The Caribbean Island I’ll NEVER Visit Again
Let me be the first to tell you that not all Caribbean Islands are created equal. Some are beachy and others are mountainous, some are populated while others are reclusive. Even the turquoise, blue, and green colors of the Caribbean Sea are different amongst islands in this area of the world. There are islands that I would move to tomorrow if the opportunity arose (I’m talking about you Saint Thomas). There are other islands that I’m indifferent about ever visiting again. But there is one island in the Caribbean that I will never go back to. In fact, this island girl at heart has found one Caribbean Island to be the worst destination I’ve ever visited! A stiffer competition than you’d believe, may I add. Please let me introduce you to Martinique.
I should preface my experience by telling you the nuts and bolts about our visit. We arrived aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship in the month of November. The cruise itinerary included six different islands in a seven day period of time, departing from San Juan. I highly recommend the Royal Caribbean brand and the remainder of the itinerary was fantastic. We had a blast visiting enticing islands like St. Croix, Antigua, and St. Lucia. I would even consider taking that same cruise again. However I would remain on the ship while we docked in Martinique.
The island of Martinique lies in the eastern Caribbean, south of Puerto Rico and north of Saint Lucia, and is an approximately 420 square mile overseas region of France. The people who call this island home are French citizens, made up of African and Caribbean descents. The island lies near the Caribbean and South American plates which has caused it to form eight centers of volcanic activity. Mount Pelée, which is located at the northern end of the island, is currently listed as inactive but continues to register seismic activity. The vegetation on Martinique ranges from dense forests to savanna-like flats. Visitors that enjoy coming to the island take part in scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, and discovering the French history behind the island.
We arrived in the capital city of Martinique, Fort-de-France. This is the islands largest port and where the major cruise ships dock. We chose to explore the city at this location, rather than taking part in any shore excursions. I will admit that in my research, I’ve found that people who go on shore excursions in Martinique are more satisfied with their visit than we were.
Off the dock is a cruise village where cruisers can purchase locally made items and souvenirs. The market is what I was most excited about prior to docking here. I wanted to see the vendors and purchase unique Caribbean items. I had images of smiling women proudly displaying their home-made products as happy vacationers haggled over prices. Boy was I disappointed. Instead we found a large building with a few stands and little activity. We looked around for a bit but almost every vendor had the same overpriced, commercialized, standard touristy items for sale. I approached one of the vendors but she was very rude and in her thick French-Caribbean accident told me that she didn’t speak English. I sadly walked away.
After the market experience we ventured over to Fort Saint Louis, a historical seaside fortress in the city of Fort-de-France. Although part of the fort continues to operate today as a naval base, there are portions that visitors can tour and explore that are no longer used for military operations. We admittedly had an okay time exploring this part of the island. There were some neat stone towers and dilapidated buildings to take pictures of and climb around.
Unfortunately, the portions of Fort-Saint-Louis that are up for exploration are fairly small. Because of this we quickly ran out of places to photograph. We decided to venture deeper into town and walk the city streets for photographs and shopping. There isn’t a lot to do in Fort-de-France other than walking around the streets and a few small museums and shops. We picked up a map of the town but it was in French and therefore was little help to us.
This is where our visit went downhill. The deeper we wandered into the city, the dirtier it became. There was trash on the streets and an occasional unpleasant odor in parts of town. We found a shopping mall and decided to head there to look around. One of the stores was a pharmacy/grocery store. I didn’t pack any aloe so we went in here to purchase some. The clerks and local shoppers were incredibly rude. We walked outside and began looking around for some food. I found a quiet little restaurant and went to grab a menu. The host here was also rude. So rude, in fact, that we decided to look for somewhere else to eat.
I was beginning to think that there was something wrong with us. Were we unapproachable? Did we have cooties? As we were in search of food we saw a family of four that were traveling on the same ship that we were. They stopped and chatted with us for a few minutes about how rude the people are on the island of Martinique. I was pleased to know that we weren’t the only ones having a bad experience.
After our casual conversation with this family, we admitted defeat. We started walking back towards the ship for lunch and to call it a day. We noticed that there was an overwhelming amount of people that either chose to stay on the ship or return back to the ship early. Martinique was the talk of the ship. We didn’t hear any positive feedback about this destination from fellow travelers. It seemed that everyone on the promenade deck was happy to watch Martinique disappear into the sea as our ship headed for the next port.
Surprisingly, Martinique is marketed as a luxury destination and said to have a certain kind of elegance to the city of Fort-de-France. They didn’t mention how the people were rude and the streets were filthy. Perhaps the remainder of the island was different and maybe we would have had a better experience if we took a shore excursion, rather than blindly exploring the city on our own. Regardless, the people of Martinique, who rely heavily on the tourist industry, were not very welcoming. I can say with certainty though that we were very happy to get off of their island.