Penguin Island, Antarctica 2008

Monday, March 28, 2011

SATURDAY, MARCH 19 - St John, Antigua

We are up at the normal time and head to breakfast, but it is rally slow this morning. They are having trivia at 10:30AM since we have a port this afternoon. Dick’s team wins!

At 11AM we go to the Town Hall Meeting hosted by Mark Conway, who got on in Barbados. He first talks about what he sees as the future for Regent and how the company is now structured.  He then takes some question from the floor. From what we hear from Mark and then the passengers, there is a big disconnect in what the management sees for the future and what the past passengers like and want. Regent, like all companies must make money and grow and they must do what is necessary to do that...they have a lot of beds to fill. Guess we will see how it all plays out in the next few years.

We go for an early lunch in La Veranda and back to the room to get the back pack ready to go ashore. We  dock in Antigua at about 12:30AM. It is a pretty entry with a nice little harbor and colorful buildings...lots of tropical color!
Most all the tours are leaving at the same time or with in 15 minutes of each other. They are all meeting on shore and it is a mad house trying to get off! We are to meet our tour at bus #6 on shore and with the crowd and long walk on the pier it takes 15 minutes to get there! It turns out to be a small, 20-passenger bus. When we finally get to our bus, the guide has to expel a couple who are in our assigned seats. The man is one of those who has thought he was "entitled" the whole trip and he gets rather upset because he wanted seats in the front.  Actually, the guide offers him her single seat and the single in front of it, but he and his wife want to sit together so they storm off in a huff with the guide running after them. One of the supervisors comes over and takes the couple to another bus that hasn’t loaded yet. As we have said before there are several really rude people on the ship.

They have crammed our bus full. We did not count, but the bus must hold 20 people if not more with some on little fold down seats that fill the aisle. Our guide, a heavy set, black lady with a voice that would peel paint does not need a microphone! As with most tour guides, she feels obligated to tell us all the details about the island; some of which are not too interesting or memorable. She starts off with a question and answer deal giving out three travel books on the island to people who answer the question right. Carolyn answers the one about the the original economic mainstay, sugar cane, and gets one ot the books.

Basically, we get a windshield, drive-by tour of the island. The main highlights of the tour are the stops at the National Park Museum for an audio-visual historic recap of the island and a nice view,
Shirley Heights and
the Block House Fort.
These stop are at three of the 40 forts built by the English to protect the island. Our last stop is at Nelson’s Dockyard.
The three  historical, English fortifications date to the 1700's, as does Nelson’s Dockyard. This is where the English had their major dockyard in the Caribbean. At one time, we are told, it was commanded by Lord Admiral Horacio Nelson. Dick knows he served in the area but does not remember him commanding a dockyard. That would have been lowly duty and reserved for an officer incapable of going to sea.

We find the views from the hilltop fortification very nice and the cool trade winds are pleasant and most welcome. The water is that beautiful Caribbean blue.
We see several high-end resorts along beautiful beaches. This, combined with our positive impression of the island makes us think that it is worth a return, extended visit. At the Dockyard we have some free time to explore the restored buildings, some of which have nice shops.
We are also given a ticket for a free drink at the hotel. The hotel has been nicely restored and might be worth a return stay.
The Rum Punch is certainly a winner. It is very good and strong! Carolyn spies a bag of local chips, something that looks like Nacho Cheese Doritos, and consumes them. She doesn’t even offer to share with Dick...her junk food level is really LOW! We both find neat T-shirts for ourselves and some really cute ones for the youngest grandsons.

The island people are highly dependent on tourism and know it. There is no graffiti and we do not run across an "entitled" attitude.  Our guide stresses the fact that "you have to work to eat on the island" and we are made to feel most welcome. Antigua may well be included in our next Caribbean vacation; not on a ship!! We head back to the pier and enjoy our peek at life on this island paradise.
Back in town, we spend a little time walking around the small port

before getting on board and getting cleaned up for sail-away and dinner.

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