Assembling on a miserable February afternoon in Peterborough, 44 from Travel Club set off for the Double-Tree Hilton Hotel, Hounslow. After dinner, a partial night’s sleep and a hurried early breakfast, we proceeded to Heathrow, to check-in for our flight to Miami. Take-off was delayed an hour or so, before our Boeing 747 headed west, landing at Miami about 14.30 local time. Customs etc. was cleared, whereupon we waited for the transport to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Most of the party had sufficient energy to investigate local eateries and sample US portions, before settling down for the night.
Friday morning dawned bright and sunny, consequently after breakfast many explored the beach environs, even speaking to some of the locals – just who did vote for Trump? At 11.00 our transport to Port Everglades arrived and soon we were en route to the port to join the first of several queues prior to embarking onto ‘Serenade of the Seas’, ‘home’ for the next ten days. Most went immediately to lunch in ‘Windjammer’, sampling for the first time the wide range of food available on board.
After visiting state rooms, unpacking cases (one of the group’s did not arrive – remaining on the bus until our return!) and participating in the safety drill, many went on deck to witness our setting sail for the Caribbean. Then, we prepared for our first dinner in ‘Reflections’ restaurant, most sitting at their assigned table for the only time! Here we encountered our willing and cheerful table-servers and three-course dinners we had to ‘survive on’ for the next ten days! On finishing, there was a swift exit for the Tropical Theatre and an introduction to ‘Showtime’, about which opinions were somewhat mixed.
Following a decent night’s sleep, we had two days of restful cruising. The ship was duly explored: the Theatre visited for some interesting lectures, loungers tested, books read, restaurants investigated and sampled, besides visiting the shops and viewing the Atlantic Ocean. Dinner on Saturday 4th was a formal affair, and David Hunt, nominated group photographer, recorded us all in our finery. Yes, we did Peterborough U3A proud. Some dashed off afterwards to another ‘Showtime’, arguably the best of the voyage – a Tamla Motown tribute. Others went to the ‘Cinema under the Stars’ to watch ‘Sully’, first of several films presented. Many of us enjoyed the ‘free’ tea, until supplies of English breakfast tea ran out! Supplies were quickly replenished the following day after being mentioned to the Captain!
Dawn on Monday morning revealed a very different scene, as the ship docked at Tortola, capital of the British Virgin Islands. Many opted for early wake-up calls, had breakfast and quickly made their way to disembarkation level, to partake in a range of formal and informal shore excursions. A popular trip was to Cane Gardens Bay, to enjoy bathing in a relatively warm sea and purchase items for the Caribbean Evening. Returning to the ship (and lunch) we enjoyed views of the island, Tortola and ‘Serenade of the Seas’. Following lunch many ventured into town, some eager to claim their ‘free’ charm and bracelet from a jewellery store, which also offered free Wi-Fi (had to pay on the ship). After yet another three-course dinner, many went to the Theatre for a very slick evening show.
Having departed Tortola, next morning we awoke at Basseterre capital of St. Kitts & Nevis. Again, after breakfast, trips were the order of the day, including that to the Romney Manor Estate, a former sugar plantation linked with slavery, now occupied by Caribelle Batik, producer of beautifully printed household goods. Thereafter, some visited Brimstone Hill, capped by Fort George, an exemplar of British Colonial fortifications, before returning for lunch. After that, some strolled around Basseterre exploring a range of historical sights, many relating to the dark days of slavery. Accompanied by Captain’s daily commentary, we departed Basseterre and settled down for evening dinner and entertainment.
At Dominica’s port-capital Roseau it rained! That did not curtail the morning exit to the tourist buses. Some visited the volcanic hot-springs, others a scenic waterfall, though most seemed to end-up at Morne Bruce, a former British fortress affording splendid views over Roseau. The town was explored briefly, but after lunch many enjoyed a relaxing afternoon, avoiding rain showers, enjoying a read and cups of tea. Sailing at 17.00, followed by the usual routine; dinner, ‘Showtime’ and generally enjoying the many experiences on offer.
Thursday we docked at St. John’s, Antigua, along with three other cruise ships. The morning routine was repeated, with some visiting the town and its cathedral and others joined various excursions. A popular trip was to cross the island to view the fortifications around Shirley Heights and picturesque English Harbour. At the latter, the naval installation, built mainly by Lord Nelson, and its interesting museum were fully investigated. The return journey allowed more of the island to be enjoyed, prior to re-joining the ship. The evening followed the normal enjoyable routine, capped by another excellent dinner.
Our final island visit, encompassed the Dutch-French island of St. Maarten/Martin, whose character differed from islands previously visited. The post breakfast evacuation ensued, with various excursions being sampled. Several visited Orient Beach, enjoying the sun and sea bathing, besides observing the French sector, before returning to Philipsburg in the Dutch section, which others surveyed on foot or from a beach lounger! Following departure, our route followed the Dutch sector coast, including the famous beach-side airport. Then it was time for another dinner, followed by a very good ‘Showtime’ featuring the ‘Alley Cats.’
Over the course of the weekend, our ship headed back to Fort Lauderdale. This leg of the voyage was enjoyed relaxing, eating, including another formal meal, attending more lectures (one member also watched England defeat Wales in the Six-Nations on live TV!) and ‘Showtime’. By this time the seas had become somewhat ‘lively’, but none of the party succumbed to mal de mer! Sadly, packing dominated on Sunday, as cases were to be outside doors by 23.00. Monday saw a final ‘Windjammer’ breakfast prior to disembarking and awaiting our transport to the airport. Then, over the course of the afternoon, we prepared for our over-night flight to Heathrow. After a fairly bumpy flight, we landed early at 06.25! Our coach duly collected us, set-off for Peterborough, arriving by about 11.00.
So ended a delightful adventure, cruising for some 2,602 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. All travel arrangements went smoothly, the cruise was very good, food excellent, beds comfortable, while the company, both fellow Peterborough U3A members and many American and Canadian fellow passengers, was delightful. Lawrence led us unobtrusively, effectively and well, helped by Arthur’s excellent planning. All added-up to a wonderful holiday, a credit to the Travel Group, which will be remembered pleasurably for years to come. And we still didn’t find anyone prepared to admit to voting for Trump!!!!
See here for a photo Gallery of the cruise
(Roving Reporter T Mc)