Cruising the West Indies – A guide to England’s upcoming Cricket tour (2019)

England tour the West Indies across January, February and March 2019 following an impressive victory in Sri Lanka.

I went on a 2 week cruise in the Caribbean for my honeymoon just before Christmas. Although a cruise is not the most conventional way of Sports Tourism, the trip did give me an insight into the islands and towns (and a few of the cricket grounds with the permission of my new wife) that will be hosting England’s upcoming tour of the West Indies.

Being on a cruise, I naturally didn’t get a chance to check out local accommodation. In addition, the all inclusive aspect of a cruise meant I didn’t eat out and I only stopped at one bar in the whole trip (to check out the local Carib beer which seemed so popular). Therefore I can’t recommend accommodation, food and drink this time around but hopefully I can provide some insight into anyone visiting the Caribbean/West Indies.

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Caribbean/West Indies

The Caribbean is a region between North and South America, bound by the Caribbean Sea and the numerous island nations that make up the West Indies.

Think of the Caribbean and you think sun, sea and sandy beaches. And you’re not wrong! I had a great time in the Caribbean, of course the weather is hot and sunny as you would expect, with the odd rain shower thrown in and the people generally very friendly.

However the Caribbean is so much more expensive than I anticipated. Being on a cruise I wasn’t expecting to pay much beyond going to the nearest beach from the port, but travel here is by no way cheap if you are looking to do a little exploring or go further afield.

Useful Information

Currency – Most islands have their own currency, however the US Dollar is king and is widely accepted across the area.

Time Zone – The Caribbean varies between GMT -5 and GMT -4, with all of the countries touring at GMT -4 (4 hours behind the UK).

Travel – There are a number of direct flights on offer from the UK to Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica and St Lucia.  Flights are offered by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, with charter options including Tui and Thomas Cook.

Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.

Cruising is a popular option for seeing a lot of the different countries that make up the Caribbean region. Probably not the most convenient way if following England on tour but I do highly recommend Marella cruises offered by Tui (formerly Thomson)

Search & book your cruise through Tui here.TUI| Cruises

Visa’s – Visa’s generally aren’t required for most countries in the Caribbean for visits under 90 days. However please consult your country’s travel advice website for further information.

Further details for currency, travel and visa’s for each country are listed below.

Touring Countries

England will be playing matches in Barbados, Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada and St Kitts, a full tour schedule can be accessed further down the page or click here.

Barbados

Kensington Oval, Bridgetown (1st Test: 23-27 January, 1st ODI: 20 February & 2nd ODI: 22 February)

Capital – Bridgetown
Currency – The official currency is the Barbados Dollar, however US Dollars are widely accepted.
Getting there – Grantley Adams International Airport is the largest airport in the Eastern Caribbean and is approximately 16km from Bridgetown. The airport is served by major airlines from the UK and North America. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – The official language is English.
Population – 285,000
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit Barbados, however your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

Located just a 20 minute walk from the town centre (and quite close to the cruise terminal), I made a beeline upon docking for the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown which will be hosting the 1st Test (23-27 January) and the first 2 ODI’s (20th and 22nd February).

Unfortunately with it being a Sunday, the ground & museum (as well as half the town) was closed. From the outside and peering through the gates, it did look like an impressive ground. Located in one of the corner’s of the ground is a fitting statue of the legendary Sir Garfield Sobers (as pictured at start of this post).

Just down the road is a Legends of Cricket museum which sounds fantastic but was also unfortunately closed on the Sunday. The area outside the ground was quiet and a little intimidating (perhaps because of the Sunday?), hardly anyone was around and there was just a small empty bouncy castle being beaten by the wind outside a mall with local Christmas songs (this was my favourite) blazing but I imagine on match day the area will be buzzing with people.

Bridgetown itself was pleasent enough, with colonial history on show at the Parliament Buildings. Just the other side of the harbour was Brownes Beach, a lovely sandy beach where I checked out Pirates Cove bar with its laid-back vibe, a Carib beer cost me $6.

Broad Street seemed to be the spot for shopping, however after enquiring where I could purchase a West Indies shirt at the department store I was disappointed when they told me to try Kensington.

For a full guide to the Kensington Oval, click the link here.

