This is a guest post about St. Kitts by Sam Whiteside, Port Presenter with P&O Cruises. You can find out more about Sam at the end of this article. All photos were taken by Sam.
Visiting the Caribbean on a cruise is a popular holiday choice. In fact, the Caribbean is the world’s number one cruising destination. With such a rich culture, mixed with year round good weather and a vibrant population, you can visit many times and never be disappointed. With so many amazing islands to visit, I thought I would outline some of my favourite Caribbean ports, for those of you thinking about going on a Caribbean cruise. For my first post, I’m going to tell you a bit about St. Kitts.
An island of discovery
There are many things I love about the Caribbean. You can be sitting on a beach enjoying a rum punch one day, then trekking in dense rainforest in search of local wildlife the next. Whether you want to learn about colonial history, meet local people or indulge in some retail therapy, the opportunities are endless.
One island that can offer you all of this is the beautiful, picturesque island of St. Kitts. St. Kitts was once the jewel in the crown of the British West Indies and its sugar industry was the most important of all of the Caribbean islands.
The port area
Port Zante is the main cruise area for the island and it grants visitors direct access to the town of Basseterre. Port Zante is a commercial area that has a long pier capable of allowing some of the largest cruise ships to dock. It is not unusual to find two ships on the single pier, generating a busy and bustling atmosphere.
Once through the yellow arches of the tourist centre (where you can find tourist information and licensed taxi dispatchers), you are greeted with an open air shopping area, fully equipped with duty free shops, jewellers and quirky souvenir stores. There are also restaurants and bars that offer Wi-Fi, and reasonable food options more suited to international tastes. Most people will find that Basseterre is more of a gateway town, offering options to explore further afield.
Things to do in St. Kitts
One of the two most popular attractions in St. Kitts is the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. It was first constructed to help bring building materials for the construction of a new sugar factory in 1912. Between 1912 and 1926 the railway was extended around the island so it could transport the harvested sugar cane to Basseterre. Today the railway extends for 18 miles around the north of the island on a narrow gauge of 762mm. In my opinion, it is the best way to see as much of the island as possible.
Specially designed dual level carriages offer passengers the option of an air conditioned inner compartment with large viewing windows, or cushioned bench style seating with open sides. As you travel on the narrow gauge, you can sit back and let the breeze from the Atlantic Ocean keep you cool in the warm Caribbean heat. Your journey will take you past little villages and remnants of the old sugar industry which are now derelict factories and estates. Keep an eye out for the local school children, who wave to the train as it passes by.
It is essential to know that the St. Kitts Scenic Railway can only be experienced on a pre-organised cruise ship excursion. It cannot be done independently on the day. Most cruise lines will offer this as a tour, so it is best to check the availability and prices with your on board shore excursions department.
A second St. Kitts highlight is Brimstone Hill Fortress. For me, this is the most impressive colonial fortress in the Caribbean. During the colonial era (when the British and French fought over sovereignty of the island), the British decided they would mount cannons on the 800-foot high dormant volcanic cone.
The hill was transformed into an imposing fortification, commonly known as ‘The Gibraltar of the West Indies.’ Designed by British engineers and built by African slaves, it is now one of the best-preserved historical fortifications in the Americas. In 1999, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park was added to the list of World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
For anyone interested in history, this should be top of your to do list on St. Kitts. It is very easy to access via taxi from the port area. It takes approximately 30 minutes by taxi which costs around $50USD for a round trip with up to 4 people sharing. Entrance to the fortress costs $10USD per person ($27ECD) and it is open daily from 9:30am-5:30pm. The island’s official currency is Eastern Caribbean Dollars, but most places accept US Dollars.
As well as these fascinating historical experiences there are plenty of beaches on the island, which are accessible to tourists. Amongst the most popular is Cockleshell Beach, close to Basseterre, reachable by taxi for around $7USD per person one way. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available to hire, but these are often limited when cruise ships are in port. Other beaches close by include Frigate Bay ($3USD per person each way in a taxi) and Friars Bay ($4USD per person each way in a taxi). You can find out more about the beaches of St. Kitts here.
If you want to do something more adventurous, there are a host of outdoor activities on offer across the island. You can zip-line through the canopies of the lush rainforest, relax with a game of golf at the Marriott Hotel, or set sail on a catamaran to the neighbouring island of Nevis.
Sam Whiteside grew up by the seaside in Lowestoft, Suffolk but ended up working at sea by chance after a discussion at university with a professor. Having spent his entire ship career in the Shore Excursions department, Sam is currently a Port Presenter with P&O Cruises where he has been for 5 years. He has worked on all the ships in the current fleet.
Sam loves getting out and exploring all the destinations that he visits on cruises and is always excited to try new things and expand his knowledge of the ports. He has recently invested in a new passion of amateur photography, which is great in his job because he has the perfect material to work with on a daily basis. Sam doesn’t have a favourite destination. He finds they all have something special about them, but destinations he enjoys visiting regularly include the Baltic and the Central Mediterranean.
You can follow Sam’s travels on Instagram at iamsailorsam. You can read more posts by Sam on this website very soon.Follow me on social media