Barbara and I have been to the Silent Night Memorial Chapel in Oberndorf, Bavaria on a cold Christmas Eve and sung that timeless piece with the gathered assembly.

Silent Night church

Two weeks ago we experienced Silent Night played as a reggae arrangement.  Although it was warmer where we were I much prefer the colder version.

Image 01


We boarded Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas in San Juan and cruised to St. Thomas and then on down the windward island chain.  The ship was pleasant and beautifully appointed and the service was excellent.  It was not, however, as big or as classy as last year’s Freedom of the Seas so the lesson is: there are ships and there are ships.  It was a smaller ship this year but we had never experienced lines or crowds last year and certainly didn’t this year.

The first stop, St. Thomas, is a large set of shops plus lovely beaches outside the city, Charlotte Amalie. 

Image 02

One such is Coki Beach, northeast of Charlotte Amalie, facing the Atlantic but sheltered by off-shore Thatch Cay.  My family sunned and snorkelled here a lot of years ago and I was pleased to see it was still a nice destination.


While at sea the ship offered many, many areas to enjoy quiet or sun or shade.  There were the raucous entertainments around the pool but there was another pool and other decks.  I considered entering the Sexiest Man contest by covering my body with $100 bills but there weren’t enough bills to cover my pot belly. Sic transit gloria.

Image 03


While sailing south toward St. Lucia we had the benefit of sunsets and twilight color during our wine-time on our little balcony.  It also served us for our wakeup coffee in the morning.

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At St. Lucia we joined in a van cab ride from The docking port, Castries, down through the fishing village of Canaries and on above the fishing village of Soufriere to the rain forest and its botanical garden.  The view along the way is of the awesome Pitons, a pair of volcanic spires.  They bracket Jalousie Resort where one enjoys a very private studio tucked into the mountain with your own small pool.  A call to the lobby when needed brings a golf cart for transport to breakfast or the beach.

Image 05

The plantation was owned by a fascinating international character, Lord Glenconner, ex-Eton, ex-Oxford, etc., a one-time presumptive husband for Princess Margaret before his adventures with island-buying and inn-keeping in the Grenadines, a mini-career with the Scottish National Party, and a return to the Caribbean to buy the St. Lucia plantation.  He later sold half of the property to a developer who built the hotel.  Glenconner then opened a restaurant there which he called “Bang Between the Pitons” because, as he would say,  “That’s where it is.”   He showed up at the Plantation restaurant every morning for breakfast where I met him, attired always in his trade-mark white Indian cotton.  He died in August 2010 and the world lost an original.  This summary is worth reading, particularly with the current interest in Downton Abbey.


Deep within the lush rainforest is this sulpher-stained waterfall,  the sulpher being from the dormant volcano.  In fact the name of the nearby village, Soufriere, means sulpherous air.

Image 06

All kinds of tropical blooms do well in the rainforest.

Image 07


Returning home we were no longer on the sunset side but we still got to enjoy tones from the setting sun.

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A gallery of additional scenes including Guadaloupe, Antigua, and St. Croix can be seen by clicking here.



  1. Kathleen Says:

    Beautiful images Ralph. Glad you had such a good time!!!

  2. Skip Vandegrift Says:

    Looks like you had a great time. Maybe the sexiest man could have gotten by with a few more twenties.
    Our own Virgin Island criuise was a ‘Bare Boat’ excursion (of course YOU know this means ‘self-crewed’) back in 1984.

  3. Ken Curtis Says:

    I envy your taking the cruise. You make it look and sound so inviting. Of course your photos are excellent and help to visualize your travels. Enjoyed this edition.

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