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Pampered on the high seas

Gercine Carter

Pampered on the high seas

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The Silver Spirit anchored off Gustavia, capital port of St Barthelemy, one of the four territories in the Leeward Islands that comprise the French West Indies, along with Guadeloupe, Martinique and St Martin, at dawn on a Tuesday morning.
Immediately, there was a sense of the opulence pervading. The majestic yachts bobbing up and down at their moorings on the pier made the unmistakeable statement that this tiny, eight-square-mile island is indeed a favourite haunt of the rich and famous.
Butler Abraham buzzed my phone at the stroke of seven to announce my breakfast had arrived and he set it down on a table on my private teak balcony which afforded a panoramic view of the hills of St Barts, as it is popularly known, the striking red-painted roofs dotting the green mountainous landscape.
I was anxious to hit the streets of Gustavia where the world’s top designers showcase their fashion, jewellery and perfumes in small shops where there is no mistaking the affluence of shoppers, judging from n their dress.
Philip, the on-board personal shopper had stirred my interest in the diamonds with his on-screen talks about their peculiar properties and his extensive knowledge about jewellery.
Needless to say, once ashore, my eyes feasted on the merchandise, while my pockets retreated in unaffordability.
But for the typical Silver Spirit passenger, this is a normal shopping adventure and husbands wait patiently, credit card in hand, as wives select that “perfect gem stone” perhaps influenced by Philip’s talks. One might hear: “This one is just a little different from the other one you bought me last year.”
Late afternoon, I took the tender back across the harbour and reboarded Silver Spirit to prepare for dinner. Staff at all levels are polite, always ready with a friendly exchange, and making sure they acknowledge you every time they see you. They even sometimes mention you by name. How they remember is beyond me.
That night, my group opted for dinner in La Terrazza restaurant where the presentation of the meal was as much a photographer’s delight as it was gastronomically pleasing.
The Italian dishes were exceptional.
It was noticeable that for those six days, I heard no calypso on board, though we were in the Caribbean. Still, there was a variety of musical choices offered in the restaurants, in The Bar, and at poolside on Deck 9. Music ranged from soothing orchestral classics streamed into the suite, to the piano stylings of Eric O’Bach, to the pre-dinner music by pianist Florandy, and for jazz lovers, Miki Brown and Eric Neissner performed in the Stars Jazz Club. In the Panorama Lounge, D J Adam took guests’ requests.
Wednesday, and we sailed into Basseterre, St Kitts as dawn broke. Signed up for the famous St Kitts railway tour early in the morning, I decided on an early al fresco breakfast in La Terrazza. Sitting there and enjoyed the fare selected from an appealing buffet – a selection of fresh fruit, cereals, English and Canadian bacon, a variety of breads, cheeses, sausages, and a lot more.
The Chef made the perfect omelette of your choice as you waited.
No sooner had he placed in in your hands, than a waiter appeared ready to relieve you of carrying the “load”, setting it down before you at your table.
On this ship, everyone is well organised, and there is a welcome sense of order, even when the ship’s crew move around the decks. The tour director is right there ashore, guiding me to the tour bus after I return to the meeting point from a quick sweep through the shops in the St Kitts Port. We drive out of Basseterre and into the heart of the canefields where the tour begins.
 It is long, winding through abandoned canefield after abandoned canefield, passing alongside houses with gardens, rolling over metal bridges with lush, but deep gorges below. Everyone pauses to wave as the train goes by, even toddlers at play in schoolgrounds.
 The driver is the tour guide on this occasion and he narrates a history of St Kitts and the sugar train, which was reintroducedafter the original cane-bearing train cars were abandoned five years ago at the end of the sugar cane growing in St Kitts.
  This evening, we miss the barbecue dinner under the stars, electing to dine on Japanese fare. Exhausted from a long day, I take a quick stroll to one of the on-board shops, H Stern Boutique, to see the jewellery collection I had read about in the ship’s daily newsletter. The collection is inspired by a 1900 Victorian tiara, with cognac diamonds set in 18 carat noble gold.
 The next day, when Silver Spirit arrived in St John’s, Antigua, Heroes Day was being celebrated and everything was closed.?But learning that the Opposition Antigua Labour Party was hosting its own celebration in honour of the late Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, I walked about ten blocks to the square where there is a larger than lifestatue of the former Antiguan leader.
There were his sons, grandson and a host of party supporters, mainly women, all dresed in red, celebrating. I stumbled upon well known Antiguan cricket character, Gravy, sitting at his taxi stand nearby, surrounded by the knick-knacks which he sells. He looked in good shape, and promised he would be in Barbados for the next Twenty/20 tournament. Warm and accommodating, he refused my money for the mints I was buying.
The moment the women saw my camera, I was commandered to photograph and report on the female “comrade” who was to lay the wreath for “Papa Bird” and directed to speak to other “important” comrades. But after listening to one speech, I made my way back to the dock and reboarded the ship to order a room service lunch served in my suite by Abraham.
?• Next week Silver Spirit Captain Corsaro speaks.