A day in Gustavia, St. Barthélemy

St. Barthalemy, or St. Barts, is a Caribbean island we’ve never visited before. That’s unfortunate, since it was probably the nicest island we’ve ever set foot on.

The main port of Gustavia, named after a Swedish king strangely enough, is a charming little town that is the stopping point for many large yachts that are cruising the Caribbean islands.
Our morning started with the usual breakfast at the Terrace Grill, followed by a short tender trip to the visitor’s dock in Gustavia. It was there that we hopped on board the aptly-named Yellow Submarine semi-submersible for a one hour trip to see some of the local ocean life.
The couple that runs the Yellow Submarine is French, and very nice. The boat is brand new, made by a company in Sardinia, and affords guests a clear view of the reef and fish from fold-down seats. We got on board and cruised out to a small wreck, where we were able to view a number of fish species as well as several nurse sharks.
The best viewing, though, occurred when we got over to some underwater rocks that are overgrown with brain, fire, and fan coral. We got to see different varieties of fish, including the omnipresent sergeant-majors, parrot fish, puffer fish, blue tangs, yellowtail jack, angel fish, and more. Everyone was surprised when we saw a couple of large sea turtles in the area.
The sea turtles were even more common as we headed back to Gustavia, as they prefer sandy bottoms with lots of seaweed. There were some more nurse sharks and stingrays swimming around as well.
Once we returned to Gustavia, we wandered around the quaint streets and stepped into a local restaurant for a refreshing Diet Coke, then walked some more before stopping for lunch. At that restaurant, located at the end of the quay, we both had the best grilled ham and cheese sandwiches I think we’ve ever had. They were filled with a thin slice of ham, cheese, and a béchamel sauce, then coated with Gruyere cheese on the outside for a thin, cheesy crust. Yum!
A source of amusement at the restaurant was the coconut that was attached by a chain to the bathroom key. During the time we were there, quite a few people ended up asking for “the coconut.”
We had a bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio with lunch along with a bottle of Portuguese water to combat our dehydration, then went along the main street to see if Barb could pick up a simple necklace she had admired earlier – it was a single black pearl strung on a thin leather cord. Unfortunately, the stores here in Gustavia close during the lunch hours, and we really didn’t feel like waiting until 3 PM or so for them to return.
We had another glass of wine at a small bistro across from the tender dock, then took the tender back to the ship. We’re sitting out on our verandah right now, watching airplanes do their daredevil approach for landing at the island’s airport.
From our verandah we can hear the local birds singing, and I saw a sea turtle surface for air. The island is wonderful, although expensive, and would definitely be a place to return to. Barb and I both agree that now that we’ve seen just about every island in the Caribbean, there really is no compelling reason to do another Caribbean cruise. If we do decide to take a cruise down here again, it will be for the ship (like Royal Caribbean’s monster 225,000-ton Oasis of the Seas) and definitely not for the ports.
We canceled our reservations for the Toscana restaurant on board tonight. Two reasons – we really didn’t feel like eating a lot again, and we love the food in the Terrace Grill area.
Tomorrow is our last island stop, at Virgin Gorda. After that we have two full days at sea heading back to Miami, before catching our plane back to Denver. This has been an amazingly relaxing and restorative trip!

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