Specifically, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Maarten
Thursday, May 12, 2022
Our First Post-Covid Cruise
Is it just us, or have you, too, ever wondered where the terms Leeward Islands, Windward Islands, Greater Antilles, Lesser Antilles, West Indies, etc. originated??? And exactly what do the terms mean?
Well, let’s start with Antilles.
The word Antilles originated long before the colonization of the Americas. Antillia is a phantom island of ancient Iberian legend. As the legend goes: seven Christian Visigothic bishops fled the Muslim conquest of Hispania in 714AD. They set sail with their followers on several ships heading westward into the Atlantic Ocean. Far off the coasts of Portugal and Spain, they founded seven settlements on an island they named Antillia. Many mariners reported seeing the island in the distance, but it seemed to disappear before they could reach it!!! The mapmaker Zuane Pizzigano is credited with publishing the first chart, in 1424, depicting Antillia. Hence, most nautical charts of the 15th century contained the island. But by 1492, when the North Atlantic was routinely sailed and more accurately mapped, the depictions of Antillia began to disappear.
And what about Greater and Lesser Antilles, or Windward and Leeward Islands?
Today, the word Antilles (with a bow to legend) refers to the archipelago bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and west; the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest; and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and east. The islands that compose the Antilles are further categorized as the Greater Antilles which includes the larger islands of Cayman Islands, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico; as well as the Lesser Antilles which digs down even deeper to sub-categorize the northerly Leeward Islands and the southeasterly Windward Islands (which also, are you ready for this, includes the Leeward Antilles just north of Venezuela.) The Leeward Antilles are the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao along with the Federal Dependencies of Venezuela. And as a side note: the Lucayan Archipelago consisting of the Bahama Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands is generally not included among the Antillean islands even though it is a part of the West Indies. And by the way, the term West Indies was unknown until 1492 when Christopher Columbus first set foot on land in The Bahamas. Now a subregion of North America, the West Indies (to be differentiated from the Indies (India), and East Indies (South and Southeast Asia) are surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It includes 13 independent island countries; 18 dependencies; and territories in 3 major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago.
Now isn’t that all just a boatload of trivia to digest!!!
Let’s move on to the islands of the Lesser Antilles:
We did not visit all the islands of the Lesser Antilles on this cruise. But we did stop at Frederiksted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. Johns, Antigua; Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; and Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands/Saint Martin, France before heading back to Ft. Lauderdale.
The history of the islands is almost always the same. The local islanders battle with each other; they battle with those from other islands; then the explorers come, and more battles ensue. But trade follows and the islands prosper with sugar, rum, salt, coffee and more. Slaves contribute to the prosperity. And then, of course, there are the pirates and their dastardly deeds. Eventually, the slaves revolt: World Wars are waged; then life returns to normal; and before you know it, tourism becomes “the thing.”
Let’s look at the U.S. Virgin Islands first: the main islands are St. Croix, St. John, and Saint Thomas along with several dozen smaller islands. Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas is the capital. Originally the Danish West Indies of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway (from 1754-1814), they were sold to the United States in 1917 for $25,000,000. Tourism is the primary economic activity.
Here are some photos of St. Croix:
Our next port of call was St. John’s, Antigua:
Followed by Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis:
And we concluded in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten:
Thus ends the Caribbean adventure.
Now, before we end this series, we want to give you a “heads-up:” come back in a week or so to check out the next post and learn about the La Petit Dinner served aboard the Celebrity Millennium in the Qsine Restaurant. We think you’ll find it interesting! It is a clever concept and very entertaining.
Till then, Happy Travels!!!