Martinique’s capital city, Fort-de-France, was the second port of call on our Southern Caribbean cruise. This French Caribbean island is full of bright tropical flowers, lush rainforests, winding mountain roads, and historical ruins.
We started our day with the “Panoramic Tour of Martinique” shore excursion, which we booked through the cruise line. Our tour guide, Beatrix, taught us about the island. We learned about Martinique’s relationship to France, the school system, and the main industries (bananas, sugarcane for rum, and tourism).
Our first stop on the Panoramic Tour was at the Balata Cathedral. The church sits in the mountains — about a 15-minute drive from Fort-de-France — and is a miniature version of the Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris. The interior features bright stained glass windows, a lovely dome, and other decorative flourishes. The parking lot looks out over a beautiful view of the tropical forests and the sea beyond.
Speaking of views, our drive around Martinique was full of wonderful ones! The island’s interior roads, which we took from the Balata Church to the town of Saint-Pierre, were curvy and quite high up! I can’t imagine it was easy for our bus driver to maneuver the large vehicle along the narrow roads and tight bends, but he did a good job. Nonetheless, as we continued to climb, I did experience some motion sickness and anxiety from the heights — there were times when I would look out of the bus window to see a very steep drop next to the road below! Definitely bring your Dramamine if you might need it! (And I quickly learned this goes for driving around many of the other mountainous Caribbean islands as well.)
Eventually, we came out of the mountains and the rainforest to arrive along the northwestern coast of the island, at the town of Saint-Pierre. Saint-Pierre is smaller and quieter than Fort-de-France and has the feel of a gentle seaside town.
Saint-Pierre also has a tragic history. In 1902, a volcano erupted, killing 30,000 people. Prior to the eruption, Saint-Pierre was considered the “Paris” of Martinique. We meandered through ruins of the former city, including the old theater. The theater’s entryway — with a fountain, curved staircase, and marble floors — offers a glimpse of the city that once was.
After our stop in Saint-Pierre, we rode back to Fort-de-France, but this time via the coastal road instead of the mountainous inland roads. This route was more straightforward and featured many spectacular ocean views. We stopped at a couple of scenic lookouts along the way.
The Panoramic Tour ended back in Fort-de-France, just in time for lunch. We hopped on the cruise ship to eat, then ventured out again to explore the boardwalk area near the pier. We browsed through shops and stalls, where I purchased a neat canvas print of a 1600s Caribbean map that is now hanging on my bookshelf at home! After checking out the shops, we visited a small park with a simple beach area. We just sat for a while, enjoying being in Martinique.
All in all, our day in Martinique was relaxed and casual. I enjoyed the shore excursion we chose and the overview of the island it gave us. One attraction we didn’t see that looked interesting was the botanical garden (Jardin de Balata). If I ever find myself back in Martinique, I’d like to check it out. We saw our fair share of beautiful flowers around the island, so I can only imagine what the botanical garden has to offer!
This was Day 4 of our cruise. Read more about our Southern Caribbean cruise here.
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