St. Pierre, Martinique
Language and Currency
What is Martinique Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
The official language of Martinique is French, but many of the locals speak Creole (a mixture of French, Spanish and English). Based on ties to France, Martinique converted to the use of the Euro as its official currency.
Fort-de-France Taken From a Ship's Jogging Deck
Martinique, “a little bit of France in the Caribbean”, located 23 miles south of St. Lucia and 15 miles north of Dominica, is part of the lesser Antilles. In the heart of the Caribbean Archipelago, the mountainous terrain of the 426 square miles of surface area is quite diverse. Two peaks, Carbet and Mont Pelée, a dormant volcano, lie to the north. Verdant rolling hills and enclosed valleys in the center of the island fan out to a tropical rainforest and the “picture postcard perfect” Salines Beach, on the southernmost tip. The early Caribes called Martinique the “island of flowers” and the lush vegetation that still abounds is a testament to the title. Martinique’s rich soil is perfect for producing a veritable bounty of fruit. Fields of pineapples, avocados, bananas, papayas and custard apples are plentiful. In 1946, Martinique officially became a French Department (state), and was granted status of Region in 1974. Although Martinique has a French feeling, it has its own special flavor of music and dance, local dishes and way of life. Fort-de-France, the capital and largest city is a cross between New Orleans and a town on the French Riviera. Narrow streets amble up the evergreen hills that surround this bayside town. Be prepared for the evening cacophony of grasshoppers, frogs and crickets performing nightly concerts. West Indian warmth flourishes everywhere on the island.
The climate is a perfect 75° - 85°F year round, with an average mean temperature of 79°. There is only a 5° difference between summer and winter temperatures. Temperatures are bit cooler in the higher elevations. With the Atlantic Ocean on its east and the Caribbean Sea on the west, Martinique is blessed with trade winds, known as les alizés, to cool the atmosphere. Although it frequently rains, it never lasts long.
The MSC Lirica Docked in Fort-de-France, Martinique
Ships dock and anchor in Martinique. They dock at the Passenger Terminal or the new pier at Pointe Simon. The Passenger Terminal is a 5 minute drive to town and Pointe Simon Pier is in the heart of Fort-de-France. If your ship tenders, the tender pier is also right in town. Taxis are readily available at all piers. Martinique’s cabs must be metered by law and be aware that during the hours of 7pm to 6 am, a 40% surcharge is added to the normal day fare. Cabs can be hired for by the hour and will cost about $25 per hour for 4 passengers. If you are adventurous, you can take one of the taxis collectifs (privately owned minivans) that depart from the parking lot of Pointe Simon. A one fare from Fort-de-France to Ste.-Anne will cost about $5-$6 US. Be advised, these vehicles can get a bit crowded and the ride can often be a bumpy, harrowing traffic experience, however. Rental car agencies are plentiful and renting a car is perhaps the best way to tour the island on your own. Walking from the cruise terminal is very safe and takes about 15 minutes to the downtown area.
The Duty Free Shops at the Cruise Terminal
There is excellent duty free shopping right at the cruise terminal. On the day we were there on the Lirica, there was no problem buying wine and other beverages in the duty free shops and carrying them aboard for consumption in the cabin.
One of Fort-de-France's Shopping Streets
The main shopping area is in Fort-de-France, on Rue Victor-Hugo and the neighboring side streets, in the center of town.
The Craft Market in Downtown Fort-de-France
There is also an excellent crafts market near the harbor on the north side of the park that sells everything under the sun. It is well worth a visit if you are looking for local crafts, art and clothing.
Typical Products in the Craft Market
Best buys are French luxury imports, such as, perfumes, fashions, Vuitton luggage, Limogès dinnerware and, Lalique crystal. You can often find the best prices in the smaller boutique stores around town.
The beaches have distinctive draw in Martinique. The best beaches are located south of Fort-de-France. Personally, I find, Les Salines, a short drive south of Ste.-Anne, with its 1 ½ mile cove of soft white sand, lined with coconut palms the most beautiful on the island. Another option is to catch the ferry from Fort-de-France to Pointe du Bout, across the bay. Lined with luxury resorts, The Sofitel Bakoua, is one of the most popular hotel beaches. There is also a casino on Pointe du Bout. Remember, this is a French island, however, and topless bathing is the norm. A visit to the ruins of the city of St. Pierre, less than an hours drive from Fort-de-France, is well worth the trip. A modern day version of the ruins of Pompeii, it is here that Mont Pelée erupted in 1906, killing 30,000 people in less than 10 seconds. Along the route to St. Pierre, stop at some of the coastal fishing villages, like Carbet, where you can visit the Gauguin Museum. The Butterfly Farm, built in 1645, is perhaps the oldest plantation in Martinique, and houses a wonderful array of butterflies and gardens. Bird watchers will be pleased by the number of hummingbirds on the island. Mountain whistlers, blackbirds and mongoose also inhabit the island.
Fort-de-France's Public Market
Just taking a tour of Fort-de-France on foot, stopping in the shops and local cafés, can also prove interesting. The public market is well worth a visit. You can pick up some local floral arrangement to enhance you cabin for very little money here.
Try One of Mama's Snacks in the Public Market For a Real Treat
Be sure to take in all of the type of food and liquids being sold in the public market. I have never seen such an array of products in my life.
The Cathedral in Downtown Fort-de-France
Fort-de-France's Main Theater
While touring Fort-de-France is a fun way to visit Martinique, Fort-de-France is the Administrative center for the French possessions in the area and, as such is not a friendly, as one would expect. To really enjoy your visit to Martinique, I would strongly suggest that you either take a ship's excursion or tour on your own. Visits to the rain forest and a tour of the island's beauty are downright memorable and well worth the effort to do.
A visit to the rain forest and countryside is on my recommended list of “don’t miss”.
Unfortunately, on my short visit, I was unable to sample the combination of French and Creole cuisine that the island is noted for. A number of people recommended Le Planteur, in Fort-de-France, not only for its excellent cuisine, but spectacular view of the bay. If you have a chance to sample its wares, please let me know if I missed anything spectacular.
68 users found this review helpful.
The most picturesque island of them all, but by far the rudest. People did not want to help you at all and they barely spoke English. We walked from the cruise...read more
29 users found this review helpful.
; Judy Best We had heard so many negatives things about trips into the city, we opted to take a ship excursion called Fun, Sun, and Sailing that didn’t leave until...read more
16 users found this review helpful.
By the time we got to Matinique, I was short on cash so didn't shop much. Took the ferry across the bay and snorkeled again at a resort area. These gals were walking...read more
18 users found this review helpful.
We hired a small bus at the cruise dock to take a group of 10 of us on a 4.5 hour island tour. He charged us $40.00 each and we thought that was certainly a fair...read more
42 users found this review helpful.
We had heard from the cruise director that a ferry could be taken to the beach, so that’s what we had decided to do. Walking from the cruise terminal to the ferry...read more
SPECIAL SOUTH TOUR
SPECIAL SOUTH TOUR $540 Chartered For 5 People This charming area is yours to explore with your small group and your English-speaking guide. One of...read more
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NORTHERN MARTINIQUE TOUR
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WALKING TOUR OF HISTORIC FORT DE FRANCE
WALKING TOUR OF HISTORIC FORT DE FRANCE $23 Per Person This interesting tour promises to take you to all of the highlights of sophisticated Fort de France, Martinique's...read more