Every year my family and I take a cruise ship from Miami, Florida around the many islands of the Caribbean. My family is Afro-Caribbean, and we feel very strongly about our roots in the islands. Traveling with young members and aging great-grandparents of the family, it is always nice that there’s something for everyone to enjoy during our travels. By ship, we’ve visited St. Kitts, Bermuda, Barbados, St.Thomas, and St. Croix. Every island has their own unique character, and I enjoyed seeing them all.
We set out with 30 people, a large party of my immediate family and distant cousins. Royal Caribbean has been our favorite cruise line, and over the years I’ve come to know their ships well. From the minigolf course to the solarium, Royal Caribbean ships have become like a second home to me. We boarded in Miami, Florida on a steamy afternoon. The process was slow and crowded, but eventually we found our way into our suites. The kids were excited to see dolphins from the balcony of their rooms. We sailed off, admiring the vastness of the ocean and the beautiful autumn sky.
Aboard the ship we were kept well-fed and entertained. The little kids had their own club to attend, and every day they got to meet up with other children their own age and, with a supervisor, explore the ship’s activities. There was a game room, and arcade, live music, 3 pools, 4 hot tubs, free ice cream every day, and all the food you could eat. We spent more time eating than anything else. As we pulled into the first stop, I could see the older family members’ look of nostalgia.
One of the stops on our cruise was Barbados. Barbados holds a lot of meaning for me because it is where my family originates from. My grandmother felt so at home during our visit, always pointing out places she and her cousins used to go to, or beaches they would swim at. The entire island seemed inviting. I may be biased, but there are no beaches like those in Barbados. White sand and water so clear you can see the fish swimming around you. For watersports, visitors should check out Silver Sands Beach on the south side of the island. It is known as a world-class destination for windsurfing and kite-surfing. For huge waves and gorgeous views, see Crane Beach. The beach is surrounded by palm trees, with chairs and an umbrella for those looking to relax. We spent most of our time in Barbados swimming and drinking smoothies. The more adventurous of our party visited the naturally formed Harrison’s Cave, a subterranean cave accessible by a tram ride. There is also the Flower Forest, formerly a sugar plantation, a 50-acre garden park with beautiful tropical trees. Barbados is a great place to take in the sights, lay around in the sun, and enjoy a peaceful vacation.
Another place with a lot of meaning for my family, Bermuda is a British Island territory with pink sand beaches. My cousins informed me that the famous Horseshoe Bay, south of the island, is where parts of my family used to hold get-togethers and parties. The beach has pink-white sand and clear blue waters, and is the perfect spot to relax in the sun. We spent some time dining at a vendor near the beach. My younger cousins loved visiting the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo (441/293-4014). There they got the chance to see flamingos and sea turtles, and watch as colorful fish swam around in their tanks.
Nothing was more striking about St. Kitts than its volcano, Mount Liamuiga. Formerly named Mount Misery, the 3,792-foot volcano forms the western part of the island, its peak the highest point, shadowing all of St. Kitts. From its summit you can see neighboring islands. We drove around the volcano, hoping to get pictures of its massive size. St. Kitts beaches have been changed from the ash of the volcano, and in places like South Friars Beach, you can expect to see beautiful black sand along the shores. We found a nice spot to sit on the beach and watched as the sun reflected off the dark colored sand.
Residents of the United States do not need a passport to visit the Virgin Islands, and it is well worth the trip for beach lovers. Consisting of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and many other smaller islands, the Virgin Islands are a large territory of 133 square-miles. We barely had enough time to see everything on the islands in our short trip, so if you decide to go, give yourself time to see all the different Virgin Islands have to offer.
In St. Croix, the easternmost place in the United States, there are many things to do and see. There’s Buck Island, a 176-acre underwater national monument surrounded by a coral reef. This is a must see place for snorkelers. St. Croix is also home to the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute (678/999-2143). There you can see more than a hundred acres of green hills and valleys, take a course in organic farming, or enjoy a dinner with locally grown organic ingredients. St. Croix boasts two bioluminescent bays, one being the famous Salt River Bay, a national historic park and ecological reserve. As for beaches, St. Croix has many to choose from.
Although only 32 square-miles in size, St. Thomas is a great place for the whole family. There’s more to do than learn about the rich history or go to the beach. St. Thomas is a hub of shopping, sightseeing, water sports, and nightlife. During the day, kids can enjoy snorkeling and petting animals at Coral World. History buffs can visit the national landmark and second oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, Fort Christian. After that, there’s the childhood home of one of the most famous French Impressionists, Camille Pissarro, and a trip to the Government House, built around 1860. At night, enjoy live music and hear the sound of the traditional steel drum.
After seeing so much of the islands, it was hard to have to board the ship to head home. Reluctantly, we packed up our things and headed back to Miami.
The beaches, food, and people of the Caribbean are always more than you can hope for, no matter how many times you visit. My family and I cannot wait for next summer, so we can spend more time together, lazing around on a beach in the Caribbean.
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