Many of us have travelled to the Caribbean Islands for cruising adventures. It is a cruising heaven packed with cruise ships of all shapes and sizes. Departing from ports located out of the state of Florida, one and two week trips carry tourists to some of the 34 countries and Territories within the area.
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.
The entire area of the Caribbean Sea, the numerous islands of the West Indies, and adjacent coasts, are collectively known as the Caribbean. The Caribbean Sea is one of the largest seas and has an area of about 2,754,000 square kilometres.
Apparently, travellers from Mainland China have not begun to explore the Caribbean countries. May be their remoteness and lack of promotions in China have eluded the mainland travellers up to this point. I have taken many Caribbean cruises before this year. Most of these concentrated on the northern part of the Caribbean Seas.
The Bahamas, even though geographically located outside and to the north of the region has always been a tourist hot spot. Typically, seven-day cruises will cover the north west quadrant of the Caribbean Seas and visiting places such as the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
Two months ago, I took on a 14-day cruise that covers 8 different countries and territories located at the eastern boundaries of the Caribbean Sea. These places are very culturally diversified and offered a glimpse into 4 different origins and influences – British, Dutch, French, and United States.
First stop (US Virgin Islands) – Not to be confused with the British Virgin Islands which is a tax haven constantly popping up in the news concerning tax evasions. The U.S. Virgin Islands is the only US jurisdiction that drives on the left with the steering column on the left side of the vehicles. This is a legacy of Dutch rule before it was purchased by the United States in 1917 for $25 million in gold. It is now an unincorporated territory of the United States with a population of about 100,000.
Tourism is well developed and on the day of our visit – 4 large cruise ships were parked at the terminals. There are lovely look-out points from the hills and beautiful beaches can be observed from them. Bargains are available, but visitors will have to compare prices as there are variances from one place to another.
Second Stop (Antigua and Barbuda) – A British colony at one time, it secured independence on November 1, 1981 and became a British Commonwealth country. It has a population of 100,000 and English is the official language.
As soon as you left the pier, you will enter into shopping streets catered to tourists. For our excursions, we hired a driver to take us on a tour to various parts of the island – the beaches and the other attractions. Right away, we experienced the “right hand drive” where the driver's seat is on the right side of the vehicle. I kept walking to the wrong side of the car to enter into the passenger seat.
I saw the Royal Bank and Scotia Bank branches and subsequently found out from the driver that investment banking and financial services make up an important part of the economy. Most of the Island of Barbuda was devastated in early September 2017 by Hurricane Irma and it damaged or destroyed 95% of the island's buildings and infrastructure, leaving Barbuda "barely habitable". Nearly everyone on the island was evacuated to Antigua which was not affected. I left with the impression that the people there are resilient and recovery will be successful.
Next time, I will continue with the encounters experienced in many other countries and territories visited during this very compact 14 days and 8 destinations adventure. In one location, there was even a condominium development in a community handled by a Mainland Chinese developer complete with Chinese billboards and posters catering to Chinese investors!
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