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Notes For Travel Watch:

Seawind Cruise Line

By Norma R. Hagan

Seawind Cruise Line is offering a new itinerary on its vintage vessel the "Seawind Crown." It sails round-trip every Sunday from Aruba to Curacao, Caracas, Venezuela, Barbados and St. Lucia.

Built in 1961, this ship attracts veteran cruisers and an incredible variety of nationalities. German, Portuguese, Spanish and English are all routinely spoken over the public address system. This is an older, smaller ship that is reminiscent of cruise ships as they used to be.

The "Seawind Crown's" first port of call is Curacao. This tropical island offers some of the best shopping in the Caribbean. It's a very cosmopolitan island that thrives on its banking, oil refining and shops.

The island's Trolley Train provides a mini-tour of the residential historic area, the famous Jewish Synagogue and the colorful waterfront that is one of the most photographed in the world. Here you will see the charming Dutch architecture and floating pontoon bridge.

Caracas, Venezuela, with its 1,500 miles of Caribbean coastline, is a port that not too many cruise ships are offering.

The adventurous SCUBA diver can be happy exploring the sunken ships. I rented a jeep and went exploring on one of my visits to Caracas; the beaches and waterfalls are memorable.

Those who like to shop can find great buys on 18-karat gold jewelry and take a tour to the glass factory that sells beautiful glass at factory prices. I'd recommend buying a glass bead necklace, if you're lucky enough to arrive on a day when they have them in stock. If this interests you, check prices at your home jeweler before you go -- I found the factory salesmen to be negotiable about their prices.

The third port is the beautiful island of Barbados. We were there the day before President and Mrs. Clinton, and Madeline Albright arrived -- May 8 -- and the people of Barbados were excited and busy dusting off the red carpet.

My favorite places on this island are Harrison's Cave and the island drive that takes you through small villages and sugar cane fields.

This cave has an electrically powered tram that transports you comfortably through the beautifully lit cave.

The Atlantis submarine tour offered on this island is awesome and if you can fit that and the cave in your day, it's worth the hustle. The beaches are wonderful and if you're a snorkeler you will love the crystal clear water.

The last port on the "Seawind Southseas" tour is the ruggedly scenic island of St. Lucia. The 2,400-foot-high peaks of the twin Pitons, banana plantations, and Marigot Bay combine to create a gorgeous tropical island. The ship offers a "Cruise To the Volcano" tour on a catamaran that sails down the west coast of St. Lucia, past hidden coves and quaint fishing villages.

If you prefer, there is also a 20-minute helicopter ride that flies over the rain forest. Anyway you choose to see it, St. Lucia is a special island.

The "Seawind Crown" went into dry dock this in 1997 to be outfitted to meet the "Save Our Lives At Sea" (SOLAS) guidelines. This meant a complete overhaul of all the safety-at-sea systems.

One-week cruises on this ship for the above itinerary start at $1,000 per person, double occupancy, cruise only. (Editor's note: Prices and tour details may have changed by now.)

There are packages available that allow you to stay an extra week -- European plan -- in either St. Lucia or Aruba.

I did have a chance to check out La Cabanna resort in Aruba, one of the three hotels offered on this plan, and it looked great. You can ask your travel agent for more information about these special packages.

The "Seawind Crown" is a very casual ship geared to those who would enjoy the Caribbean South Seas tour, a different experience, and a relaxing vacation.

[Printed originally in Gulf Coast Woman; reprinted by permission of the author]


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