There is a lot of cachet in saying that one has been vacationing on the Amazon! It sounds impressive even if one is traveling on a safe, comfortable ship as we were. I once counted and I think we've been on 13 different cruise lines and all have been good, but Viking is perhaps our favorite for a number of reasons. Besides taking care of passengers really, really well, they really honor their Viking roots, and that includes a small heritage display just outside the entrance to the main dining room.
The mouth of the Amazon is river is over 200 miles wide, and the delta is such a maze of channels and islands that it took half a day for the ship to sail through to the Atlantic. Then we headed north to the Caribbean, which is one of the world's most popular cruising areas, and justly so because of the warmth, turquoise seas, and the multitude of islands, each with its own history and culture.
Here is a blog I wrote several years ago which describes several different islands we visited on another cruise.
On this trip, we revisited the gorgeous island of St. Lucia, and took a boat ride along the coast to sail around the Pitons, the Twin Peaks, which are the island's most famous features. Along the way we were told that St. Lucia is famous for its different varieties of bananas, which all taste much the same but can be long, short, straight, or curved. In honor of this island crop, we were offered ripe bananas (delicious) and banana chips served with drinks, also delicious though probably not as healthy. <G>
A new island for us was Antigua, the larger of the two main islands of the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda. It was part of the British West Indies, which means driving on the left like all the formerly British islands. It was also the site of the Nelson Dock Yard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a major Royal Navy facility that was once commanded by Captain Horatio Nelson before he became the famous admiral and victor of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The harbor is excellent and safe, and the dockyard has been modernized as a pleasant touristy area with restaurants, hotels, and shops where one can sip a drink and watch the boats in the sunny harbors, which is one of the reasons people visit the Caribbean! But beware the coconuts and don't walk under the palm trees!
Our journey ended in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is a staging area for travel throughout the Caribbean. We chose an excursion to the Ron del Barralito rum distillery, which is the oldest distiller in Puerto Rico, founded in the mid-19th century. Rum is made on many Caribbean islands; as the Mayhem Consultant says, people tend to make alcohol of whatever is available, and in the Caribbean, that means sugar.
Besides a tour of the production facilities, we were treated to a tasting of their rums, which are graded as two, three, four, and five stars. Ratings are determined by how long the rum has been aged. Here is the tasting set up, with four glasses containing a splash of run at each place setting. The Two Star rum is aged 3 to 5 years and is a good everyday rum. Three Star is aged 6 to 10 years and is their best known product. The Four Star is available only at the distillery visitor's center and is aged for 20 years.
But the Five Star rum was the true star of the tasting. A limited edition product, it's aged for 35 years and if you can find a bottle, it will cost $750!!!! I'm not much for drinking spirits and fall into the "rum drinks with fruit on sticks" category, but it was interesting to taste the different rums because even a novice like me could tell the differences.
And the Five Star rum? It struck me as similar to the fine brandies that one of my dukes would serve to favored guests! It was an incredibly subtle and layered flavor, and the splash we were each served was probably about $50 worth. <G>
As always the cruise was interesting and multi-faceted–and the next day we went home where my most expensive drink is fresh squeezed orange juice. (And really, I'll take that over rum any day!)
Have you been to any of these islands? If not, would you like to visit them? As I said, there is a reason why the Caribbean is so popular!
PS: Please forgive the shortage of pictures; the software was having a cranky evening! So I put in Viking chess pieces since I couldn't show the rum tasting.