Port of St. Barts
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That's quite a lofty status for a stony, volcanic, eight-square-mile island that claims no fresh water and little workable land. Named for Christopher Columbus' brother, Bartolomeo, St. Barthelemy is located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles group in the West Indies, 15 miles east of St. Martin.
Many St. Bartians are descendants of 17th-century settlers from Brittany and Normandy. In the 18th century, France leased the island to Sweden in exchange for trading rights to the Baltic. Almost a century later, locals voted to restore rule to the French. Today, St. Barts, with its population of about 9,000, is a dependency of the French overseas department of Guadeloupe.
The island's beautiful beaches lend themselves to water sports, from windsurfing, scuba-diving and snorkeling to jet-skiing, sailing and deep-sea fishing. Whales pass by during migration periods, and dolphins are frequently spotted -- and might even frolic near the ship's bow.
The island also claims fame as a place where conspicuous consumption is on display in the form of mega-yachts, elegant designer boutiques, fancy resorts and fine dining. Considered among the best places to nosh in the Caribbean, lunch or dinner at one of the island's top restaurants can be a major splurge.
Taking in the island's topless beaches, vibrant nightlife and waterfront bistros -- not to mention hearing French spoken -- it's easy to imagine you've been transported to the south of France (Antibes or St. Tropez). St. Barts even features its own Riviera-like festival calendar, including winter music and film festivals and a spring food festival.
Top St. Barts Itineraries
Star Pride7 Night Caribbean CruiseSan Juan, Martinique, St. Lucia, Iles des Saintes, St. Barts, San JuanNow
Crystal Esprit7 Nights British Virgin Islands Yachting EscapeSt. Martin, St. Barts, Jost Van Dyke, Jost Van Dyke, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, St. MartinNow
Azamara Quest8 Night Caribbean Sunsets VoyageMiami, Labadee, St. Barts, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Thomas, San JuanNow
Riviera10 Night Caribbean CruiseMiami, Nassau, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Barts, MiamiNow
Crystal Esprit7 Nights West Indies Yachting ExplorerSt. Martin, St. Martin, Saba, St. Barts, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Kitts, St. MartinNow
Where You're Docked
Most cruise ships anchor outside sheltered Gustavia Harbour and tender passengers to Port de Pleasance in the heart of Gustavia, the island's charming capital city.
Good to Know
With limited fresh water on the island, don't expect a free glass at restaurants. You'll have to pay for bottled water.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The euro is the official currency of St. Barts. For currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. ATM's are located in Gustavia at the Banque Francaise Commercial (BFC) on rue du General-de-Gaulle and the Banque Nationale de Paris on rue du Bord-de-Mer.
French is the official language. English is widely spoken.
Bring home duty-free designer sunglasses or French skincare products. Many shops close for lunch from around noon to 3 p.m. but stay open until at least 7 p.m.
Enjoy a Kronenbourg beer at Le Select, the popular bar/cafe immortalized by Jimmy Buffett. Or you can switch to T punch, which is white rum, cane sugar and lime -- popular throughout the French Caribbean. It's usually served straight up.