Upon Arrival: Castries

June 12, 2014 No Comments

Cruise ships dock at Pointe Seraphine, roughly a mile from Castries, the St. Lucian capital. The best shopping is right at the pier in the open-air duty-free shopping complex. Within the Spanish-style plaza, vendors offer tremendous savings on designer jewelry and watches, fine china and leather goods, and arts and crafts.

When the port is exceptionally busy, some cruise ships dock at La Place Carenage, located directly across the harbor from Point Seraphine. The dock has its own duty-free shopping center: an air-conditioned three-story mall that offers a mix of shopping and entertainment. Water taxis are available for cruise guests to travel back and forth between the two centers, both of which are about a 15-minute walk from town.

Not only the island’s shopping hub, Castries is also its commercial center. Shops and businesses intermingle with homes and government offices, set against a captivating backdrop of striking beauty.

The French took control of the island in 1635, kicking off a 200-year-long political tug-of-war with the British, each vying to control St. Lucia’s vast resources. In 1814, the Treaty of Paris settled things in the Brits’ favor, but the french had already left an indelible mark. Today, English is St. Lucia’s official language, but the majority of the city and street names are decidedly French.

The best place to get an authentic taste of St. Lucia’s flavors is the buzzing Castries Central Market, where more than 300 vendors sell everything from local spices to rum to artisanal crafts. The air is filled with tempted scents of St. Lucian dishes such as braised oxtail and fried tuna steak. The produce is succulent and fresh, piquantly different from the fruits you’ll find back home.

Just two blocks south of the market, a giant samaan tree thought to be more than 400 years old stands watch over Derek Wolcott Square, named in honor of a Nobel Prize-winning St. Lucian. The square is nestled between Castries Central Library and the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, more often simply called The Cathedral. Construction took the better part of a century to complete because of the intricate, ornate depictions on the walls.

To the south, Morne Fortune overlooks the city of Castries and the coastline. The name may translate to “Hill of Good Luck” but history has proved that Morne Fortune is anything but lucky. The Morne, as it’s known to locals, was the site of many battles between the French and the British. These days, visitors can tour the former battleground, which hosts a military cemetery; the Inniskilling Monument, an homage to a 1796 battle, and the remains of Fort Charlotte—now the Sir Aurthur Lewis Community College. The Morne’s magnificent Victorian-style building, Government House, serves as the official residence of St. Lucia’s governor-general. The panoramic views are stellar from the Morne so bring a camera.

Cruise along the rugged west coast to the historic town of Soufriere, where the volcanic pitons rise dramatically from the sea. Enjoy zip-line thrills along with breathtaking views of St. Lucia’s most famous natural attractions.

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Discover monuments, key landmarks, tropical scenery, traditional farming communities, and gorgeous panoramic vistas in Castries and northern St. Lucia on a narrated scenic drive. The route takes you through the capital and across a mountain ridge on back roads that deliver breathtaking views of both the Caribbean and Atlantic.

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Cruise to St. Lucia’s iconic geological landmarks: the towering volcanic formations of Gros Piton and Petit Piton, a most dramatic sight from a boat. On the return to Castries, take a swim before cruising into historic Marigot Bay.

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