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10th February, 2014

Basseterre, St Kitts

Beautiful St Kitts

We sailed through the night towards the island of St Kitts, passing the beautiful island of Nevis on our approach. I remember fond memories of bringing Saga Rose to Nevis, a paradise island if ever there was one, with a tourist officer from Edinburgh!!

As we approached the berth in St Kitts, I was preparing myself to see one of the largest cruise ships, the Celebrity Summit, alongside us as we had been informed. However, the ship had reported engine problems in Barbados so they cancelled this call which was a bonus for us to avoid the crowds!

So on arrival, the port does not have any tugs available so I had the choice of which side to go. The wind was blowing from the east so the easiest option would have been to go on the east side and be blown alongside but it would have been difficult to get away in the evening with the wind pinning us on. So I opted for the more difficult west side, to berth the ship against the wind. So once the pilot was embarked, I instructed all the team as to what was going to happen. I was going to take the ship close to the end of the pier, swing close to the end and back the ship into the berth, stern first, using the bow thruster to steer the stern towards the quay and into the wind as the wind was trying desperately to push us away. A lot of engine power was required but on the staff captain’s instructions, the after mooring team led by Vlad our safety officer, got a line ashore quickly and sent a mooring line to help assist me in keeping the ship alongside. So with all teams fore and aft sending the lines as quickly as possible and me using all at my disposal to hold the ship against the very strong winds, we were soon fast alongside, which was very satisfying.

Locals at work

On my arrival announcement at 0800, knowing we had onboard the Senior Concorde Pilot Captain John Hutchinson, one of our lecturers, I said an airline pilot always earns his money carrying out a difficult landing in high winds and I said the same applied to me today. I certainly earnt my money this morning. On seeing John on the quayside I joked with him about how I made the comment about pilots having to carry out difficult landings, and with humour he told me, it didn’t apply to him as they used autoland!!!

It’s always good to share Humour with fellow professionals, and what a nice man.

St Kitts is our eigth port of call now in the Caribbean and passengers once again were up early and ready to explore yet another exciting island.

The shore excursions on offer today were ‘St Kitts Scenic Railway Tour’ which is said to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. This one of a kind, narrow gauge railroad, now a tourist attraction and a great way to see the island, was built almost a century ago for the purpose of delivering sugar cane direct from the fields to the sugar mill in the capital, Basseterre.

During the train ride, passengers enjoyed complimentary drinks along with music sung by the Scenic Railway Choir and a colourful narrative history of the Caribbean. The ‘Rainforest Discovery’ tour took passengers to Winifield Mountain which is the island’s richest reservoir of bio-diversity. The rainforest is alive with exotic plants including heliconias (red and yellow) bamboo, ferns, palms, elephant ears and breadfruit that festoon the area. Passengers sampled some of the local seasonal fruits such as guava, strawberries, grapes, coconut and soursop.

Old sugar plantation

For those passengers who were not booked on a shore excursion, the town was within walking distance of the ship and they were able to take a leisurely stroll into Basseterre if they wished. Or alternatively the nearest beach, Frigate Bay was a short taxi ride away.

We remained docked in the beautiful island of St Kitts later this evening. With our late sail, our Cruise Director Jo was able to organise for some local entertainment to come on board. We had been looking closely at the weather forecast and decided that the forecast looked good enough to chance a BBQ out on deck for this evening. The weather held out and the food and beverage team put on a delicious feast out on the Verandah Deck.

During dinner, passengers enjoyed music performed by a local steel band called ‘Cuatro Pals’ which really set the scene and got everyone in the party mood. I even managed to get a dance with our popular cruise director, but I had to wait in a very large queue for the pleasure of her company on the dance floor, popular lady! Music and dancing continued late into the evening out on deck as we set sail once again and once the local steel band had disembarked just before we sailed, the Sapphire Orchestra took over and played all of the favourite tropical party melodies.

We will now sail overnight en route to our final port of call in these Caribbean islands, where we are scheduled to dock in Antigua tomorrow at 8am.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.