24 February 2024

Cruising the Caribbean TUI 18-25th Jan 2024

Cruising the Caribbean 18-25th Jan 2024

Species Highlights: 

Red-footed, Brown & Masked Booby, Sooty Tern, Magnificent Frigatebird, Venezuelan Troupial, Bannanquit

(Lifers in Red Bold)

This year for Lauren’s 30th Birthday we thought we’d do something completely different, a cruise would certainly be different.
So we booked a TUI Caribbean Cruise 'Exotic Islands and Cocktails'.

We arrived in Barbados and were driven to the Cruise Terminal where we got our first look at the Marella Explorer, a medium-sized Cruise ship. After finding our room and dinner it was dark, so it would be an early start as it would be a sea day and I decided rather than sunbathe I’d spend the day at the back of the boat watching and waiting for birds. It didn’t take long.

Masked Booby appeared just after the first light.

Red Footed Booby

Flying fish could also be seen, lots of failed attempts from the Booby

Lots of birds were seen throughout the day.

Butterflies of the Ocean

A few Magnificent Frigatebirds were seen also, aren't they Magnificent!

89–114 cm (2 ft 11 in – 3 ft 9 in) in length, and has a wingspan of 2.17–2.44 m (7 ft 1 in – 8 ft 0 in)


Red Billed Tropicbird, I was very chuffed on a superb first day.

After exploring the ship it was dinner time and darkness so I rose early again, our first port would be Curaçao. As we were arriving at Port, Brown Booby were hunting around the ship, what a start to the day!

Royal Terns were resting on the tow ropes as we docked.


We’d booked Turtle Watching and a bus picked us up. Staring out the window from the bus a few birds were seen, a stunning Bananaquit but no photo so can’t count, those are my rules.
After a short bus ride with the guide telling us all manner of stories, we arrived at Playa Grandi Beach.
More Frigatebirds.

Terns were flying around the bay.

Brown pelicans swimming around the swimmers!

We entered the warm waters and immediately saw Green turtles, Amazing to be swimming with them.
The turtles come to the beach as returning fishermen feed and trim their catch chucking off cuts into the water, Pelicans, and Terns were also diving into and amongst the snorkeling people, amazing o and the fish,

You Can Watch Lauren's fabulous Videos here

After an hour I got out and decided to look around the beach, a Green Iganua was feeding on small apples that were scattered on the beach.

A Tropical Mockingbird appeared eating fruit.

A White Tipped Dove pair were squabbling amongst the undergrowth.

The guide was rounding us up, to get back on the coach and go to another beach, Playa Santa Cruz just a mile or so along the coast.

As we drove down a bumpy dirt track a Crested caracara sat in a small tree we had a fantastic view but no pictures!! ARRGGG!

On the next beach, I saw a Rufous-Collared Sparrow, a quick photo, and into the sea.

The fish were amazing especially Parrotfish, those teeth. The beach was busy, so when taking pictures I felt very self-conscious, so stayed snorkeling.

You Can Watch Lauren's fabulous Videos here

A great little trip.
Back to the ship for food, it’s all-inclusive so a quick re-fuel.
Next, the plan was to explore a mangrove swamp right opposite the ship. Me and Lauren paid $14 to go in a bit steep as we didn’t have a lot of time, but here's what we Saw.

Green Heron

Yellow Oriole

Venezuelan Troupial

Spotted Sandpiper and Yellow-Crowned Herons are all stunning birds and were added to our trip list.

We met up with my other daughter and wife and set off to explore Curaçao.

Frigatebirds were displaying over the harbor giving fabulous views.



We Loved Curaçao a lovely place and felt safe. As we walked back I spotted a Common Ground-Dove

Very pleased that it was closely followed by a Bannanquit such a pretty bird.

It was hopping around plates on an empty table.

As we left my wife not normally a bird watcher called me and Venezuelan Tropic in fantastic light what a bird!

Yellow Warbler and more Tropical Mockingbirds

A great first day back to the ship for an evening meal, Aruba tomorrow.

Aruba was there when we awoke, Brown Pelican, Royal Tern and more Frigatebirds before breakfast

On a taxi ride to Eagle Beach a beautiful sandy beach, the taxi driver told us the whole Island had a power cut, and no shops or electricity, he didn't seem worried and said it happens!

A bit windy and after 30 mins I was bored so talked Lauren into exploring a Bubail Bird Sanctuary about 1.5 miles away, now looking back we should have got a taxi but we walked, hard work, laughing gulls in good numbers were covering the beach.

Also a Bare-Eyed Pigeon a great looking Pigeon posing nicely.

Carib Grackle very noisy and showing very well.

On arriving at Bubali Bird Sanctuary we spotted some good species.

