A few notes about Tortola, whilst it is said by some to have the best beaches in the Caribbean there are no public busses. Taxis are generally expensive and it could be cheaper to rent a car and share if you plan to explore the island. We have found no free wifi unless with a purchase, that included in the port shops and cafe areas as well as bars walking round town. Well it is run by the British banking industry. If you find some great tips let us know on the chat sites. The town is very small and many cruisers will take the transfer to Cane Garden Bay Beach, which is only a short stop on most Island Bus Tours. The beach is near the Rum Distillery, both see on our Island Bus Tour Film. There is little in the port where you dock, and the dark, hidden, and rather politely titled FOLK MUSEUM, is a historic record of a dark era in our past. It shows how the island was taken with bloodshed, and then how slaves were shipped there. We have reprinted the passage from the romantic novel American Portrait because it does kind of nail the way you might feel.P&O Cruises cruises to Tortola – look and book direct with P&O via this link  Fred Olsen cruises to Tortola – look and book direct with Fred. Olsen via this link Marella Cruises to Tortola – look and book direct with TUI via this linkSaga Cruises to the Caribbean – look and book direct with SAGA via this link

The port itself now has an award winning shopping park, and there are bars and cafes in the few roads. Between them you will find craft stalls and shopping. The other local features are the Botanical Gardens, a small sugar museum and the ferry to other islands or the fort. Features requiring transit are Island Bus Tour and Cane Garden Bay beach. The walking tour offered in the magazine as you arrive has about a dozen stops, most being shops.

  • BEACHES – Tortola is said to have some of the best beaches.
  • Cane Garden Bay is on the North Shore, bars, shade, crystal clear water and many water sports available.
  • Nicloles Brewers Bay, is near Cane Bay, not advertised, and it is likely you might be the only ones there. 
  • Brewers Bay is a quieter beach near a campground with s snack shop. It has shaded areas. Calm water normally preferred by serious snorkelers as it has a reef.
  • Josiah’s Bay is on the East and is a wide sandy beach. It has snack bars and is used by surfers in the winter when there is swell.
  • BrandyWine Bay is a half moon white sand beach just east of Road Town with very calm water and shaded ‘bohios’ and restrooms. This is the Bay they wish to develop for Cruise Passengers as a centre, but the beach needs widening and the road moved along with other things that residents have objected to before the plans have even been submitted. TBA.
  • Long Bay is a mile of white sand at Tortola’s West End.
  • Smuggler’s Cove: An off road experience to Smuggler’s Cove will find a treasure of a crescent shaped beach with many Seagrape trees for shade.
  • There are beaches on other islands like Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke

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The museum we’re looking for is not hidden or uninviting, but it’s a poorly signposted elevated white house with brown windows that does not even have the lights switched on. Had Aled not pinpointed this as his chosen destination with his smart phone we could have easily walked past it, even if we found our way to the road at the back. I need to get smart with my phone just as this museum needs a little marketing and sales help. Everyone should visit the BVI Folk Museum. I’m stuck to the floor, rigid, staring at a poster that states,

‘To be sold on board the ship, 250 fine healthy Negroes. The utmost care has been taken to keep them free from the danger of being infected with smallpox’.

Eventually I raise my head from this dreadful reminder of how awful man is capable of being to fellow man for financial gain. I look around the museum at those who lived through that era and fought for better. Every picture tells a story and each story needs to be read. It shows the history of the islands inhabitation from 100BC when the Arawak arrived. It lists the Africans being here in the year 1200 having come across from the mainland, well before Columbus discovered the already inhabited Americas. He didn’t so much discover as herald the nightmares the Europeans started when arriving in 1493, stealing lands and profiting from the slave trade by 1700 then on until the slave act was repealed in 1788. That leaves me cold, wondering if Bristol and Liverpool have museums admitting the same. I note Aled studying each exhibit; making notes and sketches, taking pictures with his camera and making notes again.

“More paintings?” I ask him softly.

“I couldn’t do this subject justice, and if I did, they wouldn’t sell. People don’t want to be reminded why the country they live in has so much wealth,” he says and turns his head to scan the room. “We stole most of it, from just about everywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter how you get rich as long as you do, eh?” he states sarcastically through a locked jaw.

“We know it’s wrong now,” I offer and he turns abruptly. 

“It was morally and religiously wrong then! Even more wrong, after it was outlawed in England, our ships continued to trade slaves illegally by flying different flags! The wealthy ship owners continued to supply their wealthy estate owning relatives, who had taken all these lands. They did wrong knowing it was wrong, knowing the law had changed!” he lectures passionately. This generation sees things so differently and are not prepared to have things hushed up.

“Good point,” I congratulate him, not just because he is right but because he cares. We stand on the veranda looking out and Aled takes his phone again.

“Are you letting people know you were here?” I ask him.

“Damn right I am,” he says.

Our film around Road Town features the slavery museum. That location and the botanical gardens you note are locations in the novel for Sally Katz in her book  American Portrait. She used our films for research, and because of our relationship with her, we have now had permission to print that extract from her novel – American Portrait. Violet has just got off the ship and the young artist that runs the on board gallery has found her, and asks her to go with him to visit a museum he wants to see.  

FROM the cruise based novel AMERICAN PORTRAIT

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SEE THE CRUISE BEFORE YOU CRUISE THE SEA. We show cruise destinations all over the world.

READ THE CRUISE BEFORE YOU CRUISE THE SEA. In the book charts!
Sally Katz used the films on Doris Visits to peg her books on! With permission. Each book takes place over a cruise! Book 1 is a Canary Islands cruise, Book 2 is in the Baltic, Book 3 is in the Caribbean and has a major story plot in Tortola.
If after reading the exert from the novel American Portrait, you want to load it to your kindle. Click the picture. Learn more about the books you can listen to the first part of chapter one of book 1, Her Virgin Voyage here in another blog. Romance aside we think they are great stories about a powerful and determined single woman.

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We would be pleased if you booked your cruise via one of our links, if you do then please tell us so we can see if the tracking worked.P&O Cruises cruises to Tortola – look and book direct with P&O via this link  Fred Olsen cruises to Tortola – look and book direct with Fred. Olsen via this link Marella Cruises to Tortola – look and book direct with TUI via this linkSaga Cruises to the Caribbean – look and book direct with SAGA via this link