The Caribbean is best known for its turquoise waters and pearly white sands, but don’t overlook its colorful past that stems from the Old Country. Writer Stephen Jermank is going to show us three Caribbean Islands you can enjoy on a Celebrity cruise with a little European flair!
Consider St. Martin, a half French, half Dutch island in the northeast corridor of the Caribbean. In the main town of Marigot, you can relax at a table at La Croissanterie, with stunning views of a small harbor called Marina Royale, and enjoy a buttery and hot croissant, served with a café au lait so strong it makes Starbucks taste like water.
It’s hard not to feel like you’re in Paris here. European culture plays a significant role in the food, architecture, shops, and historical sites one can visit in Curacao and Antigua.
Have a look.
After breakfast, walk along the winding alleys behind the harbor, as the hot sun begins its ascent, and soon Marigot starts to feel like a town on the French Riviera. Boutiques, restaurants, and small markets line the streets. On Rue de la Liberte, the latest French fashions can be found.
A must stop for all foodies is the Gourmet Boutique on Rue de l’Anguille. Snack on Brie and Camembert cheeses, Godiva chocolates, fresh baguettes, and the tastiest jambon (ham). The one-street village of Grand Case, at the northern tip of St. Martin, is known for its French restaurants located in small shacks that once housed fishermen.
Ask for an ocean view table and watch the waves roll ashore as you’re served fresh lobster or red snapper Provencal under candlelight.
The Dutch side is where everyone goes to work off their French meals due to the lively nighttime atmosphere. The open-air dance floor at Cheri’s Cafe is located in Maho Bay and a great way to enjoy the weather and the music of the island. Next door is Casino Royale, one of the handful of casinos on this half of the island.
Antigua sits smack dab in the center of the Caribbean. The biggest attraction on the island, English Harbour, is a long inlet popular with the Caribbean yachting sect, especially during Sailing Week festivities in late April.
Home to the British fleet and naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson from 1784 to 1787, the restored Georgian buildings and pier are now part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park.
Take lunch or high tea on the back porch of the Admiral’s Inn, which originates from the time of Admiral Nelson. Up the hill from English Harbour stands a dilapidated fortress called Shirley Heights. It’s worth the short taxi ride to see the views below of the harbor and the rocky coastline.
On Sunday afternoons, a steel drum plays live music and a game of cricket is never far away. Arriving here with the British, cricket has become more of a religion on this island than a sport. For another fun jaunt, go sea kayaking and snorkeling in protected mangrove lagoons to find starfish a foot in diameter and nesting sea turtles on the beach.
Curacao is part of the ABC Islands, the southernmost group of islands in the Caribbean. Stroll along the narrow streets of Willemstad, the capital of Curacao, and you’ll find exquisite 17th and 18th-century Dutch colonial buildings not found anywhere outside of the Netherlands.
The steep pitched gable roofline is typical of Dutch urban architecture, but the bright bold palette painted on the exteriors of the buildings is undeniably Caribbean.
Make your first stop Fort Nassau, a restored Dutch seafood restaurant created from the ruins of an 18th-century fortress and now a favorite dining spot of Queen Beatrix and Crown Prince Claus of the Netherlands. Dine on fresh red snapper and grouper on a hilltop overlooking Willemstad with panoramic views of the ocean.
Then head onward to New Amsterdam, a favorite store on the island known for its hand-embroidered tablecloths and other Dutch novelties. Last, but certainly not least, make sure to pop into any of the grocery stores in town to grab Dutch chocolates and a wheel of very old gouda, which you can’t find back in the States. The cheese is stored in wax and does not need refrigeration, so it’s easy to bring back on the ship or in the plane.
Many visitors are delightfully surprised by the strong European influence which gives these places a different feel from other islands. Enjoy the blend of cultures and of course be sure to dip your toes in the water for the complete Caribbean experience.