If you consult a map of the Caribbean you can trace an arc of islands stretching from Hispaniola and Puerto Rico down to Trinidad just off the coast of South America. Along that arc are several dozen islands but one, Barbados, sits all alone one hundred miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Its East and Southeast coast catch the waves crossing the Atlantic making for a rugged coast and great surfing. The West coast of the island faces the calmer Caribbean Sea with long stretches of flat beach and calmer water.
Along that rugged Southeast coast of Barbados in Saint Philips Parish is a bay with a great beach. It’s called Crane Bay and the beach sits under a cliff where the rolling countryside drops off forty feet to sea level. History says Crane Beach gets its name from a crane that was installed at the top of the cliff to lift cargo up from the beach where it had been off-loaded from boats. While the neighborhood is rural and mostly residential there are a number of large estates and a resort that sit along a mile of this rugged coast.
This resort is rated one of the best in Barbados and maybe the entire Caribbean. It’s the oldest operating hotel in the Caribbean, open since 1887, The Crane Resort overlooks the Crane Beach – one of the top 10 beaches in the world and named the “Best Beach in the Caribbean” by USA Today’s 10 Best Readers Choice. Located on Barbados’ beautiful South East coast, The Crane marries its historic old-world charm, with the 21st century amenities and services expected by today’s upscale travelers. After Crane Beach itself, the resorts biggest asset is its courteous, and dedicated staff who are always ready to help in any way.
If you’re looking to get away from it all and do it in style The Crane Resort fits the bill. Wether the location is an advantage or not depends on what your looking for as it is a bit out of the way, being far from town and away from other hotels and resort beaches. In addition to world class scenery, great service and peace and quiet it is also only 10 minutes from Barbados International Airport.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could move tropical seas, palm trees and great beaches to Northern Europe? It’s not going to happen, but the next best thing is to move the Netherlands into the Caribbean. Welcome to Curaçao.
There are a number of European influenced islands in the Caribbean but no place expresses it as well as this little Dutch island. While Aruba has succumbed to run-away Americanization you can still stroll the streets of Willemstad, sit in a café for a Cappuccino or stop in a small bistro for lunch and it isn’t hard to think you are in Amsterdam. Add to that the great beaches and resorts, balmy weather and turquoise seas and you have Curacao.
Where Your Ship Docks
Willemstad is the activity center of Curacao and most ships will tie up very near the center of town. Located at the dock is a hotel area with a shopping and restaurant area. A short stroll along the water brings you to the unique Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. On the other side of this floating bridge is the downtown area of Willemstad. There are also public facilities near the dock.
Curacao is a larger island and while there are taxis available they tend to be pricey. Public transportation is sparse and difficult to make use of. If you really want to go out and see this charming island a tour or renting a car is probably your best bet.
Curacao while a major Caribbean destination and many places will accept U.S. Dollars it is usually limited to smaller purchases. The Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG, locally referred to as NAF, an abbreviation of the Netherlands Antillean Florin) is the official currency of Curaçao. It is benchmarked to the US dollar at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAFl. 1.77. Most credit cards are welcome and there are ATM’s available.
Curaçao has seen explosive growth in upscale resorts and residential neighborhoods in recent decades but the old world charm has remained intact. Over a period of time there was a huge migration of Dutch retirees, much to the consternation of the locals, and that drove up the cost of living, but it didn’t negatively impact the atmosphere of the island.
In the center of Willemstad is a channel that is part of St. Anna Bay and the primary way of getting across is the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. The bridge opens by breaking its connection on one side and an outboard motor pushes it out of the channel anchored by a hinge at the other end. Fun to watch and fun to ride.
On the northwest side of town is a neighborhood that has been restored and turned into a resort, visitor center and museum known as the Museum Kurá Hulanda & Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa. Where you can walk cobblestone streets and visit cafes and shops. There is also a floating market in town where boats come over from Venezuela, only 70 miles away, to sell produce (current conditions in Venezuela have probably eliminated this business). The island also boasts the Curacao Sea Aquarium and Dolphin Academy Curacao which is worth a visit.
