A Magic Shop – One destination makes Gustavia a tropical paradise.

Monday Mantra

St. Barts on a Budget … St. Barts on a Budget … St. Barts on a Budget …

A Magic Shop

There’s one destination that truly makes Gustavia a tropical paradise.

Just when I think I’m doing pretty well financially, I’ll cruise to St. Barts and realize what a pauper I am.

Sometimes it even seems as if the crystal-blue waters that surround St. Barts conspire with the island to keep riff-raff like me off their affluent, sundrenched streets and beaches. Never, in fact, have I sailed into Gustavia when the journey from my anchored ship isn’t a 10-minute white-knuckled rollercoaster ride that seriously makes me wonder if the tender is about to capsize.

But then I arrive … and disembark in the shadow of the massive, privately owned yachts (with names like Attitude) that line the harbor. Before me are cobblestoned lanes dotted with extravagant designer shops that let me try on shoes that cost as much as a car and jewelry that costs as much as my apartment. In realtor storefronts, photos of 5 million-euro villas are slapped in the window like they were $150,000 handyman specials, and, at the gourmet shop, a pound of cashew nuts costs 39 euros.

“Ugh,” you may say. “Why bother leaving the ship?” I’m glad you asked.

JudiStBartsStore_IMG_8606Not only does St. Barts boast some of the most beautiful and secluded coconut palm–studded beaches in the Caribbean (topless sunbathing, anyone?), swanky resorts that lure the rich and famous, and the restaurant that was the site of the best meal of my life (Le Gaiac at Hotel Le Toiny), but it’s also where you’ll find Laurent Effel, one of my favorite shops ever.

In Gustavia, Laurent Effel on Rue du General de Gaulle beckons, offering superb-quality leather goods at unheard of (for St. Barts) prices. I’m talking a selection JudiStBartsStore_IMG_0295 smallof the coolest bags and belts, and shoes that are so comfortable that for nearly 15 years they’ve been my designated commuting shoes — the comfy footwear I need in the event there’s a blackout or the subway breaks down and I find myself having to walk from Manhattan to Queens. I love the shoes’ festive colors, I love their comfort and supple leather, and I love the little discreet cutout in the shape of St. Barts that replaces the “penny” slot in the traditional penny loafer.

So despite the harrowing tender ride and despite the mind-blowing prices throughout the island, I simply love St. Barts. I know that when I arrive there, I’ll find sunshine, beautiful beaches, good food — and a warm welcome at Laurent Effel.

— Judi Cuervo



Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.