The most exciting after-dark activity is seeing a performance of the folkloric troupe Les Grands Ballets Martiniquais.
The popularity of individual bars and dance clubs in Martinique rises and falls almost monthly. Many of them charge a cover between 10€ and 15€, although that's often ignored if business is slow -- and if you're an appealing physical specimen. A nightclub and restaurant where anyone can be a star, at least for a few minutes, is Maximus, Immeuble Les Corneaux, Le Lamentin (tel. 596/50-16-37).
If you're on the party circuit around Martinique, you are likely to find the most action at Crazy Nights, Ste-Luce (tel. 596/68-56-68), a wild dance parlor that on weekends can attract hundreds of patrons, each bent on having one "crazy night." Jazz is showcased at the Calebasse Café, 19 bd. Allègre, Le Marin (tel. 596/74-69-27), which sometimes features its own Billie Holiday clone. Meals are served, and the place is packed on Saturday nights. Live performances on Thursday around 10:30pm are a regular feature at Les Soirees de l'Amphore, Anse-Mitan (tel. 596/66-03-09), a small restaurant and minibar. Funk, disco, and soul are all featured.
If you want to gamble, head for Martinique's major casino, Casino Bâtelière Plaza, at Schoelcher (tel. 596/61-73-23), a 10-minute drive from the center of Fort-de-France. You'll need a passport; men do not need a jacket or tie. A special area reserved just for slot machines is open daily, without charge, from 10am to 3 or 4am. A more formal gambling area, with poker, roulette, and blackjack, is open from 8pm to 3am. There's a restaurant on-site. This is the larger, newer, and more crowded of the two casinos in Martinique, with 140 slot machines, compared to the 40 slots at the Casino des Trois-Ilets. But that might change if and when the new casino at Trois-Ilets opens.
On a cultural note, L'Atrium, boulevard Général-de-Gaulle, Fort-de-France (tel. 596/60-78-78), is the venue for major island cultural events, including dance and music. The theatrical presentations, of course, are in French. You can ask on island what might be happening at the time of your visit. For a not-always-up-to-date rundown on what's cooking entertainment-wise, click on www.martinique.no-scoop.com.
Martinique's Traditional Dances
The sexy and rhythmic beguine was not an invention of Cole Porter. It's a dance of the islands -- though exactly which island depends on whom you ask. Popular wisdom and the encyclopedia give the nod to Martinique, though Guadeloupeans claim it as their own, too.
Everybody who goes to Martinique wants to see the show performed by Les Grands Ballets Martiniquais, a troupe of about two dozen dancers, along with musicians, singers, and choreographers, who tour the island regularly. Their performances of the traditional dances of Martinique have been acclaimed in both Europe and the United States. With a swoosh of gaily striped skirts and clever acting, the dancers capture all the exuberance of the island's soul. The group has toured abroad with great success, but they perform best on their home ground, presenting tableaux that tell of jealous brides and faithless husbands, demanding overseers and toiling cane cutters. Dressed in traditional costumes, the islanders dance the spirited mazurka, which was brought from the 18th- and 19th-century ballrooms of Europe, and, of course, the exotic beguine.
Les Grands Ballets Martiniquais usually perform at area hotels, but schedules vary, so check locally. The cost of dinner and the show is from 50€. Most performances are at 8:30pm, with dinners at the hotels beginning at 7:30pm. The show is free for guests of the hotel where the troupe is performing. In addition, the troupe gives miniperformances aboard visiting cruise ships.