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Trip Report: St. Lucia
There are definitely many advantages to living in the Caribbean -- one is your proximity to all the other Caribbean islands around you. The downside, however, is because of their proximity, it's easy to make the mistake of taking only short visits -- say, over a weekend, to each of them -- after all, why waste all your vacation time at an island that's so similar to the one you're living on? Isn't it better to spend your hard-earned time off in far-away lands?
I learned this mistake the hard way this weekend: the truth is, each island of the Caribbean is distinctly different from every other island. The truth is, to spend mere days in one island is to give it short shrift.
The truth is, we should've stayed longer in St. Lucia.
Thursday night my husband, Marcus, my daughter Alex and I joined our friends Joanna & Peter and their daughter for our trip to St. Lucia. Joanna is a particularly nervous flyer, and the fact that we were flying with LIAT Airlines, known for their prop engines, did not make her any calmer. She needn't have worried: LIAT is known for its impeccable safety record, we arrived at our destination without incident, and the service on the airline was prompt and friendly.
Trying to get through immigration was another issue entirely. We arrived at George F.L. Charles airport in Castries which is the smaller of the two airports on the island. Unfortunately, it appeared that this airport has failed to grow in tandem with the influx of tourists, and therefore seems in desperate need of immigration and other related officials. It took two hours for us to get through immigration and customs, and to say we were all tired and cranky once we arrived would be a serious understatement.
Luckily, the resort was only a few minutes' drive away, so it wasn't long before we were having dinner. We chose the Almond Morgan Bay for our St. Lucia home, and it was a good choice. Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of large resort hotels -- I find them to be very crowded and lacking in intimacy -- but if you do like large resorts, you can hardly go wrong with this one. This resort is all-inclusive -- meaning that your room rate also includes all your meals and all your beverages, including the fruity alcoholic ones with the little paper umbrellas. In addition, the rate includes several water sports and other activities -- and the best part? An award-winning kids' club, so if you wanted to go do something adventurous, like say, scuba diving, you can be sure your children will be safe for a few hours while you go. The service was impeccable (after a full day of trying to get online, the IT manager came in on her day off -- it was Good Friday -- to help, and fixed the problem in no time), and everyone was glad to be of assistance. A note -- if you stay at the Almond, note that even though they have five restaurants, you may not be able to get into at least four of them without making reservations well in advance, and room service isn't available all day (as you might expect), but instead only available during specific hours.
Our first full day in St. Lucia, we didn't do much of anything except lounge around on the beach -- we were supposed to go diving, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we didn't make it. We did however, make it diving the next day, and it was all we expected it to be -- beautiful clear water, nice and warm, with lots of sea life. Really beautiful.
Marcus, Alex and Peter paddling in the morning waves.
Me and Marcus at about 50' below.
After diving, we took the opportunity to visit the capital city of Castries, and the open air market. While there was a lot to see, many of the stalls were half-empty, I assume because it was the Easter weekend, and most people were off celebrating. It's definitely worth a trip, though -- you can buy lots of locally produced crafts, including basket weaving, leatherwork, ceramics and wood carvings.
Unfortunately, the next day was time for us to go home -- and we hadn't even visited the island's many art galleries, or gone on whale/dolphin watching trip, or repelling in the rainforests -- all available to do and see while in St. Lucia. Most importantly, we hadn't visited the pitons -- St. Lucia's most distinctive landmark hills -- since they were on the other side of the island. We definitely plan on returning to take it all in -- and would strongly recommend that if you're planning a trip to St. Lucia, you make sure to spend the time to really enjoy it.
- Be sure to bring Eastern Caribbean dollars (St. Lucian currency ) with you, by either visiting your local bank or the currency exchange at the airport -- ATMs are sometimes hard to come by in St. Lucia, and not all of them guarantee your bank card will work. Also, many resorts refuse to exchange currency from other islands, or allow you to purchase cash on your credit card -- so be warned.
- Locals speak a patois called Kwéyòl, which is decidedly French-sounding, but isn't, exactly. That said, all St. Lucians also speak the national language of English.
- Remember this is the Caribbean -- things don't move nearly as quickly as they do in, say, New York City, or London. You would do well to bring along a big dose of patience, remember that you're on holiday, and that while things may not necessarily start at their appointed time, they will start, and you'll still have a great time.