So, you want to read more about the cruise?? I was wondering how much to write about our holidays, but it does seem like you are interested in reading more cruise posts so here I go:
Do you remember my short summaries of every island from the research I did before we left? Well, I wrote this about St Thomas (part of the US Virgin Islands):
“Scenic drama, mobbed by tourists, incredible beaches”
And these are our impressions after having visited the island:
“Reggae, Rastas, Danish street names, steep steps, open van-taxis, many female taxi drivers”
Last Monday I was awake at 07 when we were approaching St Thomas, I took a few photos from the balcony and then went back to bed. O got up an hour later and sat on the balcony and studied Swedish* (!!) when I finally woke up at 9! We had breakfast up on the “Lido” deck, where the buffet could be found. The queues were long for the big buffet, but at the two pool areas they were also serving breakfast and the lines were shorter. However, the remaining mornings we had breakfast in one of the dining rooms instead; less stressful, no queues, there were more options and it just tasted better!
We had decided to not do any excursion in St Thomas as I had read that Charlotte Amalie, the capital, was walking distance from the harbour and I was very interested in exploring this former Danish town! By the ships (one other ship was docked next to ours), a whole little shopping village called Havensight (“Danglish”!?) had been built – Diamonds International (in EVERY port we visited), Hooters (!!), and lots of souvenir shops. Needless to say we didn’t enter, instead we went to the tourist information and got a map over the island and capital. Then we took a cable car up to a view point – quite a rip off at $21 per person but the view was spectacular but the nature trail was ridiculous (quarter of a mile ~400 metres)! There was actually one more ship docked at the other end of the capital – we found out that it was the Queen Mary 2.
Even though we had decided to walk to town, taking one of the open van taxis was too tempting (it was hot!) and we jumped on board ($4 per person). The traffic into town was quite heavy but we didn’t actually realise until we were walking back to the ship a few hours later that they drive on the left!! The taxi dropped us off at Emancipation Garden, where the trees were decorated with gigantic xmas tree ornaments – just like in Puerto Rico!
We walked around the steep streets of Charlotte Amalie, off the beaten track the capital was quite calm and empty. We loved the colonial architecture which reminded me of old Danish houses. A quick rain shower made us seek shelter in the beautiful, almost 350 year old Frederick Lutheran Church. It was also curious to see that almost all the streets had retained the Danish names even though Dronningens Gade (the Queen’s street) is also known as Main Street. I just wonder how people pronunce “Kongens Gade”…
Danish street names and different architecture in Charlotte Amalie
The town is built on the hills around the bay, we sat down just below the famous Government House (built in the 1860’s) and enjoyed the views while we caught our breaths. Many of the alleys on the hills have steep stairs – the most famous one is called the 99 steps (apparently there are 103 steps) and is built from bricks brought to the island as ship ballast.
We finally headed down to the main street, Dronningens gade, where I guess most tourists stay… it is lined with jewelry boutiques, outlets and tax-free shops. So different from the calm colonial quarters we had walked around! The guidebook recommended trying the local “callaloo soup” (thick green soup made with dasheen leaves, poultry and / or fish, and lots of spices) at Glady’s Café so that’s what we did! O also ordered some curry, we were after all in the West Indies, it was served with rice and some mac’n’cheese!!
The only interesting part of the main street were the old warehouses of imported brick and local stone that house all the shops! Glady’s Café can be found in the Royal Dane Mall (below) – more historic and charming than most malls I have been to in other parts of the world.
Our visit to St Thomas was finished off with a walk back to the ship along the bay. It was nice to walk on flat ground after all those steps and steep hilly streets. Back on the ship we went up to the pool area and relaxed with our books. I always try to find holiday literature that has ties to my destination(s), and a birthday present from a Dutch friend was perfect; “and a Bottle of Rum. A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails” by Wayne Curtis! Reading the book during the cruise I learnt both that rum was central to the economic and social life of America and the Caribbean, as well as cocktail recipes that I want to try.
In the evening we had a lovely dinner on our own in the Atlantic dining room. I had one of my favourite dishes, Beef Stroganoff, fortunately I asked what it came with: mac’n’cheese!!! so I could ask for a side dish of baked potato. What’s with the mac’n’cheese in combination with curries and a classic dish such as Beef Stroganoff? I guess meals adapted to Americans, but there must be more suitable combos for that pasta & cheese side dish?
We walked around the ship after dinner and sat down for a while in one of the lounges but unfortunately smoking was allowed and that made us leave. Upstairs on the Lido deck we had some fresh air and some drinks – non-alcoholic, mind you (lemonade, iced tea, water, tea, hot chocolate and coffee were free)! O had the great idea of mixing lemonade and iced tea (both beverages were unsweetened), which was yummy! We didn’t actually drink any cocktails and just shared one bottle of wine during the whole cruise, it was cheaper that way 😉
Anyway, our first day of the cruise was perfect – we loved beautiful Charlotte Amalie, we had time to relax in the morning before going ashore and later on in the day. The waiters in the dining room struck a perfect balance between being personal and keeping their distance (I hate it when waiters come up to you every two seconds to ask if everything is alright).
*) I gave O a computer-based Swedish course for his birthday (last year!!) and he finally started it during the holidays. He now knows how to say things like “tio i nio” (ten to nine) – in other words, how to tell time in Swedish!! He’s still a bit confused with the “fem över halv”-expression (= five over half, for example 10.35 is “five over half eleven”)