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Sixth in a Series:

Colorful buildings in Fort-de-France, Martinque. Photo by Catharine Norton.

Colorful buildings in Fort-de-France, Martinque. Photo by Catharine Norton.

On the final full day of our recent Caribbean cruise with Island Windjammers, the Sagitta anchored off the dock at Fort-de-France, capital of Martinique.

Like Guadeloupe, where we had spent the previous two days, Martinique is an overseas department of France, so I had a chance to practice my rusty French from high school and college. It’s amazing what flows out when you actually want or need something, such as a map of the city or a bottle of wine.

Leah, the operations manager aboard the Sagitta, had tasked us all with bringing back a bottle of wine from shore for a wine and cheese party to be held during cocktail hour that afternoon.  It was the first time all week she had actually asked us to do anything, so just about everyone gladly obeyed.

The problem was finding a wine store amid a sea of opticians and optika — eyewear — stores of all types.

There were stores selling eyeglasses and optometrist shops giving eye tests on just about every corner of the central city — sometimes three or four per block.

Are the people  of Martinique that nearsighted? Is Martinique a central spot for buying eyewear in the Caribbean? I don’t know the answer, even after googling it.

Inside the Covered Market, Fort-de-France, Martinique.  Photo by Catharine Norton

Inside the Covered Market, Fort-de-France, Martinique. Photo by Catharine Norton.

Finally, after wandering around for an hour and eyeing some sleek looking Ray-Bans, my wife, Catharine, and I came upon a grocery store that sold wine (not surprisingly, French vintages). The lines at the checkout counters were long — it seemed to be the only grocery store around — but we spotted two other folks from the ship toward the front of the line and slipped our bottle to them for payment.

Our duty fulfilled, we continued our walk around the capital, map in hand (which I had procured at the tourist office after asking the woman in the window, “Avez-vous un plan de la ville?” to which she replied, “Yes, of course” and handed it to me).

I guess I need to work on my accent. But as in mainland France, I find that no matter how badly I butcher the language, a smile works wonders when entering any shop.as does a “Bonjour, madame” or “Bonjour, monsieur” as the case may be. For Martinique, I would practice this: “Bonjour, monsieur, avez-vous une paire peu coûteuse de Ray-Ban?”

Optika stores aside, Fort-de-France has some unusual and alluring architecture, which reminded us a bit of New Orleans’ French Quarter.

We stopped into Saint Louis Cathedral, which was built in a remarkable Romanesque-Byzantine style in the 1890s and is the most prominent structure in the capital. The seventh church on this spot — all the previous ones had burned down or were destroyed by natural disasters — the cathedral is framed in steel to extend its longevity, earning it the moniker “Iron Cathedral.”

And we liked the Schoelcher Library, another Romanesque-Byzantine structure, which was built in Paris for the World’s Fair of 1889, then dismantled and shipped to Martinique, where it was reassembled.

How can you "lime" without limes?  No shortage in Fort-de-France. Photo by Catharine Norton.

How can you “lime” without limes? No shortage in Fort-de-France. Photo by Catharine Norton.

We also wandered through the city’s Covered Market (La Marché Couvert) to check out the local vegetables, fruit and spices. Like the Saint Louis Cathedral and the Schoelcher Library, the market was  designed by Henry Picq, a contemporary of Gustave Eiffel of tower fame.

Finally, we admired the former Hotel de Ville — City Hall — which has a neoclassical look and is now home to the Aimé Césaire Theater.

That afternoon, after lunch aboard the Sagitta, we anchored off an uncrowded beach, where we took a last swim and engaged in some final “liming” — hanging out and relaxing, as they say in the Caribbean — before packing up for the next morning’s disembarkation back in St. Lucia.

The late afternoon wine and cheese party, followed by the Captain’s dinner of lobster over pasta, helped ease the transition from our no-worries cruise to our return to reality. The next day would bring a trip to the airport, security lines, a long plane flight back to the States, and a long drive home after that, but for now we could focus on one of the burning questions of the trip: what’s the proper way to spell “arrgh”?

Yes, pirate talk kept cropping up throughout the week, and it was time to settle this debate, at least for those of us sitting with Captain Matt at dinner. Everyone at our table agreed that “ar” was too short and that “arr” or “arrr” were preferable to “ar,” but there was disagreement as to whether or not the silent “gh” should be added at the end.

The Captain argued in favor of “arrgh.” He should know — after all, he’s the dude who steers the ship and has been captaining in the Caribbean for years.