If you like to dive, snorkel or just relax on the beach, you have come to the right place but you may have to get a ways out of Willemstad. There are dive shops everywhere and great resorts around every turn. The language is Papiamentu which is a blending of Dutch, Spanish and local Indian. Greetings are Bon dia – Good morning. Bon tardi – Good Afternoon. Bon nochi – Good Evening/Good Night and Danki – Thank you, Di nada – Your welcome.
At 84 square miles, St. Croix is the largest island in the Virgin Island group and significantly more rural than the others. The island features a rain forest in its western interior, an arid climate in the east along with two historic towns.
The island was a possession of Denmark until the early nineteenth century and boasts a deepwater port at the west-end town of Frederiksted. The port was defended by Fort Fredirek as far back as the mid eighteenth century. A second deepwater industrial port was developed on the south coast in the nineteenth century. The island, along with St. Thomas and St. John was bought by the United States in the early nineteenth century. That means you don’t need a passport to visit and best of all you can bring back to the United States five liters of liquor duty free.
Where Your Ship Docks
The more popular destination town on St. Croix is Christiansted but it sits inside a protective coral reef with no good anchorage or pier. Cruise ships will dock on the far west end of the island at the Frederiksted pier. The island and town are developing the area around the pier and historic customs house and there are public facilities available. There is no terminal or facilities on the pier.
Other than taking a tour the best way to see the island is to rent a car. Prices are reasonable but arranging a car can be an issue. On our most recent trip we had reserved a car through Avis which indicated they had an office in Frederiksted – they didn’t and we wasted an hour figuring this out and getting them to bring us a car from the airport. So be caustious in reserving a car. Driving is on the left side of the road which can be awkward because most of the vehicles come from the American market and have the steering column on the left. Taxis are available but they are expensive but you can negotiate a tour with the drivers. There is also limited bus service and “taxi buses” which have dedicated routes and a flat fare. The system is a bit freeform and isn’t something a visitor can rely on.
The U.S. Virgin Islands use the U.S. Dollar but credit cards and debit cards are welcome.
Frederiksted is a town that seems to always be redeveloping starting tomorrow. For decades it has been taking two steps forward and one step backwards – sometime three steps backward. It is a historic town with a colonial fortification and customs house. There is a small strip of beach in town but the nearest good beach is Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately(?), to protect the sea turtle nests the beach is closed between April and September.
As mentioned already, to really see the island you should rent a car. Christiansted is about twenty five miles from Frederiksted and there are some glorious beaches scattered around St. Croix. Christiansted to us, represents the quintessential tropical waterfront. It is located on the north central coast. The waterfront is fringed with a boardwalk and small boat docks, protected by a natural reef and a close-in small island occupied by a hotel. The harbor features sailboats at anchor, crystal clear water and a number of small hotels and restaurants along the boardwalk. Running up from the waterfront is a colonial era town where the stone and brick buildings include colonnades protecting the sidewalks from the frequent tropical rainstorms. Most of these buildings feature galleries, shops and restaurants along with a couple of small hotels. Just to the east on the waterfront is the old Fort Christiansvaern operated by the U.S. Park Service. The small island in the harbor is Protestant Cay and features the Hotel on the Cay which is serviced by hotel launches. Its beaches are open to the public but there is a small fee to take the launch from town.
Another area, which we love for its beaches and good snorkeling is Davis Bay. Located along the western north coast it has always been pretty isolated and primitive but the beaches are some of the best on the island. Some thirty years ago the Rock Resort people built an exclusive resort above Davis Bay called the Carambola Resort but a combination of things, including a storm named Hugo, caused the venture to fail. Today it is alive again as the exclusive Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Resort and, based on location alone, it is worth visiting.
Up in the rain forest is a bar with a pig and back in day you were expected to buy the pig a beer by simply tossing a can into the pen. The pig would pick up the can, raise its head, crush the can and drink. If you got there too late (or early depending on perspective), the pig was passed out drunk. I never actually knew the places name but apparently it is the Montpellier Domino Club and I would bet that that pig is long gone. It has been replaced we’re told by a couple of pigs and now seems to be a “must do” tourist destination.
If you are a skin or scuba diver, or just a novice swimmer, one real “must do” on St. Croix is to visit the underwater National Park at Buck Island where the whole island, not just the reef, is the park. Located 1.5 miles off the northeast coast, there are a number of boat tours from Christiansted out to the area and the reef is spectacular. There is also an underwater trail on the eastern tip. If you can convince yourself to take this trip and put on a face mask you will never forget it.
