Antigua Shore Excursion: A Perfect 24 Hours in Antigua


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Greetings Internet Stranger! It is impossible to spend 24 hours in Antigua on an Antigua shore excursion and not feel relaxed at the end of the day. The locals in Antigua kept telling me that a popular phrase on the island is “Antigua Nice”, and Antigua is indeed a very nice place to relax and vacation. The island supposedly has 365 beaches, one for each day of the year.

Don’t you sometimes wish you had the kind of inherited wealth where you could do nothing all day but hang out on a different beach each day? But then after a year, would you have to move to a different Caribbean island because you were “over” all the Antiguan beaches? Maybe it’s good to not be fabulously rich after all.

In any case, we won’t be spending that much beach time during our 24 hours in Antigua on our Antigua shore excursion. I visited the island on a Royal Caribbean cruise of the Southern Caribbean, and I always try to pack as much into each port stop as I possibly can.

Don’t want anyone to mistake me for one of those people who just cruise as an excuse to lie about on deckchairs and eat unlimited soft serve! I am all about cultural experiences.

So get off that beach towel, Internet Stranger! We’re going to learn some Caribbean history on our Antigua shore excursion! And plus, we’ll get to know the famous Antiguan pineapple. Can’t wait!

Antigua Shore Excursion

How To Get There

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest rum. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to the Caribbean.

But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to London, and then I took a shorter flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where my cruise was docked. I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to the Caribbean at the best time of day.

You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your Antigua shore excursion ASAP.

antigua shore excursion

Antigua Shore Excursion: A Perfect 24 Hours

Where To Stay?

Since this is an Antigua shore excursion, we’ll be returning to our cruise ship in the evening, so we won’t book a hotel. Instead, you’ll need to book a cruise itinerary that includes a stop in Antigua. I always cruise with Royal Caribbean because I get loyalty points, and I’ve become an expert in their ways. Plus, they do great towel animals!

You can find all of Royal Caribbean’s cruises that stop in Antigua here. And you can look for great cruise deals by booking through Expedia here.

Antigua Shore Excursion: A Perfect 24 Hours

What to Pack

  • Cute sandals because sandals are a necessary part of any sunny Antigua shore excursion.
  • An umbrella that will keep you safe if it rains a bit on your Antigua shore excursion.
  • A cell charger so you can have enough juice to keep taking pictures of all Antigua’s beautiful beaches.
  • The best travel adapter just in case you are American because Antigua uses higher voltage than the US does.
  • A fabulous vintage swimsuit that will keep you looking spiffy on all 365 beaches.
  • A great spray sunscreen that you can even get on your back if you are a solo traveler like I am. (But it also works well if you are not a solo.)
  • The best travel guide to Antigua and Barbuda.
  • The most famous novelist to come out of Antigua and Barbuda is Jamaica Kincaid. I recommend starting with her beautiful coming of age story, Annie John.
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. You never know when extreme weather will strike or some other emergency. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by deranged sentient coconuts on your Antigua shore excursion.
24 hours in Antigua shore excursion

Antigua Shore Excursion: A Perfect 24 Hours

Afternoon: Explore Antigua

The only thing I like better than taking one Antigua shore excursion during 24 hours in Antigua is taking two shore excursions in one. For the first part of this shore excursion, we’re going to explore this beautiful island, and for the second half, we’ll relax on one of its stunning beaches.

Any cruise will offer an Antigua shore excursion that takes you to Shirley Heights, the most famous viewing point on the island, and Nelson’s Dockyard, which is the major historical sight. I’m sure whatever shore excursion you choose will entertain you with…

Approximately top 5: Antigua Shore Excursion

24 hours in Antigua shore excursion
1) Antiguan Churches

If there are 365 beaches in Antigua, I feel that there must be almost as many churches. Surely there is at least one church for every Sunday of the year. One of the most interesting things about these houses of worship is that each seemed to come in a different color. For example, All Saints Anglican Church was yellow.

24 Hours in Antigua Shore Excursion

St Barnabas Anglican Church is green and red. The green gives the church a kind of “Halloween” feel, but it’s actually natural. The Antigua green stone comes from the area, so there are other buildings around with the same eerie green glow.

