top of page

Cathedrals in the Eastern Caribbean III

Trip Report: 27 Jan 2024 to 12 Feb 2024: Dominican Republic and NCL Sky


Saturday, 3 February (Day 6)




With the ship scheduled to arrive ins St George, Grenada at 11, the queue was serious at Crosswinds when I arrived at 9. Once seated, I had oatmeal and the special of shaksusha. Afterwards I sat across the atrium until we had been docked for a bit. There was two plus hours before my excursion was scheduled, so I left the ship and climbed the steep hill to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A stone structure with a central clocktower at the door, tall windows brought natural light into the nave.


Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St George, Grenada
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St George

The cleaner indicated it was okay for me to go up into the rear choir loft, filled with 4 ranks of 10 folding chairs and a half dozen microphones. Banners of red, yellow and green hung on the columns, in preparation for the-fiftieth anniversary of independence from the UK.



Directly across from the cathedral stairs is York House, a shell of a building and historic landmark. Down at the foot of the hill was an open-air market, selling clothing and groceries. Intrigued by the Scots Presbyterian church atop the next hill, I began heading that way, only to be faced with smoke and then the sirens of the fire company.



Deciding to check it out after the fire was out, I headed into the House of Chocolate. Part museum, part emporium, part café, I was intrigued to try the iced blended cocoa tea, which I accompanied with a large slice of cake. I’d selected 6 bars of chocolate to bring home to my collection. While enjoying, the power in the heart of the city failed, so my plan to charge my treats had to be altered. Depleting me of all my US cash on hand, I left with 5 bars. (Very disadvantageous exchange rate)



Back up the hill to the church, the two firetrucks were still spraying water on a nearby abandoned structure. The church was closed (1pm), as was Fort George (renovations), so I got some hazy shots of the harbor.



I returned to the ship and joined my excursion: Highlights of St George. It was a nice tour, with a great operator. The route was quite hilly, by the countryside was beautiful. We took a stop at a marina for a beer. Onward to a park where we stretched our legs a bit more. Many of my pictures were through the bus’s windows, so contain Chinese characters. Offered as a 90-minute tour, we were out two and a half hours, arriving back at the ship as “last call” was being announced.



The solo group was about 20, with half joining Kiko for the trip downstairs. I was chatting with Jess and Liz, an elegant Torontonian. Jess was joining me for my reservation at Cagney’s, using my unused Bistro voucher. She’s a quite interesting younger woman, has her head on straight and not only knows what she wants but is making that happen. We both thoroughly enjoyed our prime rib. (I started with oysters Rockefeller and a wedge salad.)



I think Jess’s raspberry crème brûlée was a better choice than my chocolate 7-layer cake. Afterwards, we headed down to the Atrium bar and joined Barbara, a retired NYC teacher who now works as a travel agent.


Sunday, 4 February (Day 7)

After breakfast of oatmeal and huevos rancheros, I collected my camera and headed to Deck 3 to exit to the pier into Scarborough, Tobago. My pre-trip research had three places for me to check out, as I wasn’t interested in any of the ship’s excursions. As I walked through duty free, a hustling offer of $125 for a taxi trip around the island tickled my fancy, but I wasn’t hooked. Exiting into town, as I walked towards the “Market”, a young man chatted me up and offered to take me to the Botanical Gardens and the fort for $10. That was much better.



So Brian walked me to his car and we headed a bit of the way up the hill to the gardens. Not what I expected, the walled in park was a rolling hillside of golf-greens rough, sprinkled with numerous palm trees and the occasional stump or bench. We climbed about, and I noted that the ship was visible over the shoreline.

The ride to Fort King George was twisty, climbing still higher up the slight slope. The panoramic view was splendid, despite the haze, which Brian explained was Sahara dust from Africa. (No wonder so many passengers were having respiratory issues!) I wandered around, climbing up to the tops of walls, taking pictures of cannons and mortars, enjoying solid land. In the powder magazine an entrepreneur was offering local rum, as his colleague offered local crafts and broadcloth.



Brian brought me back to the port and I decided to stroll the seashore a bit before I returned onboard. The beach had seaweed washed up, explaining why most folks had headed to other beaches.



Back, I passed through Duty Free and got scanned aboard. After climbing to the buffet, I made myself another large salad and enjoyed the relative calm and empty space. After some email, I headed to my cabin for a shower and a nap.

As 5pm approached, I dressed and headed to Pinnacle to join the solos. We all went to the Palace – Kiko had worked some magic – and I had Hungarian goulash soup, a salad, parmesan-crusted turkey escalope and the cheese plate, accompanied by a glass of the house sauvignon blanc. By 8 I was seated in the Atrium with a JWB, reading and enjoying the entertainment.




