Known for her mountainous terrain and romantic excursions, St. Lucia also has an additional gem – carnival. Occurring in the peak of summer, carnival bands host a fun-filled-two day street parade of vibrant carnival costumes, joyous revelry, DJs and live bands.
Like others, Xuvo Carnival was set to dazzle patrons for their secondary carnival presentation but it was postponed due to the pandemic. With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting costume production, Xuvo launched additional costume options giving masqueraders renewed excitement. During the months prior to carnival day, the marketing and registration process was seamless and there were several options, including WhatsApp chat for masqueraders to get sorted out or ask any questions. Once registration once complete, it was time to make other arrangements.
Once carnival fete tickets were organized, exorbitant flight prices were paid and hotels sorted, we headed to St. Lucia. We flew in on Carnival Friday and landed at UVF, about 92 minutes away from Rodney Bay, the optimal location to experience carnival. Once in Rodney Bay, we checked into the hotel then immediately headed Xuvo’s costume collection. Each costume section had it’s own room for the costume checkout process so I was quickly ushered in by a Binary costume rep. She and I marked off my costume pieces together; I was then ushered to another area to pickup my carnival feathered backpack (also known as wings) and my wristbands for the road.
While carnival is the Beyonce of the week for many, you cannot forget about the parties, better known as fetes, leading up to parade day. This year, many events were delayed because of heavy rains but we still had a great time. Saka Fete was without a doubt the best event for the week. On Carnival Saturday, Soca Raff Up, a BYOB boatride, kept the vibes high with 4 catamarans each with their own vibe. The VIP catamaran came equipped with Prosecco, finger foods and premium alcohol. A delightful way to spend golden hours.
This being my third trip to St. Lucia, I decided to experience what Soufriere had to offer, the south side of the island. We decided to stay at Hotel Chocolat, a luxurious tucked away resort ideal for romantics and nature lovers. Influenced by it’s name, most foods were cocoa inspired in addition to an interactive and educational tour on chocolate if you wanted one. My spa experience was the ultimate highlight to my stay and I cannot wait to return.
Decorated carnival bikinis, jeweled headbands, men’s hoochie carnival shorts and feathered backpacks, Carnival day was here. The section Binary was even more gorgeous than pictures displayed with extreme attention paid to details and very intricate gem work. This is by far the prettiest body-wear I have worn for 2022 and I cannot wait to adorn this costume once more as mondaywear.
Astonishingly I met the band at 10AM, where we were served pigtail or callaloo soup for breakfast. (Already starting the day off badly, you should always have carbs on carnival morning). There were two music trucks, one which blazed Lucian Soca and another which played a diverse collection of Caribbean music. At some point there was a band onboard one truck and their musical style was so dynamic many of us chipped alongside for a few hours. Whatever your musical fancy, you were able to get it.
While the DJs did their best to keep masqueraders engaged, the tightness of the route made it difficult. Two bands were passing each other in very narrow roads requiring extreme caution and killing the vibe. The truck drivers were also driving extremely quickly (where are we rushing to?). I believe the government (or carnival organizers are responsible for this decision) but it was very tight at times and our carnival experience shortened by not allowing the bands to go into Castries. The starting and stopping, disorganization and early ending caused day one to leave a lot to be desired.
There are two parade days in St. Lucia. On carnival Monday, masqueraders adorn their bodies in their Xuvo provided costumes; On Tuesday, registered masqueraders can wear whatever they want, many re-wear parts of their Carnival costumes. As we met the band on the road for day two, we were delightfully welcomed by drizzle. It was so hot on Carnival Monday that we welcomed the cooling elements of the rain. This effected the overall vibe, causing masqueraders to start the day on a high. The music was engaging and without feathers in the way we had a blast.
Most premium bands offer some type of food concessions for their masqueraders, Xuvo included. However, this year the food situation left much to be desired. While I can appreciate access to fresh food, the variety in diets and speed time causes crowds, causing a longer wait and almost a mob like experience for everyone. Once served, I received a local inspired lunch of steamed potatoes and provisions with saltfish.
Despite some challenges, St. Lucia Carnival was a chaotically fun experience. I was reunited with many friends I have not seen since the start of the pandemic and even made some new friends. The road was a vibe and some songs still continue to dominate my playlist.