A good driving circuit is to drive out Centerline Road where you should visit the Estate Whim Museum, the only surviving plantation great house in the Virgin Islands. Go on into Christiansted for lunch and a walk around the historic district and the waterfront. Skirt along the northwest coast from Salt River a stop at Davis Bay, the scenery is spectacular. On your return to Frederiksted drive through the rain forest on Mahogany Road with a stop off for a beer with the pig if you are so inclined.
The Barbados Cruise Port is a popular cruise port of call on southern Caribbean itineraries.
General– Barbados is in the Lesser Antilles, the eastern most island in the Caribbean. It is an independent British Commonwealth nation, bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Caribbean Sea.
Where You’re Docked– At Barbados cruise port cruise ships dock at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal and free shuttles take passengers from the ships pier to the terminal building. There are lots of shops inside the terminal and WiFi is available but not free. A walkway into Bridgetown runs along the waterfront. The distance into town center is approximately two miles. Most stores are open during the week but close at noon on Saturday and are not open on Sunday.
Transportation– There are lots of taxies available from the Barbados cruise port area. The fares are regulated by the government but it is still important to agree on a price before the trip. The Georgetown Bus Terminal is located two blocks outside the port area, behind Pelican Village. Exact fares must be paid for bus rides and tokens can be purchased at the bus terminal. Rental cars are available but the rates are fairly steep and you will have to pay for a Barbados tourist driving license. Driving is on the left side of the road and, once you leave the city areas, many roads do not have name signs
The official currency is the Barbados dollar (BBD) but US dollars (not coins) are widely accepted. The current exchange rate is US $1.00 = BBD $2.00.
There are many beautiful beaches in Barbados but the easiest one to get to is Boatyard Beach on Carlisle Bay. It is about a 20 minute walk from the terminal or an inexpensive taxi ride. A fee of $20.00 is charged to use the facilities which includes a beach chair, shared umbrella, one cocktail, WIFI and free transport back to the ship.
Mount Gay Rum Distillery (web site) in Brandons, St. Michaels offers tours Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturday. The current fee is $20.00 which includes a presentation on the rum’s history and a tasting. Tickets can be booked online.
Harrison’s Cave (web site) in St. Thomas is a network of caves, waterfalls, lakes and streams approximately 170 feet below ground. Tours are offered daily for a fee. The area above ground is a good place to spot green monkeys.
Earthworks Pottery (web site) is located mid island in St. Thomas Parish. It is an opportunity to view local potters at work and purchase some hand made souvenirs. Closed Sunday.
George Washington House in Bush Hill welcomes visitors Monday through Saturday. It is the only place outside the United States that George Washington ever visited.
Bathsheba on the rugged Atlantic coast (eastern shore) is a great place to see surfers and enjoy a lunch at one of the local restaurants.
Black Pearl Party Cruises (web site) provides a 4 hour trip on the Jolly Roger which includes a buffet lunch, swimming, snorkeling, dancing and unlimited house drinks. The price is just under $90.00 with discounts for online booking and groups.
IMPORTANT – Do not wear camouflage clothing as it is illegal in Barbados; Only smoke in designated areas; Avoid touching or standing under the big shady Manshineel Trees as they are poisonous. Most of these trees are marked in red or banded in red.
Cozumel is a port of call and is actually an island on the southeast coast of Mexico with the port city being San Miguel de Cozumel. It is part of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and a very popular cruise stop on most western Caribbean itineraries. Its real claim to fame are the beaches and the diving sites but it is also a good place for shopping as well.
Where Your Ship Docks
Terminal de Cruceros or Cruise Ship Terminal is the major location for cruise ships but there is another major terminal located in the town proper. With this destination being so popular there is a possibility that your ship could dock at either location.
The Terminal de Cruceros is a well developed area with excellent facilities, two shopping villages, a number of bars (the infamous Mini Senior Frog’s and Three Amigos) and a number of good restaurants. It is about four kilometers into downtown San Miguel. It is also right next to a remarkably good snorkeling area right at the “beach”.