24 Hours in Antigua Shore Excursion

The most impressive color is probably the bubble gum pink of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is a Catholic church. The community in which this church is located is called “Sweets”, so I assume the pink color is a tribute to cotton candy or some other pink, sweet deliciousness.

24 hours in Antigua
2) Blockhouse

The blockhouse isn’t a stop on every Antigua shore excursion, but if you get to see the views from here on yours, consider yourself lucky. This is the last remains of an 18th century British officer’s house.

Presumably he would have stayed here to be on the look out for Spanish or French ships looking to get a piece of the British colonies. (Antigua and its neighbor Barbuda were British colonies until 1981.) But you’re not really here to see the old blockhouse. You’re here to get the same spectacular views of Antigua that the British officer would have seen.

24 hours in Antigua shore excursion

Isn’t that amazing? You can see why so many celebrities like Eric Clapton have chosen to build homes in this area. And even if we can’t build a villa with our “Layla” money, we’re still luckier than that British officer. We don’t have to worry about pirates or dying from scurvy. Plus, this is one of the best viewing points on the island because it doesn’t get as crowded as Shirley Heights.

Also there’s a lady here who sells beautiful bracelets made out of vintage beads and fishing line for only 8 dollars. Definitely look her up during your Antigua shore excursion! I always get compliments on her work.

24 hours in Antigua shore excursion
3) Shirley Heights

Technically the Blockhouse is part of Shirley Heights, but this viewing spot a slight ways away is what most people think of when they imagine Shirley Heights. It’s also known as The Lookout. Every Sunday there’s a giant party here, so you should definitely go and crash it if you’re lucky enough to have your Antigua shore excursion on a weekend.

Shirley Heights was named after neither Shirley Jones nor Shirley Bassey nor Shirley You Can’t Be Serious. In fact, it wasn’t named after a woman at all. Instead, it was named after the British governor of the Leeward Islands (which includes Antigua), Thomas Shirley.

This port we are staring at from this viewpoint allowed the British to dominate this entire area of the Caribbean. It has excellent natural defenses from invasion by sea.

I’m pretty sure it has terrible defenses from invasion by air, but why are you planning an aerial invasion of Antigua, you monster? Do you want to deprive the world of delicious beaches and pineapples? Have a heart!

24 hours in Antigua shore excursion
4) Nelson’s Dockyard

Once we’re done with Shirley Heights, we can actually go and experience that harbor for ourselves! No Antigua shore excursion is complete without a stop here.

Nelson’s Dockyard is part of a National Park in Antigua, so you’ll be able to take a tour here led by an Antiguan park ranger. My favorite fun fact he taught us was that in its heyday, this shipbuilding dockyard was extremely inefficient. The men built ships at a snail’s pace.

Why, you ask? To save money, some genius thought it would be a good idea to pay shipbuilders in rum. And how efficient do you think men who work in the hot sun all day and get exclusively paid in rum are? The answer is: not at all.

I have no engineering experience at all, and I think I could have told you that paying workers in booze is a terrible idea. How did the British have the world’s greatest navy? Why didn’t all their ships just collapse as soon as they got in the water?

The dockyard is still used to this day to repair ships, but they compensate their workers in actual currency now.

antigua shore excursion
5) dockyard Museum

You’ll have some free time to explore after the ranger tour, so I strongly suggest you explore the artifacts at the Dockyard Museum. There’s no extra charge to go inside. You can learn about Lord Horatio Nelson’s time stationed in Antigua, though he was only there for three years.

As an American, I was amused to find that Nelson was sent to Antigua to try to prevent other nations from trading with the fledgling country. I call that sour grapes, England! You lost! Let us have our trade!

Ahem. Don’t know why I’m getting so emotional, as all that took place more than 200 years before I was born. Just to show there’s no hard feelings, here are some of the Nelson artifacts I found at the museum.

