Let the Train take the Strain

It was with excitement and anticipation that we woke up early this morning, as today were going to take a ride on the famous St. Kitts Scenic Railway.  Despite two previous visits to St. Kitts (in 2012 on the Ventura and last year on the Adonia) we had not yet experienced this delight, so we were looking forward to the 18-mile leisurely journey.  This time, the little Braemar was the only ship in port.  🙂

As ever, the fresh morning air gave a hint of the hot, sultry weather to come so, liberally coated in factor 20 sun lotion, we made our way to the Palms Café to enjoy an al fresco breakfast on the sunny rear decks.  Then it was off to the Neptune Lounge to check in for the excursion.

We were called very quickly for our bus, and we happily made our way down to Deck 2 to disembark.  Then we took our seats in the bus for the short ride to the train, which was situated next to a redundant sugarcane processing plant.  The railway had originally been built to transport the sugar from the many plantations along the route, but today the narrow gauge line was being used to transport us on a pleasure trip.

The train was a double-decker; that is, the bottom half was enclosed and had tables and chairs and a WC.  The upper decks, however, were open sided and had long seats down both sides, with an aisle up the middle.  There was also a bar showing various bottles of rum and soft drinks, and a couple of ice chests.

Once everyone was in their seats, the train gave a jolt and a resounding whonk! on its airhorn and off we went.  🙂

It did not take long for the staff to come round and take our complimentary drinks orders, even though it was just 9.00am.  There were various soft drinks as well as piña colada and the ubiquitous rum punch.  Trevor chose the former and I the latter, and a nice big beaker, full of ice and fruity (strong!) rum punch went down a treat.

The train slowly wended its way along the route, passing disused sugarcane plants, small villages, roads, hills and of course the gorgeous coastline viewed from up high.  Children in the villages would run out excitedly at the approach of the train, waving frantically until we were out of sight.

We were treated a couple of times to the vocal strains of an a capella group of local singers, who treated us to traditional songs and Gospel singing.  In between, the hostesses came round to replenish our drinks and everyone was in a happy holiday frame of mind, as our rustic transport chugged its way through the winding coastal tracks and allowed us to view the unspoilt scenery.

There were a couple of hair-raising parts of the route; when crossing the purpose-built bridges over small ravines the bridge would only be a couple of inches or so wider than the track on either side, so when you looked out you couldn’t see the bridge at all, just the train rattling and swaying its way over.  Happily we all made it in one piece, but it would have been terrifying for anyone even slightly afraid of heights.

After about an hour and 45 minutes, our 18-mile journey came to an end and the train slowly ground to a halt.  Our buses had taken the faster route along the road, and met us at the other end, where there was a large turning circle so the train could go round and be facing in the right direction for its return journey.

We alighted from the train and boarded our bus, ready for the ride back to the Braemar.  What an interesting and fanstastic trip the St. Kitts Scenic Railway was; we’d highly recommend it for anyone  visiting the island.

When we arrived back at the port we were reluctant to go back on board straight away, as St. Kitts was our last port of call before setting off on our transatlantic voyage back to England, via the Azores.

We therefore decided to go to a little local bar we knew (we know a lot of little local bars in the Caribbean!!) and enjoy a couple of lovely, refreshing, thirst-quenching cold beers.  So we settled down on our bench seats in the bar, with the Braemar as the backdrop, and enjoyed some freezing Carib and Stag beers each.

Then it was back on board Braemar for a tasty light lunch once again, enjoyed sitting out in the Caribbean sunshine.  In fact, the sunshine was so nice, and the sparkling blue pool looked so inviting, that we went back to cabin # 3074 and changed into our cossies before making our way back to the pool deck and grabbing a sun lounger each.  Then we went into the pool, gingerly making our way down the steps into the seemingly-cold water, which was lovely once you were in.  We had the pool to ourselves so were were able to put in a few leisurely lengths before climbing out and sitting in the sun to dry off for a bit.

Back in our cabin we finished getting dried, then got back into our clothes and tidied up before going back up to the aft decks outside the Palms Café, where the Revolverlites band were kicking off the “Farewell Caribbean” deck party, and waitresses were coming round with trays of complimentary rum punch (more rum punch!!).  The decks were already fairly crowded with people; one of the nice things about Braemar (and something which is sadly lacking on the large ships) is the lovely cascading rear decks, where they give brilliant unimpeded views of the sea and those on the upper decks can still join the party by leaning over the rails or sitting on the stairs and listening to the music below.

At 5.00pm the Braemar slowly started to make her way out to sea once again; we were not due to see land again for another week.  🙂

We stayed at the deck party for a while, enjoying three rum punches each and passing the time speaking with our fellow passengers.  Then it was time for us to start making tracks back to our cabin to get washed and changed for dinner.

However, I decided I’d give the evening meal a miss tonight, as it is all too easy to eat (and drink!) too much on a cruise and I certainly wouldn’t starve.  So, while Trevor went to the Thistle Restaurant to join Jackie and Kathleen I just went along to the Morning Light pub and wrote some of this blog whilst enjoying a couple of glasses of cava.  🙂

I noticed that the motion of the ship was much more discernible as the Braemar headed towards the Atlantic ocean.  Unlike the Queen Mary 2 which is an ocean liner and built for the rough seas of the north Atlantic, Braemar is a flat-bottomed cruise ship and whilst this does undoubtedly have advantages in shallower waters and river cruising, crossing the Atlantic would certainly pose a challenge.

I joined the others in the restaurant in time for the coffee-and-liqueurs stage, before we hot-footed it along to the Neptune Lounge to claim our seats for tonight’s performance by electric violinist Lauren Charlotte.  She did a pop / opera / classical crossover routine and was very good indeed; we would look forward to seeing more on Lauren later on in the cruise.

Afterwards we rather unsteadily made our way to the Coral Club; we could feel the ship rolling quite distinctly and predicted we’d be in for a fairly rough night.  We took part in the quiz with Jackie and Kathleen (nope, still no win!) and then it was karaoke time once again.

Some of the singers who got up prudently braced their backs against a conveniently situated pillar; I also decided to adopt this stance when getting up as it would have been difficult to keep my balance, especially wearing heels.

This time I sang Nothing Compares again, as well as Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours and Lynn Anderson’s Rose Garden.  Quite a few of the ‘regular’ singers got up and it was a good night.

Afterwards we stayed a short time for the disco, where once again “The Lovers” (as we’d nicknamed the randy elderly couple) made an exhibition of themselves, particularly as the woman dances as if she has two wooden legs (which she may have, ha ha).

Then it was time to go to bed, once again after midnight.  Our transatlantic voyage was well under way.

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