Basseterre has been the British capital of St. Kitts since 1727, though it was part of the French sector when the two nations held the island concurrently. The name in French means “low land,” which is evident in the commercial district and its pre-disposal to flooding during the rainy season. There is a large treasury building right on the waterfront, and this domed colonial building is a reminder of the historic importance of the islands as sugar colonies. Everything that arrived or departed from St. Kitts went through those arches.
Once you disembark from your cruise ship at Port Zante, you will roll a short distance along the pier and into a shopping village — typical for Caribbean ports of call. Here you can find the usual duty-free items such as cigars, liquor, jewelry, and perfume. You will also have ample opportunities to purchase local trinkets and souvenirs. The shopping village has ramps and dropped curbs, and there is easy entrance into almost all of the shops. There are also several places to get something to eat or drink. The local currency is the Caribbean dollar, but shops and vendors will gladly accept US dollars.
If you are a power wheelchair user, leaving the port area and shopping village is not advisable. Upon exiting the shopping area to the left, you will go under the arches of the treasury building and pass the National Museum, which is not accessible. Here you will come upon a road that feeds into “The Circus,” a roundabout with a small clock tower in the center that is modeled after Piccadilly Circus in London. The sidewalks are in very poor repair, there are very few dropped curbs, and the traffic is extremely busy. The locals, however, are extremely kind and will help wheelchair users who are feeling more adventurous. There are some lovely avenues with beautiful and higher end shops. However, they will be extremely difficult for wheelchair users to reach safely, and will likely not be able to enter due to at least one step at the entrance.
In order to enjoy what St. Kitts has to offer, I would recommend booking a wheelchair accessible tour either independently or through your cruise line. I booked an accessible small group tour through Princess, and the local tour operator is called Kantours. My air-conditioned tour van had an electric lift to get me in and out. We stopped at some lovely scenic overview areas, but the highlight of the tour was the Caribelle Batik shop in Romney Manor. The estate was once owned by the great great great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson. The fabrics and clothing are created using an ancient Indonesian method with wax to resist die on certain parts of the fabric. Then designs are applied with that method by using a canting tool or stamp. The clothing items are quite expensive, but you can buy some smaller souvenirs that are more budget friendly. The entire shop is fully wheelchair accessible, as is some of the property around Romney Manor.
Are you interested in booking a wheelchair accessible cruise that calls on St. Kitts? Contact me at Spin the Globe/Travel and we’ll get started!