On the fourth day of our cruise on Royal Princess, we visited Martinique. This mountainous volcanic island boasts lush tropical vegetation and spectacular views through the rainforest. We docked at Fort-de-France, a big port town with narrow streets. From here, we boarded an air-conditioned bus for Shore Excursion FDF-100 to St. Pierre and the Depaz Rum Distillery. Our first stop was Sacré-Coeur de la Balata, a historic church on a hilltop. This was built in 1925. We drove up a curvy road with scenic vistas to the church.
Next we went through the dense rainforest toward the Depaz Distillery, where rum has been made since 1651. The views along the road were spectacular. At the plantation, we trudged up a grassy hill to admire the owner’s mansion. We toured the distillery past machinery and rooms with barrels for the aging process.
Rain fell as was appropriate for the rainforest. Sugar cane plants stretched into the distance.
The gift shop looked interesting, but we didn’t have enough time to browse. Wares included packaged spices, bottles of rum, and souvenirs. We got tiny tastes of one sweet coconut rum drink that I liked. Another tasted like straight dark rum that burned my throat.
We hurried back to the bus for a drive to St. Pierre. At the foot of Mount Pelee, this village was destroyed in a massive 1902 eruption that killed 30,000 residents. The only survivor was one man in a stone prison. The town has narrow streets and ruins all around that had formerly been buildings made from rock. At the museum, we took a quick glance at the artifacts dug out of ash, a damaged bell from a cathedral, and photos of the town before and after the disaster. The air-conditioning was off, making it very hot inside. No photos were allowed. This museum is on the site of an old gun battery and has scenic views.
Outside, we climbed some stone steps to the ruins of a theater. We spied the jail down below on the side near the mountain. All was gone except for some stone walls and a domed stone prison where the single man survived.
I got hot and sweaty in the heat. We had periodic rain but not so much on this drier side of the island. We noted netting against the cliffs on this side to prevent rockslides onto the roads. We could also see cannon ball holes left in the rock walls facing the water.
This tour took 4-1/2 hours. A native market outside the pier held nothing interesting. The best shop was at the rum distillery. My advice for anyone going here would be to see the house and skip the distillery tour. Go straight to the shop. You could buy snacks there too and restrooms are available. Bring an umbrella.
Coming next: Grenada