Wining to the sound of drums, banjos, cuatros, calypso, soca and reggae, St Lucia turns into a massive party this month with the arrival of the St Lucia Carnival 2018, which is just hours away from officially kicking off. As one of the top annual party events in the Caribbean, this is one special festivity and colossal celebration that will transform the way you look at St. Lucia forever. Here we take you on an immersive journey through the island's biggest annual party, which gets better every year!
A joyful, colourful and positively wild affair
The carnival in St Lucia is an infectious, vibrant event that joins locals and visitors alike in one monumental mega-party. With elaborate costumes, intoxicating rhythms and lively parades, anyone visiting St Lucia in the summer should aim to make it to this festivity to get a high dose of St Lucian culture at it rawest and purest, loudest and brightest. Indeed, the St Lucia Carnival is a sight to behold and one not to miss if you have the opportunity to attend.
This year, St Lucia Carnival 2018 returns for its annual edition, livening up the north of the island for a full week of pageants, body painting, feathered attire, conga lines and free-flowing rum. At this very moment the island is readying for seven consecutive days of flamboyant parades, non-stop dancing, delicious street food and nightly concerts. What's not to like?
Where is all the 2018 carnival action at?
The celebration of the St Lucia Carnival usually takes place in the island's capital and its surroundings, where most of the festivities are concentrated. So, if you want a slice of the party vibe, the towns of Castries and Gros Islet are the place to be based and where you should look into booking your hotel. Exact locations will vary according to the differently themed parties held on different days, but this year Pigeon Island, Reduit Beach and Rodney Bay Marina are at the heart of all the action.
A series of traditional events and parades make up the St Lucia Carnival, with different festivities scheduled for each day. Here I give you an idea of what the full week-long calendar of events entails. A little heads up - the biggest festivities take place on the last days of the carnival with the celebration of the famous "Parade of the Bands" on 16th and 17th July.
If you want to know how the St Lucia Carnival 2018 will unfold, here is the full calendar of events:
Warming up to the bigger festivities, in the days leading up to the carnival's celebration there are a series of evening concerts to enjoy. On 7th July one of the most highly-anticipated carnival pre-parties gets underway. The "Color Me Red" celebration is a huge street party where people dress, you guessed it right, in red. This year it was followed by the TRANSCEND: Neon Night party the next day at 7 p.m.
The carnival action in St Lucia kicks off with J'ouvert, which is the official carnival opening street party, with the lively reverie starting before dawn, yes, really!, and carrying on until the afternoon. For this celebration, carnival-goers cover themselves in body paint and oil, with plenty of music and dancing in true St Lucian style
These are the highlights of J'ouvert 2018, starting in the evening of 11th July:
Soca Kingdom Presents Machel Montano - a full live band performance that kicked of at 5 p.m., tickets to this fun event sold for $45 (£34)
Anarchy - this pre-carnival party and concert kicked off at 7 p.m.
Thursday 12th July
Escape Fete – Kicking off at 3 p.m. this massive party is on at Pigeon Island Sea Side and dubs itself "the carnival event with a difference" and it must be quite something as visitors can pre-book tickets online for $117 (£88)
Aura – this party starts 7 p.m. and is the ultimate prelude to the heavier, full-day schedule carnival craze.
Friday 13th July
Deeper than Soca Presents JOB Cooler Edition - the party action starts early this day so early risers can start dancing and swaying along from 10 a.m. The location is onboard "The Queen of Carnival" at Rodney Bay Marina and the party keeps going until 3 a.m. Tickets cost $35 USD
Duck Work Binge – Carnival Cooler Fete – kicking off at 2 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. access to this event costs $32 and tickets can be bought in advance online. The venue is Reduit Beach on Rodney Bay.
Freaks Mas Presents Soak'ah By the Sea – this event is the alternative to the one above, also kicking off at 2 p.m. and where Soca music and dance is the true protagonist. Tickets cost $21.59 (around £16) and can be purchased online.
Tribe Ignite – one of the longer-lasting party events in this edition of the St Lucia Carnival, this fete starts 9 p.m. and carries on until the early hours of the morning (3 a.m.). Its on at Pigeon Island with tickets costing between $37 (£28) for advanced online bookings and $93 (£93) for VIP passes which include premium drinks.
Outrageous – with details of invited performers still to be announced and everyone awaiting the full disclosure of the line-up of artists this wild and sexy party launches at 10 p.m. Many view this as one of the St Lucia carnival's must-do parties and it's about so much more than music, it's also about fashion and gourmet experiences. When does it end? It hasn't been revealed...maybe they'll play it by ear.
Saturday 14th July
Legend's Carnival Mess, Jab Jab Edition – this late night (or early morning, depends on your perspective) party kicks off a few hours before dawn at 2 a.m. Advanced tickets can be purchased online for $40 (£30) and the experience focuses on international live DJ music, tasty bites, premium liquor and an "intimate cadre or revellers".
Sunblock SLU – taking place at Beausejour Promenade this "drinks-inclusive, Breakfast Blocko" morning party starts at 3 a.m. and ends at 9 a.m. Tickets can be bought in advance online for $75 (£57) and the official advance to attend the event is "Dress to get WET for St. Lucia Carnival Weekend!".
Silent Morning St.Lucia – this aptly-named celebration starts at 10 a.m. and is the ideal antidote to recover from late nights and early mornings of non-stop partying. Sail along St Lucia's glistening waters onboard "the ultimate carnival cooler cruise" and chill out in style. Tickets start from $40 (£30).
