Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Next stop...the beach in St. Martin!

Our tour of St. Martin continues!!! This really was a great day...we did a lot! So, we left Maho beach after seeing the planes and our last stop was our beach stop. Our original tour was supposed to include a 2 hour stop at Orient Beach. However our guide told us that after the recent hurricane, they preferred to take us to a different beach because Orient just wasn't up to their standards. 

So, we went to Divi Little Bay Beach Resort. This was just fine by us! This is where the tour divided for those who went on option 1 vs option 2! Those who didn't want the beach went back to the ship, and those who did, well, we went to the beach!

It was gorgeous! I believe you could rent a chair for about $10 or $15 and there were jet skis you could rent as well. There was an outdoor restaurant too. 

Alex and I just put our towels down and went in the water - it was perfect!

You can see the beach wasn't crowded at all, which was nice

After about an hour and a half in the water, we needed to dry off before we left to go back to the ship. We took a walk up to see the pool area of this hotel too - the sign said for hotel guests, and we didn't go in the water, but did take some pictures!

This was really the perfect end to our day. We had close to two hours here, and our guide was right on time ready to take us back to the ship. We got back to the port with plenty of time and picked up a few more souvenirs before heading back to the ship. 

When we got back to the ship, Megan was feeling better. She did spend the entire day in our cabin...and took advantage of room service for lunch! Keith enjoyed the relatively empty ship and relaxed by the pool, coming back to check on Megan off and on during the day.

But you can see here, that Megan recovered and was ready to head out to see what the evening would bring!

Some pictures of the ships in port as we got ready to leave St. Martin

And once again, the Oasis was there....and the kids, while of course enjoying this trip, couldn't help wonder just how many more kids were on that ship, and how many more kid friendly activities there were on board! Little did they know that for Christmas, they would find out that we'd be sailing on the Allure in February!  It was all I could do to not burst every time I saw that ship following us!!!

I believe we had dinner in the Tuscan Grille tonight. Dinner was good, but not great. There was nothing wrong with the meal, but it just wasn't anything special, for a specialty restaurant that is. 

And then as usual, after dinner the kids went to the teen club and Keith and I probably just walked around and maybe got a drink or two....

Sometime close to midnight, I was in the cabin watching the loop of Top Chef again, and the kids came back. It seemed that the ship had stopped moving. We looked outside and yup, dead in the water! Odd right? So, Alex went on deck, up to the pool deck to find out what was going on. He came back to tell us that there was a medical emergency and going to be an evacuation. We thought maybe a helicopter - we were up front by the helipad, but nothing was happening. He said, no it was life boat and we were already almost back to St. Thomas - they changed our course.

So, Megan, Alex and I went up to see what was going on.

St. Thomas at night....

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Planes! Maho Beach....

Our next stop was Maho Beach! If you haven't been to St. Martin, you may not know that this is the beach right next to the airport, and this is where the LARGE international jets come in and fly right over the beach! I knew Alex would enjoy this...but he wasn't so sure. We pulled up to a mob scene! It was crazy. And when our driver told us we'd be here for an hour, or maybe it was an hour and 15 minutes our whole bus grumbled! No one wanted to be there! Come on guys....let's see the planes land! I'll admit it was packed. I think a plane must have just landed or taken off. During our last trip, the tour we had drove by here and we saw the beach area but didn't get to see any action. So I was looking forward to this! Our driver told us to be careful and the risks of being blasted. 

We got out of the van and I checked the board, which picture, sorry! And we had only about 5 minutes until a BIG plane was to land! Cool!

So first some pictures of some small planes. Just a warm up.

So, this would be the big one! An American Airlines jet...

Love this picture - it looks like the plane is going right through this guy's neck!

And here it looks like it's landing on the roof of that car

This time this guy has the plane on his head!

Everyone loved the plane we stood around, deciding what to do next, when what should happen?

So this plane backs all the way up to the fence to take off. Talk about some jet blasting! Now, I'd heard about the landing, but not much about the blasting! I was pretty happy we were off to the side. I had NO idea just how much the blast, well, blasted! People literally were blown into the water who were standing on the beach! Hats were flying! Sand was blowing everywhere! It was amazing! And pretty funny!

