When cruising around the Caribbean, you’ll be surprised by the unique flavour of each island. The port of St John’s in Antigua, which features on many Southern Caribbean cruises, has a particularly distinctive taste – in part due to Suzy’s Hot Sauce, the fiery condiment found throughout the island. Along with its spicy cuisine, taking a cruise stop in Antigua provides you with activities, history and scenery to suit the whole family. Have a look through our excursion guide to get an idea of the top things to do in Antigua.
Antigua’s port excursions give you the chance to try something new to this Caribbean island – zip lining. Not only an exhilarating experience for everyone, it also offers a fantastic view of the island’s jungle interior. The minimum age is 4 and there is no maximum as long as you are over 4 feet tall and less than 240lbs.
The Antigua Rainforest Zip Line gives you a choice of taking 6, 12 or 13 zips through the lush jungle and over a gorge 350 metres high. Safety equipment and a clear briefing are all provided, so there’s no need to worry if you’re a first timer.
There is some element of skill involved if you want to glide with grace – you’ll need to lean back, raise your legs high and grip the wire with one arm behind your head. For those of us who are less coordinated, it’s just as much fun spinning and sailing through the trees whilst holding on tight to your harness!
The zip line is a popular activity for cruise ship passengers and can get very busy if there are several ships in dock. Pre-book your place in advance with a tour company onboard – they should also be able to provide transfers for the 20-minute journey. Another tip is to ride just 6 zips instead of the full 12 as you get to go at the front of the group and will spend less time waiting your turn.
If zip lining is a little too scary a proposition for your day in Antigua, there’s another way to take in the island’s views. At the Shirley Heights Lookout, the historic fortifications of the harbour’s colonial observation post come with jaw-dropping views of the ocean and Caribbean islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe beyond. There’s a restaurant, bar and mini craft market situated at the lookout point, and on a Sunday evening, the backdrop is enhanced by a weekly barbeque and live steel drums, all washed down with local rum.
If you fancy a day hike, Shirley Heights can be reached via the Look out Trail which starts from Freeman’s Bay, but taxis can easily take you to the top if you’re short on time. Shirley Heights forms part of Antigua’s National Parks and visitors are charged $8 to enter. Keep hold of your ticket though – it will also gain you entrance to Nelson’s Dockyard which sits just below the look out.
Try the food
Antigua’s cuisine is similar to its neighbour Caribbean islands with a few extra exceptions. It’s national dish – funji – is almost like Italy’s polenta, made with cornmeal and usually eaten as a side dish like pasta or rice. Other popular dishes on the island are jerk meats, roti – curry wrapped in a thin dough – and kebabs and gyros. You’ll find a range of restaurants all over St. Johns, from traditional Caribbean cuisine to American, Italian, Vegan, French and Japanese. And of course you can’t forget to try Susie’s Hot Sauce, a small cottage industry from Antigua which has become internationally known for its huge taste.
History buffs will enjoy diving into Antigua’s maritime history at Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. Developed as a base for the British Navy in the 18th Century, this only remaining Georgian dockyard in the world has been restored for visitors to understand its former glory.
The dockyard is named after Admiral Lord Nelson who was based at Antigua’s English Harbour from 1784 to 1787, which is interesting considering the building he is said to haunt was built 50 years after this date. Today, the area hosts a museum as well as hotels, restaurants, markets and a place for private yachts to dock. You can get a brilliant birds-eye view of the whole area from Shirley Heights.
Antigua has over 365 beaches – that’s one for every day of the year – and every one of them comes with dazzling white sand and warm azure waters. Just 11kms from St John’s is the mile long stretch of pure sand known as Jolly Beach. Watersports, restaurants, beach chairs and umbrellas are all on offer here so it makes a nice relaxing spot for an afternoon in Antigua.
Shopping in St. Johns
Before you head back onto the ship, take some time to explore the duty free shops at Heritage Quay in St. John’s Harbour. Heritage Quay offers two floors of tax and duty free browsing – including gadgets, clothing, jewellery and beauty items. Remember to bring ID with you and proof that you’re a tourist to be able to take advantage of the savings. Nearby, you’ll also find Heritage Market, which sells a vibrant variety of local fruit and vegetables, as well as Suzy’s famous sauce. Grab a bottle and it’s sure to bring back fond memories of Antigua when you cook with it back home.
If you’re itching to set foot on those Caribbean shores, you’re not alone. Demand for cruising to these sunny islands is high, and there are numerous cruise liners which will get you there. Royal Caribbean®, like the name implies, is no stranger to these waters, and their Freedom of the Seas ship takes a one week journey through the islands stopping halfway at St. Johns. Celebrity Cruises®’ Celebrity Equinox leaves Miami on a 11-night voyage through Caribbean waters, porting in St. Johns, Bridgetown, Castries and others. But Princess Cruisessurpasses them all, with a 20 night round trip from Fort Lauderdale calling at over 10 ports including St. Johns.
For more best-selling Antigua cruise deals have a look through our Caribbean itineraries and start planning your next voyage on the seas.
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