Cruising the Caribbean – Aruba to Aruba onboard Oceania Sirena.
Written by Chloe Hambidge
As soon as you step off the plane and into this sun drizzled city, you will understand why its charm makes Aruba the most visited island in the Southern Caribbean. With a quick and easy stroll through the airport we were greeted with the pastel pinks of the warm setting sun, excited for adventures ahead. Before embarking on the trip of a lifetime, Oceania Sirena awaited us. We wandered the compact capital of Oranjestad brimming with cute market squares, shops and luxury all-inclusive resorts cocooned with golden sand and thatched beach cabanas. The Royal Plaza Mall, is a sight for sore eyes with its glowing pink and white embellishments it’s as if it’s been dropped from a Disney Film. It’s a mirage of adventure with the perfect mixture of adventure, from mile long stretches of powdered sands at Eagle Beach to windswept borders whispering the names of those adrenaline seekers desiring kiteboarding and wind surfing. This all before the true holiday has even begun! With crystal clear waters as if from a travel magazine, and the renowned slogan of ‘One happy island’, we really were welcomed by its wonders.
Our first stop was the vibrant Curacao where we were greeted with delightful Dutch colonial architecture. Amongst the cherished UNESCO World Heritage Site of Willemstad’s historic district you can explore thriving art, ruins which have been standing for years and excellent history museums. As if lit up by the sun I was star struck by the luminous waters shimmering against Sint Annabaai’s pastel waterfront. As if a slice of Europe has graced the Caribbean, it was a treat to wander these vibrant streets before hopping in a taxi to enjoy the more tranquil side of the island. We spent the day at Blue Bay, which reinvented my whole idea what a beach could be. With an ombre of water welcoming you into its depths from turquoise to dark blue- it was truly stunning. With powdered sands you feet can sink into, it was a peaceful way to spend the rest of the afternoon before jumping back onboard. Before approaching the beach we even got the pleasure of getting our first glimpse (of many on this holiday) of the flamboyant flamingo, as well as some peaceful lizards bathing in the sun. These waters shout Caribbean beauty loud and clear.
This was a day where I felt truly encapsulated by the Caribbeans beauty. With an early start we rented golf buggies for the day and experienced the brilliance of Bonaire at our own pace and pleasure. With true freedom we took to every beach within our reach, starting of at Bachelors beach, we strolled down the steps into its translucent shores. I especially enjoyed our stop at Oasis Beach Club, a haven of tranquillity. Fuelled by a sense of almost rustic luxury- we indulged on a coffee to fuel our adventures but you can also enjoy a rich global food scene here from freshly caught Caribbean fish to beach hut snacks. It’s the perfect stop off to admire the unbelievable waters hugging Bonaire. From here, we powered along and enjoyed the breeze in our hair for a little while as we whizzed past salt plains surrounded by pink waters on one side and endless blue on the other, it was as if being sandwiched between paradise and the real life inner workings of this gorgeous island. As our final beach stop off, after driving past the chilling historic ruins of slave huts and various wildlife from donkeys, goats and flamingos, we reached Lac Bay. This beach is renowned for its windsurfing which is a given as you see its colourful kites from a distance. We owe this incredible experience to Bonaire Cruisers who we rented our golf buggy from and we followed the EEG Boulevard route.
St. George’s, Grenada
Docked in Grenada you are overwhelmed by the ongoing relief of lush greenery and colourful houses dotting across them. Eager to explore we jumped off the ship and into the vibrant town, with homemade jewellery made from bright beads and fresh fruit glowing after just being picked, it’s easy to forget the island is known for its spices as its offerings are limitless. Commonly labelled as the Fruit Island, you will soon know why as you venture around through the luscious emerald bounty growing through its green hills. After a stroll through the food markets, we jumped in a taxi and saw a whole new side to the island, easily painting a picture of paradise. As an island Grenada has a plethora of idyllic sandy retreats, our chosen haven was the ongoing Grand Anse Beach. As if a mirage, recline back in utter bliss, with the mountains stretching high above you and the turquoise marbled waves as your toes- palm trees and beers are the only thing that could top it off. And it wasn’t long until we were welcomed by their sway and the local Carib beer. The locals are friendly and are eager to please as our tour guide stocked us up with buckets of beer and took us too and from the cruise port with enjoyable island tunes as a soundtrack. This beach is the perfect place to hibernate for your adventures, and enjoy a dream day in picture postcard perfection.
