Date: 22 April 2018
Port: Philipsburg, St. Maarten (Dutch side)
Time on Island: 8am-4:30pm
Distance between San Juan and St. Maarten: 372.04 km or 200.75 nautical miles (231.17 miles)
St. Maarten was the first port of the trip. Darren and I were eager to start our pre-booked tour through Viator. We decided against booking directly through Royal Caribbean strictly because of our budget. We also knew that by doing so, we’d need to be aware of the time restrictions in order to NOT miss the boat.
Darren and I also decided separate each post on who will book or decide on the tour. St. Maarten was my port to book. After much research, I was able to find a half-day, all inclusive (yes, this means alcohol) Shore Excursion sightseeing tour that left from Phillipsburg, St. Maarten (Dutch-side).
The tour, Sint Maarten Shore Excursion: Island Sightseeing Tour from Philipsburg was only USD44/person and left at 10 am, which gave us a little extra time in the morning!
This excursion was listed as 4.5 hours, but did go a little longer, roughly 6 hours. No one seemed bothered by the extra time exploring St. Maarten. Our guide, Wellington, was FANTASTIC. He tailored the energy level to the tour group and never faltered with cracking jokes.
He included each person and made the day beyond fun, even with the extensive hurricane damage exhibited in every inch of the island.
Wellington was very informative and did not hold back when explaining the history, the culture and the differences between pre- and post-hurricane life. The island was still in major recover mode from Hurricane Irma, which hit back in September 2017.
We started our morning with a drive towards Orient Beach by crossing from the Dutch side to the French side. We took a brief stop at an overlook of Oyster Bay, which showed the signs of the hurricane
Orient Beach is famously known as the nudist beach of Sint Marteen and my first official visit to a nudist beach. It was more populated that I was expecting, due to the extensive damage from the hurricanes, but it was a pleasant surprise. The beautiful white sand with turquoise water were much different then what I have in St. Thomas. The water was a tad chilly but refreshing at the same time.
Marigot | The Capital of French St. Martin
From Orient Beach, we continued to the French Capital of Marigot for lunch. Along the way, we made an Iguana pitstop. Yes, an Iguana stop, fairly entertaining but, no thanks.
Marigot was still showing the effects of the hurricane, but the people were so kind. You could really see their love for their island.
Maho Beach is famously known for its proximity to the international airport, located on the Dutch side. Many people call it “Airport Beach” because of the closeness. They visit the beach hoping to see the large airplanes fly overhead. You could really see and feel the devastation Hurricane Irma had as you passed the airport, which was being ran out of a tent.
Unfortunately, upon arrival to Maho Beach, we had learned that we missed the large 737 airplane land. There were several smaller putter planes that made their landing at the airport, so at least we got to see something. Plus, we did get to witnessed a large jet take off. Richard and Darren chose to stand behind the jets, whereas, I chose to video it. After a short stop, it was time to slowly make our way back to the ship, slightly intoxicated.
Back At the Port
Once back to the port, we didn’t stop the party. One of the famous things Sint Marteen is known for is their guava berries, which we knew we could leave without trying the famous “Guavaberry Rum Punch. We easily located a shop and ordered a frozen guava berry rum punch! It was a refreshing end to Sint Marteen/Saint Martin.
Back on Board
Darren and I were invited to dinner by our new friends Karen and Richard, but unfortunately, Darren and I weren’t ready for an early dinner. It was “formal night” and we had made reservations for 8 PM at one of the dining centers. It was delicious and easily one of the best fancy dinner’s I’ve had!
We did have a slight dilemma/mishap, as Darren’s formal shirt went missing for hours. But, thanks to the wonderful staff at Royal Caribbean, everything turned out okay. They quickly correct the error and giving us a bottle of champagne.
Our night ended with the game show and a few drinks, which became our norm on the cruise. We really did love those game shows.