Cruises to Guadeloupe

102 Reviews
Guadeloupe (Photo:Robert Bleecher/Shutterstock)

About Cruising to Guadeloupe

Take a look at a map, and you'll instantly see why Guadeloupe (Gwahd-loop) is called the Butterfly Island -- though its "wings" are actually two separate islands joined by bridges. Smaller surrounding islands, including Marie-Gallant, La Desirade and Iles des Saintes, are also part of this French overseas region in the Lesser Antilles. Start planning your next France cruise and experience Butterfly Island when you find the perfect itinerary with us on Cruise Critic.

The archipelago was originally settled by the Arawak people but later taken over by the Caribs. Christopher Columbus stopped there in 1493 and named the main landmass Santa Maria de Guadalupe de Extremadura after a statue of the Virgin Mary housed in a Spanish monastery of the same name.

While the Caribs were able to fend off Spanish settlement, the French annexed the island group in 1674. Guadeloupe was seized several times by the British for its lucrative sugar production and once even taken over by rebellious slaves. The French have held control since 1816, and in 1848, slavery was abolished. Today, the population is just over 400,000, and the majority is of African or mixed descent.

Guadeloupe's eastern "butterfly wing," Grande-Terre, is home to the largest city, Pointe-a-Pitre, where the cruise port is located. On this island, you'll also find beach towns and, at its easternmost tip, Pointe des Chateaux, where the Caribbean and Atlantic meet. The western "wing," Basse-Terre, is home to Guadeloupe National Park, home to the active La Soufriere volcano and 42,000 acres of tropical forest. Basse-Terre also has lovely beaches and, just off the coast, the waters around Pigeon Island are a designated marine park, named after Jacques Cousteau.

Guadeloupe averages about 70 inches of rainfall a year, with the least precipitation in January, February and March. Because of the varied geography, there are many micro-climates, and weather on the two main islands can be radically different. It might be brilliantly sunny on Grande-Terre's east side and raining in Pointe-a-Pitre while La Soufriere is completely shrouded in clouds. Hurricanes pass through the archipelago, with an average direct hit about every seven years. Hurricane season is late August/early September, well away from peak cruise season.

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More about Guadeloupe

Why Cruise to Guadeloupe?

Pros:

Guadeloupe comprises two islands, Grande Terre and Basse Terre, so you get two ports in one

Cons:

Guadeloupe gets lots of rain; due to micro-climates, its two islands can have drastically different weather

Bottom Line:

With its French influences, this port feels a bit like New Orleans

Guadeloupe Cruise Port Facilities?

Upgrades in 2013 smoothed embarkation and debarkation, improved traffic flow and upped security. Because travelers from both Guadeloupe and mainland France begin and end voyages there, you'll find more amenities than at some other Caribbean terminals.

The terminal building features a small duty-free shop, Wi-Fi, restrooms and a lounge area. Outside the building, vendors sell crafts and souvenirs from kiosks. Most likely, there'll be a band adding to the welcoming vibe. An information booth is staffed by English-speaking tourism reps. Taxis await outside the security gate.

Good to Know?

Dengue and chikungunya are two mosquito-borne diseases present throughout the Caribbean, and you'll see warning signs in the cruise terminal. Avoid contact with mosquitoes, and use a repellant containing DEET.

Some businesses close during lunch and for several hours in the afternoon. Many are only open Monday through Friday or close at noon on Saturday. Few are open on Sunday.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Pointe-a-Pitre is pedestrian friendly, and the flat terrain is easy to navigate. We suggest picking up a map at the information booth because, while the streets are mostly in a grid pattern, there are a few that deviate. We recommend exploring the area to the east of the terminal building; to the north, you'll run into an industrial zone and public-housing projects.

By Taxi: Taxis can be found outside of the port security fence. Many are vans, so you'll benefit by getting a group together. Taxis can be expensive, though -- think European rates. They can be scarcer on weekends, particularly Sundays.

By Bus: At the Gare Routiere de Darboussier bus station (southeast of Place de la Victoire), you can catch buses to the beach towns along the south side of Grande-Terre. Stops include the popular destinations of Le Gosier, Saint-Anne and Saint-Francois. Leave plenty of time for your return because bus schedules can be a bit erratic. Buses operate from about 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., but service is lighter on Saturday afternoons, and buses might not run on Sundays; check with the information kiosk at the port for details. It helps if you speak some French.

By Rental Car: There's a wide choice of car rental companies at the airport, but Hertz (+590-0-5-90-31-74-21) has a much more convenient location in Pointe-a-Pitre. Many of the local rental car companies are closed in the middle of the day and on Sundays, although Hertz has very limited Sunday hours (7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.).

Roads are generally good, although traffic can be bad, particularly on the bridges from Basse-Terre to Grande-Terre. Allow extra time if you're driving back in the afternoon, when traffic jams can be epic.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Because this is French territory, the currency is the euro. Some vendors may accept U.S. dollars, perhaps grudgingly. Visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com for currency conversion rates. Cash machines dispensing euros are easy to find in Pointe-a-Pitre. L'Agence SGBA (30 Rue Frebault), Societe Generale (Rue Saint-John Perse and Rue Frebault, across from the Spice Market), BNP Paribas (intersection of Rue Frebault and Rue Delgres), BDAF Agence de Pointe-a-Pitre (Place de la Victoire), Caisse d'Epargne (Place de la Victoire), Credit Maritime d'Outre Mer (36 Rue Achille Rene Boisneuf) and Credit Agricole (3 Rue Achille Rene Boisneuf) are within walking distance of the port.

Language?

French is the main language, although many people also speak Creole. People in tourism-related industries can usually speak English. Most of the online information is in French only. If you don't speak French, your best bet for information in English is to consult secondary resources, like guidebooks or TripAdvisor.

Where You're Docked?

Guadeloupe's cruise terminal is located at the city of Pointe-a-Pitre. Because the port is right in town, you can easily explore the city, which may remind you a bit of New Orleans, with its lacy iron balconies gracing older buildings. Within walking distance, you'll find restaurants with Wi-Fi, shops, ATMs, pharmacies, two museums, the covered Spice Market and a supermarket (Super U, 72 Rue Jean Jaures).


Guadeloupe Cruise Reviews
The Botanical Gardens are absolutely worth a visit. Lovely!Read More
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naturelovergirl
Great port town - really loved the Memorial ACTe (dedicated to the history andmemory of the slave trade.)Read More
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CdnCruiser007
Beautiful, clean, friendlyRead More
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ThelmLou
Again we were hampered by bad weather here, and originally we wanted to do the Panoramic Tour of the Butterfly but were unable to get on due to demand. To our surprise, they found us two places on the massively populRead More
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slclove

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