Castries is a major port and the capital city of Saint Lucia Island - a Commonwealth country in Eastern Caribbean Sea, part of Lesser Antilles (archipelago). The island is located northeast of St Vincent island, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. The island has land area approx 617 km2 (238 ml2) and total population around 180,000. Castries has population around 70,000.
The French were the first European settlers on the island. In 1660 they signed a treaty with the native Carib Indians. In the period 1663-1667, the island was ruled by England. In ensuing years, Britain and France engaged in wars 14 times over St Lucia, ruling over it 7 times each. The British took definitive control of Saint Lucia in 1814. Currently, St Lucia is a parliamentary monarchy and an independent (from UK) state since 1979. Country's legal system is based on both British common law and civil law.
Castries is St Lucia's capital and biggest city, covering an area of 80 km2 (31 ml2), most of which is reclaimed land. The town was designed in a grid pattern. Port Castries Harbour can handle most types of vessels, including large cargo ships (bulk carriers, boxships), ferries and cruise liners. Yachts may also dock, but as all other vessels, they must first clear customs. When customs marine area is full, boats first anchor and wait at port's quarantine dock, then can anchor in the town or Vigie Creek Bay.
In 2017, the cruise port reported a 19,4% increase (over 2016) in passenger shipping traffic.
Other (tender) ports on St Lucia Island are Rodney Bay - Pigeon island (northernmost), Soufriere (central-west) and Vieux Fort (south). In October 2019, Carnival Corporation and RCCL-Royal Caribbean signed with the St Lucia's Government a long-term concession deal for a joint venture company to manage and operate Port Castries' cruise terminal and also to construct and operate the new cruise port Vieux Fort. The new facility will have capacity to handle even the world's biggest cruise ships.
The city is served by George Charles Airport (aka Vigie Airport). Longer international flights arrive at island's second international airport Hewanorra Airport (Vieux Fort), with drive time to Castries ~1,5 hours. Optional helicopter service between both airports is also available. Vigie Airport is located just 2 km (1 ml) north of Castries Town and has annual passenger traffic around 400,000. The airport serves Air Antilles, Air Caraibes, Air Sunshine, Caribbean Airlines, InterCaribbean Airways, and LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport). Regularly scheduled flights connect Castries with Martinique (Fort-de-France) Guadeloupe (Pointe-a-Pitre), Dominica (Marigot), St Croix (Christiansted), Trinidad (Port of Spain), BVI (Tortola), Antigua (St Johns), Barbados, Grenadines (St Vincent).
Regularly scheduled ferries connect Castries with Fort-de-France (Martinique). Best-known tourist attractions and landmarks include Derek Walcott Square, City Library, Government House, Fort Charlotte, large beaches (Vigie, Malabar, Choc, La Toc).
In October 2019 was officially opened Glittering Sands - a new tourist attraction at L'Oranger Bay (Anse La Raye Beach) located at ~20-min drive from Port Castries. The complex is managed by Carvalho's Cruise Services Ltd (travel agency) and offers as amenities beach chairs and umbrellas, restrooms, showers, storage lockers, bar-restaurant. Glittering Sands offers as activities snorkeling, seakayaking, sail boating, river rafting, hiking (along the waterfalls).
Castries cruise terminal
Cruise ships to Saint Lucia Island dock at Castries - port town on the northwestern coast. Before entering the cruise port, vessels must be first cleared by St Lucia's Airport Traffic Control Tower. This is required as the approaching liner blocks aerodrome's runway. All passenger ships dock at Pointe Seraphine, located to the north of Castries Harbour.
Even world's largest passenger liners can be berthed in Port Castries. From the seaport, downtown is at ~15-min walking distance. Know that taxi rates are controlled by country's government and are fairly expensive.
In January 2018 was completed the Port Castries expansion project. The new "dolphin berth" is located at Pointe Serafine Cruise Terminal. The new facility has capacity to handle larger cruise vessels - two Quantum-class ships berthing simultaneously (on each side of the pier). The first such RCI-Royal Caribbean ship (Anthem OTS) docked here on January 13, 2018. The ship was on a 12-day Caribbean cruise (itinerary Jan 7-19) roundtrip from NYC New York to San Juan (Puerto Rico), Philipsburg (St Maarten), St Johns (Antigua), Castries, Bridgetown (Barbados) and Basseterre (St Kitts). Quantum-class ships have LOA length 348 m (1142 ft) and max capacity 4800 passengers plus 1300 crew.
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