Welcome Aboard: Lesser Antilles

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!!!

The Caribbean Sea and its islands. Take note, The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos are not part of either the Greater nor the Lesser Antilles. (Kmusser, Creative Commons attribution share alike 3.0 unreported)

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:    

Although we have visited the U. S. Virgin Islands before, this was our first visit to Frederiksted, St. Croix.
View of the old fort in Frederiksted.
View of the Frederiksted clock tower. The market takes place when a ship comes in!!!
Lunch was at the 69 Restaurant in Frederiksted.
Afternoon libations at Polly’s at the Pier in Frederiksted. Note the chicken on the ground at the right.
These cute little guys were everywhere!!!
Well sure, we fed them!!!
And then they croseed the road. And no, we don’t know why!!! But maybe because the food was gone???
Carib Lager was our choice of libation in Frederiksted.
But do note this particular libation in Frederiksted was actually brewed and bottled in Cape Canaveral, Florida!!!
And of course we shopped the market. My bargain purchase was an original acrylic on board by J. George, a local artist. As soon as it’s framed, it will join the collection of our travels!!!

Our next port of call was St. John’s, Antigua:

In St. Johns, Antigua, the ship docks right in town!!!
It’s easy to walk around in St. Johns. There are lots of shopping and dining options.
The terrain is flat at the dock area…
…but rises as you go further inland.
We had a great view of Fort Barrington (built in 1779) as we departed Antigua.

Followed by Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis:

Although we did not see Nevis on this trip, we had a great time in Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis.
We signed up for a ship’s tour by boat and train around the island of St. Kitts.
The boat tour took us past old sugar mills where the smokestacks are still visible and well preserved…
…and then we boarded the St Kitts Scenic Railway…
…which took us through some quaint towns.
We had an enjoyable day in Basseterre, St. Kitts

And we concluded in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten:

Our last stop on this cruise was in charming Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
We love wandering the streets.
But even more, we love visiting the Greenhouse Restaurant. We will lunch here on nearly every visit!!!
the food is good…
…very good…
…and so is the beer!!!
We did not have time to visit Maho Beach this trip, but it is a thrill every time we do!!! (photo by Aldo Bidini – https://www.jetphotos.com/photo/5908899, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16488761

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!!!