Day by day itinerary
If you associate Puerto Rico's capital with the colonial streets of Old San Juan, then you know only part of the picture. San Juan is a major metropolis, radiating out from the bay on the Atlantic Ocean that was discovered by Juan Ponce de León. More than a third of the island's nearly 4 million citizens proudly call themselves sanjuaneros. The city may be rooted in the past, but it has its eye on the future. Locals go about their business surrounded by colonial architecture and towering modern structures.By 1508 the explorer Juan Ponce de León had established a colony in an area now known as Caparra, southeast of present-day San Juan. He later moved the settlement north to a more hospitable peninsular location. In 1521, after he became the first colonial governor, Ponce de León switched the name of the island—which was then called San Juan Bautista in honor of St. John the Baptist—with that of the settlement of Puerto Rico ("rich port").Defended by the imposing Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) and Castillo San Cristóbal, Puerto Rico's administrative and population center remained firmly in Spain's hands until 1898, when it came under U.S. control after the Spanish-American War. Centuries of Spanish rule left an indelible imprint on the city, particularly in the walled area now known as Old San Juan. The area is filled with cobblestone streets and brightly painted, colonial-era structures, and its fortifications have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Old San Juan is a monument to the past, but most of the rest of the city is planted firmly in the 21st century and draws migrants island-wide and from farther afield to jobs in its businesses and industries. The city captivates residents and visitors alike with its vibrant lifestyle as well as its balmy beaches, pulsing nightclubs, globe-spanning restaurants, and world-class museums. Once you set foot in this city, you may never want to leave.
Mountainous St. Kitts, the first English settlement in the Leeward Islands, crams some stunning scenery into its 65 square miles (168 square km). Vast, brilliant green fields of sugarcane (the former cash crop, now slowly being replanted) run to the shore. The fertile, lush island has some fascinating natural and historical attractions: a rain forest replete with waterfalls, thick vines, and secret trails; a central mountain range dominated by the 3,792-foot Mt. Liamuiga, whose crater has long been dormant; and Brimstone Hill, known in the 18th century as the Gibraltar of the West Indies. St. Kitts and Nevis, along with Anguilla, achieved self-government as an associated state of Great Britain in 1967. In 1983 St. Kitts and Nevis became an independent nation. English with a strong West Indian lilt is spoken here. People are friendly but shy; always ask before you take photographs. Also, be sure to wear wraps or shorts over beach attire when you're in public places.
The largest of the Windward Islands, Martinique is 4,261 mi (6,817 km) from Paris, but its spirit and language are decidedly French, with more than a soupçon of West Indian spice. Tangible, edible evidence of the fact is the island's cuisine, a superb blend of French and creole. Martinique is lushly landscaped with tropical flowers. Trees bend under the weight of fruits such as mangoes, papayas, lemons, limes, and bright-red West Indian cherries. Acres of banana plantations, pineapple fields, and waving sugarcane stretch to the horizon. The towering mountains and verdant rain forest in the north lure hikers, while underwater sights and sunken treasures attract snorkelers and scuba divers. Martinique is also wonderful if your idea of exercise is turning over every 10 minutes to get an even tan and your taste in adventure runs to duty-free shopping. A popular cruise-ship excursion goes to St-Pierre, which was buried by ash when Mont Pelée erupted in 1902.
Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa those heady aromas fill the air in Grenada (pronounced gruh-nay-da). Only 21 miles (33½ km) long and 12 miles (19½ km) wide, the Isle of Spice is a tropical gem of lush rain forests, white-sand beaches, secluded coves, exotic flowers, and enough locally grown spices to fill anyone's kitchen cabinet. St. George's is one of the most picturesque capital cities in the Caribbean, St. George's Harbour is one of the most picturesque harbors, and Grenada's Grand Anse Beach is one of the region's finest beaches. The island has friendly, hospitable people and enough good shopping, restaurants, historic sites, and natural wonders to make it a popular port of call. About one-third of Grenada's visitors arrive by cruise ship, and that number continues to grow each year. Grenada's capital is a bustling West Indian city, much of which remains unchanged from colonial days. Narrow streets lined with shops wind up, down, and across steep hills. Brick warehouses cling to the waterfront, and pastel-painted homes rise from the waterfront and disappear into steep green hills. The horseshoe-shaped St. George's Harbour, a submerged volcanic crater, is arguably the prettiest harbor in the Caribbean. Schooners, ferries, and tour boats tie up along the seawall or at the small dinghy dock. The Carenage (pronounced car-a-nahzh), which surrounds the harbor, is the capital's center. Warehouses, shops, and restaurants line the waterfront. The Christ of the Deep statue that sits on the pedestrian plaza at the center of The Carenage was presented to Grenada by Costa Cruise Line in remembrance of its ship, Bianca C, which burned and sank in the harbor in 1961 and is now a favorite dive site. An engineering feat for its time, the 340-foot-long Sendall Tunnel was built in 1895 and named for Walter Sendall, an early governor. The narrow tunnel, used by both pedestrians and vehicles, separates the harbor side of St. George's from the Esplanade on the bay side of town, where you can find the markets (produce, meat, and fish), the Cruise Ship Terminal, the Esplanade Mall, and the public bus station.
The typical image of a lush tropical paradise comes to life on the friendly island of St Lucia. Despite its small size – just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide – St Lucia is rich in natural splendour with dense emerald rainforest, banana plantations and orchards of coconut, mango and papaya trees. The twin peaks of Les Pitons, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site rise dramatically 2,000 feet into the sky and dominate the island. Look out for unusual birds with brilliant plumage such as the St Lucia parrot, see a surprising diversity of exotic flora and enjoy the warm hospitality of the islanders in the small villages and open-air markets. Please be aware that St Lucia is a small, mountainous island, with steep, winding and bumpy roads. Customers with back and neck problems should take this into consideration when booking an excursion.
With its superb beaches, historical attractions and beautiful coral reefs, Antigua provides a host of diversions. It is said that the island contains 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. Antigua maintains its traditional West Indian character, with gingerbread-house style architecture, calypso music and carnival festivities. St John’s has been the administrative capital since the island’s colonisation in 1632, and has been the seat of government since it gained independence in 1981. From the port you can explore the colourful Redcliffe district, with its restored wooden houses, and Heritage Quay with its shopping mall and craft shops. The city has some fine examples of Colonial architecture, including the twin-towered cathedral, built in 1845 and considered one of the finest church buildings in the Caribbean. All coaches in Antigua are operated by smaller vehicles, and commentary will be given by a driver/guide.
St. John, the smallest most idyllic of the three United States Virgin Islands, is best known for its dozens of post card perfect white sand beaches, turquoise bays abounding in colourful corals & rainbows of tropical fish endless vistas of green velvet hills. Only nine miles long (14.5 kilometres) and three miles (4.8 kilometres) wide, two thirds of the island is the Virgin Islands National Park, so its spectacular beaches & untouched forests will remain that way for generations to come and remain accessible to all. There are tours of the National Park by Jeep or safari bus and hikes on spectacular trails led by Park Rangers who enrich the experience with talks on the island's history and geology as well as its flora & fauna. While it is only twenty minutes from St. Thomas by convenient hourly ferry, St. John is the peaceful, uncommercialised paradise of island fantasies. It has no high-rise buildings, cruise ship docks or airport. Visitors can obtain discounted air fares to St. Thomas. Despite its unspoiled atmosphere, it offers every facility and amenity found at major resorts.
Like many southeast Florida neighbors, Fort Lauderdale has long been revitalizing. In a state where gaudy tourist zones often stand aloof from workaday downtowns, Fort Lauderdale exhibits consistency at both ends of the 2-mile Las Olas corridor. The sparkling look results from upgrades both downtown and on the beachfront. Matching the downtown's innovative arts district, cafés, and boutiques is an equally inventive beach area, with hotels, cafés, and shops facing an undeveloped shoreline, and new resort-style hotels replacing faded icons of yesteryear. Despite wariness of pretentious overdevelopment, city leaders have allowed a striking number of glittering high-rises. Nostalgic locals and frequent visitors fret over the diminishing vision of sailboats bobbing in waters near downtown; however, Fort Lauderdale remains the yachting capital of the world, and the water toys don’t seem to be going anywhere.
Silver Shadow is slightly larger in size than its predecessors Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, yet manages to maintain the same feelings of intimacy and exclusivity.