Castries, St. Lucia
Renowned for its tranquil bays of luxury and blessed by mother nature, St Lucia has physical and cultural riches in surplus. A honeypot of adventure from the great heights of its lush mountains to the glimmering depths of its seas. Pioneering a humble sense of breath-taking beauty with nonchalance, it felt like being greeted by one of nature’s greatest gifts as we docked. Having already organized a full day boat trip with Shashamane island experiences, we were free to indulge the island for all its worth. Whizzing by cliff faces embellished with vibrant greenery and caressed by shimmering turquoise waters to match it. Taking a pit stop to snorkel amongst vibrant fish of all shapes and sizes from circular and bright yellow to long and iridescent rainbow, it felt like a reward swimming through such crystal waters in the Caribbean heat. From there we drove to the South and had a wander through the picturesque Soufriere which sits at the heart of a gorgeous region made up old plantations, hidden beaches and of course the impossibly picture perfect Pitons which is a sight you can’t turn your eyes away from. Our boat driver even took us right up to the infamous bat cave where you can hear fruit bats squeaks to one another from the safety of a crack in the cliff face, you are bound to smell them before you see them! We then went back on ourselves to stop at the infamously gorgeous Anse Chastanet where sand is as soft as butter and paradise is presented before you. We had lunch facing the lapping waves as we were enamored with the islands delicious Creole cuisine. A highlight for me was docking up in Marigot Bay, with the renowned relaxed and groovy Caribbean atmosphere it was like being part of an exclusive club, with boats bobbing all around the strip of beach and mansions climbing up the mountains cocooning you, it’s a haven for adventure and relaxation- but most of all its as if stepping into a private tropical paradise. After taking in the islands utter bliss we took on an adrenaline induced challenge- scaling a rocky cliff edge we jumped into the deep sea below. Despite being the ‘norm’ for locals of all ages, cliff jumping is not for the faint hearted but it is an experience bound to make St Lucia’s’ wonders all the more memorable.
Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe
As an archipelago of over a dozen sun-kissed islands, it wasn’t long before we realised that the charming Iles des Saintes was one of the most evocative and untouched accolades of the French Antilles crowned offerings. Tendering from the ship to the main island, you’re surrounded by jigsaw piece shapes of land ringed by bright blue shores leading to the array of docked yachts and the odd cruise ship like the beautiful Sirena. This island almost glows with colour as you approach its translucent shores, with golden sand acting as a walkway into heaven and each building painted a refreshing pastel pink or mint green. Whilst being almost completely unspoilt, stroll the picturesque streets brimming with unmissable boutiques selling vintage gold jewellery, crystal rings and one of a kind hand made clothing. It oozes a sense of effortless sophistication, with a hint of Epicurean extravagance found in St Tropez or Monaco. With a maximum of two taxis on the island, visitors are given the option to fly through these tranquil streets via electric scooter, golf buggy or motorbike. We chose to honour this quaint island in the same way we were greeted, by relaxing on its natural wonder. Choosing a beach which seemingly hugged the whole edge of the island it was a peaceful day. It felt a world away from all the previous Caribbean islands as it felt as though us cruise goers made up its population, yet we were made to feel right at home. Enjoy the back track of steel drums and an ice cream in hand as you lounge back on the sand.
Roseau’s main city is thriving with life, renowned for being Dominica’s noisy and chaotic capital, its vibrancy is something that can’t be taken. After suffering the monstrous Hurricane Maria, most of the city was washed away but this doesn’t take away from the magic of Roseau, especially its natural flourishing’s. Driving through the narrow streets as reggae pours from the windows of traditional Caribbean houses, watch as nature flourishes before you. Massive canyons of jungle and steep valleys of green vegetation acts as a runway into natural wonder. We decided to do a tour of Dominicas renowned Trafalgar Falls and Emerald Pool as well as stop of at the naturally occurring phenomenon of the Sulphur Springs. After a short hike through vibrant vegetation you will stumble upon a cove of pure magic. Surrounded by succulent expanses off greenery become mesmerised as the twin falls cascade before you. We were quick to hike as high as we could to swim in the emerald pool nestled between the rocks. It was the freshest water I’ve ever swam in as you feel connected to the planet like never before. Continuing our journey out fantastic tour guide took us to the Sulphur Springs where the humid heat takes your breathe away. After watching the bubbling springs at work we wandered the local market for handmade goodies as well as natural remedies from the grounds special produce. They sell anything from colourful hand crafted toys to skincare and oils.