Eared Dove

White-Cheeked Pintail

As always Osprey seems very common everywhere except for UK

Neoptropic Cormorant although distant.
Yellow Warbler, Golden, a subspecies.

Whiptailed Blue Lizards

Brown Pelicans, Pied Grebe, and more Grackles.

Black-Faced Grassquit female

Loved those Bare-Eyed Pigeons

American Moorhen, not sure what the difference are from the UK version?

Another Tropical Mockingbird

We were just about to leave and Venezuelan Troupial landed giving fantastic views.

American Oystercatcher just chilling on the beach.
After a couple of hours, we walked back very happy. We then explored Aruba Town and shops I added Brown-Throated Parakeet to my list. Very dodgy picture but a picture so ticked.

Sea Day tomorrow

Breakfast, then settle the family and back of the boat for me, more Masked Booby the most frequent birds at sea I saw.

Brown Booby and Red-Footed but in smaller numbers.

It was funny cause people would stroll around the deck stopping to chat until I’d mention I was photographing Booby…I tried to explain but I hope they understood, lol.

I went up for dinner after taking far too many pictures of Booby and noticed a group of terns close to the boat, as I rushed down the 4 flights of stairs and out of the deck the Terns were a lot more distant but Sooty Terns and Pomarine Skua did get record shots of both.

We arrived at St Lucia at first light I watched an Osprey catching then eating a large fish as we docked, Brown Pelicans diving in around the ship, and a Tri-Coloured Heron fishing from the dock.
Breakfast and a Dolphin and Whale trip was planned, Captain Mike, was moored next to our ship so we were soon underway.
It was cloudy and a choppy sea. I was armed with kalms and my favorite Gin Gin, ginger sweets, ginger biscuits, and ginger hand cream no seasickness for me!

Was saw a huge pod of Fraser's Dolphins, so difficult to get pictures as a large swell and the boat would not cooperate, staying still.

A Brown Booby thought he’d try his luck and circled the boat a few times much easier to get pictures of.

I’d given my supply of Gin Gins to a few green people on the boat, and they were very grateful, it was a good trip but unfortunately no Whales.
Very pushy Taxi drivers tried to get us into their cars, and we decided to walk
1.5 miles to Vigie Beach a beautiful beach, but it had taken so much time to walk we had to get back to the ship, more unofficial taxi drivers tried to barter but were hopeless, me being a taxi driver for 30 years was not falling for there scams so we walked back! 

The following day it was Grenada and we had a planned walk in the Rainforest, it was raining heavily, I suppose it’s normal after all rain forest is a clue.

After around an hour of uphill twisty bumpy roads on an old bus, we arrived and the rain stopped.

We walked through Plantations the guide gave many quizzes on what tree, and what plant is this.

I was scanning for birds and a Grey Kingbird perched for a few photos, we continued on crossing a river and arrived at a waterfall.

Red Peacock Butterflies were beautiful.

Grenada Dancer Damselfly

A few birds we saw on the way back to bus,
Not great pictures, unfortunately... but a picture is a tick.

Yellow-Bellied Elaenia

Antillean Crested Hummingbird (Lauren got picture, no tick for me)

Green-Throated Carib

Bananaquit (Grenada) subspecies

Barbados was the last day and today we'd be flying home, so had to make the most of it.

After disembarking from the ship we hopped on a ferry to go to Pebbles Beach beautiful golden sandy beach, we opted to sit on the sand rather than pay a small fortune for a sun bed. It was even better as a few Zenaida dove were present.

My last lifer of the trip was Barbados Bullfinch, of which there were a few dotted around the beach and nearby coastline.

Not as Colourful as Eurasian Bullfinch but same bill for cracking shells and nuts.

After snorkeling we spotted Turtle swimming close to shore, Lauren even managed a picture from the beach!!

Hawksbill turtle, Pebble Beach

Royal Tern fishing also with Frigatebirds above, Very pleasant I'd say.

On a small Stroll along the coast, Spotted Sandpiper, Bananaquit, and more Barbados Bullfinch.

And that was a 7-day tour of the fabulous and beautiful Caribbean islands done.

Ebird Trip Report here 

25 list ticks

3 Butterfly life ticks

Red Admiral, Hanno Blue, Little Yellow

So considering, I've never done the Criuseship thing before I thoroughly recommend it, Sea Days were great, and watching the Booby's at close range was fantastic. 

Exploring different islands was very entertaining, and swimming with Turtles and the many species of fish was out of this world.

 I did miss the Crested Caracara unfortunately but this means I'll have to go again! Oh well.

You Can Watch Lauren's fabulous Videos here

If you'd like any tips on the cruise and any questions just drop a comment or email, happy to help

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