My husband Bill and I just got home from our latest vacation. This time, it was to the southern Caribbean, where we spent a week on the SeaDream I. Our cruise started on the beautiful island of Antigua. Antigua is enchanting, but it's not as tourist friendly as, say, Puerto Rico. SeaDream does not allow cruisers to embark before 2:00pm and we had to be checked out of our hotel by noon. Last time Bill and I cruised on SeaDream, we made the mistake of not having anything to do. We ended up hanging around the cruise port in San Juan and eating a big lunch at a local restaurant. This time, I wanted to keep us occupied until we could board our ship.
Recommend this product?
Having searched TripAdvisor for suggestions, I found several reviews singing the praises of Adventure Antigua, a tour operation started by Antigua native Eli Fuller that offers boat tours and charters around Antigua. Adventure Antigua has several tours available which occur on different days of the week. Perhaps Eli's most popular tour is the Eco Tour, which is on a 52 foot powercat. This tour runs all day and is designed to teach tourgoers about Antigua's ecology as well as give them a chance to swim, hike, and snorkel in some beautiful places. The Eco Tour was enticing, but Bill and I ultimately chose the Xtreme Circumnav tour, which is given on a 45 foot speedboat that travels around the island of Antigua at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Having looked at the choices available on Adventure Antigua's Web site, we thought the Xtreme Circumnav tour would give us the most bang for our bucks. It's a good thing we felt that way, because it turned out the Xtreme tour was the only one being offered on Sunday, November 13th.
Once I had convinced Bill that we needed to take Eli's Xtreme Circumnav tour, I sent an email requesting more information. I was most concerned about when the tour would end, since I didn't want to miss too much of our time on SeaDream. We also had some logistical concerns, since the port in Antigua doesn't have a place to store luggage and we would be checking out of our hotel the morning of the 13th. I knew we would have to leave our luggage at the hotel and go back to get it after the tour, and I wasn't sure how long that would take. Adventure Antigua got back to me quickly and was very forthcoming with information. I was convinced the time frame would work for us. The cost would be $153 per person.
The next step was to make a formal request and give Adventure Antigua a deposit of approximately $50-- $25 per person. This deposit was done by credit card and charged in Eastern Caribbean dollars. Because of the money conversion system, the deposit didn't work out to exactly $50, but the difference was very minor. The balance of the tour for the two of us was $256, which was to be paid in cash when we boarded the boat. Those who want to pay by credit card may do so, but will pay $170 per person instead of $153.
What you get for your money
The Xtreme Circumnav tour may seem pricey, but for the cost of admission, you get a six hour tour which includes information about the island, admission to Stingray City Marine Park, where you can swim with the stingrays, fruit juices, a full lunch, snorkeling gear and instruction, and at the end of the tour, some killer rum punch.
What should you bring/wear?
Wear a swimsuit under your clothes, sandals, and a hat. Bring plenty of sunscreen and a towel. You might also want to bring undergarments to change into at the end of the tour, in case you don't want to sit around in your wet swimsuit. There is a private place to change clothes on the boat, as well as toilet facilities.
Be sure to bring your camera. There are lots of photo ops available on the tour. An underwater camera is especially desirable if you're interested in photographing fish.
You can bring your own snorkeling gear if you want to. Adventure Antigua also has some available for you to borrow.
Adventure Antigua's Xtreme Circumnav tour picked us up at the port where all the cruise ships were docked. Bill and I spied our tiny SeaDream I ship at the end of a line of huge cruise ships, including P&O's Ventura, Silversea's Silver Whisper, and Celebrity's brand new ship, Silhouette. There were probably about fifteen people waiting to board the speedboat, which would also be stopping at Jolly Harbor to pick up a few more people. Everybody took off their shoes and handed over their bags to be stowed inside the boat for safe keeping.
I chose a seat at the front of the boat, stationing myself right next to the ladder so I could hang on to one of the rungs. People who have bad backs and pregnant women are advised to sit at the back of the boat. The tour leaders recommended that those of us sitting at the front of the boat straddle the seat as if we were riding a horse. This was a pretty familiar position for me, since I spent a good portion of my childhood on horseback. In fact, when the boat picked up speed and started hitting the swells, I actually felt like I was on horseback again! Bill sat right behind me.
I was a little worried about how I'd handle the power and speed of the boat, but that turned out to be a non-issue. The speed was exhilarating and it was so much fun to watch the beautiful scenery go by. Our tour guides pointed out places of interest, including Crossroads, Eric Clapton's celebrity rehab facilities. Evidently, citizens of Antigua and Barbuda are allowed to get treatment for free because Clapton wanted to give back to the community. We also passed the Mill Reef Club, a highly exclusive club that one has to "know someone" to attend.
The boat made several stops, including one at Stingray City, where very friendly stingrays happily nudge and kiss the humans swimming among them. We stopped for a barbecue chicken picnic lunch on Green Island, a private island in Antigua. We also enjoyed an extended snorkel and swim session near English Harbour, a beautiful area where there are a couple of very cute hotels and restaurants, as well as Nelson's Dockyard.
As the day wore on, people started to relax and chat. It was a fun day and we got back to the main port at about 3:00pm, plenty of time for us to fetch our luggage and board the SeaDream I. This was a much better way to kill the time before our cruise than eating at a restaurant, especially since SeaDream puts out a nice spread and hands out champagne during boarding.
Tipping is not at all expected but is appreciated if you are so inclined.
If you are prone to seasickness, be sure to take a remedy before you come onboard. I would also recommend applying plenty of sunscreen or sunblock. I used 30 SPF sunscreen and reapplied it all day. I still got a nasty sunburn on my face and shoulders. Next time, I'm springing for some serious sunblock!
Bill and I really enjoyed the Xtreme Circumnav tour and would not hesitate to book it again or recommend it to others. If you're headed to Antigua and need something fun to do that lasts most of the day, I recommend taking any of Adventure Antigua's tours.
For more information: http://www.adventureantigua.com/index.html
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Best Suited For: Couples
Tour format: Boat
Tour length: Several Hours
Tour type: Group