Barbados could be considered the highlight of our trip as we ticked this once in a time opportunity off our bucket list. As we approached the stables we were filled with excitement to meet the horses we were going to ride through the crystal blue Caribbean waves. We booked this experience with Echo Stables and they filled our day with adventure and wonder from the start, our tour guides were informative and obviously grateful for their island lifestyle which was extremely infectious. We trekked with our brilliant horses through lush vegetation and banana groves until we reached the picture perfect vistas of Martins Bay and Bath Beach. As waves tumbled in we strolled through the waves with the odd gallop sending us into the turquoise shores, it was if we were in a movie. A few of our horses- including mine, fancied a dip in the ocean as they walk you in right up to your waist. It’s an incomparable experience. With the ranches dog in tow with us the whole day, it’s a wholesome adventure and gives you a snippet of how the locals live. We finished our day with a fresh mango juice made on the ranch surrounded by the rest of our tour group and lovely tour guides.
Kingston, St. Vincent
Despite the regular occurrence of idyllic Caribbean beaches on our voyage, we could never get enough of their golden whisperings. When thinking of St Vincent depictions of an exotic island paradise may come to mind… and you wouldn’t be far off. In typical tourist fashion we jumped in a cab with strict instructions to take us to the best and closest beach, and we weren’t disappointed. With waters as blue as the sky we were dropped at Villa Beach which is seemingly the key to a relaxing day in paradise. From there we departed on a 2 minute boat ride to Young Island Resort which is where the real magic happens. Spending the day on powdered sand, lounging on hammocks opposite the tranquil coconut bar located on stilts in the pristine patchwork blue shores just a stones through away. After a day of reclining in paradise, which may not have been needed but is definitely necessary, it was time to jump back on board our gorgeous Sirena. Driving back through the picturesque streets, uncluttered by tourist exploration, drive through the islands old airport which has been transported into a road- it’s a very cool sight and is a far cry from the busy streets of London. By evening the space turns into something from Fast and Furious where the local take their race cars and race into the night.
Cruising the Caribbean Sea
A day dedicated to Oceania’s stupendous service and luxury facilities, we definitely made the most of them. As avid fans of the buffet, this is the perfect place for lunch on a sea day, with unlimited options and all as tasty as the next, we were never disappointed. Surrounded by pure understated luxury from the sparkling Grand Staircase to their beautifully elegant suites and staterooms. A great way to recline as chosen by us is to curl up by the pool, whether bathing in the hot tub as you fly across the Caribbean Sea, or lay with a book and a cocktail in hand (we highly recommend the Strawberry Daquiri). Even wander into the spa where an array of treatments await you, it’s a goldmine of opportunities.
With our holiday coming to a close we were determined to keep our spirits up and make the most of our final day. Battling déjà vu we were once again on the energetic streets of Aruba. Experiencing the holiday of a lifetime it was only fair we continue to tick things off the bucket list until the very end. Via the Renaissance hotel we took a boat to the incredible Flamingo Island, and its brilliance is in the name. Free to wander around this luxury island is something from a dream and exceeded all our expectations, the Flamingos stroll nonchalantly right by you within touching distance and stand proud in the waters you swim in. Bright and unmissable, these pink beauties truly are a sight for sore eyes, you won’t believe they could be standing right before you. As well these flamboyant creatures come face to face with small reef sharks- don’t worry they’re contained in their own river meandering around the island; also stroll through iguanas lounging on their own steps munching on salad leaves, its an island of unlimited opportunities from watersports to animal observations, it was a great way to finish off the holiday.