Antigua

Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound (2nd Test: 31 January – 4 February)

Capital – St John’s
Currency – The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, however US Dollars are widely accepted.
Getting there – The VC Bird International Airport is the island of Antigua’s main gateway, with international flights from the UK, North America, Italy, Germany and other islands of the Caribbean. The airport is about 5 miles to the east of St. John’s. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – The official language is English.
Population – 93,000
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit Antigua, however your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

Unfortunately I didnt get a chance to see the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound (host of the 2nd Test from the 31st January to 4th February). Being 4 miles east of the capital of St John’s, my wife did put her foot down on this one with it being our honeymoon and insisted we visited the nearest beach. I couldn’t help but agree, with the steep taxi fares on offer meaning I gave the chance to get just a glimpse of the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium a miss.

The capital of St John’s I found to be shabby with not much to offer in the way of sightseeing. Antigua claims to have a different beach for everyday of the year, so we headed straight to the nearest one at Fort Bay Beach, which was about a 25 minute walk.

A little further afield, English Harbour is apparently worth checking out, with Nelson’s Dockyard designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

For a full guide to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, click the link here.

St Lucia

Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros Islet (3rd Test: 9-13 February, 5th ODI: 2 Mar & 1st T20I: 5 March)

Capital – Castries
Currency – The official currency is Eastern Caribbean Dollar, however US Dollars are widely accepted.
Getting there – There are two airports in St. Lucia but only the Hewanorra International Airport in the south of the island handles long-haul flights from the UK, North America and Europe. The George FL Charles Airport, near the capital of Castries, handles most regional Caribbean flights. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – French Creole is spoken by the locals but English is widely spoken and understood.
Population – 165,595
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit St Lucia, however your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

I once again failed to get to the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground (3rd Test: 9-13th February, 5th ODI: 2nd March & 1st T20I: 5th March) in Gros Islet from the capital of Castries, purely due to the cost of a taxi ($25 one way).

If you are thinking of staying in Castries, my advice is don’t bother. I visited on a Saturday afternoon and with the market in full swing, the town was chaotic. My guide book was useless in suggestions of what to see, short of a 3 mile hike out to Fort Charlotte, so I was soon on my way back to the ship. I did make a half hearted attempt at getting to the closest beach (Vigie Beach) on the other side of the airport but the light drizzle soon thwrated my attempt.

Upon arriving at the airport, I would highly recommend getting the first taxi you find out to Gros Islet and utilising one of the number of resort hotels with lucious beaches St Lucia is famed for.

For a full guide to the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, click the link here.

Grenada

National Cricket Stadium, St George’s (3rd ODI: 25th February & 4th ODI: 27th February)

Capital – St George’s
Currency – The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, although US Dollars are widely accepted.
Getting there – The Maurice Bishop International Airport is in the south of Grenada, approximately 12km away from St. George’s or about 25 minutes drive. The airline has direct flights to the UK, North America and other Caribbean islands such as Barbados, St Vincent and Trinidad & Tobago. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – English is the official language.
Population – 111,219
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit Grenada, however your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

St George’s was perhaps the most intense of the town’s we visited across the Caribbean, with traffic at a standstill and a huge number of people about. Unless it’s just always this way at 2pm on a Friday afternoon?

I knew the National Cricket Stadium (3rd & 4th ODI – 25th & 27th February) was close by after seeing it on the map, as well as on our approach into the port. A short 15 minute walk from the town along Melville Street and my next dilemma was which of the 2 stadiums I was looking at was for cricket. Logic dictated the circular looking stadium was the National Stadium.

Although just a short walk from town, there didn’t seem to be much on offer outside the ground. Walking around the outside of the stadium I found the main office and asked the young girl behind reception if she was okay if I had a quick look.

She duly accepted my request and I was happy to find myself stood on the outfield, looking across the pitch that will host the 3rd and 4th ODI’s on the 25th and 27th February. At full capacity, I could see this ground being hugely intimidating for visiting teams.

Back into St George’s, I found myself in the middle of Market Square which was brimming, and I was nearly beheaded by a passing truck. I sought refuge at Fort George ($2 USD) which was much quieter and gave me the chance to sit down and look over the town and towards the harbour area of the Carenage.

I liked St George’s but it did remind me in many ways of cities I’d visited across Southeast Asia – a level of noise and humidity that I hadn’t experienced across the rest of the Caribbean.

For a full guide to the National Cricket Stadium, click here.

