Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti, Dominica is its own island. Gaining independence from Great Britain in 1978, it remains part of the British Commonwealth. Throughout our journey from the Carnival Splendor on our port stops from St. Croix to Martinique, Grenada, and Dominica we noticed that all these volcanic Caribbean islands have one thing in common – steep terrain and narrow roads. I wouldn’t want to drive on any of them, but the drivers we’ve had on our taxi tours have all done a good job of driving in two lane traffic on a road often narrower than the average American drives for one. They politely pull over in wide spots to let traffic by whether it is going the other way or coming up behind them. I also did not see any litter by the roadsides, which sadly is a rare thing just about anywhere in the world these days.
Like most cruise ships that visit Dominica the Splendor docked at the cruise port in Roseau. In town near the dock pedestrians wove through traffic closer to moving cars than I would ever be comfortable. Cross traffic seemed to have no visible rules as to who went or who stopped, but if one direction had nowhere to go the other would slip between cars whether it looked like they had room or not. I asked if many people got ran over or hit by cars and our driver said no. He also said that the unemployment rate in Dominica is quite low.
We took a lot of taxi tours on our Splendor trip, partly because it is an affordable way to see the islands, partly because we traveled with a group of people with ages ranging from 12 to 90 and it is something everyone can do, and partly since most of the places on this itinerary are not on the usual cruise ship rounds the choices for shore excursions from the ship are more limited. It’s nice to get to see new places and local drivers sometimes go places where tours never would. Sometimes they miss some of the area’s main attractions though, like Dominica’s boiling lake and other geothermal features like geysers and mud pots in the nearby Valley of Desolation – neither of which our guide even mentioned as existing. It’s possible they are not easily accessible by car.
Dominica did not have a lot of options of things for people to do on their own. The town of Roseau is right at the end of the dock so walking around and shopping is an easy option. Taxis could take people to a beach about 25 minutes or so away, which had a rocky shore and then a dropoff, but was OK for swimming. There was a guy walking around with a sign about taking people fishing, but he wanted a very lot of money for that. Quite a few people offered taxi tours.
The taxi tours went through town and out into the countryside. Our tour cost $20, with an option to take a 15 minute hike and swim in a natural pool for an extra $5, which we did not do. After working his way through the pedestrian-laden traffic he drove us up into the rainforest. We saw some houses built on poles due to the steep terrain, but not as many as in Grenada. Also unlike some of the previous islands, healthcare on Dominica is not free except for senior citizens. The children attend primary school together, but boys and girls are separated in older grades. At least in the catholic schools anyway, he did say the girls were taught by nuns so I’m not sure if that separation includes public schools.
Our first stop brought us to a viewpoint on a hill where we could look over the city and our big ship at a tiny dock. Like anywhere where tourists may stop, this stop had a number of locals selling all manner of things in little booths.
Lots of different fruits and things grow on the roadsides. We saw some of the same things as on previous islands. In one place an avocado tree grew near trees with cocoa beans and breadfruit and we had not come across an avocado tree before. While the roadside stands on Grenada had mostly spices, on Dominica they sometimes had fruit and other times little trinkets mixed with a few spices. One even had some bottles labeled snake oil. Which is actually oil from a snake that they believe has medicinal uses and not a joke product.
The island had some ruins from past hurricanes. Mostly abandoned roofless buildings, though walking through town after the tour we found a cafe in a ruin called the ruin cafe. It did have a roof, though it may have been a floor to an upper level in the past. There was also a squatter settlement in a roofless ruin in town across the street from 2 churches, one of which looked like a ruin and the other as if it was in current use.
On the tour we saw one of the most interesting hurricane remnants of all. In a botanical garden a mammoth tree had one trunk going straight up like normal trees, and another growing sideways over a mostly crushed bus that ended up there in hurricane David years ago. It’s not often that the most interesting thing in a botanical garden is an old schoolbus.
One hilltop stop included a view of Trafalgar Falls from a distance. This double set of falls is one of the islands main attractions, though from our distant viewpoint we saw just one waterfall. The ship had a tour to the falls, which was marked as including a strenuous hike. At that stop some local ladies had costume jewelry and trinkets set out on tables to sell. They also had cold drinks and fresh sugarcane and coconut.
After passing through an area with a number of signs advertising hot tubs and massage parlors we wound our way around to a sulphur hotspring where once again locals peddling their wares flanked the road, though these included mineral spring products such as handmade soap. They also had a stand selling smoothies and one for massages.
A pathway up a steep uneven staircase past a steaming creek led up to a bridge to an observation deck with a view of a steamy bubbling hot spring filling the air with a strong sulphur smell. The bubbling pool frequently made a loud gurgle followed by a large splash of water spraying upward.
Back in town we worked our way through the stream of cars and people in the narrow streets back to the cruise ship dock, making all the passengers glad not to be the driver.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015