Shore Excursions Aboard The Azura! St Lucia, St Maarten, Tortola and The Azores

St Lucia:

What a beautiful Island! We loved every minute, the scenery is beautiful and the weather was perfect. We booked the St Lucia Land and Sea tour through P&O and it was worth every penny. It was well organised, once your off the ship you find your tour by looking at the numbered boards.

The first part of our tour was to see the land. I think the scenery of St Lucia is amazing and there is no attempt to try and change it for tourists. I liked the small fishing villages we went through, we hardly saw a hotel complex. As the bus took us up some of the steepest roads I have ever seen! We had a stunning view of the port with, of course, our ship the Azura. Our first stop was at a lookout where we could see a bay in the distance, we soon discovered the shop selling banana chips and banana ketchup. It was rather tasty and we bought some of the chips for the bus.

Our next stop was overlooking the Pitons, which is a must see while in St Lucia…you can’t miss them really! The two mountains are called Gros Piton and Petit Piton. All of a sudden they just appear and make the skyline look amazing. We took in the view while drinking our (first of many) Piton beer. Next we had lunch at a local estate. Lunch was a buffet and included meat, fish, salads and vegetables. It was tasty and refuelled us for more exploring.

Next stop of was The Diamond Botanical Gardens, in which we saw lots of flowers, plants and a fantastic waterfall at the end. It was boiling hot by this point and we needed to buy water to get us through. Then we went onto Soufriere and the Sulphur Springs, the first thing you notice is the smell… which is terrible (from the sulphur). This area is classed as a drive through volcano and the heat definitely raised a little. We saw the hot springs, the steam and the bubbling mud pools.

It was then time to board the catamaran for the sea part of our tour. We yet again had an amazing view of the pitons and the small bays around the island. This was where you could see the large hotels and resorts as they hugged the shore line. We did a little bit of swimming in a small bay which was refreshing. While we were swimming there was a lot of people in small boats trying to sell shells to the tourists (just a note, you can not take these back into the UK and would be taken off you at customs! So… leave them). Once back on board the party started and the rum punch (Jungle Juice) was pouring constantly in the free bar. I have no doubt that we made our money here! It was the kind of drink that the first one tastes strong and then slowly but surely after more and more they taste amazing! The music was bouncing and we were sat with out legs over the edge…slowly tanning/burning.

St Maarten:

There was only one place we had to visit on St Martin and that was Maho Beach. We like to book our excursions through the cruise line as they can guarantee that if the excursion runs late the ship has to wait. However… P&O did not offer an excursion to Maho beach so we booked through Viator. This was an amazing experience and they also guarantee they will get you back to the ship in time. We booked St Maarten Orient and Maho Beach Half-Day Tour. I loved the flags at the port, half of the Island belongs to the Netherlands and the other half France.

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We met our tour guide Otis and realised there was only one more couple on the bus. Winner! Otis was amazing and knew a lot about the island and the beaches we visited. We had plenty of time in each beach and the car was always ready to pick us up with free beers, waters or soft drinks. Mike was the first of the group to reach for the beer… at 10am, much to the approval of Otis.

The first beach we went to was Orient, it felt like a resort and included in our tour was deck chairs, umbrella and a free cocktail! It was a lovely area to soak up the sun and go for a swim. We went for a walk along the sea and saw the black clouds roll in. We also saw a few wood shacks selling buckets of Corona for $10. Bargain. The sky went black and the rain came pouring in. We then moved to the bar area where we drank a few more beers whilst waiting for Otis to pick us up.

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We were then on our way over to Maho beach which we have been so excited about since we first booked the cruise. This place was MENTAL! So for those of you who don’t know Maho beach is famous for it’s location as it is right next to the airport.

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When a plane takes off or lands there is a massive jet blasts which starts what I can only describe as a sand storm. People holding onto their belongings and towels as the jet blast moves everything. Then you get a few hardcore/foolish travellers holding onto the fence of the airport and once the plane takes off their legs go from under them. To see these people just search Maho beach on YouTube. We enjoyed sitting at the bar and grill drinking beers and eating chips. The flights are all written on a surfboard and we wanted to wait for a large plane to come in. We then went onto the beach to experience the jet blast for ourselves and try and take that photo.

Tortola:

This is our last island in the Caribbean on this cruise, such sad faces. It was another amazing island with spectacular views and this one is part of The British Virgin Islands. Once again the weather was lovely and the sun was shining bright. Today we had booked onto a P&O excursion to Cane Garden Bay Beach. We were picked up at port on a bus…well sort of, see the picture below! Again the island was very steep and full of twisty roads that made me feel slightly sick. The driving on the Caribbean Islands is something you have to get used to as it’s quick and at times felt like a bit of a free for all.

Cane Garden Bay was beautiful with the white sand and clear blue seas. We hired deck chairs with an umbrella as it was very hot and we had already burned slightly this holiday (blame the mixture of the catamaran and jungle juice!) We then went for a walk around the bay. We came across a man with a machete and a pile of coconuts. Intrigued, we went up and ordered a coconut from the man who proceeded to cut the top off. He then asked ‘rum or no rum’, as if a trick question. Obviously we went for rum, he got Mike to take a big sip from the coconut and then filled it with rum. Coconut in hand we then went up to the bar to order a painkiller cocktail, as we had read about them on TripAdvisor. Well let me tell you the coconut tasted of pure rum, it is the strongest drink I have ever had, and that’s saying something! It made the Painkiller, which is also strong, taste like fruit juice in comparison.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the sea. At one point we saw everyone looking at us, pointing and slowly moving backwards. We thought that was strange, and it was only as we walked back into shore we heard people talking about a enormous barracuda that just swam past! We still don’t really know if that’s why we were getting stared at.

The Azores

I think if we were ever to do a Transatlantic Cruise again we would start in Southampton. After being in the Caribbean for a week it was going to be hard to beat. We were interested in seeing the Azores but were very disappointed. The weather did not help this and I’m sure if it was a sunny day it may change our opinion. We booked the fire lake tour but were told as we boarded the bus that we would not see them as the fog, mist and rain would prevent it. They weren’t kidding, when we got to the top all we saw was white from the fog. We were slightly annoyed with this, but nothing they could do to prevent the weather!

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We did visit a pineapple factory which was cool. We walked around the town learning about it’s history and how it differs from mainland Portugal. We just didn’t get a great vibe from the island. It didn’t help that we had very critical British people on the bus and would grumble every time the tour guide mentioned that the EU helped pay for the roads and other parts of the Island. We were also told that a lot of the local people are obsessed with America and American culture, so the shops are full of American candy etc…. strange place!

Once back at the port we grabbed a few drinks and discussed our holiday as we were now well and truly back in grey Europe. Take us back to the Caribbean drive!

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