Finding a slice of France in the Caribbean

The island of Martinique offers shore excursions that will appeal to all cruise guests

Finding a slice of France in the Caribbean

Martinique Tourism Board

Cruise guests can explore the ruins of Saint-Pierre while visiting Martinique

By Alex Smith |

Part of the Lesser Antilles, the island of Martinique is a diverse destination in every sense. The island is an overseas department of France, and its blend of French and Caribbean culture offers a unique experience for cruise guests stepping out at Pointe Simon cruise terminal in the busy capital city of Fort-de-France.  

The city is the largest in the French West Indies and is thought to be named in honour of the nearby Fort St-Louis, which dates from 1640. Visitors can embark on a guided tour of the fortress, which remains a working French naval base, and learn about its history while taking in unparalleled views across the city skyline.  

In Fort-de-France itself, a multitude of sights and experiences are available for cruise guests. The fusion of French and local Creole cuisine provides culinary offerings unique to the island, while the Covered Market, established in 1886, showcases a variety of local produce, clothes, and handicrafts. One of the city’s most notable landmarks is St. Louis Cathedral, which was first built in 1657, though the current Romanesque Revival-style structure was built by architect Pierre-Henri Picq in 1895 following several natural disasters.  

Fort-de-France is not the original capital of the island, however. Located on the northern coast are the ruins of Saint-Pierre, which was once known as the ‘Paris of the West Indies’. On 8 May 1902, the nearby volcano Mount Pelée erupted, burying the city in a cloud of ash. Now called ‘The Little Pompeii’, the city is filled with ruins and historic monuments, welcoming over 300,000 tourists a year to see the remains of its former splendour.  

More adventurous visitors can take a hike up Mount Pelée itself or follow trails through the rainforest. Diving and snorkelling in the waters surrounding the island will allow guests to take in the array of local marine life, while kayaking and swimming in the mangrove forests will offer a chance to explore one of Martinique’s unique natural environments.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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