24 hours in Antigua shore excursion

The beam from Nelson’s ship is interesting, but death masks are so creepy. Nelson was killed in battle! Who was really thinking about taking a cast of his face just after he died? Also Nelson looks about as happy in that mask as you’d expect someone shot and killed in battle to be. It seems as if he’s about to scream, “MEEEEEP!”

antigua shore excursion
6) Dockyard bakery

If you’re anything like me, looking at death masks is going to make you hungry, so stop in at the Dockyard Bakery in Nelson’s Dockyard for some cheap and homemade treats. Just remember to bring cash. They will not take credit cards, but like most places in Antigua, they will accept US Dollars.

antigua shore excursion

I strongly recommend getting a crack at the Antiguan pineapple by ordering the pineapple turnover. It’s made with local pineapple; I know because I asked. It will add the perfect local touch to your Antigua shore excursion. And the filling is as sweet as a yacht build by workers who aren’t getting paid in rum.

antigua shore excursion

Antigua Shore Excursion: A Perfect 24 Hours

Afternoon: Chillax on the Beach!

Of course it’s just sick and wrong to have an Antigua shore excursion without a stop on one of its world-class beaches. Our Antigua shore excursion takes us to the restaurant Millers by the Sea, located on Fort James beach. We had the beach all to ourselves, which made for a most relaxing afternoon.

I can’t share the warmth of the sun or the ocean breeze with you, but I can share…

Three Fun Facts: Antigua Beach Break

antigua shore excursion
1) WAAAAA! What about lunch?

Well, I did say this shore excursion was sponsored by a restaurant, so it makes sense that there would be food. And since all we’ve had today is a Very Special Antiguan pineapple turnover, you’re probably going to want lunch. I recommend the lobster sandwich, which would have cost at least twice as much in my hometown of New York City.

Lunch is not included with the price of the tour, but the restaurant is not expensive, and the seafood was tasty. Just order lunch as soon as you arrive, so that if there’s a delay of some sort, you won’t run the risk of having to get back on the tour bus without your food.

antigua shore excursion
2) WAAAA! Isn’t anything free?

Slow your roll, Internet Stranger! There might be no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as a free rum punch! And it comes with the price of the tour. I suggest taking your complimentary cup down to the beach, so you can get that extra dose of relaxation on the sand.

Also, usually in the Caribbean you have to pay to rent a beach chair, but in this case, the chair is also included with the price of the tour! How nice that you can avoid getting sand all up in your butt! But you do have to pay extra for a beach umbrella if you want one.

antigua shore excursion
3) WAAAAA! Will it rain?

I mean, I can’t promise that it won’t! I don’t control the weather. And it did rain for a smidge when we enjoyed our Antigua shore excursion. Those rain clouds in my photo above are not the result of photoshop, I can promise you!

But in most cases, I find that the rain in the Caribbean doesn’t last for very long, unless you’re visiting during hurricane season or something. Just move out of the way for a few minutes until the rain passes, and then get back to enjoying the beach!

antigua shore excursion

Antigua Shore Excursion: A Perfect 24 Hours

Evening: Dinner at Chops Grille

I’m assuming that you took your Antigua shore excursion from a Royal Caribbean cruise, like I always do, and in the evening you’ll be ready for a special dinner. Why not make a reservation at one of the specialty restaurants like Chops Grille? It’s a fun place to go if you like steak, and steak is certainly one of the best fancy dishes they do on Royal Caribbean ships.

Start off with a classic appetizer like the Caesar salad, and then move on to one of the specialty steaks!

antigua shore excursion

There’s always a ton of food on a cruise ship, but at Chops I suggest getting the smallest filet mignon with a side of truffle fries. It’s perfectly decadent and just the right amount of food.

antigua shore excursion

For dessert, try another classic like the Key lime pie. For some reason Caesar salad, steak, and Key lime pie just go together perfectly as a meal. It’s like we’re all back at the Odeon in the 1980s or something.

But one thing that baffled be about this Key lime pie is that it came with a side of ice cream. Truly, who puts ice cream on a Key lime pie? There’s already a whole bunch of meringue on top. But I guess there’s no level of decadence too decadent for a cruise ship.

24 hours in Antigua shore excursion

That’s a Perfect Antigua Shore Excursion!

What would you do with a 24 hours in Antigua shore excursion? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Antigua? Have you ever paid subordinates in rum? And when I die, do you promise not to make a death mask of my face? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours on an Antigua shore excursion. If you want to see some of the other itineraries from my cruise, check out St ThomasSt KittsBarbados, and St Lucia.

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