Traveling Cleverly Since 2001

on Monday, March 28, 2011 | 1 comments
It's been almost two months since we left for our cruise. It feels like five months. Turns out a toddler (plus a full time job) keeps a person busy. We don't have any really exotic trips on the horizon, just an upcoming weekend on Hilton Head Island in SC and another weeklong trip to the same island in July. Hilton Head has become our default beach vacation when we don't want to travel far. While the beaches leave something to be desired for this Caribbean-loving girl, the restaurants, biking and shopping really can't be beat. Plus, we have good friends who live there, so it's kind of like going home.

We are also redoing our deck. We're expanding the deck, redoing the boards, relocating and rebuilding the stairs, and then covering the whole 14 x 20 space. Dave demolished our deck yesterday, except for the support boards. A few days of manual labor will be good for him. Pictures coming soon on the deck project. It's a larger project than we'd anticipated, but we're excited about the results.
on Thursday, March 3, 2011 | 0 comments

Well, here we are... our final port. Several months before we left for the cruise, I'd started researching Tobago to determine what to do in our short time on-island. I truly don't know a ton about Tobago, as it's not a destination easily reached from the U.S. I tossed around the idea of renting a car, stopping by Pigeon Point and then just seeing what the island had to offer. In the end, we realized we didn't have a single port day "on the water," so we opted to sign up for a catamaran cruise with Island Girl. Again, this excursion is not found through the cruise line. I believe Celebrity is dropping Tobago as a port after this year. It's really too bad; I personally found the island worthwhile and would love to return for an extended visit.

Tobago is part of the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. This island nation is the furthest point south in the Caribbean, and Trinidad sits literally right on top of South America. These islands have a rich culture; a mix of Afro-Caribbean, Indian and South American descended residents makes for quite the melting pot. Tobago is the much sleepier, much smaller cousin of Trinidad.

The port of Scarborough definitely left a lot to be desired. It's a port, plain and simple. After getting off the ship, we met up with a group headed to Island Girl. We all boarded a mini-bus and took a 20-30 minute ride to Mt. Irvine Bay, where we could see Island Girl waiting. We quickly gave our shoes to the crew, jumped in the dinghy and found ourselves comfortably situated on the u-shaped benches near the front of the cat. The 43-foot cat holds around 25 people, and I believe we had a full house that day; nevermind, it didn't seem crowded to us.

Here is a photo looking back towards Mt. Irvine from aboard Island Girl:

As the cruise got underway, it quickly (as in, within several minutes) became obvious this was not destined to be the leisurely, smooth pleasure cruise many are used to. The waters around Tobago are not always placid; I was prepared for this. Fortunately, I am not afflicted with sea-sickness. I cannot say the same for others and I believe many were a tad green around the gills during our trip, including Dave from time to time. I admit, I was a tad worried initially, but after around 10 minutes, I became used to the motion and had no further worries.

As we headed out, we made the acquaintance of a lovely couple from England - hi D and J if you're reading! Most of the land-based visitors to Tobago are from Europe, England in particular. We talked to D and J on and off all day and are still in touch. It's great to meet people on vacation; we've met some really interesting and lovely people this way.

As we sailed up the coast of Tobago, the occasional development gave way to a more rural landscape. Tobago has natural beauty in abundance. As you get further from the developed areas, the water becomes an amazing deep aqua color and the black cliffs and emerald green trees give way to gorgeous slivers of beach, many accessible only by boat. It may be a wild ride, but for a snorkeler or diver, I believe the returns are worth it.

After about an hour to ninety minutes of salt-spraying fun, we arrived at our first stop: Cotton Bay. This is a lovely, small beach only accessible by boat (unless you're a mountain goat; I believe they could make it down the hill). The beach is golden sand streaked with black. It is truly a gorgeous cove. There is some better-than-average snorkeling just off the beach, and Dave and I jumped in and swam around after a bit.

Here are some pictures of Cotton Bay:

As you can tell, the weather began to turn a bit as we anchored off Cotton Bay. The clouds thickened and we wondered if we were in for rain. If so, the rum punch wouldn't be the only thing flowing. After spending some time ashore, lunch was served. Island Girl puts out a spread that I, for one, found to be absolutely delicious. Grilled fish caught that morning, stewed chicken, rice, hot sauce and a handful of salads were the offerings that day. The stewed chicken was literally the best I've ever tasted. I'd go back on Island Girl just for that chicken, no lie.

After lunch, we swam around in Cotton Bay for a while and then set sail for our second destination, a snorkel spot called Emerald Cove. This is, again, a spot only accessible from the water. This is a small cove with one of the healthiest reefs I've ever seen. I found it to be healthier than the Indians in the BVI, and that's good snorkeling. One interesting contrast between the USVI/BVI and Tobago... same fish, but the Tobago fish were enormous. Huge, mature sergeant majors, parrotfish, etc. populated the waters all around. I truly wish I'd had an underwater camera to get some shots.

As the afternoon wore on, our sunny day gave way to gray skies and rain. This meant that the visibility at Emerald Cove wasn't as good as it would have been if the sun was out, but the snorkeling was impressive nonetheless. After this stop, it was time to begin our long sail back. Though the seas were large, the wind was noticeably absent. I laid on one of the nets at the front of the cat and took a nap. With no sunburn to worry about because the skies were gray and 80 degree temps, I was content. After his stomach settled, Dave joined me on the net and we relaxed on the way back.

As we neared Mt. Irvine Bay, I began to hear rumblings from behind me. Our captain had located a large pod of dolphin, and as we neared, the dolphins began to jump and play right at the front of the cat, literally right under Dave and I. We followed the dolphins around for quite some time, until they got bored of us. It was a nice treat to end our final port day.

As we neared Mt. Irvine Bay, the skies opened up, and I mean poured in the way it only does in the Caribbean. We were immediately drenched. As we all settled our bills, we hoped the rain would abate, but no such luck. We boarded a wet dinghy is pouring rain and quickly returned to Mt. Irvine Bay. We bid farewell to our new friends and returned to the ship.

As we pulled away from Tobago (with a glass of Veuve from yesterday in hand), I marveled at the beautiful homes hugging the coast and realized I want to return, if only to eat that stewed chicken. Oh yes, and the snorkeling. And the roti. And the Indian food. I may be a tad food-obsessed.


I'll post a final wrap-up installment of our sea day, our return to San Juan and some additional photos of the cabin. I was truly sad for our port days to end. I loved the port-intensive itinerary and frankly, will only do cruises in the future with these types of itineraries.