St. Barts (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of St. Barts

The island of St. Barts, known for its chic French ambience and cuisine and white-sand beaches, long has reigned as a favorite getaway spot among celebrity jetsetters.

About St. Barts


Pro

High-end French shops, gourmet restaurants, gorgeous beaches and lots of yachts and sailboats

Con

Be prepared to drop serious cash on shopping and meals, even taxis

Bottom Line

It's like the South of France transported to a Caribbean island


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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.

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.

Language

French is the official language. English is widely spoken.

Shopping

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.

Best Cocktail

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.