Monday, 5 February (Day 8)

After just oatmeal for breakfast in Crossings I ran into Stephanie. She had opted to not join her friends who headed to the beach, and asked after my plans. Being my second visit to Bridgetown, Barbados, I had passed on an excursion, but wanted to visit the Garrison and the Nidhe Israel Synagogue. We opted to walk into town, probably a 30-minute stroll. Our route took us through the commercial district, and Stephanie was intrigued by several of the stores. As we approached the historic synagogue, I noted that we were in “the Garrison”, so we checked out the library and surrounding area. When we approached the gate to visit, we were surprised to find a $12.50 admission charge. Neither of the synagogues on St Thomas or Curacao had more than an “at will” suggestion of $5! So we passed, and headed back through town. The government buildings which had been under restoration in 2022 were pristine, and we strolled the enclosed courtyard.



We were close to the Cathedral Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, so I suggested we check it out.

Cathedral Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, Bridgetown, Barbados
Cathedral Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, Bridgetown

When I’d been there on my first visit, I’d had to wait until a funeral had concluded. That Monday, the church was relatively empty, with a cool breeze offering a relief from the blazing sun outside. A docent allowed me up into the sanctuary for a good picture of the cathedra, and Stephanie noted that the organ console had been maintained by a firm from St Albans, her hometown.



We exited to wander a bit, not wanting to venture as far as St Patrick’s, the Catholic cathedral. While crossing a bridge over the marina, we noted a bar off to the right and decided to got have a beer. Passing through an open-air market, watching the fishmongers cleaning their catch, we pressed on. On reaching the bar, it was behind chain-link, a Covid victim. A local advised that there were no bars in downtown, and that we’d need to wait until we were back in the duty-free area.



Resigned to a dry walk back through the commercial district, I noticed an upstairs balcony that was serving alcohol. We climbed the stairs to DeOffice and got bottles of beer to enjoy while sitting at the rail observing the folks below.

We continued on foot back towards the port, walking under palms which lined the roadway. Once into air conditioning, we sought out a shop we’d visited on our way out – a lovely frock had caught Stephanie’s eye, and we headed back to acquire it. We split for our cabins on boarding the ship, and after dropping my camera I headed to the Garden Café for lunch, going fully aft to sample the Indian curry and masala. After lunch I walked to the bow and Spinnaker where I did email and read. The art auction had been scheduled, but insufficient folks showed up so it was rescheduled.

Before dinner I had stopped for a drink at Atrium, where I met Paula and we agreed to do our solo specialty dinners together a few nights hence. She left to prepare for dinner and I then spent a bit with Fred and Ginger. After they headed out, I struck up a conversation with Tim, who had asked me to be his “plus 1” for his latitude specialty dinner. His wife is not a traveler, and he wanted no appearance of impropriety. So I had a “date” at Cagney’s for the following evening. My dinner was booked at Le Bistro, where I had escargot, onion soup and coq au vin. My wine was a really nice bottle of tempranillo, which I took with me and finished at the Atrium before crashing for the night.





Tuesday, 6 February (Day 9)

Skipping breakfast, I headed to the pier for my rescheduled (from 10am to 8:45) Trolley Train ride. Our first stop was the cathedral, which I’d only briefly seen on my first visit to Castries, St Lucia. We had 15 minutes, but the church was closed so the guide took our group of 30-35 on a stroll around the building.


Back aboard the trolley, we had a 20-minute ride up and down twisting hilly roads until we reached Vigo Beach. There we had a half hour to enjoy the sand and sea, sipping on a rum punch. Coming back around the in-city airport into bumper-to-bumper traffic, we were dropped at the pier.



Immediately post-Covid, the St Lucia government had restricted visitors so they had to take an excursion to leave the port, and had to return at its conclusion. So I had only been able to take a quick exterior shot of the cathedral. Thus, my action after tipping the guide was to walk back into town and see the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.


Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Castries, St Lucia
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Castries

Unlike earlier that morning, the church was open. Entering through the main door, the interior reveals a huge space, much larger than I anticipated from outside. With a curved wooden roof spanning from the side walls, with slim columns supporting the central vault and clerestory windows, it almost feels barn like. The wood has a rich bronze color, a shade lighter than the wooden pews. Side walls are painted in shades of green and gold, with circular portraits in medallions between the windows. I recall hearing that this is the largest of the cathedrals on a Caribbean Island. There appears to be an ambulatory, but it is closed off, although the only confessionals seemed to be behind the walls.



