Lighted Boat Parade – St. Croix, USVI

There might not be snow and sleigh rides, but the spirit of the yuletide holidays is alive throughout the Caribbean. Here is a sampling of nautical holiday happenings.

Deck your decks with lights, ornaments and festively-dressed crew. The Christmas Boat Parade happens on December 10 in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands’ Christiansted Harbor. “Santa comes in by boat and starts off the parade lead by SUP boarders dressed up in costumes with lights. The boats circle Hotel on the Cay twice, then we set off an amazing firework’s display,” says organizer Trish Rhodes.

Lighted Boat Parade, Club Nautico de San Juan, Puerto Rico

Seventy miles west in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Club Nautico de San Juan holds its Christmas Boat Parade. “Sail or power, all are welcome. Last year, 59 boats joined the parade,” says club spokesperson Virginia de los Reyes.

The weekend before Christmas the Guadeloupe Marlin Club, in Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe, French West Indies, hosts its annual decorated boat parade.

Tropical Christmas – Bitter End Yacht Club, BVI

December 24 and the Bitter End Yacht Club, in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands launches its Holiday Lighted Boat Parade at 5:45pm from the head of the Bitter End channel. “Santa and his elves are aboard the Ponce de Leon leading the parade. Fabulous prizes will be awarded for well-lit and creatively-decorated boats. There’s an ‘anchored yacht’ category too for large yachts. Sail, power, crewed charter yachts and private boats are all welcome,” says vice president of sales and marketing John Glynn.

Bitter End Yacht Club, BVI. Photo: Mar Javierto

Need last minute presents? No worries. On December 2, IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas, USVI holds its Grand Caribbean Christmas event from 5:30 to 10pm. Shop the marina’s stores with a backdrop of festive performances by majorettes, choirs and steel pan bands. “There will also be the lighting of our Christmas tree,” invites marketing manager Vivienne Yaple.

Christmas pans – Yacht Haven Grande, St. Thomas

In Grenada, in December, “True Blue Bay Resort has a lovely Christmas Market,” says Jacqui Pascall, base director at Horizon Yacht Charters.

A new luxury clothes boutique called Joya will open in December in the new retail area adjacent to the Customs House at Christophe Harbour, in St. Kitts. “Men’s and women’s boutiques, a home interiors and design center and specially-commissioned rum shop will open in early 2017,” says account coordinator Megan Brogan.

Santa’s arrival and the Christmas Lighting Ceremony at Altos de Chavón, the Dominican Republic’s 16th-century Mediterranean-inspired village, kicks off the holidays, says senior account director Mitchell Nover. “Christmas Carols by the Madrigalistas Choir also take place at Altos de Chavón, a short distance from Marina Casa de Campo.”

The music of Christmas – Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

In St. Lucia, ‘Lucian Vibe’, is set for December 11 from 4 to 8pm “Join the pan bands from Gros Islet for an afternoon of holiday steel pan music, invites marketing, sales and event manager at IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina, in St. Lucia, Shane Macauldy. On December 18, Carols Afloat gets underway at 5pm. This Christmas Flotilla in Rodney Bay is open to all classes – sail, power, Hobie cats and dinghies.

Regattas and revelries add extra fun during the holidays. Join the J22 Class Series on December 3 and 4 at the Montego Bay Yacht Club, in Jamaica, invites club manager Taddy Tavares.

The Antigua Yacht Club runs its annual Budget Marine Hightide Series of five races between December 18 and 26 and is open to all. “There will also be a ‘stand-alone’ race on Boxing Day (December 26),” says vice commodore Clare Cupples-Leader.

On December 18, there’s the Eindejaarsrace (end-of-year-race) in Curaçao, where locals and visitors join in on anything that floats. “Small and big all participate for the Oliebollen, a typical Dutch treat, they receive at the end,” says marketing and social media manager for Curaçao Marine Nicole van Beusekom.

Keeping the tradition alive – Curaçao

Come to Thursday Pizza Nights at Carriacou Marine Ltd. “Visitors can mingle with the locals in a great environment: nice music, pleasant atmosphere, ice cold beer and authentic Italian pizza,” says executive manager, Sandra Martin. While in Carriacou, participate in the Parang Festival, two days of ‘house to house’ serenading by string bands and carolers the week prior to Christmas.

The St. Maarten Yacht Club hosts its annual Christmas Party on December 11. “There’s a buffet dinner for SMYC members and guests, live entertainment and Santa comes in on a dinghy,” says manager Ariel Jamil.

On December 16, IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande in St. Thomas, USVI holds its mistletoe & martinis holiday cocktail Soiree for yacht crew and marina guests.

Further west, on Christmas Day, Bocas Marina in Bocas del Toro, Panama, invites cruisers to dinner. “The marina generously prepares the turkeys and main fixings and cruisers contribute side dishes,” says Ray Jason, at Bocas Yacht Services.

Ring in the New Year nautical-style. At IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande in St. Thomas, USVI, there’s a marina party from 9pm to 2am.

In Jost Van Dyke, BVI, Foxy Callwood hosts a huge bash before the island’s midnight fireworks. “The theme is Foxy’s Circus. The upper crust’s five-course VIP experience is all-inclusive with an open bar with champagne, party masks, great entertainment and more,” says spokesperson Susan Zaluski.

Christmas rocks at Foxy’s

The fireworks display in Bequia, says long-time resident Nicola Redway, “can be seen all over the Admiralty Bay waterfront and from most waterfront bars and restaurants.”

Lighting up the sky in Bequia. Courtesy of Bequia Tourism

At Camper & Nicholsons’ Port Louis Marina, in Grenada, the Victory Bar & Restaurant offers a New Year’s Eve Gala. “Entertainment includes a series of short live performances followed by fireworks,” says marina general manager Glynn Thomas.

New Year’s Eve party & fireworks at Port Louis Marina, Grenada

At IGY’s Red Frog Marina in Bocas del Toro, Panama, “many boaters sail to Starfish beach to see fireworks, local activities and fire dancers,” says employee Amanda Wood.

Toast the New Year on January 1 at the Charity Champagne Party in Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua.

In Curaçao, Fuikdag is a huge festive raft up that happens January 8.

Finally, the holiday partying isn’t complete until Aussie Day at IGY’s Blue Haven Marina in the Turks & Caicos. Set for January 22, “we do a BBQ on the docks with burgers, hot dogs and beer. Guests can and usually bring food and drinks to add to the Barbie,” says sales and marketing manager Portia Mogal.


Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.