This Caribbean French island, located 110 miles east of Puerto Rico, is more than simply a hangout for A-listers.
Also, it has developed into a place where less well-off tourists can get a taste of French joie de vivre without flying across the Atlantic.
During a recent 12-day “Charismatic Caribbean” trip, I spent a day at St. Barts aboard the 670-passenger Oceania Sirena, one of Oceania’s six ships. The cruise line, which is based in Florida, is renowned for its small to midsize ships and fine dining.
Are there any cruises to St. Barts?
It’s true. With 582 passengers from 11 different nations, 70% of whom were Americans, the Sirena was about 90% filled. We departed from Miami, travelled 2,470 miles southeast, and arrived in Oranjestad, Aruba, to conclude our voyage. We had eight port stops along route through the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, and the Dutch island of Curacao.
But, none of the ports had St. Barts’ allure. The island is home to some of the best white-sand beaches in the Caribbean, fine cuisine, a city brimming with upscale jewellery stores and luxury boutiques, and scores of multimillion dollar superyachts parked in its harbour, giving the area a French Riviera feel.
In contrast to several of its neighbouring islands, St. Barts does not draw large numbers of visitors. No high-rise hotels, no direct flights from the US or Europe, and a harbour too tiny for mega-cruise ships are all present.
What you need to know about Gustavia, the capital of St. Barts
In actuality, one of the biggest ships to visit St. Barts is the Sirena. When guests were transported by tender boats to the dock in Gustavia, the nation’s capital and largest town, we anchored offshore. There aren’t many arranged day trips because the island’s roads are too small for tour buses.
Residents and visitors, especially those who the French regard to as the beau monde (beautiful people), appear to value the feeling of exclusivity and solitude that is added by all of this.
Sabine Masseglia, the French-born director of the St. Barts Tourist Bureau who has spent 34 years on the island, said that there is no mass tourism. “Our island is little. We are unable to accommodate large crowds. The scope of everything is minimal. It is what St. Barts is known for.
How tiny exactly? Just 812 square miles, or about one-third the area of South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix, may be found on St. Barts. Without breaks, it takes just over an hour to drive around the island by car. Without include guests who stay in yachts, the island has roughly 15,000 year-round residents living in 800 private villas scattered over it and only 25 hotels.
Buildings must be higher than a palm tree on the island, according to an unofficial “palm tree law”. The tallest hotel is therefore only two floors high.