As you pull in to the cruise port you instantly notice the turquoise waters,the mountainous terrain and the smaller islands surrounding the main island of Tortola. Sailboats lined the horizon making the most beautiful sunrise from our Veranda.
When disembarking from our ship we quickly realized that this cruise port was very different from other ports we had visited. The first noticeable difference was the welcoming committee consisting of two elderly ladies sitting on their rocking chairs under a portable tent. These charming residents welcomed each of us to their island and wished us a wonderful day. The second difference was the lack of hustlers trying to sell us their wares. We simply strolled through the welcome center and on to the square to find our private excursion guide for the day.
In lieu of a cruise line sponsored shore excursion, we decided we wanted to explore the island at our own pace. We were lucky enough to find Captain Dean from C & D Power Boat Rentals. This island hopping, private boat rental, aboard the 36’ Tiara included our knowledgeable captain and guide, fuel, drinks and snacks, snorkeling gear, life jackets, and noodles. Captain Dean picked us up from the port at our meeting spot at 9AM. We boarded the clean and nicely appointed Tiara and quickly sailed off for an adventure we will never forget!
Our first stop was The Baths, on the island of Virgin Gorda. This is a very popular stop and gets VERY busy on days that ships are in port. I would suggest going as early as possible to try to beat the crowds. It is a truly unique experience as you climb over, under, around, and through rock formations and explore tide pools hidden within. We found several hermit crabs on this beach and my daughter was thrilled! A few things to remember for this island;
Bring water shoes you will be doing some climbing.
Bring a waterproof camera (this place is stunning and you will want to bring home memories).
If you have limited mobility or you are claustrophobic you may want to skip this stop, or maybe just enjoy the beach here as there are small spaces and rocks that you will need to climb!
\After our hike through The Baths, we swam back to our boat and sailed on to our next area of exploration. Our wonderful guides took us around Cooper island, an island with 5 private properties and an eco-friendly beach club. We then made a quick stop at the uninhabited Ginger Islands, where we got out in the water, where we swam for a little bit. The snorkeling here would have been absolutely beautiful but after a jellyfish sighting or two, we decided we were hungry and needed to stop for lunch.
The next phase of our trip took us to my favorite place on our journey, Norman Island. This is a privately owned island with no residents. It was here that we found this breathtaking view and a beach that was perfect for our 6 little ones to play. They were literally the only ones in the water. As we sat on the lawn chairs, sipping our liquids, and waiting for our lunch to arrive we took in the beauty of this island and relaxed. Just relaxed. As three busy moms who took this journey with 6 children alone, this beach was our own version of heaven on earth. I’m sure you’re wondering about the food. It was a light fare and absolutely delicious! We highly recommend their fish tacos!
As much as we hated to leave our oasis, it was time to explore and maybe get in some cave snorkeling before our ship’s departure!
The next stop, and right around the corner, were the Norman Island Caves. It was here that we all jumped in with hundreds of yellow fish and snorkeled through the smaller caves. You can do a longer route but our littles ranged in age from 5-8 and this was their first snorkeling adventure! We were able to see a lot of fish and even swam directly above a sea turtle! The caves were a great adventure for us! After snorkeling we hopped back on the boat and relaxed in the sun with cold drinks and good music. Our littles fed the fish and enjoyed the sun!
As it was getting close to our departure time from the port, our captains drove us back through the crystal blue waters! We quietly enjoyed the last few glimpses of this gorgeous island as it disappeared from the horizon!
On our way back to the ship our kids stopped to play with some of the local children in a large patch of grass in the middle of the welcome center. You could tell that they just didn’t want to leave this paradise that they had found. We chewed up every minute we had at Tortola! As we went to board the ship we were again greeted by the same ladies, THANKING us for visiting their island and to come back soon!
Saving tip!! Instead of purchasing a shore excursion through your cruise line, consider renting a private charge company for the day! Often, if you split this with a group of other cruisers you can save money and have a longer, more personalized experience. We were lucky to have met up with a family from our cruise that we were able to split this charter 4 ways!