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Wonderful West Indies: the Caribbean with Explora Journeys

Destination Reviews

What better way to escape the cold, wet weather at the start of a new year, than with a winter cruise to somewhere warm, dry, and sunny? That's exactly what my husband, James, and I did with Explora Journeys in February with a cruise to the Caribbean on Explora I. Explora I took us on a journey to the Arcadian Antilles for 10 days, roundtrip from Barbados, and at that time of year, it was extremely good for the soul!

Whenever you're travelling long-haul, we always recommend booking at least a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay to allow for any flight delays and time to adjust from jet lag before embarkation, and that's exactly what we did, staying at the very lovely Accra Beach Hotel and Spa in Christ Church.

Many hotels along the south coast of Barbados provide easy access to the idyllic white-sand beaches and waterfront boardwalk, where you can stroll between Hastings and Rockley on the look out for turtles, sandpipers, and crabs. If you plan to stay for longer in Barbados, there are elegant, all-inclusive resorts along the west coast, and you can spend your time snorkelling with turtles among shipwrecks, enjoying a relaxing catamaran cruise, sampling the local tipple in the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, soaking up the culture in Oistins energetic fish Friday market or learning about the history in an island tour.


Bridgetown Harbour

After a smooth but sweaty embarkation in Bridgetown, our first port of call was to the picturesque town of Soufriere, St Lucia. Cradled between the towering Pitons, Soufriere is the basecamp to navigate the lush jungles with a hike along the Tet Paul Nature Trail, which is what we did (it's not for the faint-hearted, as it certainly gets the heart pumping and your lungs contracting, but it's entirely worth the breathtaking view out over Grand Piton at the top).

There's options to cool off under the rippling waterfalls, bath in the sulphur springs, experience an adrenaline-filled zip line through banyan trees or take a leisurely stroll around a cocoa plantation.

 the Caribbean with Explora Journeys

Soufriere, St Lucia

A much-needed day at sea followed, before arriving at the fertile island of St Kitts and docking at the one-stop shopping port of Basseterre (great for all souvenirs).

Formed by volcanoes, the St Kitts agriculture - particularly the old sugar cane fields - can be viewed from the relaxing scenic railway journey around the island, or on an adventurous quad biking excursion through the hills and local villages like we chose. For a more sensual encounter, try your hand at a cooking class, arts and crafts workshops or fabric making afternoon, to fly home with even more unique mementos.

Caribbean with Explora Journeys

Pool on Explora I

Our overnight stay in Gustavia provided us with the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with this St Tropez-style port. Bustling with sailing boats and super yachts, all moored to enjoy the finer things in life such as St Barts high-end fashion boutiques and five star restaurants, it's certainly a cosmopolitan paradise.

Shell Beach is a short walk from the cruise terminal should you wish to unwind amid the gentle waves of this picture-perfect shore and collect the delicate shells like we did, or venture afield for snorkelling and scuba diving, visit the salt ponds of La Tourmente or enjoy a boat trip to other secluded beaches.

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Gustavia, St Barths

Another bucket-list Caribbean Island we called into was Dominica. Windy weather cancelled our snorkelling opportunity at Champagne Reef, but we docked in at the bustling city of Roseau and were met by a local tour company with whom we booked a private car to take us to the cascading Trafalgar Falls, home to a sulphur spring (which certainly lived up to its unpleasant-smelling name!), small botanical gardens and a lovely lookout point for a panoramic shot of the entire capital.

Dominica's UNESCO Morne Trois Pintons National Park enables you to see rare flora and fauna; perhaps take a tranquil, wooden boat ride along the Indian River to see birds and wildlife or opt for some true Caribbean soul food such as Callaloo soup or a spiced rum cocktail.

Caribbean with Explora Journeys

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

It was a day at the beach for us in Martinique - but not just any old beach. We were whisked away from Fort-de-France to the beauty that is Carbet Beach. Famed for its volcanic black sands, we lazed away watching two Jurassic-looking pelicans glide around and dive for their fish supper and floated in the salty sea before indulging in a finger-licking beachfront cook-up of fried salt fish, chicken spring rolls and vegetable samosas, all washed down with a large Banks for him and punch-packed rum cocktail for me - yum!

The capital of Martinique bustles with colourful markets, restaurants, and lively streets - all great as a pre and/or post-cruise stay for cruises that start and/or finish here; but catamaran cruises, rum distilleries, botanical gardens, scuba diving and trips to emerald coves between the mountains can also be enjoyed here.


Anse Mitan, Martinique

Our last port of call - but certainly not the least! 13 years ago, James and I met for the first time on the beautiful spice island of Grenada on one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Grand Anse. We headed straight there by taxi from St George's and took a wonderful trip down memory lane. We couldn't forget how white the sand was and how turquoise the sea is here; it really is beautiful (and I'm not being biased). After an infamous Carib and a fresh coconut to celebrate, we headed back to the hub of St George's (having just celebrated 50 years of independence from the UK) to collect some nutmeg, cinnamon, sorrel syrup, and a bottle of Clarkes Court to take home with us from the local market.

Having spent a week in Grenada all those years ago, we'd explored in-depth and so we know that there is so much to see and do on this lush island. Venture into its jungle-like interior to visit a variety of spice plantations, hike to Annandale or Seven Sisters falls, visit the tranquil lake of Grand Etang for a culinary extravaganza, tube along the mighty Balthazar River or dive underwater to view the splendid reefs and marine life.


St George's, Grenada

Whichever itinerary you choose in the Caribbean, there really is something for everyone. Its diverse culture, historic heritage, stunning beaches, extraordinary marine life, idyllic vistas, tasty creole delicacies and powerful spiced rum, make it the perfect destination to escape to in winter and will leave you, like us, with memories to last a lifetime.

Meet the author

Hayley is a Cruise Consultant at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for 7 years and in travel for over 9 years. Most recently she's cruised on Seabourn and has also sailed with Windstar, Hebridean Island Cruises, Ponant, Royal Caribbean, Silversea, SeaDream, Regent, Uniworld, Scenic, AmaWaterways and Tauck. Her favourite destination is South Africa however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords, Rhine, Main & Moselle, Danube, Southern Africa, North Africa, Indonesia, Australia, Arctic and Svalbard. When she’s not travelling she loves watching football, supporting her favourite team, Newcastle!

More about Hayley

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