I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and compile the details of our honeymoon last week. My reward for spending a week in St. Lucia was hopping on a plane to Phoenix followed by a 2 ½ hour drive to Prescott, Arizona on Monday. A quick meeting with a client Tuesday morning, followed by the return trip which had me home at about 11:30 PM. All this after we arrived home from the airport at 9:30 Sunday night. But the vacation was definitely worth a little inconvenience adjusting upon our return.
The island was absolutely tremendous. We had great weather every day except for one. The people were fantastic. The resort was exactly what we hoped it would be. Lots of drinks and good food the entire time. I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to St. Lucia, mostly because we have a lot of other places we want to see, but I would recommend the island to anyone.
Some quick geography and history. St. Lucia is one of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles: a chain the runs from the US Virgins towards the northern coast of South America. St. Lucia is a little over halfway down the chain. It was a two-hour flight from San Juan, which was five from Chicago. The British and French controlled the island alternately for 150 years, until the British seized colonial control that lasted until the 1970s. Thus, the official language is English (and that gorgeous, colonial, island English at that) but the locals speak a French-based Creole amongst each other. The island is maybe 30 miles long, no more than 10 miles across at its widest point. We stayed at the Sandals Grande Saint Lucian, just north of the main city of Castries, on a point that juts out into the Caribbean.
We arrived four hours later than expected (more on that later) so the night manager escorted us to our room. This guy was awesome; I’d like to have him come spend his vacations with us. Jet-black skin, a face that reminded me a little of Christian Okoye (a huge majority of the island’s residents are of African descent, and unlike many African-Americans, there’s been less intermarriage so they look very African), a very proper accent, and an extremely helpful demeanor. He felt the need to show us how each light in the entire room could be turned on and off (perhaps we looked too tired to figure that our for ourselves?) as well as every other intricate feature of our room. I had tipped the porter at the airport and our taxi driver, so after spending over five minutes walking us through our room, S. tried to tip the manager. He politely put his hand up, shook his head, and said, “Tips are not allowed. It has all been taken care of.” S. had to put up with me saying, “It has all been taken care of” in my best Caribbean accent every time we ate or drank the rest of the week.
My only previous island experience was Cancun. So my reference for comparison was our trip there two years ago. The hotel we stayed at in Cancun was very nice. The Sandals made it look like a dump. It was absolutely gorgeous. Some of that was explained when we learned it was a Hyatt resort until Sandals bought them out to have a classy resort to balance their other two sites in St. Lucia. In Cancun, we spent most of our days at the beach. That was partially because the beach is so damn gorgeous in Cancun, and you can walk out in perfect blue waters for 150 feet before the water hits your chest. It was also because the pool got so little direct sunlight during the day. St. Lucia was exactly the opposite. The bay the resort overlooked was nice, but the water not nearly as inviting as Cancun, nor was the beach all that impressive. However, the pool was absolutely perfect, complete with swim-up bars that we frequented often. I decided that all the world’s problems can be solved if you stick the decision makers on a raft in a pool in the Caribbean and let them float around, staring endlessly at the perfect blue skies.
The bars had all kinds of feature drinks, which were basically fruity, blended drinks with low alcohol content, but which tasted fantastic while sitting in the sun. Our favorite was the Love Potion, a mix of rum, banana, strawberry, and pineapple. We had at least five of those a day, plus a few others off the menu. Since it was all-inclusive, one night we grabbed a bottle of wine and went back to our room, sat on our balcony, and drank away while the gentle breezes moved the air around. Just phenomenal. The food was pretty good, too, for the most part. There were five restaurants at the Grande Saint Lucian, plus shuttles to the other Sandals sites. We ate at the authentic British pub, the fancy Italian place, the beachside sandwich place, as well as the open-aired restaurant that had buffets (pronounced BOO-fay on the island) some nights, and menus others. We did take the shuttle one night and ate at a Caribbean restaurant that was really good.
As I said, the people were tremendous. Unlike Cancun, where everyone had their hand out and were rude if you didn’t give them what they wanted, everyone in St. Lucia was as nice as you could want. They constantly asked you how your day or night was going, if there was anything they could do to help, and made jokes to keep you laughing. It was their Carnival season, so several of the bartenders spent the day singing their favorite songs that would be used at the parties in the cities that night.
S. commented that it really reminded her of Africa a lot, which she didn’t expect. There were so many little things, from the obvious lack of money outside the resort, to cattle wandering along the roads at night, to the accents (with the English and French floating through the air, I kept imagining we were at some boarder city in West Africa, maybe between Nigeria and the former French colonies, where languages and cultures met), to way people looked. For all the lack of money we saw, I think St. Lucia is probably light years ahead of what S. saw in Kenya.
One thing that amused us all week was the size of the portions you got at meals. One night we ordered a shrimp cocktail appetizer. The waitress asked us if we wanted two, we said no, we would share. Five minutes later we were presented with a small plate that had five tiny shrimp spread on it. Another night we ordered the spring roll appetizer. We received one, taquito-sized spring roll that was cut in half. But the entrees were often American-sized, and the desserts were always generous (if not serve yourself). We managed to stuff ourselves at every meal.
So the people were great, the resort outstanding, the food and drink above average. My favorite thing might have been the crickets native to the island. Each night, just after sunset, the air would be filled with the sounds of crickets looking for some hot, insect love. They had this distinctive tune that sounded more like the soft creaking of a ceiling fan than the sound we’re used to. It was a warm, comforting sound that I fell asleep to every night.
As I said, we got into the island four hours late. We didn’t know until we reached San Juan that the volcano on Montserrat had erupted over the weekend, reeking havoc with air travel in the Caribbean. Nearly every flight to the islands Sunday had been cancelled, so the waiting area for the small, inter-island turbo-props was full of people when we arrived Monday. I jokingly compared it to the bar scene in Star Wars, since every type of person imaginable was represented. There were rastas, huge women who looked like they stepped off a plantation 150 years ago, back packers, and tons of 20-somethings still tanned and primped from their weddings. Naturally, we got minimal information from the airlines, so it wasn’t until 6:00 that our flight, which still said 6:00 for departure, got bumped back to 8:00. At 8:45 it still said 8:00. In the meantime, countless flights were being cancelled. We talked to some guys who had missed their flight the previous day, and both had flights cancelled Monday. We were scrambling to form a plan to get a hotel room if need be. We later learned that all the planes that had been sitting in range of the volcano had been covered with ash, and many had sucked ash into the planes. So in addition to just getting the planes back to San Juan, they had to clean each one thoroughly. We were extremely happy when they called our flight at around 9:00. We bused out to our plane, waited another 10 minutes, got on the plane, and finally got off the ground around 9:45. Suddenly I didn’t care that I was on a turbo-prop for the first time; I was just happy to be on the way. We talked to some people on our return trip that spent two entire days waiting for a flight on their way down. We were extremely fortunate.
The only other hiccup was the big storm that blew through Thursday. It actually came at a good time, as I was 27 shades of red. We sat in our room, with the balcony door open, reading, listening to the rain pour down all morning. We were scheduled to go snorkeling at 1:30, and trudged down to see if there was any chance of going out at 1:00. The rain had stopped, but they warned us it had rained so hard that a lot of soil had washed into the water. We spent probably 45 minutes floating along the edge of the island with the current. It was very murky, but we saw some cool fish, and floated by a school of squid at some point.
It was really a great time. It was exactly what a vacation, especially a honeymoon, was supposed to be. If we’re lucky, we’ll find another place in the world that treated us as well as St. Lucia did.