Over the next seven weeks we did two Caribbean cruises. We had so many new experiences and visited most of the islands plus a visit to Caracas (Venezuela).

The Bergensfjord

Each of the islands had its own unique flavour, but on all of them we found friendly cheerful people who made us very welcome. Most reflected their various colonial histories. Curacao was very clean and tidy, reflecting their Dutch heritage. Martinique was sultry and Nassau in the Bahamas had a very post British colonial air with its fine houses and country clubs!

We tried many new tastes, flying fish, swordfish steaks, exotic fruits with strange sounding names. Many of these are now freely available in the UK ,  but then we felt very adventurous!

We had a lifetime of new experiences. We sat on a hotel terrace in Antigua overlooking Nelson’s boatyard, drinking coffee and feeding sugar to the beautiful little humming birds. We went out in a glass bottom boat, in Jamaica, marvelling at the sealife beneath us. We watched little boys diving like fish for coins in the harbour at Nassau. We dined out in a beachside restaurant in Barbados, watching the magnificent sunset, and dancing on the beach to a steel band. We had seen the contrast between the rich houses and clubs with their private beaches and bars and the small public beaches in Haiti, now a scene of such devastation. We had admired the beautiful children with their big eyes and wide smiles, the little girls in their pretty starched dresses. We had added to our array of souvenirs. Straw bags, sandals, hats and fans, brilliantly decorated shirts for my dad and my brother 🙂 dolls in national costume and yet more jewellery!

I had had another “first ” to add to my list, my first flight.

I had decided to take the opportunity between cruises to visit my cousin in Toronto, who I had never met before. My dad’s brother had emigrated many years before and at that time not many ordinary people  crossed the ocean so they were just names on letters and the kind people who sent us food parcels after the war.

I flew up from Kennedy airport, minimal formalities in those pre-terrorist days, and was met in Toronto by my cousin and aunt and uncle who had driven up from their home in Windsor. There was a quite amusing episode at the airport as a plane from the UK arrived at almost the same time as mine, so when I answered “Two days” in answer to his query about my prospective length of stay, the customs officer gave me a very suspicious look. It is strange to think of that now when some people fly very long distances for a couple of days!

I had a lovely time catching up on my relationship and meeting my cousin’s husband and daughter. We have kept in touch ever since. I little thought that, within a few years, my parents would be flying over to Canada and my aunt and uncle would be visiting us in the UK .

After the Caribbean cruises it was time to travel back over the Atlantic to our home port of Oslo. After much deliberation and with some reluctance we decided not to sign on for the next season of cruising. It was very tempting, a world cruise via the East, Mediterranean cruise and Northern capitals, but we thought that the longer we left it, the harder it would become to give up the wandering life. There would always be just one more cruise and we thought we should go back to the “day jobs” for which we had been trained. We had seen how jaded some of the older stewardesses had become. Where we took delight in exploring new places, they only went ashore at duty free ports and we still judged the passengers by their friendliness, but they judged them by the size of tips they gave.

Me on a tropical Island. (probably Moorea!)

We stayed in Oslo for a few days and then it was back to the UK. We had a holiday at home and then set off for six months in Edinburgh where I was going to do midwifery and S. was going back to Electrical engineering!

We had an unforgettable experience and we were so lucky to do it then while there was an innocence about those tropical islands and before so many cruise ships turned into floating villages. I think we had an easier time and more opportunities to go ashore than cruise crews have now when the ratio of crew to passengers has been decreased.

P.S. I wrote this late last night and this morning learned of the enormous earthquake in Chile which has not only affected many of the cities I visited, but caused a tsunami which is threatening many of those beautiful islands. It is so sad to imagine the devastation this could cause.

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