Family travel :: Guadeloupe

*I’m picking up right from where I left off.  If you haven’t been following my most recent posts you may want to scroll down a bit.*

Our day in St. Maarten ushered in four back-to-back port days (St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, Barbados, Martinique), which was a little much.  I’ve found that there are two types of cruisers:

  1. The type who cruise solely for the sake of cruising and find port days to be a momentary distraction.
  2. The type who cruise because they find it to be an enjoyable, carefree way to visit new places.

I should be counted among the latter of these two groups.  That said, though, I found that four days of back-to-back ports was slightly exhausting.  I realize how terribly lazy that sounds, but here’s the thing–disembarking the ship isn’t quite like getting in and out of the car.  You have to check, double check and triple check your day bag to make sure you’ve got everything you need for the entire day (think along the lines of sunscreen, camera, beach towels, ship ID, government issued ID, cash or credit card, etc).  And when you’ve got a gaggle of children like we do you have to multiply that stuff by six.  Once you’ve got everything gathered, you make your way to a dining room and make sure that you’re heading off the ship with full bellies–trust me, it simplifies things.  Then you have to head down to the gangway and line up to disembark.  The security officers scan each and every person on or off the ship so as to make sure everybody has been accounted for once the time comes to pull up anchor and sail away.  And that, my friends, is just the beginning.  Once you’re actually off the ship you’re then met with the challenge of navigating your way through unfamiliar cities, where, mind you, you may or may not find an English speaking populous.  It can be a lot of work. Which is why those four back-to-back port days left me weary.

The second stop on our holiday cruise was Guadeloupe, a French island in the Lesser Antilles.  Because it is French (and they, therefore, speak French) and not an island often visited by cruise ships, it was definitely challenging to plan an excursion for my family.  For that reason, we opted to let the experts do the planning and booked an official Disney excursion.  It was the first Disney excursion we’ve ever done, and likely the last.

Have I ever mentioned my aversion to crowds?  Because, um, crowds?  So not my thing.

The particular excursion we booked was one of the few options available to families traveling with kids under 5.  So we were really left with no choice.  And neither, it seems, were a bajillion other families.  There were two (TWO!) giant busloads of us, all booked on this one excursion.  Neither of the two destinations we visited were equipped to accommodate that large a group.

Truthfully, the excursion didn’t sound terribly fantastic when we booked it.  It was described as a visit to a zoological park followed by a stop at a waterfall.  There was mention of wild raccoons and the opportunity to swim in aforementioned waterfall.  As it turned out, the raccoons were not the least bit free-roaming (there were five or six of them in a zoo-like habitat) and there were so many people on our tour that the vast majority of them couldn’t even see the waterfall in the distance through the throngs of people.

Not my idea of fun, unfortunately.  And far from worth the $334 it cost for the six of us to go.

There were some highlights, though:

  • The view as we pulled into port was absolutely gorgeous
  • Exploring a French island is a pretty cool thing to add to our list of “done thats”
  • Our bus arrived at the waterfall before the other one, so we were some of the lucky few with the option to swim

Oh, and.  AND?  Jeff and I enjoyed our “couples choice” spa treatment that afternoon, once we got back to the ship.  The package included 2 hours of total bliss.  A hot tub overlooking the ocean?  Check.  A relaxing foot cleansing ceremony?  Check.  A soothing stone massage?  Check.  Hot tea and fruit while we gazed across the deep blue sea?  Check and check.

It was a splurge, for sure.  But, um.  Worth. Every. Penny.

As for the Disney sponsored excursions, we’ll skip those from here on out.  I felt compelled to do this one based on my inability to speak french, or read french websites in order to plan something for us on my own.  In hindsight, I don’t know what we could have done differently, but overall, I wouldn’t consider our visit to Guadeloupe a standout.  It’s all good though; you win some, you lose some.

Here are some photos.  I think they’re pretty self-explanatory, but I have to give two disclaimers.

  1. I made good use of my mad photography skilz and did a heckuva job avoiding the throngs of people in these photos.  Believe me.  They were there.
  2. The kids are wrapped in towels at the zoological park not because they were wet, but because it was just a tad chillier than we’d expected.  Oops.

9 Replies to “Family travel :: Guadeloupe”

  1. Thanks so much for your honesty in the post. It will definitely help us planning our cruise. Although based on your review, I am leaning more toward waiting until our son is at least five (he’s 2 now).

    I love your pictures. I always love the ones where you capture the kids from behind.

    1. Honesty is the best policy, right? ;) But, I have to tell you {honestly} that while I do think there is good reason to wait until your son is 3 (kids club reasons), you’ll still have a GREAT time if you go before he’s five. You’d just want to avoid the official Disney excursions, which I would recommend doing anyway. On our last cruise, we planned and orchestrated all of our own private excursions and had an AMAZING time. We even took our then three year old out to swim with the rays; I wouldn’t have been able to do that had it been a Disney excursion. Just go it alone, you’re better off that way! {IMHO, of course}.

  2. I agree with you. Although we have only been on 1 cruise (Royal Caribbean), I would prefer just hitting whatever beach we land on because it all about the beach for me. Although, like you, I would have felt lost in Guadeloupe with the french speaking people. There is the option of staying on the boat, right? I would be torn…enjoying the boat or seeing places that I’ve never seen before.

    The couple’s massage (I love hot stones!) and hot tub sounds heavenly.

    1. Yes, you definitely always have the option of staying on the ship. In fact, on our last cruise, one of the ports was Key West, Florida, which didn’t sound all that exciting to me, so we stayed on the ship that day. It was nice because very few people stayed on board and we had free run of the pool!

      This was an 11-night cruise, though, so we had plenty of time on the ship already. Plus, I don’t know that I’ll ever get back to Guadeloupe, so we really *had* to at least step foot there!

  3. Darcie, Love the pictures and it looks beautiful. Also love to see just how close all the members of your family are. What an awesome job you and Jeff have done with the whole family. Keep the stories and pictures coming,

  4. I’m not a crowds person either. Not at all.

    Also – Tim & I went on a cruise for our honeymoon. We paid for one excursion (snorkeling and boating at sea)…and it was highly disappointing. Essentially, it was a tiny boat crammed with too many people and WAY too much tequila.

  5. Oh, I so agree with the excursions. I also have an aversion to crowds. On our 10 night Mediterranean cruise with DCL, we only booked one Disney excursion. It was in Tunis, Tunisia. It just felt safer. Enough said. We toured all other ports on our own, including a 12 hour day in Rome. We utilized trains a lot. We were armed with cheat sheets for the different languages that we encountered. We tried to always say “thank you” and “hello”, etc. in the native language. We found people to be very helpful despite our lack of their language. We saw much more than the people that took the excursions. And we paid way less! Thanks for your review.
    Love the photos!!

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