Returning to the ship, I passed through the Duty-Free shopping area. In one corridor, perhaps two dozen folks were sitting, staring at their phones (maybe half were crew.) WiFi is free there, and many were taking advantage. I boarded the ship and headed to the buffet for a large salad. Afterwards, staying on Deck 11, I went into Spinnaker to work my phone and relax. As meetup time approached, I went into the Local for a drink, and realized, as I was updating my journal, that I’d skipped the prior day. Nothing to nibble on, I stayed about 20 minutes before joining the solos.

The group was chatting away at 5:30 when Kiko arrived. After 15 minutes, he began rallying the troops to descend to Crosswinds, leaving a few behind who had booked specialty meals. Using my second Latitude coupon, I had asked Paula to join me for dinner at La Cucina. Passing the sushi station, we entered the restaurant and were seated against the wall. I started with the antipasto plate, and we then split a salami pizza as the primi. My main was osso bucco, which was awesome.



I took my torta di cioccolata e lamponi back to my cabin as I was too stuffed to do it justice. (Unfortunately, the plate was too large to fit in the minifrig, so it sat out.) I hung out chatting and listening to Jessica sing and strum her acoustical guitar in the Atrium.


Wednesday, 7 February (Day 10)

Oatmeal and huevos rancheros in the MDR, and I was out and on the pier for the 10:15 excursion “Highlights by trolley train”. For the 90-minute tour, we had 45 passengers. From the pier we rode towards downtown Roseau, Dominica before climbing and making a 15-minute stop in the botanical gardens. Lusher than the park on Tobago that I’d visited on Sunday, it was still more of a park than a garden. While sipping a complementary rum drink, we stood in the shade overlooking cages attached to a building where protected species of birds hid from our preying eyes. As we exited, we passed a crushed school bus under the hurricane-downed tree.



Our route took us past the walled cemetery across from towering mango trees. Our final stop before returning to the port was the modern Church of St Alphonsus. Circular, with bowed wedges forming a roof with the pizza-slices pointing to a central lantern. A simple parish church, the frontispiece on the altar was a bas relief of the Last Supper. Continuing up the coast to the ship, we were dropped on the edge of the pier, at the entry to duty free.

Departure was set for 5pm, and the tour ended at noon. We were situated about 2.5km north of downtown where the two other cruise ships filled the cruise port. For $2US, a shuttle would transport a passenger into town or back. Wanting to visit the cathedral on Dominica, I paid for the round trip and hopped aboard. Once by the downtown port, I climbed the hill to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Fairhaven.


Cathedral of Our Lady of Fairhaven, Roseau, Dominica
Cathedral of Our Lady of Fairhaven, Roseau

That actually proved to be a challenge: with the visit by Hurricane Maria in 2017, the building had sustained major damage. Restoration was slowly underway, but the site is blocked off with corrugated metal sheets, concrete blocks and chain link fencing. I walked around the block, climbing on crumbling walls across the street to get a shot over these obstructions. Scaffolding webbed the tower, its conical point stripped of tiling. Eventually finding the parish house, I asked if I might get closer to the construction to get another shot. Escorted through a gate, there still wasn’t a great view. Asking about a pro-cathedral which might have assumed the cathedral’s role, I was told it was the Church of St George, a parish hall located across Turkey Street. A two-story building where the entrances had been bricked over, a locked, single red door under a crest of the diocese was the access to the space.



Returning to the downtown port, I waited on the shuttle’s return, watching the other cruise passengers pose before the cartoonish lettering announcing the country. Back at the northern port after a jaunty ride, I climbed two decks to visit the dining reservation counter, were I adjusted my bookings, and then canceled my excursion for Tortola. (Offered originally at 10, it had been rescheduled to 7:45am. I had expectations for this 3.5-hour tour, but wasn’t ready to be up early two days in a row.) A check at the infirmary with hopes of an expectorant found it closed (only open during breakfast and dinner hours.) Onward to the cabin, where I hoped for a nap, but the dry cough kept me from relaxing.

At the Atrium bar I had two club sodas with bitters, which became my go-to drink. The solos gathered in Pinnacle, so once the group left for dinner it was an easy walk for me to Cagney’s where I joined Tim. Crab cake, wedge salad, filet mignon with green pepper sauce, raspberry crème brûlée. To accompany, I had a glass of the house tempranillo, which proved to be superior (to my tastes, at least) to the cab and merlot offerings.

Chilling out after dinner in the Atrium, the conversations were rife with speculations about the following day. Seas were getting rough, and word was that our visit to Antigua might be cancelled. The original itinerary didn’t include St John’s, but rather Fort de France, Martinique: NCL never explained this second itinerary change.



Book: Cathedrals to the Glory of God
Cathedrals to the Glory of God

You can purchase your own copy


(or have me send it as a gift) of


Cathedrals to the Glory of God


by clicking this link:



Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page