This being our first visit to the island of St. Kitts, Traci and I knew we wanted to do a sightseeing tour. In the past, we always booked our shore excursions through the ship. Doing this is normally more expensive than booking a local company directly but it gave us the peace of mind to know that the ship would not leave us if the shore excursion returned late. This would not necessarily be the case if a tour not sponsored by the ship returned late. These days with online reviews so accessible, I felt more comfortable booking a local company directly. After all, I doubt a tour company could stay in business if the online reviews indicate their customers were not brought back to the ship in time. At some point during our planning for this cruise, I came across a recommendation to use Thenford Grey Tours for sightseeing in St. Kitts. It turned out to be a great recommendation. I contacted them through their web site a few weeks before our cruise to book their St. Kitts Grand Tour. They sent an email confirmation that said that one of their representatives would meet us at the end of the pier on the morning of our arrival in St. Kitts. This 5-hour excursion cost just $55 per person and was very good quality.
There were 12 of us from our ship who were doing the Thenford Grey St. Kitts Grand Tour. Our driver maneuvered through the narrow streets of Basseterre as the locals went about their daily lives. Vehicles drive on the opposite side of the street than in the U.S.. There are no traffic lights. There are no high-rises. The interesting thing about the town is that there seemed to be a bank on every street.
We were driven through Independence Square. It was originally where slaves were auctioned. Today there is a fountain in the center of the square. The surrounding streets contain a beautiful cathedral, a courthouse, and more banks.
During our ride outside Basseterre, we occasionally saw some of the wild vervet monkeys for which the island is known. We could see the green mountains of the island's interior. Looking across the water we caught a glimpse St. Kitts' sister island Nevis. Given the popularity of the musical Hamilton on Broadway at the time of our visit, our guide was sure to add that Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the U.S., was born on the island of Nevis.
Our first stop was the Romney Manor. Since 1626, the ownership of this area has changed from Carib Indian Chief Tegreman to Sam Jefferson (great, great, great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson) to the Earl of Romney and his successors to its present day owner Caribelle Batik the producer of dyed fabrics. Among other things, Romney Manor served as a sugar plantation worked by African slaves. There is a 400 year old Saman tree on the property that has survived all the ownership changes, natural disasters, and other happenings. Romney Manor is now a beautifully landscaped property. Artist of Caribelle Batik demonstrate how they create their famous fabrics. Of course, the fabrics can be purchased there. We spent about 30 minutes walking the grounds of Romney Manor. There was not much there that kept my attention, but it felt nice to walk around in a beautiful tropical location.
Caribelle Batik fabrics
One of my favorite stops of the tour was the Brimstone Hill Fortress. This British fort was built high on a hill by African slaves between the late 1600's and 1700's. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Great news! I was able to update my list of UNESCO visits.) We had to walk up a long stone walkway to get to the fort from the parking lot but what a view when we arrived. It blows my mind to think how much effort it must have taken for the slaves to haul the quarry needed for building the fort.
At the fort, we were shown a short film about Brimstone Hill and then given time to walk around. You could enter some of the rooms and read about what used to take place there. Despite all the information available about the fortress, the thing I will always remember is the view of the ocean and the mountains from there.
Brimstone Hill Fortress
steep walkway between the fort and parking lot
From Brimstone Hill Fortress, we made a stop at a small beach. It was here, incidentally, that we saw one of the other well-known wild critters of the island – the mongoose. There were several of them scurrying through the forest across from the beach. We had the option to stay at beach for an hour or so and then be picked up later but no one in our group opted to stay there. Therefore, we began our return trip to the ship. We made an interesting stop to get a view of the narrow section of the island before eventually arriving back at the port.
quick stop at the beach
overlooking the narrow section of the island
Back in town, we browsed some of the souvenir shops and checked email. We visited two jewelry shops for which Thenford Grey Tours had given us discount coupons but we did not buy anything.
It had been an enjoyable day in St. Kitts; however, back onboard the ship it was more of the same frustration of waiting in lines to see concerts. I really hope that the problems we experienced with Capital Jazz Cruise 2016 were an anomaly and that the organization can get back to the high quality cruise experience that has kept us veteran Capital Jazz cruisers returning year after year. To get an idea of what I mean, you should check out my previous Capital Jazz Cruise trip report. Shortly after returning from the 2016 cruise, we received an email from Capital Jazz apologizing for the problems we experienced. We were told we would receive a $300 discount per person on a future Capital Jazz Cruise - good for the next three years. Main Page...
Magnet Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)Entire fridge magnet collection...