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The Flower of the Caribbean – Martinique

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One of the benefits of taking a cruise is the opportunity to visit several ports of call along the way.  And while the ship may only stop in those ports for a day or so, leaving not a lot of time to enjoy a full exploration of the destination, there are still a wide variety of activities available to give cruise passengers an overall flavor and flair of what the destination has to offer.

So, whether you arrange an activity through your cruise ship excursion department, or venture out on your own, don’t let a limited amount of time hinder your desire to get off the boat and explore!

In the Caribbean, Martinique is one of the most popular ports of call, offering a wide array of excellent tourism experiences to suit travelers from all over the world.

Following are a few tidbits to get your Martinique wanderlust underway.

Located in the Caribbean archipelago in the Lesser Antilles between Dominica and St. Lucia, encompassing approximately 436 square miles and with a population just under 400,000, this French Caribbean Island—also known as the “Isle of Flowers” (Fleur des Caraïbes) is actually part of the European Union, as it belongs to France. Thus, the official language, flag and currency (the island uses the Euro but American dollars are widely accepted) are officially French.

Martinique is also recognized as the home of “The Isle of the Famed poet Aimé Césaire,” who was born here in 1913.

Although French is an important part of the island’s heritage, Martinique is also heavily infused with Afro-Caribbean and Creole culture, evidenced everywhere you look in the language, art, cuisine, clothing, music and other aspects of the cultural landscape here. One of the many places where you can delve into an artistic perspective of it all is at La Galerie Colette Nimar, a Caribbean and Haitian art gallery offering a wealth of unique permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Cruise ship passengers disembark at the Martinique Cruise Village in Pointe Simon in the island capital of Fort-de-France, situated on one of the largest and most beautiful Bays in the world – Bay Fort-de-France. From here it is only a few blocks-walk along the waterfront promenade into downtown to the many shops, restaurants, and historic sites here.

To get a great overall perspective about Martinique, take a tour with Norden Vincent Transportation Services. The company offers a wide array of wonderful, themed excursions around the island tailored toward to your interests for individuals and groups.

Martinique’s lush mountainous topography, including the awe-inspiring volcanic peaks of Mount Pelée, makes it an attractive destination for those interested in exploring its spectacular rainforests for hiking, birding, wildlife, camping, and other ecotourism activities.Some of the best flora displays on the island can be found at Jardin de Balata, featuring bird’s eye views of the stunning gardens, groves and ponds brimming with vibrant purple Bromeliads, Hibiscus, White Ficus, Bamboo, Giant Alpinias, Torch Ginger and other native flowers and vegetation.Architecture lovers should be sure to stop by the Eglise du Sacré Cœur de Balata (Balata Church). Built in 1925 in the Romano-Byzantine style, the church is a smaller replica of the Basilica du Sacré Cœur in Paris, and very important to the people here – representing not only a sacred place of worship, but also a central backbone of the community after the eruption of Mount Pelee and partial destruction of the island in 1902. The church also pays homage to the over 1,300 Martinican lives lost during their side-by-side engagement with Allied Forces during WWI.

Martinique is unique in that it is bordered by the Caribbean Sea on the western side and the Atlantic Ocean to the eastern, giving sun worshippers who flock to the island’s many breathtaking pristine beaches a different experience of the warm, crystal clear waters, coupled with some of the best island views.

Recognized by some as The Rum Capital of the World, Martinique is home to several rum (they sometimes spell it “Rhum”) distilleries including Habitation Clément, Trois Rivières Distillery and La Mauny Distillery. A point of pride here is that the island offerings carry the same designation reserved for fine wines—Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)—making a trip to these distilleries a must-do for both casual and rum aficionados alike. You might even get lucky and port in Martinique during their annual Rum Festival in December in Sainte-Marie, where a variety of activities such as a plantation train ride, music concerts and special craft village shopping takes place at Plantations Saint James Distillery.

One of the most historic landmarks on the island is Fort Saint-Louis. This massive 17th-century fort (part of it is still a working French naval base) sprawling over 400,000 square feet, pays homage the island’s military history throughout the various structures that still remain.

Other island tributes include to Marie-Joseph Rose Tasher de la Pagerie, known as Empress Josephine, who was born in Martinique in 1763, later becoming the first wife of Napoleon I. Her symbolically beheaded statue (due to her role in the slave trade) situated in La Savane Park and Le Musee de La Pagerie (the La Pagerie Museum) formerly her birthplace, are popular tourist attractions.

With only 8 hours or so to spend, it’s hard to know what to enjoy, and what to save for your next visit to Martinique. But once here, there’s no doubt you’ll be longing for more!

To learn more about the beautiful island of Martinique, check out the Tourism Authority website –

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