And again, no picture because Alex and I just stood there jaws open saying WOW! Look at that! Then it was over when the plane took off....

And people were all back to normal as if none of the past 10 minutes had happened!

Just look how crowded it is though! If I wasn't here to see the planes, I don't know that I'd want to come to the beach here, or even stop at the bar! What a crazy, crowded place!

So, we had time before our bus was supposed to leave. We sat for a bit. I got a rum punch and Alex a water....again, a nice stop for us!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A little bit of France, in St Maarten!

Next we stopped in Marigot. I think this stop was one of the main reasons I wanted to do this tour! There's just something about this market area that I felt like I wanted to experience. It's not the typical cruise port shopping area, it's just a bit more than that. It's French, very French! And that's just unique to me. This tour gave us the drive around the island, the photo stops, the beach and time to stop here. I'm not a shopper at all. At least not a vacation shopper. I collect magnets everywhere I go, and maybe get a necklace or some other small thing, and by necklace I don't mean an expensive one, I mean something more handcrafted. Maybe a I don't go to the ports for shopping and bargaining, but I wanted to come here. Maybe this was why?

Everytime I read anything at St. Maarten, Sarafina's came up! 

Alex doubted me...remember he's a picky eater. And for some crazy reason he doesn't really like pastries or believe it or not chocolate! So this entire place really had no appeal to him whatsoever! But I dragged him in and afterall, I did say he has some sense of adventure so, he didn't complain!

We decided to get a "grilled three cheese and mozzarella panini" - apparently mozzarella is not really a cheese on the French menu! It was amazingly good! Alex and I split it and we also got these...

YUM! They were amazing! And since he doesn't like that kind of food, I got to have both. 

They had a great selection to choose from

And those are only a small section of the items. 

After our short little lunch break, we went over to the vendor and craft type market. One side of the street had stores and more of restaurant type places, and then over on the water side there were vendor type stands. We went over there and got a couple of small items. No one was pushy and there were some nice jewelry stands and many other stands. We didn't walk through the whole place but only walked through to get back to our van. I'd say all in all we had maybe an hour in Marigot.

When our time at Marigot was up we wandered back to our tour bus. It was a successful trip there! We had gotten our French lunch, complete with macarons! I got a lovely handmade necklace made of some type of sea shell found in the Caribbean.

It was time to move along! We left the French side and crossed over into the Dutch side. Again we got to hear all about crossing the border between countries and the differences between the governments. It was pretty fascinating! Our driver again did a slow drive so we could take pictures of the border.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

St. Maarten, Wednesday 11/19/14

Today was our day in St. Maarten! With the pretty much perfect day we had in St. Thomas, could this day compare? Keith and I had been to St. Maarten a few years back on the Eclipse cruise, but I felt like on that day we didn't really get a good feel for the island. We did a land/sea type excursion. I think it was one where you drive the jeeps and then drive the little speed boats and maybe snorkel? I know we had a blast! And while we did drive across the island, I don't feel like we "saw" the island! I'm pretty sure that time we did have some short beach time, which I'm sure was great - but this time, I wanted to actually get a feel for St. Maarten/St. Martin itself! I'd always been intrigued by this two country little place!

So, I booked an island tour with Bernard's tours. I picked the one that had some time in Marigot as well as about 2 hours at a beach. Originally the scheduled beach was supposed to be Orient Beach, but this was shortly after the hurricane and I think the beach and the bars or area around it just wasn't the standard that Bernard's tours wanted to take us to. 

It was again, another early morning and today, Megan just didn't feel well, she says. Honestly, I think she wanted to sleep in. Or maybe it was just a bit too much Qsine last night! There really was a LOT of food! So, after a long discussion Keith decided he would stay back on the ship with her - he was actually looking forward to a day with most people off of the ship and relaxing...and Alex and I would go to St. Maarten by ourselves. I was a bit disappointed, but Alex and I really have a great time when we travel together. As far as the four of us in our family, Alex and I probably have the most similar vacation styles when it comes to exploring, touring, types of vacations....that type of thing - so I knew we'd have a pretty great mom/son day!