St Kitts & Nevis

Warner Park, Basseterre (2nd T20I: 8th March & 3rd T20I: 10th March)

Capital – Basseterre
Currency – The official currency is Eastern Caribbean Dollar, however US Dollars are widely accepted.
Getting there – The Robert L.Bradshaw International Airport (named after the first Premier of St Kitts & Nevis) is approximately a 10-15 minute drive from Basseterre. The airport is well served with flights to the UK, North America and a number of the other Caribbean islands. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – The official language is English, but a form of patois (Jamaican Creole) is commonly spoken.
Population – 56,900
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit St Kitts & Nevis, however your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

I nearly missed Warner Park despite its central location and floodlights rising above most buildings in the town. After breathing in the sights of Basseterre and getting rather hot and bothered, I completely forgot my mission and walked back to the ship.

After re-hydrating on-board I remembered my main goal after spotting the ground from the top deck and headed back out to Warner Park which was just a 5 minute walk from the town.

I’m glad I did (my wife not so much) as I love checking out local grounds like this, with the gate left slightly ajar I poked my head around and stood on the outfield as the groundsmen looked on. A few stands surrounded the outfield and the small National Football Stadium sat on the opposite side, with the ground surrounded by shabby houses.

Basseterre didn’t have much in the way of sights to offer, Independence Square was pleasent enough to watch the world go by. Apparently, the scenic railway is worth a go but only runs when cruise ships are in town.

For a full guide to the Warner Park cricket ground, click here.

Tickets

Tickets are available through the Windies exclusive ticket partner, Zoonga by clicking here.

Test Matches: For full Test matches, tickets range from $60 (grounds and mounds) to $300 (premium seats). Day tickets range from $15 to $75 per day.

ODIs and T20s: Tickets range from $15 to $75.

Tour Schedule

Tour Match: 15-16 January 2019 (10:00 Local/14:00 GMT) v WI Board XI – Three Ws Oval, Cave Hill – Match Drawn

Tour Match: 17-18 January 2019 (10:00 Local/14:00 GMT) v WI Board XI – Three Ws Oval, Cave Hill – Match Drawn

1st Test: 23-27 January 2019 (10:00 Local/14:00 GMT) – Kensington Oval, Bridgetown – West Indies won by 381 runs

2nd Test: 31 January – 4 February 2019 (10:00 Local/14:00 GMT) – Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound – West Indies won by 10 wickets

3rd Test: 9-13 February 2019 (10:00 Local/14:00 GMT) – Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros Islet – England won by 232 runs

West Indies won the Test series 2-1.

Tour Match: 17 February 2019 (10:00 Local/14:00 GMT) v University of West Indies Vice Chancellor’s XI – Three Ws Oval, Cave Hill – England won by 171 runs.

1st ODI: 20 February 2019 (11:00 Local/15:00 GMT) – Kensington Oval, Bridgetown – England won by 6 wickets

2nd ODI: 22 February 2019 (11:00 Local/15:00 GMT) – Kensington Oval, Bridgetown – West Indies won by 26 runs

3rd ODI: 25 February 2019 (09:30 Local/13:30 GMT), National Cricket Stadium, Grenada – Match abandoned

4th ODI: 27 February 2019 (09:30 Local/13:30 GMT) – National Cricket Stadium, Grenada – England won by 29 runs

5th ODI: 2 March 2019 (11:00 Local/15:00 GMT) – Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros Islet – West Indies won by 7 wickets

The ODI series was drawn 2-2.

1st T20I: 5 March 2019 (16:00 Local/20:00 GMT) – Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros Islet – England won by 4 wickets

2nd T20I: 8 March 2019 (16:00 Local/20:00 GMT) – Warner Park, Basseterre – England won by 137 runs

3rd T20I: 10 March 2019 (16:00 Local/20:00 GMT) – Warner Park, Basseterre – England won by 8 wickets

England won the T20I series 3-0.

Other Destinations

Planning on spending longer in the Caribbean, or checking out another island in between matches? Below are the other islands we were lucky enough to experience during our cruise.

East Caribbean

British Virgin Islands

Capital – Road Town
Currency – The official currency is the US Dollar.
Getting there – As noted below, British Virgin Islands is ideal for sailing. However, if you are looking to fly to the BVI, it is likely you will have to go via a different Caribbean island for Terrence B Lettsome Airport on Tortola. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – The official language is English.
Population – 28,000
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit the British Virgin Islands, however your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

Now I have to say, I probably didn’t give the island of Tortola much of a chance from the start. Arriving into the capital of Road Town, we decided to have a chilled day and therefore had a little walk around the town – there’s honestly not much on offer in the town and I think we were back on the boat within an hour (there was a downpour in my defence). However I hear the British Virgin Islands is one of the best places in the world for sailing. The closest beach was apparently at Cane Garden Beach, a 30 minute taxi costing $30 each way.

