Just Add Land

Be­fore or af­ter set­ting sail, stretch your stay on th­ese Caribbean is­lands.

Porthole Cruise Magazine - - Contents - BY JANET GROENE


cul­tures, three is­lands stand out: Stay in Bar­ba­dos to go Bri­tish, San Juan for Old Spain, or Sint Maarten/St. Martin for a touch of Dutch with din­ner in France. Be­sides serv­ing as gate­ways to the unique de­lights of a Caribbean cruise, all three em­barka­tion ports are des­ti­na­tions worth dis­cov­er­ing. So if time al­lows be­fore or af­ter your next cruise to the re­gion, take some ex­tra time to dis­cover the unique mélange that each is­land of­fers.

BAR­BA­DOS: LIT­TLE ENG­LAND _ The dew­drop­shaped is­land is only 21 miles long, but its 11 parishes of­fer an ex­ten­sive menu of ac­tiv­i­ties. Start by visit­ing a place of wor­ship. His­toric par­ish churches such as St. Michael’s Cathe­dral ( built in 1784 on a site con­se­crated in 1665), St. James Par­ish Church (1627), and Nidhe Is­rael Sy­n­a­gogue ( 1654) pro­vide a deep sense of this is­land’s her­itage.

The sec­ond re­li­gion on Bar­ba­dos is sports. Join lo­cals at a cricket match, track meet, auto race, or horse race. Play golf in sea breezes and tropic green­ery. Go sailing, surf­ing, pad­dle­board­ing, sport­fish­ing, snor­kel­ing, and reef or wreck div­ing in the clear­est of wa­ters. Play polo, cro­quet, or tennis in true Bri­tish style.

Come sun­down, head off to a rum shop, the is­land ver­sion of a Bri­tish pub. Per­haps a fes­ti­val will be go­ing on at Queen’s Park that will surely in­clude a tuk band made up of drums, tri­an­gle, and penny whis­tle mu­si­cians as well as tra­di­tional cos­tumed fig­ures such as Shaggy Bear, the Don­key Man, Mother Sally, and the Stilt­man.

Don’t leave Bridgetown with­out hit­ting the city’s high­lights. Take self­ies with the stately Par­lia­ment Build­ings and the bronze statue of Bri­tish naval hero Ho­ra­tio Nel­son, which was erected decades ear­lier than the fa­mous Nel­son land­mark at Lon­don’s Trafal­gar Square. Shop for lo­cal pot­tery and rum cakes, or ex­plore the is­land’s art and his­tory mu­se­ums, which are among the best in the Caribbean. Buses of­fer ex­cel­lent ser­vice is­land-wide and de­part Bridgetown on the hour for a 50-minute ride to the in­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous An­dromeda Botanic Gar­dens.

Ac­com­mo­da­tions are many and var­ied, from five-star lux­ury re­sorts to Bri­tish­style bed-and-break­fasts to self-cater­ing apart­ments.

SAN JUAN: UN­CLE SAM EN ES­PAÑOL _ Pic­ture your­self in sun­baked Seville, cen­turies ago. The lan­guage, architecture, sights, and sounds are Span­ish, yet you’re on Amer­i­can soil in a time warp of nar­row streets, an­cient build­ings, and tree-shaded plazas. This is Old San Juan, a part and heart of Puerto Rico that many vis­i­tors never want to leave.

If you do want to ven­ture “out on the is­land” as lo­cals say, there is much more. Hike the misty heights of El Yunque Na­tional For­est, a 29,000-acre rain­for­est that’s home to hun­dreds of animal and plant species, some of which are found only here. Go deep into the won­drous Rio Ca­muy caves, the third largest un­der­ground cave sys­tem in the world. Or find brown-sugar beaches in any di­rec­tion and find your per­fect slice of heaven.

More wa­ter-based ad­ven­tures await such as a night­time kayak tour in the iri­des­cent

Clock­wise from above: St. James Par­ish Church in Bar­ba­dos, an aerial view of Old San Juan, El Yunque Na­tional For­est, a re­fresh­ing Bar­ba­dos drink

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