Today was our final full day on the fun ship. We started off the day with our usual quick breakfast in the main dining room, gathered up our stuff and headed off for what would hopefully be a funfilled day.
We got in a shared taxi (which is always a mad rush once we get off the ship) and managed to snap a few of the touristy (welcome to ____).
We decided to head for a beach on the french side of the island AKA St. Martin. For those who didn’t know St. Martin/St. Maarten is one of the only islands that have two countries associated with them (France and Netherlands). The ride to the far side of the island took quite a long time as we had to manuever our way through the mountainous and hilly island. Our driver was pretty funny and was speaking in as many languages to us as he knew. These included Dutch, French, English and a bunch of other ones. It was quite impressive to say the least, it also made our 45 minute journey far more pleasant.
Our first stop was Orient Beach. Orient beach is known for one thing and one thing only…a portion of it is completely NUDE! When you arrive you see a huge sign saying “Welcome to Orient beach” with a picture of naked butts. Also has a sign that says “no cameras” in several languages. I mean it would be almost criminal to not at least take a stroll down the nude side of the beach after traveling this long to get here.
The nude beach was extremely interesting to say the least. The beach seemed to be filled with middle aged Americans, who were yes, completely NUDE. After taking a stroll back and forth we decided to head to the normal, non nude side of the beach and find a place to plop down.
This side was much more entertaining and exciting. Basically the beach was divided up by vendor. Each vendor had a bar/restaurant and a whole host of chairs. Some had umbrellas some didn’t. Some offered free drinks with an umbrella chair combo others didn’t. We walked down until we came to one we liked. This one offered some free drinks with a chair/umbrella combo (of course still insanely priced), but this beach had what I would think would be a very european feel to it. Granted, I have never really been to a beach in Europe (Nice doesn’t count as it was the winter and it is all rocky), but maybe this is how the beaches in St. Tropez are in France.
Anyway, we settled in to our area, got our “free” drinks and just enjoyed the beautiful, sunny, yet extremely hot day in here in lovely St. Martin. The water was crystal clear, blue, very warm, but didn’t have much of a skyline. It wasn’t like some of the other beaches we had been too. It almost had waves like a bay, nothing major but overall a very nice beach with very fine sand. From time to time, people from the nude side would stroll across us, not completely nude, but generally topless, both men and women. It is incredible who will go topless these days!
After a few more drinks, and watching people have fun on the jet skiis, I convinced Nicole to take another run on them. Since the beach was crowded with Cruise tourists, we had to wait about 2 hours to get on them and we rented them for the standard 30 minutes.
When we got on this jet ski, it definitely felt much faster, lighter and shiftier than the one we rode in St. Looocia. I was whipping it around, hair blowing in the wind with Nicole screaming in the back. Unfortunately, this ride wouldn’t end the same way as the last ride. At one point, I slowed down signficantly, almost to a dead-stop. Apparently, that isn’t the best thing to do while riding a jet ski especially after traveling at a fast speed. To make a long story short, our jet ski tipped over and we ended up in the middle of the sea. Nicole was flipping out, I was trying to keep her calm and roll the jet ski back on. Thank G-d we were wearing life vests, because they definitely saved our lives.
Another thing was that we were pretty far out from shore and it was probably hard to see us from the shore, so the guy who ran these jet skiis definitely did not see us tip. Luckily, a guy who had rented one saw us, came over to us, took Nicole back to shore, and got the jet ski dude to come get me. Lets just say this big black guy was NOT happy that we tipped over. He was screaming at me the whole way back to shore. At one point he told me that we should have known how to ride the jet ski (even though it was only our second time) and that he didn’t feel it was his responsibility to teach us how to ride this jet ski, which turned out to be a racing jet ski (which makes sense as to why it was so damn fast). Then, the guy tried to tell me that I broke the Jet ski and/or that I needed to pay him $50 because now he couldn’t rent it out until it was dried or some BS. I gave me a paper I signed which he claimed made me liable for the $50. It obviously did not and he was just trying to muscle me. I told him “this can’t be the first time someone has tipped over a jet ski and I’m sure it doesn’t break them if it does.”
He basic point was that now he couldn’t immediately rent it out, but I told him tough luck. After I left him, Nicole asked me what happened and I quickly said “grab your stuff and lets go, I’ll explain later.” So Nicole and I quickly grabbed our stuff and found a taxi back to Philipsburg which is the capital of the Dutch side, St. Maarten.
Downtown St. Maarten was really nice. There were a strung of restaurants and hotels that lined the Marina. We ended up finding a really great tourist shop tucked away in a corner street. For the first time the chatchkas were relatively affordable and not ung-dly expensive like every other place. The guy who ran the shop was actually from Hong Kong and had been living in St. Maarten for a few years.
After leaving the shop, Nicole and I were both really hungry. We strolled around and came to a place that seemed fairly local, with a vibrant and exciting ambiance. We took a table and saw that they had a great menu. It has fresh “pub” style food. We got some nachos and ordered main meals. As it turns out a fairly famous TV show was filming there and was checking out the food. We didn’t know them, but looked them up when we got home and they were on some cable network. We spoke with the owners for a while and profusely complemented them on their delicious food.
We both really enjoyed St. Maarten/St. Martin even after we almost died in the middle of the caribbean sea. It has a nice laid back feel to it, seems more developed then some of the other islands we went too, cleaner and not as shady as say Barbados. There is a nice marina in Philipsburg, with hotels and restaurants, and it is a place we would definitely return back too.
After eating we walked around and did a little more shopping, including a walk through a very affordable duty free shop. We snapped some photos along the Marina (one that came out really well). The last shopping we did was when I stopped at a handmade local cigar shop (with the people actually rolling the cigars. The guy who owned the shop was really cool and was actually preparing to run the NYC marathon. He asked me if where he was staying was safe and I told him no. It was in East Harlem and pretty far up Lexington Avenue. We chatted it up a little, I bought a bunch of handrolled cigars, a t-shirt and was off.
The walk back to the ship was long. It was getting late and we didn’t have much time to get back to the ship. We had to walk probably a mile to get back in the blazing sun. But as most travel guidebooks will recommend, try and be one of the last people on the ship to maximize your day at a port (and by the last few days we certainly were!).