St Maarten/St Martin

Capital – Philipsburg/Marigot
Currency – The Antilles Guilder on the Dutch side, although US Dollars are widely accepted. Euros can be used on the French side.
Getting there – The main airport is Princess Jualiana International Airport on the Dutch side and has direct flights to Amsterdam, Paris and North America, as well as many of the other Caribbean islands. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – Dutch and French are the official languages spoken. English is mostly used and understood on both sides of the island.
Population – 40,917/36,824
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit St Maarten for stays of up to 3 months, however your passport must be valid for 6 months from date of entry. There are no border formalities when crossing into St. Martin. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

St Maarten (or St Martin) is a curious island, being the world’s smallest area of land divided between 2 nations (The Netherlands and France). I had high hopes for St Maarten as I’d seen many videos of the world famous Maho Beach, where planes land straight over your head. However with a taxi journey costing a ridiculous $30 each way, this was one sight I unfortunately had to give a miss.

Instead we stuck to the capital of Philipsburg, a buzzing town with beach bars and restaurants dotted along the Great Bay Beach. I happily spent a few hours sizzling on the sand, although I did leave disappointed not to of been blown away by planes taking off.

St Vincent & the Grenadines

Capital – Kingstown
Currency – The official currency is Eastern Caribbean Dollar, however US Dollars are widely accepted.
Getting there – Argyle International Airport is a new airport on the island of St Vincent and has direct flights to North America and other Caribbean islands. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – The official language is English.
Population – 109,991
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit St Vincent & the Grenadines, however your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

We visited Bequia, one of the smaller islands that make up the Grenadines. This was my favourite stop on the whole cruise, with its laid-back vibe and just generally being quiet.

It also has probably one of the best beaches I’ve ever been on, Princess Margaret Beach can be accessed via a walkway along the coast. With lucious sand, clear water and much shade to be had via the trees behind the beach, I happily spent all day relaxing here before returning to the boat.

South Caribbean

The former ABC Dutch colonies of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao sit a little further afield than where the cricket is taking place and are much closer to South America and Venezuela than Barbados.

Aruba

Capital – Oranjestad
Currency – Aruban Florian is the official currency, however US Dollars are widely accepted.
Getting there – Just south of Oranjestade, Reina Beatrix International Airport has direct flights to the UK, Amsterdam, North America and South America. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – Papiamento (a mix of Dutch, English and Spanish) but English is widely understood.
Population – 103,000
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit Aruba for stays of up to 3 months, however your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

Apparently one of the best beaches in the world (or specifically the 3rd best beach in the world according to a local), Eagle Beach is not far from the capital of Oranjestaad and seemed to be a favourite for North American holidaymakers. $15 each way by taxi or $5 return on the Arubus (number 10 from opposite port, runs sporadically but approximately every 15 minutes).

Bonaire

Capital – Kralendijk
Currency – US Dollar
Getting there – To the south of Kralendijk, Flamingo Airport has direct flights to Amsterdam, North America and Curacao. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – The official language is Dutch and Papiamento, but English is widely spoken.
Population – 17,400
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit Bonaire for stays of up to 3 months, however your passport must be valid for 6 months from date of entry. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

I can’t say much for Kralendijk, it didn’t have much in the way of sights but there was equally nothing wrong with the place. A quick little walk around town was followed by a perch alongside the harbour, watching the colourful fish swim about and the world pass by.

Curacao

Capital – Willemsted
Currency – Gilder is the local currency but US Dollars are widely accepted.
Getting there – Hato International Airport has direct flights with Amsterdam, as well as North and South America. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Language – Papiamento is a mixture of Dutch, English and Spanish but most locals speak some English.
Population – 158,600
Visa – British passport holders do not require a visa to visit Curacao for stays of up to 90 days, however your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. Further information can be found through the UK government website here.

One of my favourite ports of call, Willemstad had a distinctly Dutch vibe and you could easily mistake yourself for being in The Netherlands (minus the sun).

Colourful houses dotted the Sint Anna Bay, with the fantastic Queen Emma Bridge spanning the bay and swinging open to allow passage for passing boats. I could easily have spent longer in the town and wished we’d been able to see it at night lit up.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, if you have any comments please feel free to leave them below!

 

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