We got off the ship and were to meet our guide as early as possible to start the tour. 

We walked by the St. Maarten sign and found where the private tours were meeting

And were given a sticker to indicate which tour we were on....the 1 hour beach or the 2 hour beach, and then went to wait for everyone to arrive. Interestingly everyone was actually on the same tour. So if you did the 1 or 2 hour beach, the rest of the tour was exactly the same. The only difference was the beach time. It seemed to me in reading the descriptions there were other differences, such as the amount of shopping time...but no big deal, the tour was still good! Alex again, felt like it was a "grown up tour"....Here we were docked right next to I think the Oasis...and not one family with kids was on our tour! There was a family with some older teens, but everyone else was adults. And I think it made him a bit uncomfortable since there is free flowing beer and whatever they call their island punch being passed about. Of course there's water, and it was by no means a "party" atmosphere, but I think he may have felt just a little out of place. Had Megan come, he may have felt a little more comfortable. That being said, it's odd because he does tend to relate a bit better to adults than kids at times, so go figure!

Anyway....I didn't take notes, so I don't remember the name of our guide, but he was very good and we all piled on our little bus. Maybe 25 people or so. We started driving and he told us about the island and the history and just talked freely about what we were seeing and his life. I like a talkative guide. To me, it helps to get to know the place you are visiting.

He told us about crossing freely from one country to the other, as we crossed into the French side

And we stopped at one point to take some pictures at a higher point on the island with nice views

Next we stopped at what might have been Oyster Pond??? I'm not sure. I'm just looking at our itinerary now and guessing. But it was a beachy area. Before we left the port our guide told us we would have the opportunity to see some sea "creatures" urchins, star fish, things like that. That he has someone on the beach that we can visit with and he will show them to us. This should have been that stop. When we got off the bus, I know the guide said something like "oh, I don't see xx down at his spot"...

Now, it was a really pretty area, with a look out platform. We stopped for about 5, maybe 10 minutes. Took some pictures and got back on the bus.

You may be able to see up there on the hill...there's a goat - I don't know if it was a random goat, or if there was a farm of sorts, but there were a few up on that hill.

Looks like a better picture of the goats!

So, I took this picture from a distance, didn't really know what I was taking a picture of, thought it was "picturesque"... a later stop, I ask our driver when we'll get to see the sea life? he says...oh, that was back at the scenic beach. Calvin was there, you had to go find him and he would show you all kinds of things. REALLY???? Well, first, maybe he could have told us about "Calvin"...instead of just mumbling something when we got off the bus. And then while we were there, if Calvin was really there, maybe he should have called us over. I know it sounds a bit petty, but if he was going to mention it when we got on the bus to start the tour - and really, he talked it up! Then when we get to Calvin and his sea creatures - please tell us! First, as I may have mentioned...I love all things ocean. And second, this would have been a teen friendly part of the tour for my teen who had now been sitting in a bus while the adults were passing a jug of some rum punch around! 

So, if there was one minor complaint about the tour, and it really is minor - that would be it. I felt a bit of lack of communication there.


Next we drove by some iguanas...they used to take their tour to an iguana farm, but that is no longer part of the tour. I've heard it's under construction or also that it's in bad condition. So the replacement is to do an "Iguana Drive By"....kind of funny. 

Both Alex and I are reptile fans- imagine that! Animal lovers that we are! Alex actually has a pet Chinese Water Dragon. Sounds more ferocious than he is. He's actually a very friendly, not too big lizard - much smaller than an iguana. So, we like the lizard stops - but it was kind of funny to actually pull over on the road to take pictures - when they are found almost everywhere in the Caribbean!

But they did have the cool orange ones!

And another picture stop...not the prettiest view, but it was a "sweeping" view!

And a shipwreck in the ocean

We definitely were enjoying our morning so far!  Next we'd be stopping in Marigot, the French Marketplace.....