Each winter cruise ships relocate to the Caribbean for its warm weather and relaxed atmosphere. October marked the start of a very busy Caribbean season for many cruise ships. As you will know, there’s been a lot of devastation in the region as a result of Hurricane Irma. This means that most cruise lines have altered their planned itineraries for the rest of the year.
The popular Caribbean ports of St Maarten, Turks and Caicos, Dominica and Tortola are now being replaced by alternative destinations such as Cozumel and Costa Maya. Despite these changes, a winter cruise to the Caribbean is a must-do for anyone wanting guaranteed sunshine.
While Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica and St Lucia are perhaps the best-known Caribbean islands, I want to talk about the less famous (but just as beautiful) Grenada. With a population of just over 100,000, Grenada is located in the southeastern Caribbean. Dubbed one of the Spice Islands, it is home to numerous nutmeg plantations. Nutmeg products, along with cinnamon and other spices, are readily available to purchase.
I spent three seasons working in the Caribbean as part of the P&O Cruises ‘Shore Excursions’ team. I always found that people knew very little about Grenada, but always returned to the ship thoroughly impressed. It was also one of my favourite islands because of its beauty, its friendly locals and the fact it doesn’t feel suffocated by tourism.
The pretty town of St George’s is the capital of Grenada. It is a short walk from the ship, best reached through a tunnel outside the terminal building. The town’s harbour is horse-shoe shaped and it’s scattered with waterfront bars and restaurants. You’ll find a range of local shops selling souvenirs, such as the famous spices. The buildings are colourful and a walk along the harbour front is a must. Market Square is home to a regular market, where you can buy locally made crafts and produce.
If you just want to venture in to the cruise terminal, you will find a good selection of souvenir shops and duty-free outlets. The building has had a lot of development in recent years, but there are still limited places to eat. Although it has a café and Subway, you’d be better exploring the town for food.
Things to do
Grand Anse Beach stretches three kilometres and is Grenada’s most famous beach. Like all of the island’s beaches, it boasts soft, white sand and clear, warm turquoise water.
For cruise passengers, it is easy to access from the cruise terminal. You can pick up the water taxi for a few dollars, or take a fifteen minute taxi ride in a minibus. Both of these can be booked inside the terminal building. The water taxi costs around $10 for two people.
Most cruise lines also offer excursions to Grand Anse Beach. It’s one of the best ‘touristy’ Caribbean beaches and rarely feels too busy. Facilities include sunbeds and umbrellas (for a fee) and a complex comprising of rest rooms and eating outlets. The water is fairly shallow and it often attracts snorkelers.
There are other beaches on Grenada, if you want to explore further afield. Lance aux Epines, to the south, is quieter and more secluded. It is also home to a stunning array of villas. To the southeast you can visit La Sagesse Beach, which is much quieter and famed for its rugged beauty. If you do the Rhum Runner tour (see below), you’re likely to end up at the picturesque Morne Rouge Beach.
Waterfalls and Rainforest
As well as beaches and spice plantations, Grenada is home to lush rainforest and gushing waterfalls. The most famous waterfall is the Seven Sisters at Grand Etang National Park. After a trek to the falls, visitors can cool down with a swim in the large pool below.
Fort George and Fort Frederick are worth visiting if you have the time. Located close to the cruise terminal, Fort George is well maintained with a guardroom, barracks and firing galleries. It offers fantastic views across to the port area and beyond. The fort played an important part in the many political and military changes that have taken place over the years.
Fort Frederick sits atop Richmond Hill in St George’s. Visitors can walk around and soak up panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Learn all about spice production at one of the island’s spice estates. Dougaldston Estate is a popular stop for those wanting to learn more about all things spice related. It’s informative and great if you want to touch and smell the product. Or head to Belmont Estate or The Grenada Chocolate Company, if you want to learn more about the cocoa growing process.
From plantations to tropical botanical gardens, you will find a range of flora and fauna to discover across Grenada. Belmont Estate Spice Plantation, Jessamine Eden Tropical Botanic Garden and Hyde Park Tropical Garden are all worth visiting.
If you want to be on the open water, a Grenadian catamaran tour is a must. There’s a range of snorkelling and scuba diving options you can book independently or, in many cases, on board.
The Underwater Sculpture Park worth seeing. The park consists of different sculptures moulded from manmade materials, such as concrete. They are aimed to enhance the existing reef, encouraging marine life in to the area. Scuba divers will also love the Bianca C shipwreck, one of the top dive sites in the world.
Perhaps Grenada’s best known tour for cruise ship passengers is the Rhum Runner boat excursion. Most cruise lines will run this as a half day tour. But be warned…it’s very, very lively. This was the first tour I did when I joined the shore excursions department and it was an eye opener!
The boat collects passengers from the quayside and transports them to a small but tranquil beach. Sounds OK so far, right? I’ve omitted to mention that the rum punch is flowing very freely (and is incredibly strong, but delicious) and the steel drums are playing loudly. Passengers often get up to dance and do the conga around the boat. The staff are very attentive to guests while at the beach, making sure they are well lubricated with rum punch. By the time the boat returns to port, most people are very, very merry! I highly recommend it though, as it’s one of the best tours I’ve done in the Caribbean.
Did you know?
British chef Gary Rhodes has a restaurant at Grenada’s Calabash Hotel. His dishes take on a British theme with a Caribbean twist. Think nutmeg custard tarts and beef tenderloin with plantain…
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