My chest is thumping to the rhythm of a steel band that’s in danger of breaking the sound barrier, and the air is filled with the scent of saltfish and sweetcorn. All around me scantily-clad dancers are moving with infectious excitement as they practise their steps for the Parade of the Bands, the highlight of the Trinidad Carnival. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, is at a standstill as its cast of exotic revelers samba and shimmy their way through the streets. It’s party time.
Life on board Saga Sapphire is all about having a good time too, though there’s nothing primal about it – unless you count the queue for the spectacular barbecues on the Verandah deck. Held in the balmy evenings under the stars, they are the culinary highlight of my cruise, with show-stopping flambéed bananas rounding off a huge seafood feast.
The daily cheese board is finer than I have seen on any ship; from Camembert to Crottin and Roquefort to Reblochon, they are all selected by Executive Chef Thierry Cherronnet and soothe the palates of the cheese connoisseurs on board.
But there are many other wicked pleasures to be savoured on this Caribbean Calypso cruise, not least the dazzling array of destinations we are visiting.
I board the ship late on a sleepy Sunday on the island of St Vincent (with Saga Sapphire having already docked in the Azores and Domenica), so my first proper port of call is Grenada, the most southerly of the Windward Islands.
Known as the ‘Spice Isle’, Grenada is most famous for its nutmeg, although cinnamon, vanilla and cocoa crops flourish here too – defiant in the face of the devastation caused by successive hurricanes – most notably Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Before then, Grenada was the second largest nutmeg producer in the world. I was fascinated to peel open a pale fleshy fruit to reveal crimson mace cradling the fragrant nutmeg inside, and I swear I could sniff them on the breeze.
The lush rainforests with their dramatic waterfalls give way to beaches here that are picture perfect, along with a charming capital city framed by an old volcanic crater and curving daintily around a horseshoe-shaped harbour. With its red-tiled roofs and pastel-coloured buildings, St George’s has a distinctly French feel and the restaurants offer a mix of Creole and international cuisine.