St. Croix is a land of rich cultural diversity and beauty, with 84 square miles of beaches, rainforests and hillsides. It is the largest island in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Crucians celebrate their carnival each year starting in December; closing out with a carnival parade on the first Saturday in January of the New Year.
Crucian Carnival reminds me of the traditional carnival experience I had with my parents, prior to pre-commercialization, the carnival mafia and high priced breakfast fetes. Each night at the carnival village was free for patrons to enjoy. [can you imagine? FREE concerts].
Sadly, I missed jouvert but it is a MUST attend event to truly enjoy the Crucian Christmas Festival experience. You can see imagery here:
WHERE I STAYED
I got into St.Croix on Friday afternoon and headed to the Buccaneer Resort, my home for the next four days. The Buccaneer is a traditional beachfront resort dating back to the 17th century that overlooks Beauregard Bay. It was about 25-30 minutes away from Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX). I found the resort to have extremely lush grounds with scenic views and quick access to Mermaid Beach.
THE CARNIVAL VILLAGE
Most of our nights were spent at the Carnival Village. We were in for a treat of different artists and booths each night. Envision well decorated colored-wooden booths filled with local eats and rum cocktails, surrounded by laughter and eager patrons waiting on each artist to arrive. I witnessed USVI entertainers put on a show and truly engage the audience. The highlight of my Friday night was seeing patrons do the electronic slide together in unison.
Kes the Band, Bunji Garlin and Skinny Fabulous were scheduled to perform on Night Two and Three. You could see the village fill up in anticipation for their performances. I also enjoyed seeing parents submerge their children into the experience. If you had a little one with you, there was a nearby fair with games and adventure rides to capture their attention (or tire them out) before these big acts hit the stage.
Now I would not be Globey if I did not find myself at Carnival. I was unsure about being in costume since I planned to attend at the last minute but thankfully, Simply Sophisticated Fun Troupe sorted me out Carnival morning. Voted ‘Band of the Year’ for several years, Simply Sophisticated is one of the top troupes in St.Croix and sells out just as quickly.
Costumes are relatively affordable, ranging from $250usd and upwards. I was also shocked to see that Simply Sophisticated provided carnival boots with their costumes so I did not have to look for any shoes at the last minute.
If you consider yourself a carnival feather [fedder] lover – Crucian Carnival is ALSO for you. There was not a masquerader in sight without some feathers, whether it be a small collar, headpiece or large backpack. [Checkout how I scored myself a carnival collar hehe]
The music truck was well equipped with a live band and DJ playing tunes from all over the Caribbean. The twist – they played other island’s soca with USVI flare, so you would easily hear a popular song like ‘Savannah Grass by Kes The Band’ played with USVI instrumentals in the background.
While lunch is not served on the route, alcohol is readily available and what is carnival without alcohol? There was a cute drinks truck following behind masqueraders where we could get water, soda and strong cocktails.
I believe Crucian Carnival to be the perfect introductory carnival for a carnival virgin. This carnival experience is unique yet small enough in size for a newbie carnivalist to get a feel for carnival and learn new traditions without being overwhelmed. I also admired the organization of the parade, masqueraders stayed organized by section for most of the day, allowing spectators to see a sea of similar colored feathers, beads and gems.
Costume design and construction was well made for the price point. A lot of the costumes encompassed inexpensive materials and gems that would keep costs low for masqueraders — another attractive element to choosing this carnival experience.
At some point, I left my troupe to go check out the judging tent. Did I mention that pageantry is taken seriously in St.Croix? Once again, masqueraders organized themselves into their respective sections and judges were able to rank them accordingly based on their themes, costume construction, dance moves and organization.
Here is a list of other troupes to checkout for the Crucian Carnival Experience: Regal Dynasty, Lockhart & Associates Fun Troupe, The Gentlemen of Jones, Pure Mass Fun Troupe and Fantasy Fete Carnival Troupe.
TOURISTY THINGS I DID
St.Croix is known as one of the best diving locations in the world. While we did not do any deep-sea diving, we scheduled some time to go snorkeling. Our excursion took us out to the Buck Island Reef National Monument where we got to enjoy one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean.
There are several other activities taking place on the island during the season as well. St.Croix is known for having different crab species and you can see them at the Crab Races held at the Deep End Bar & Restaurant.
There are also other artisan activities you can participate in like candle-making, palm weaving or a bamboo bow workshop.In addition to the festivities, we had some good eats at several locations on the island.
Though you may have missed the parade this past January, festivities will kick off again in December 2020 so start planning your visit for the 2020-2021 Crucian Christmas Festival from now.
Yours in Mas,