Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – Fort-de-France, Martinique – Mostly Cloudy – 80s

Distance from Willemstad, Curacao to Fort-de-France, Martinique:  491 Nautical Miles

Port Information.  Martinique is an overseas region of France, which means that it is part of France.  The island uses the Euro as currency and French is spoken. The population of the island is around 380,000 with Fort-de-France, the largest city, having over 90,000 inhabitants.  One of the major features of the island is the semi-active volcano, Mt. Pelee, located on the Southern end.  Another important site is Saint-Pierre, once the most important cultural and economic city in Martinique, it was destroyed completely by a volcanic eruption in 1902.

Crystal Serenity is docked in Martinique from 7AM to 10PM.  This is the first time we have been to Martinique.

We ordered room service because we are on an early tour today and the breakfast buffet doesn’t open for at least another hour. The breakfast was delivered right on time and we dined at our table in comfort and style.


That’s How Breakfast is Done

The 6:00 AM Room Service menu consisted of cold cereal plus bananas – we also got scrambled eggs, the only hot item available at that hour. 

Getting up this early gave us a chance to see the sail in to Martinique.



There is a very modern looking hotel – Simon Hotel – at the end of the pier.  It looks a bit out of place among the other structures in Fort-de-France.


Docking Process


On tour today is “St. Pierre and Rum Distillery”.  We arrived on time at 8:00 AM at the Stardust Lounge after picking up our official backpacks.  Our groups were dispatched to our busses on time and the walk to the boarding area was not long. 

The tour is supposed to run a little more than four hours and will take us to various spots on the island, with the highlight being a visit to the Depaz Rum Distillery.  Ellen and I are on successive busses so we will meet up along the way since it looks like the busses are all going to run the tour the same way.

Our first stop is a view stop overlooking the Fort-de-France harbor – we can make out the Simon Hotel so we know our ship is just along side of the hotel. 



Meeting up at the View Stop

We made a brief stop at a house with a story – a wife found her husband cheating in the house and dispatched him on the spot – he supposedly haunts this house.


Haunted House

Our bus tour continued with roads that abutted the rainforests.  The bus stopped to point out one of the 70 rivers that can be found on Martinique (a smaller number than the other islands in the FWI).




The River and Rainforest Vegetation

Martinique like the other islands in the chain is volcanic.  This island’s big bad is Volcano Pelee.  As with most volcanoes, Pele is hidden in the clouds (as it is almost 300 days a year). 


Volcano Pelee in the Clouds

The bus made a photo stop at the Sacre Coeur de Balata Church.  The church was built in 1915 to accommodate the people moving to Fort-de-France following the volcanic destruction of the then capital, Saint-Pierre.  It is a mini-version of Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, or Basilica Montmartre.


Sacre Coeur de Balata Church

The bus then proceeded to the Depaz Rum Factory.


Countryside on way to Rum Factory

The factory sits on a flat parcel of land with a view of Mt. Pelee (below).


We walked a short distance through the lush grounds to the factory building.  There wasn’t a lot of activity in the factory today.  We did learn a bit about rum from the guide (e.g. old rum and new rum).  Also, apparently, you cannot ship rum to France unless it is exactly 60 percent alcohol (120 proof).  



Depaz Rum Distillery

I tried several different types of rum (old, new) – they were all good. 

Our next and final stop was Saint-Pierre.  The town was in bad shape – lots of neglected infrastructure issues.  There were many bits of evidence related to the 1902 eruption.  The picture below is of graves on a hillside, a memorial to some of the victims of the disaster.


We crossed a busy street to get to a prison devastated by the volcano.  Only one prisoner survived as he was in a solitary cell deep in the structure.


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Prison Ruins – Volcanic Eruption

On the way back to the port, the guide pointed out an interesting house on the hill.  Shaped like a ship’s bow, it used to be a restaurant but is now a house.


The bus returned to the pier pretty much on time.  It was an interesting tour but a tad disorganized – I wasn’t really sure what I was seeing along the way. 

I got a nice shot of Ellen making her way back to the ship (with trusty backpack).


Ellen on the Pier

We turned in our reports and backpacks and headed up to Deck 10 to find some food.  We were too late for the buffet but food was still available in Tastes.  We had the Asian Noodles and Pizza. 

We spent the afternoon on the couches on Deck 10.  The ship was not moving so the deck was warm but OK in the shade.

We went back to our Kosher food for tonight – we had a great table (#65) and Ellen had a veal chop and I had hot dogs (not the big kind but two little hot dogs).  The food was good but I feared that my brats were all gone.  They had dairy free desserts tonight as well.  Later on, I had a soy decaf latte in the Bistro.

Showtime tonight was the Production Show - “6/8 Cafe” – a 30 minute juke box musical featuring songs from 60s and 80s.  The dancing was terrific – high energy and innovative.  Actually had four vocalists in this one.  Very entertaining.


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“6-8 Café”

We watched the late sail away from the comfort of our verandah.  This also never gets old.


A nice day in the Arrondissement of Martinique.

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