Remedy – Beach Cooler Fete – this bikini and swimwear-style beach party welcomes bathers and party-goers to a cool music-infused beachfront event that starts at 3 p.m. and keeps going all throughout the afternoon and evening to finally end at 11:55 p.m. Standard entry tickets cost $33 (£25) while VIP passes go for $50 (£38).
Sunday 15th July
Indulgence Breakfast Party - from $107usd this is the ultimate breakfast party to see the sunrise in style with a chilled party vibe, this event kicks off at 4 a.m. and ends at 11 a.m.Not much has been revealed about what this party entails, what we do know is that it's a "premium exclusive" event and that regular tickets can be purchased in advance online and cost $107 (£81).
Blueprint Entertainment Wete Fete – all we know about this event is that it will be "wetter than ever" starts at 1 p.m. but no further details have been revealed regarding either location, entry price or artist line-up.
Exotic Events Brazen – the ultimate Sunday extravaganza to end a full day of partying and dancing before the carnival parades start the next day, welcomes a varied line-up of artists like DJ International Stephen, DJ Riggo Suave and resident DJ Private Ryan. Tickets to the VIP area have already sold out but you can still book regular tickets online for $47 (£35) plus booking fee. if you want to attend you can pre-register. It kicks off at 3 p.m.
Monday 16th July
Carnival Monday: Parade of the Bands - this amazing two-day parade is the ultimate highlight of the St. Lucia Carnival, its pinnacle and biggest draw, where you can watch in awe as beautiful ladies dance down the streets clad in bright, skimpy and imaginative costumes. If you're attending for the first time, this mega-celebration might prove a bit of a shock (a mostly positive one, I'm sure!) with lots of crowds, loud music (beating of drums), a dizzying flurry of colour and exceptional dancing. Not for the faint-hearted.
Tuesday 17th July
Carnival Tuesday: Parade of the Bands - this colossal parade continues for a second day packed with lively dancing, amazing costumes and infectious music.
Wednesday 18th July
Suits St Lucia 2018 – this sailing experience ($55usd) has been expertly crafted to give tourists and first-time carnival visitors an unforgettable day out onboard a luxury yacht. Lunch is served at the docks at 11:30 a.m., boarding is at 12:30 p.m. and passengers set sail at 1 p.m. Food is included as part of the experience and tickets are strictly for over 18 year-olds only. Ladies pay $55 (£41) for the cruise while gentleman tickets cost $60 (£45). Tickets can be bought online.
Last Lap Fete - no details have been revealed about this party but as the carnival's last hurrah you can expect it to be big and loud. The St Lucia carnival is known to go out with a big bang.
A brief historical backdrop of the St. Lucian carnival
Like most other Caribbean nations, the St Lucia carnival is the result of the Afro-European influence in the region and the celebrations held before Lent. By 1999 the St Lucia carnival was moved to mid-July to avoid it clashing with the much larger and more famous Trinidad and Tobago festival. Although to be fair, St Lucia's carnival is getting bigger and better each passing year, attracting more and more visitors from the world over.
In previous editions, the St Lucia Carnival was known as the "Lucian Carnival" and only in 2018, its name was slightly altered. Although in recent times the festivities have been extended to last several days and sometimes weeks, what's considered as the raw and real carnival action takes place over two days with the traditional parades known as "Parade of the Bands" and the "Panorama" competition, where steel bands battle it out for the top spot. Preceding all this, a contest takes place to choose the "Carnival Queen" and "King of the Year", another tradition that continues to this very day.
Getting ready for St Lucia Carnival - top tips to enjoy the carnival craze like a pro
First off, let me start with a little explanation - "wining" is the local term used to describe the rhythmic rotational swaying of the hips to the left or to the right. Leading up to the carnival action there's no shame in trying to perfect your "wining skills" to master the move in time. If in doubt you're doing it right, ask a local for help.
The food scene is just as fabulous as the parades and all the festival-style, all-day-long parties, but don't worry, you'll be wining so much you'll be burning those calories faster than you're consuming them. Whether you're a carnival newbie or a veteran, events not to miss include the Calypso Tents and Party Monarch, the Junior Carnival celebration and the Carnival Calypso Competition, as well as, of course, the all-important, must-see Carnival Parade.
Do remember to bring enough cash along to pay for bites and drinks throughout the day as you most likely won't be able to use cards anywhere. Drink water at frequent intervals in between your rum sipping so that you don't get dehydrated from the combination of heat and alcohol consumption. Wear light and breathable clothes, if it rains you will want to dry quickly and the Caribbean is known for its sudden, heavy but short-lived downpours.
As one last tip, if you want to find a good spot to watch the Parade of the Bands and the Carnival Pageant head to the area in front of the Castries craft market. If you love the experience, next time you come you might be able to give us tips on the best spots for carnival revelry.
Beyond the St Lucia Carnival 2018 - Soleil Summer Festival 2018
If you can't make it to the St Lucia Carnival this year, don't worry, the summer party vibe in the island has plenty more in store. The Roots and Soul Festival kicks off in August, bringing even more late-night-to-early-morning dancing. To be celebrated from 31st August to 2nd September, this festival is dedicated to soulful music spanning the following genres: Reggae, Conscious, Hip-Hop, Afro-Punk and R&B.
If all this wasn't exciting enough, acting as a prelude to the Roots and Soul Festival there is the Soca Brainwash is Cooler in Bim on 5th August, dubbed as "the cooler free drinks experience", and the WukUnda Champagne Cruise also on the 5th August, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's all part of the Soleil Saint Lucia Summer Festival 2018.