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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman


Cruise Diva's CRUISE DIARY
~ Oceania Cruises' REGATTA ~

Caribbean Hideaways


Before heading ashore after docking in Antigua, an island I have visited in the past, I had an appointment in the Oceania Spa for my facial. Days spent outdoors and antihistamine medication had taken their toll during the past week and the treatment was sorely needed. The Oceania Spa is staffed by British spa operators Harding Brothers and I found them to be friendly and efficient. They provided a soothing treatment with quality products and no high pressure sales pitch to purchase them, although I thought the "eye patch" to relieve puffiness was probably worth its weight in gold.

St. Johns, Antigua

St. Johns, Antigua has certainly changed in the years since I had been there. Gone are the dreary storefronts along Heritage Quay—bright pastels have transformed them into a cheerful haven to entice cruise ship passenger 'pirates' to shop and dine. A concerted effort by the island's government has paid off in terms of appeal and one has to venture several blocks inland before encountering the quaint, if somewhat seedy, less touristy part of the city with its cobblestone streets and weathered houses.

Antigua boasts it has a beach for every day of the year and, while that is somewhat of an exaggeration, the sugary white sand beaches are lovely and all are open to the public. Runaway Beach is close to the port and popular for swimming and sunning. For history buffs, a visit to Nelson’s Dockyard National Park is a must. One of the Caribbean’s finest attractions, is often compared to Colonial Williamsburg. Explore the park with its beaches and nature trails that wind through lush tropical vegetation.

Late afternoon found me in—of all places—Regatta's main galley! Executive Chef Eric Borole led our small group through his gleaming province where 65 cooks and 90 crew members perform their highly orchestrated duties, from baking fresh bread three times a day to tending stocks around the clock. While salads, desserts, and certain dishes are prepared ahead of time, individual meal preparation doesn't begin until a waiter places an order. It is then that fish and most meat dishes are cooked à la minute with the freshest ingredients possible. Oceania Cruises spends at least 25% more on food than other ingredients and their efforts really pay off—for my taste, all meals thus far have exceeded my expectations.

St. Barts

St. Bart's Gustavia Harbor

What would a Caribbean cruise be without snorkeling? With its excellent coral reef, St. Barts seemed the ideal spot to snorkel and the Odyssée Caraïbes Snorkel Adventure tour fit the bill. After meeting in the Regatta Lounge where beach towels were available, we tendered ashore and boarded the catamaran dive boat right at the pier in Gustavia Harbor. Our comfortable vessel motored to a sheltered anchorage where the crew gave an equipment and safety orientation. All participants were outfitted with masks, fins and "noodles"—colorful flotation devices that enabled us to float as well as swim unimpeded. Once in the water it took some effort to spot the colorful fish among the rocks and coral (they wouldn't pose for my camera, unfortunately), but some of us identified as many as a dozen different varieties.

After an hour we climbed aboard our vessel and dove into the French sausage and cheeses, as well as a refreshing rum punch offered by the crew. Another great tour, made all the more satisfying by the warm, friendly, and safety-conscious captain and crew!

Back in Gustavia, we spent the remainder of the day lazing in outdoor cafés and window shopping in the very pricey boutiques. Exclusive and oh-so-French, St. Bart's is a bit of the Côte d’Azur in the Caribbean, yet we were pleased not to encounter the snobbishness often present in other French islands. 

Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands)

The Baths

A day at The Baths was on the minds of many Regatta passengers as we anchored off Virgin Gorda. In fact, the main reason to visit Virgin Gorda is The Baths, where immense boulders form grottoes in the sea.

An inexpensive, open-air shuttle operates continuously from the dock area in Spanish Town. It is a simple matter to hop on board or hire a taxi for the short ride to The Baths where a day of sun and tranquility at the beach are life's greatest rewards. The pools around The Baths are excellent for swimming and snorkeling and snorkel equipment is available for rental. While getting down (and later, up) the hill from the parking lot and restaurant-pool area can be challenging, it is worth every step!

  • Part Four -- Dominican Republic & two relaxing sea days

  • Part Five -- Debarkation and lasting impressions

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