Almost every Caribbean island has a Carnival celebration of one sort or another, but they all agree the Grandaddy of them all is in Trinidad. It’s the biggest, the most lavish, the brightest and takes place when it makes sense just before Lent. It’s a unique experience that will add immensely to your Caribbean memories.
As yachties, you have an advantage over other tourists in that you can be here early and take advantage of all the exciting build-up; most of the fun in Carnival happens before the actual two days of Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Right after Christmas the activities begin in earnest. Fetes or parties start up, and will take place almost every night the closer to Carnival you get. Calypso “tents” (concerts) starts with all the new songs for the season. The costume makers open up their “mas camps” and you can just feel the excitement in the air as everyone starts talking about their costume, the new tunes on the airwaves, and their sexy, flashy new outfit for that exclusive fete they’re going to. All ages participate in Carnival, from kiddies to the over 60’s. The only requirement is a love of fun and music, and a lot of enthusiasm and stamina.
Carnival is a lot more fun as a participant than as a spectator so the more you join-in, the better your experience will be. You can go around and look at some “mas camps”, look at the costume designs, choose one with your friends and sign up. If you’re curious about the steel drum, go to some practice sessions at the pan yards, you can even buy a pan of your own, or if you’re really hooked, join a band and you may get to play in the island-wide competition known as Panorama finals, one of the biggest events of the whole year, which is on the weekend just before Carnival. You should go to at least one big all-inclusive fete; they include loads of food, premium drinks and usually live and DJ entertainment playing the new Soca music which you will hear on the road on Carnival days.
Ask around and read the local paper for the dates and times of the fetes. (Never arrive at the stated time; you just may be the only one there.) Everyone goes to Kiddies Carnival, there are actually several of them; the best ones happen on the two Saturdays before Carnival. Kiddie Carnival is indeed the true highlight of Carnival; DO NOT MISS KIDDIE CARNIVAL! If you want to see fantastic costumes in all its true Trini creativity, this is where you will see it.
Carnival officially begins at 4am with J’Ouvert (daybreak Monday morning) and is definitely the wildest; some say "the real Carnival". There are bands covered in mud or thick grease, men in women’s slips, men in diapers with baby bottles filled with rum; ...you get the idea, anything goes! Many big steelbands take to the streets on J’Ouvert as well, followed by their loyal fans in costume. Monday afternoon is a more low-key Carnival day; people start coming out around noon, and may only wear part of their costume or a Band T-shirt and shorts. Monday night there will be a few different bands out on the road but Tuesday is the really big day. It’s about colour, beads, sequins, feathers and flags! It’s beautiful women not wearing much. For the first time in many years, the Parade of Bands may not occur at the Grandstand at the Savannah in 2007, it is thought to be getting too small to hold the numbers of masquraders so there may be some experimenting with the venue. Carnival thrives on controversy so keep up with the news to find out what the venue is. The Kings and Queens of each band will be there too. Watch out for the sailor and Indian bands, in a sea of bikinis; they really stand out for their creativity. Carnival is not officially over until midnight when sober Ash Wednesday is ushered in.
We really hope you enjoy your experience for Carnival; many Cruisers come back year after year and continually find enjoyment. Have a great time!
Carnival Dates for Trinidad & Tobago
- 2007 19th Feb and 20th Feb
- 2008 04th Feb and 05th Feb
- 2009 23rd Feb and 24th Feb
- 2010 15th Feb and 16th Feb
- 2011 07th Mar and 08th Mar
- 2012 20th Feb and 21st Feb
- 2013 11th Feb and 12th Feb
- 2014 03rd Mar and 04th Mar
- 2015 16th Feb and 17th Feb