Throughout our travels we have been able to see the difference between authentic culture and artificial tourist traps…which really any one can see the difference.
When traveling on a cruise, or to an all inclusive resort on an island, you are basically placed in a “key west” type environment with colorful buildings, market places selling island t-shirts, bright colored sarongs and of course the all to in your face Duty Free shop. Here you can buy low cost liquor and jewelry and save a few dollars on not paying taxes.
But, what you don’t have time to see, or purposefully don’t take the time to leave the port or resort, is the real and true parts of the islands. Beyond the port gates, and probably on the other side of the island are the homes of the locals, the fruit stands outside of the plantations, and the roadside food stands.
Truthfully, unless you take a week off, and rent a car or have a trust worthy local to take you around, you truly miss the virtue and culture that the islands have to offer.
St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Marten were all somewhat similar at the port side. In St. Maarten, we walked to the left of the ship (did not pay to take a water taxi), past the shops and settled ourselves on a tourist beach where we were asked over and over to rent a chair and umbrella, but when we opted for just the sand, no one continued their hucking. On St. Lucia, we also walked through all of the cabbies and headed on the road to the left, past the airstrip and found a beach to settle for a few hours. A couple from the Netherlands joined us and we spent the day lounging, without one person asking us to buy. Then, on St. Kitts…which was absolutely beautiful, we only left the boat long enough to be asked to pay to hold onto baby monkeys. A man also tried reading my shirt and told Adam that next time he buys me a shirt, the words should be printed on my stomach, not my left breast so no one would stare.
Out of all the places, St. Kitts would be the one I would like to return to. I want to hike the massive green mountains and explore the beaches on the other side of the island. This is one where we need to find good airfare and a decent place to stay for a week.
As a nice surprise, no one begged us to buy jewelry on the beaches, no one was begging for money. All were respectful of the tourism and customers that were brought in by the huge cruise ships at the harbor.
My suggestion, take the cruses, let the ocean rock you to sleep and relax, sit by the pool, enjoy the great service…then make a list of the places you want to go back to and truly explore beyond the borders of the cruise terminals and completely over priced short excursions.