard casino lights. They are a nice fun bunch and we sail away together. After two nights at sea, we reach San Juan, the Capital of Puerto Rico. San Juan is a gorgeous island and we visit the two fabulous Spanish forts and then go for a wonder in Old San Juan. The old town has been completely renovated and looks amazing with its Spanish architecture and rows of colourful colonial houses. We have a great day exploring San Juan and then, it is time to get back onboard for another night at sea.

We get up early and eager to see more of the Caribbean and more we get. The second stop is at the US Virgin Island, St Thomas. The island is gorgeous and has an authentic Caribbean feel with lots of shops, a cable car and other attractions. As we talk to other people who have been here before and read more about the island, we decide to make our way over to the next island, St John in a quest for a fabulous beach day. When leaving the ship we start talking to a couple who is on the same cruise, only to find out they live here and have a yacht cleaning business. They give us a nice tip, to get the local “taxi” for just two dollars, then the ferry and another taxi. They also recommend that instead of going all the way to Trunk Bay, the beach you can’t miss and need to pay to get in, we should go to Hawkenest Bay, which is another gorgeous beach, free and with less people. Of course we listen to the locals and have a fabulous day on a picture perfect Caribbean beach, awesome. Another morning, another port, this time, the island country of Antigua e Barbuda, another nice island with a more authentic, less American Caribbean feel. Again, we go for the public bus and for USD$1.50 each, we make our way to the lovely blue waters of Darkwood Beach. We spend a few fabulous hours swimming in the beautiful waters; walk around the streets with its colourful and unique characters and in the afternoon, make our back to the ship. On our fourth stop we reach the island of St Maarten, another gorgeous day on the beach followed by a bucket of Red Stripe Jamaican beer and some walking around the duty free shops, another awesome day around the Caribbean Islands.

Stop number five is on the French island of Martinique. We take an early ferry across to the best beach on the island, Anse Mitan, and it is so disappointing. It is so small, the sand is gray and it is virtually on the docks. OK, it is still the Caribbean waters but nothing comparable to the other fantastic beaches we’ve seen so far. Then we take the ferry back and go for a walk around a town that definitely has seen better days. The words depressing and dilapidated rapidly come to mind. We finally try to take a walk to see the historical buildings and again get disappointed by the lack of maintenance of what was, long ago an amazing example of French colonial style. Well,  withliterally nothing much to see here, we go back to the ship for some much needed air-conditioning as it is 35 degrees outside, and we hope for more beautiful and exciting islands to come, Au revoir! We get to stop number 6, the island nation of Barbados. A former British colony, Barbados has gorgeous beaches and we just hang around for great swimming and sunbathing before we head off for some sightseeing in town, nice! Did I mention the pink sand on the beach? So pretty! Number 7 is another island nation, this time Grenada. The port is already nice with the blue waters surrounded by mountains and historical buildings. A former English colony, Grenada has gorgeous, long beaches and the sightseeing is also pretty good, with forts, colonial houses and nice shops to browse around.  So, we get up early, jump on our already trusted USD$1 ride local bus and get to the blue and beautiful Grand Anse beach, where we spend a lovely morning, then back to the town for a bit of exploring time. Our last Caribbean stop is on Port of Spain, on theiIsland nation of Trinidad & Tobago. After reading horror stories about people being mugged and murdered we have to say we were getting a bit scared. So, we are really pleasantly surprised when we get off the ship to find a complete “carnival show  at the port with a really tight band playing local music, beautiful “mulata” dancers in carnival costumes, a very cool “limbo” demonstration, guys in Carnival costumes on stilts and several other party characters, making us feel immediately welcome. So, we leave all valuables in the cabin and we “sway” our around the town. We walk to the famous “Savannah Park” and walk around checking out the old beautiful colonial mansions, we also explore the local, more popular shops, Asian supermarkets, and we visit the historical museum where we are, for some reason, the only grownups besides the teachers surrounded by noisy groups of tiny cute students from the local schools. We just walk around for hours, following our trusted little map and we find the people nice and helpful and really cool in a Caribbean kind of way. It feels like a place worth coming back to for the music and culture, it looks like it has a lot to offer besides its perfect beaches. Now we have to say “adios - au revoir – goodbye, man” to the Caribbean as begin to head back to Brazil and we have 5 days at sea until we reach the next port.

Meanwhile, on Cruise Central…

We are on a massive ship, the MSC Divina, with 5,000 people onboard, of which 1,500 are crew (mostly Balinese and Caribbean with some Italians and Brazilians, Indians and Italians thrown in for good measure) and 2,200 are Brazilians, the rest is a good mix from everywhere else. Having so many Brazilians means that most of the time it is loud and other times it is louder and just plain embarrassing. They have the habit of talking to each other from miles away and try to cut in almost every existing line. They also try getting on the lift before the others can get out. Bikinis get smaller as the arses get bigger,.. and the running commentary of daily life is almost unbearable as everything needs to be said... It is so much fun to observe how life is like a “Brazilian novella”, where you travel everywhere in the world and everybody speaks Portuguese… it is cute to see the Balinese and Caribbean crew learning how to speak the basics, respect!

Also, talking to our dinner mates and wondering about some of the seriously old people on board, we found out that all the cruises have a few coffins and a morgue onboard, is it me or it is really bizarre & macabre??? Get me out of here!!!! At a later time, we find out that 1 person died on board, the board was airlifted back to Tobago, and another one drowned on the beach on the island of Trinidad.

After 3 days the food starts getting boring and repetitive and we suddenly remember to stay away from the buffet, a lesson we learnt from cruise number 1, this is cruise number 4. People seem to ignore any form of manners when approaching the buffet, so approach at your own risk as there are knives and forks around, and I have to add, it is not only the Brazilians, it is everyone. It is like the food is going to run out. The onboard food recycling is also a hazard, think before you eat! But the most annoying thing is the massive waste of food as people pile up massive plates that are clearly impossible to finish. Five deserts??? Come on!!! The food wasted weekly could arguably feed a small African nation for a month. We also learn that this ship is going to Brazil as it is going to serve as a floating hotel during the World Cup, what a great idea. Living and learning!

And so, we begin our journey back to Brazil with 5 nights at sea. More recycled food and frozen fruit than we can handle but the sun is shining! When we cross the Equator they perform the Neptune ceremony by the pool once again with embarrassing results, I’m sure the powerful entity would not approve of his portrayed character. 

After 5 days at sea we arrive in Salvador, Bahia where we meet our friends for a few beers and a good chat at a local bar in the historical side of town. We are completely amazed at how beautiful Salvador is and pleasantly surprised by the way the historical houses have been renovated and cared for. It is certainly much more beautiful and representative of an era than any other historical places we’ve seen not only in the Caribbean but also in lots of other places in the world. We really hope they continue to clean up Salvador as the minute it becomes a safe city to visit, it will become, deservingly, one of the most visited places in the world.

After another 2 nights we finally arrive in Rio and my sister and her husband pick us up from the port.  After a few nights in Niteroi catching up with friends we jump in the car and 2 days later we're back home. It's time to unpack, put our life back in order and spend some time with our dogs who we've missed terribly. That's it for now, until our next trip....


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