We woke up this morning around 7.30am and looked out of our portholes to see that the Braemar was already docked up in Castries, its capital. Across the harbour we saw the massive, ugly-looking P & O ship Britannia; in fact it was moored up where we normally have been on previous visits to St. Lucia, but because it was talking up all the space we had to go to the other side of the bay.
After enjoying a good breakfast in the Palms Café, we gathered our stuff together, including our tour tickets, and made our way to the Neptune Lounge to await the call for our tour. We were booked on a half-day excursion called “Made in St. Lucia”, which would give us a tour of the island and a chance to see the local handicrafts as well as a visit to a rum distillery. 😉
Our bus was no.1 driven by Ezra, and our friendly, smiley guide was called Janice. We set off through the Saturday morning traffic past colourful houses and shops, Janice pointing out things of interest to us on the way. Our first stop was at a wood-carving centre, where woods such as light mahogany and balsa wood were carved into intricate sculptures as well as larger items such as headboards and chairs, and household items such as bowls. There were also lots of smaller pieces, including puzzle trinket boxes. We didn’t see anything we wanted to buy though.
The stop at the wood carving centre was punctuated by a complimentary glass of rum punch and a piece of sweet coconut bread. Then it was back on the bus again for the ride to the next place, during which we enjoyed looking at the gorgeous beaches, lush greenery and mountains that make up the island. Several times Ezra stopped the bus to allow us to take photos or browse the many little souvenir and craft stalls that lined the dusty roadsides.
Back on the bus we continued on our way until we came to a fabric workshop, where the cotton fabrics were screen-printed by hand. A guy gave us a demonstration of how the stencils are used with the screens, the paint being pushed through the screens with a squeegee. The layers of the designs are thus built up, with the results being colourful and intricate.
We browsed around the shops selling examples of this craft; household goods such as oven gloves and pot-holders, teatowels and placemats, as well as clothing. The shop was perched on the edge of a cliff, and we could walk around the balcony outside and look over at the restless waves crashing on the rocks and the small beaches below. The roar of the surf was exhilarating.
After 45 minutes or so it was time to continue our tour to our final stop, a rum distillery. 🙂
Inside, we immediately noticed the tantalising smell of molasses and burnt sugar, as the guide explained to us how the rum was produced and the various levels of the distillation process. Pure distillate is colourless (which gives us white rum), but in this case the rums were left to age in wooden casks that had previously held Jack Daniels bourbon (some distilleries use casks that previously contained sherry or port) so this is what gives the final rum its colour.
We then went to the tasting room. There was a large array of different rums and rum liqueurs on offer as well as a supply of small plastic tasting beakers (that held about a tot) and we were just let loose to help ourselves. 🙂
The selection of rums was amazing. There were aged special rums (both white and dark); I liked a smooth-tasting one called Chairman’s Reserve. There were also other rums flavoured with coconut, lime or banana, as well as some delicious creamy liqueurs; one containing coffee and another exquisite concoction containing peanuts, which was so nice I had an extra helping. 😉
After making our selection we went to the shop to purchase them. I decided on a bottle of Chairman’s Reserve and a bottle of the Nuts ‘n’ Rum. But when we went to pay for them with a credit card, the guy told us they weren’t accepting cards today, only cash. But we didn’t have enough cash on us for both bottles of rum; so we reluctantly just had to take the peanut one. 🙁
It was very quiet on the bus ride back to the port; I think we’d all made the most of the free rum tasting. We arrived back on board about 2.00pm, and went straight to the Palms Café for a late lunch. We pondered whether or not to go back ashore again, but as our “shore leave” expired at 4.30pm ready for the five o’clock sailing, we decided we’d just remain on board.
We spent the afternoon just pottering around the ship, sitting in the sunshine and enjoying a (free!) drink or two at the Marquee Pool Bar, and passing the time pleasantly with our fellow passengers.
At 5.00pm we went along to the Neptune Lounge where there was the grand launch of the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines 2018/19 brochure. We have our cruises booked for the remainder of 2017 and two for 2018 already, so we were interested to see what they had for 2019; if we saw something of interest, then we would book it. 🙂
There were a lot of fantastic, really tempting cruises on offer, but as we are limited to those under 21 days (because we work!) unfortunately we weren’t able to book any. So we’ll leave it for a while and wait and see what other cruises we find; we have a couple of years after all!
When we came out of the brochure launch presentation we were amazed to see that it was 6.25pm – we were late for dinner! So we just went back to our cabin to get washed and changed and had our dinner in the Palms Café instead. The food was just as delicious, and we washed it down with the usual chilled rosé wine. 🙂
The entertainment tonight in the Neptune Lounge was a singer called Jon Moses. Apparently he’d been a finalist in an Andrew Lloyd Webber ITV show called “Superstar”, where they were trying to find a male lead to play Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. I don’t remember the programme, but this guy had apparently progressed pretty far in the competition. We recognised his accent straight away as he is also from County Durham, from a small village called Haswell. We enjoyed his show a lot, not only was Jon an excellent singer but he punctuated his songs with a bit of comedy and chatter as well, and he had a big personality.
Then we finished the evening as we always do – along to the Coral Club for the quiz. We met the two ladies from table #101 in the restaurant whose named we discovered were Jackie and Kathleen, and they joined our team. We didn’t win this time, scoring 12/15. The winners got 13.
Afterwards we just enjoyed chatting and listening to the music, partaking of several more (free!) drinks. It was after midnight when we returned to cabin # 3074 and settled down for sleep, lulled by the gentle motion of Braemar as she glided through the blue Caribbean sea.