On our recent CruCon-booked Celebrity Cruise through the Caribbean, we spent a day in Antigua (where neither of us had ever been before), and as hubs is a chef (and I'm his favorite foodie!), we were really lucky to be able to spend the day learning to cook Antiguan dishes with Chef Nicole Arthurton at Nicole's Table in St. Johns, Antigua! (Read her reviews on TripAdvisor and you'll see why I booked!) Nicole is truly delightful company as well as a top food pro, and her kitchen and her home are glorious, with a view from her patio that is "to die for", as they say! Chef Dan and I took her "Cooking with Rum" class, which included THE most excellent rum tasting I've Ever had- I got to taste rums I didn't even know existed!- and we learned to make (and then enjoy) dishes that were so good, and so uniquely Caribbean, that Chef Dan his put them on the menu at the Elkhorn Inn! Dishes we made (and now have on our menu) included Nicole's Rum-Marinated Grilled Steak, served with Onion Jam, a Sweet Potato Soup with Rum and Toasted Coconut Slivers (which are THE best munchie, ever!), Bacon-Wrapped Plantains, and Coconut Rice and Beans. In addition to cooking (and sampling Nicole's delish Rum Punch), we learned a lot about Antigua, as well as about Montserrat, where Nicole's family is from. Thanks to Nicole, we actually got off the beaten tourist path and experienced a little of the "real" Antigua, if only for a few, all-too-short, hours!
The day we had with Nicole is the kind of a day that makes you long to return for an extended stay- not just for 8 hours while on a cruise! We started the day with a "liquid breakfast" at Hemmingway's Caribbean Café (photo below); hey- it was 5 o'clock somewhere! :-) The truly nice and helpful staff got us a cab out to Nicole's; the driver then came back to pick us up and take us back to our ship later in the day! So many cruisers are afraid to do things that aren't cruise-line sponsored for fear of missing the boat, and that's a shame, because most of the really interesting and unique things to do (such as this cooking day with Nicole, our spearfishing and jet-ski fishing excursions, etc.) aren't available through the cruise lines! 99% of the excursions we've done so far on our 4 cruises were booked independently, and all have been great. If a company has 5-star reviews on www.TripAdvisor.com & www.CruiseCritic.com they WILL see that you get back to the ship on time- if they don't they'll be out of business fast! Great places to look for unique excursions include the Forum boards for different ports on both www.CruiseCritic.com and www.TripAdvisor.com, and just "Googling" for the things you want to do in the places you want to do them! I found Nicole's Table by entering terms like "cooking classes Caribbean", and "cooking Antigua" in various search engines!