The other cruise docking pier is central to San Miguel and an easy walk to the main shops, restaurants and the original Senior Frog’s.
If you are looking to get to locations within a few miles of the pier the best choice is a taxi. They are plentiful and moderately priced. Just make sure you settle on a fare before heading out. If your goal is to do some diving or serious snorkeling the recommendation is to book with a tour operator of which there are a number right at the pier and they usually include transportation. Taxi drivers also will offer a fixed price tour of the island and most people we have spoken with have been happy having taken this option. There are also numerous tours you can book with your ship.
The local currency is the Mexican peso ($1 about 2 pesos) but U.S. Dollars are commonly accepted. One word of caution – this is a location where liberating tourists from their money is a popular past time. Be cautious of ATM’s, pay phones and money changers. ATM fees can be very high and pay phones that take credit cards cannot be trusted.
Shopping – Both at the terminal and in town there are a number of bargains to be found. Mexico is famous for silver, onyx and pottery and often the prices are too good to pass up. Two items that are always a good deal are vanilla and tequila. In shopping for vanilla don’t be tempted by those large, cheap bottles of vanilla available in many gift shops. They may not contain real vanilla extract, and sometimes may contain something that could hurt you. That “something” is coumarin, an extract of the tonka bean that imparts an intense vanilla aroma and thus makes it smell like the real thing. Coumarin was banned as food additive in the U.S. in 1940 because of moderate toxicity. Pay attention and make sure you know what you are getting.
One good recommendation is a visit to a beach and one popular choice is Chankanaab. The cruise ships will offer tours including beach trips and snorkeling but if you are looking for a day at the beach our recommendation is to take a taxi to Chankanaab Beach Park and pay the park admission. You’ll save a lot of money over the tour cost and can go and return when you want. It’s not far and there are usually taxis waiting at the park to take you back to the ship. There is a beach bar, a couple of food options, snorkeling and beach chair rentals and the water is great. To get out to the better reefs it’s a bit of a swim though.
It started as a one-off for our own use and morphed into gifts for family and friends. Now our travel push pin maps have advanced to the level of a hobby. A local gift shop has added a display and personalized order form and we have just started selling on Etsy.
Our travel maps are printed 13″x19″ on heavy weight matte stock with personalization included.
Always trying to improve the look, I have now married a satellite composite image of the earth at night with my world map design. It is now available on the Etsy page.
We’ve Created Beautiful Pin Maps To Record Your Travels available through our Etsy store. VISIT NOW
A few years ago we printed, mounted and framed a world map and added pins to designate the places we had visited. As we continued to travel, we added more pins. Over time, we have had a number of friends and family members admire our map and ask for maps of their own, which we were glad to give as gifts. With much encouragement over the past couple of months, we have designed our own original maps and hope to make them available for sale.
After you place your order we customize and print each map and ship in about five working days via the USPS. The map is printed on heavy cover stock and is ready for framing. Detailed instructions are included for installing in ready-made, inexpensive frames or you can have it custom mounted and framed.
The World Map
Proudly display and pin your world travels while keeping track of your adventures and future plans. Our gorgeous personalized maps are a beautiful addition to your home and are a great conversation piece.
This 13″ x 19″ exclusive original design map is available in two color schemes and is printed on premium cover stock. Included are a number of custom options (see ordering information).
Pick Your Map and Select Customizations Below
Select a banner .
Add a custom printed name .
Ships promptly in a mailing tube and comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing with do-it-yourself instructions. Make use of included colored pins to indicate visits to Countries, Cities and National Parks. The design shows over 200 cities along with major national parks, seas and oceans.
Available soon, framed and ready to hang.
The United States Map
Great to get your children interested in geography and tracking their adventures or remembering family vacation trips. Makes a beautiful personalized gift and is designed with children in mind as a fun, in-home, learning tool.
This 13″ x 19″original design map is printed on heavy premium cover stock and includes a number of customization options.
Select Customizations Below
Choose a banner
Add a custom printed name
Comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing along with do-it-yourself instructions. Select pin colors to indicate visits to National Parks, States and Cities.V
This map is designed over a topographic image with all 50 states outlined and their names in bright red. Printed with over 200 U.S. cities along with major National Parks.