The collected wine purchased in Fort-de-France for wine and cheese party. Photo by Mike Crowther.

The collected wine purchased in Fort-de-France for wine and cheese party. Photo by Mike Crowther.

This was his last Island Windjammers voyage until October, and he would shortly be off to his home in Minnesota, where he would spend time with his family and be captaining day cruises on Lake Superior.

I forgot to ask if he could do that barefoot. Probably not. We would all miss the informality and camaraderie of the Sagitta and Island Windjammers — where, as their slogan goes, they’re “Always on island time.”

Arrrrgh.

For previous posts in this series, see:

Island Time: Life on an Island Windjammers Cruise

Seeking the Sagitta and Seafood on St. Lucia

An Island Windjammers Tour of Dominica

A Little Slice of France With Island Windjammers

Casual, Relaxed Fun: That’s Island Windjammers

Readers: You can subscribe to my blog and get notification of every post by simply typing in your email address and clicking on the blue Subscribe button or downloading my free report, How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers.Thanks!

12 Responses to Arrgh: Our Island Windjammers Cruise Comes to an End

  • Thank you very much for your writing. I thoroughly enjoyed reliving the trip through your eyes.

    Arrrgh,
    Bill

  • Thanks again for the wonderful recap of our entire trip together on Island Windjammers Sagitta in May!! Each of your posts will be put together into my trip journal to help me recall the details and all the fun we had! I LOVE sailing with IW on the Sagitta and am looking forward to my first trip on IW Vela in December. Just wishing I had a ‘Clark Norton’ on that trip to recapture all the information and fun on that one, as well! Thanks again!!!

  • Though I wasn’t on this trip, I (as you know) sailed with Captain Matt in IW’s Diamant in the Grenadines a year ago. Nice to know how much a trip on the Sagitta resembled it, right down to the lobster (with no pasta ) for the captain’s dinner at the end. It’s been fun recalling my trip while learning about yours.

    • Thanks, MB. The Island Windjammers’ experience is clearly reflected in all of their cruises, so even if you take a different itinerary or different ship, you’ll no doubt have a rollicking good time.

  • Thanks Clark for the wonderful recap! We waited anxiously for each blog to be published and feel a void coming on now that this was the last in the series!!!,
    We throughly enjoyed our sailing adventure and the fact that 24, mostly strangers (except for Coke group), got along so well made it even better! We certainly weren’t lacking for laughs…..booze and food also for that matter!
    Please keep writing and if ANYONE finds that their travels take them to the Phoenix area, please feel free to contact us and we ‘ll get together and reminisce……with island libations of your choice. Rum punch, anyone?!!!!!
    Arrrrrrgh?

    • Thanks, Robin! And everyone for reading and writing in. I can see why Islands Windjammers inspires such group loyalty. Is everyone aware of the IW-focused forum, called The Sea Shanty? I signed up the other day!

      Meanwhile, stay tuned for further cruising and other adventures!

  • Excellent summary of IWJ, Clark; thanks. We did Sagitta last November and had a great time, although the route was different (St. Martin – St. Barts – Nevis – St. Kitts – Anguilla). As you’ve said previously, the cuisine is superb, the crew terrific, and the cabins very comfortable (if you didn’t get a look at the Owner’s Cabin on your cruise, you missed something good!).

    We’re also confirmed IWJ fans. We’ve also sailed Diamant four times (with #5 set for next month), and love that too. If anyone’s wondering, you get the same great experience there….the difference is that the islands in the Grenadines are more laid back and less built up. I’ll put the beach at Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau against any other you can name for pure beauty and relaxation.

    • Thanks, Barry! Good to hear about your experiences on the Diamant and the Grenadines, and thanks for subscribing!

      Incidentally, Barry was one of my sources for a piece I wrote on Island Windjammers’ rum-themed cruises for Porthole Cruise Magazine, a topic I neglected to mention in this series. You can learn all about rum — the varieties from different islands, its history, how to make a genuine daiquiri — from rum expert Dave Russell, while sailing the islands and having the IW experience.

      • Thank you, Clark! 14 of us are booked on Sagitta for the Rum Cruise in November. I am so excited as this will be the first time for me outside the US and we get to celebrate my 11th Wedding anniversary while we are there. Your article was very informative and makes me wish we were leaving tomorrow.

        • How exciting, Jennifer! You couldn’t choose better for your first trip outside the U.S.; I’m sure you’ll love the Sagitta, the Caribbean, the rum…and please say hi to Dave Russell for me. Happy anniversary in advance!

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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