One of four islands in the French West Indies, Martinique is best known as the birthplace of Napoleon’s empress Josephine and the site where now-dormant Mount Pelée famously erupted in 1902. Too sprawling to explore fully in a single day, the island features postcard-worthy beaches, lush rainforests, banana plantations, rum distilleries, and a smattering of historical sites. Though Fort-de-France was long considered a second-string cruise destination, there’s been a notable increase in arrivals in recent years following improvements at the port.
What We Love
Snorkeling and Sea Turtle Spotting. All the cruise lines offer a turtle outing that’s relatively inexpensive, enjoyable at any age, and a wonderful excuse to hit the beach.
Fort Saint-Louis: The iconic 17th-century fort, after years of being closed to the public, is now open for tours.
Best Known For
Rum: Martinique’s history goes hand in hand with the sugar industry, and many local distilleries offer tours and tastings.
French Culture: This “little slice of France in the Caribbean” is authentically française.
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Who It's Best For
Beach Lovers: Blessed with temperatures that stay between 75 and 80 degrees all year long, palm-studded beaches, and cooling trade winds, Martinique makes for an ideal beach day in a tropical paradise.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Your Guide May Not Speak English: Ditto for waiters and shopkeepers. If you don't parlez très bien le français, you may want to carry a French phrasebook, or download the Duolingo language app for your day ashore.
It’s a 15-Minute Walk to Get Downtown: On the other hand, cab rides on the island can be a bumpy, harrowing experience for those uninitiated to the island roads. Pick your poison.
The Dock Area Can Feel Sketchy: Despite improvements, cruisers share space with cargo workers, and the waterfront can feel a little seedy.
Almost Everything Is Closed on Sundays: If you’re in port for the Sabbath, book a spa treatment on the ship instead.
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Boston Globe.