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ST. KITTS & NEVIS

St. Kitts and Nevis is gradually shedding its reputation as the sleepiest two-island nation in the Caribbean. St. Kitts has spruced up Basseterre, the nation's capital and main port, and nearby Nevis (pronounced NEE-viss) has renovated Charlestown, where well-to-do vacationers often stop to shop during visits to the island's plush resorts. Airports on both islands have been upgraded to accommodate more and larger airplanes.

So far all this commotion hasn't made a dramatic change in the islands, which have always touted their charms as "the way the Caribbean used to be." The beaches remain delightfully empty, and you won't encounter anyone pitching time-share condos. Green vervet monkeys, brought over by the first European settlers, still outnumber people—even during high season.

Although St. Kitts and Nevis are only about 2 mi apart (separated by a sometimes treacherous strait), they have different personalities. St. Kitts is the larger of the two. Lively Basseterre is the center of shopping and dining, and most of the island's resorts are at Frigate Bay, about 3 mi away. Nevis is quaint, more expensive and peppered with upscale lodgings. Specifically, the Four Seasons, one of the toniest family resorts in the Caribbean, complete with championship golf course, exciting cuisine and a signature spa. But Nevis also has several luxurious inns in restored plantation houses.

Geography

If St. Kitts is shaped like a drumstick, then smaller Nevis, just offshore, is the scoop of mashed potatoes. Steep volcanic peaks cover the interior of both islands, which are situated in the eastern Caribbean, about 200 mi southeast of Puerto Rico.

History

The history of this two-island nation, like that of so many in the Caribbean, is filled with conflict and violence. The Carib Indians inhabited the islands when the first British colonists arrived in 1624. When French settlers showed up a short time later, the Caribs decided enough was enough and prepared for battle. The results were not as they had hoped: In 1626, more than 2,000 Caribs were slaughtered at what's now called Bloody Point on St. Kitts.

The French and British then faced off for the right to control the islands' fertile sugarcane fields. The British won, and the islands officially became a British colony in 1783. Until then, it shared the island with the French for many decades. St. Kitts and Nevis make up the oldest British settlement in the Caribbean—St. Kitts was known as the Mother Colony of the West Indies. The island's original colonial name was St. Christopher, but it has been using its nickname for more than 350 years. The islands' sugar industry, powered by slave labor imported from Africa, flourished until the slaves were emancipated in 1834. The plantation owners eventually moved on, leaving the islands quiet and economically depressed.

In the 1950s and 1960s, St. Kitts and Nevis were politically joined with Anguilla, though all three were still British colonies. Anguilla left the alliance in 1971 as St. Kitts and Nevis moved toward independence, a status they achieved in 1983. The union was tested in late 1998, when secessionists on Nevis forced a referendum. The vote was close, but ultimately fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for independence. (Sixty-two percent favored secession.) Had they succeeded, the smallest country in the Western Hemisphere would have become two even smaller ones. The federal government has since promised more autonomy to Nevis residents.

 
 

Port Location

Most cruise ships dock at Port Zante in the capital, Basseterre. The port can accommodate even the largest cruise ships, though if more than two ships call at once, the extra ships dock at the cargo port or tender passengers to shore. Plans are underway to build another cruise ship pier at Porte Zante, with dredging work already taking place. It will be able to accommodate two more large ships simultaneously. The current terminal consists of restaurants and duty-free shops, as well as many stands for tour operators who cater to visitors who don't want to go on a ship-sponsored excursion. The island has now reached one million cruise ship passengers, elevating it to marquee status in the cruise industry. It expects to see more ships calling regularly thanks to its growing facilities and amenities.

Taxis are widely available and are a great way to see some of the farther reaches of the island. It is possible to rent a car, but you must get a driving permit from a police station or the car rental agency.

Geostats

Passport/Visa Requirements: All U.S. citizens must have a passport

St. Kitts and Nevis permits dual citizenship and operates one of the region's first programs permitting dual citizenship for large-scale donations or local investments in the Federation. Many foreigners use this as a tax haven option or an easy way to access more than 150 countries visa-free.

Population: 55,850.

Languages: English.

Predominant Religions: Christian.

Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Voltage Requirements: 230 volts; some hotels have 110 volts.

Telephone Codes: 869, country code

Travel 42

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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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