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Josh and Nicole’s Awesome Caribbean Adventure 2011: Day 7, St. Maarten/St. Martin

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

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!).

Josh and Nicole’s Awesome Caribbean Adventure 2011: Day 6 Basseterre, Saint Kitts

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Day 6 Nicole and I were well versed in how things worked on these islands but that didn’t mean we were able to stop getting ripped off by the taxi drivers and vendors; now all we could do was try to limit the damage. Today, we were off to see the wonderful Saint Kitts. The official name of the country is Saint Kitts & Nevis. Saint Kitts is home to Ross University Caribbean Veterinary School. As usual, the night before I had read about Saint Kitts, focusing mainly on what beaches looked most appealing and which beaches were the most accessible and least touristy. The beach I settled on was located in South Friar’s Bay called Friar’s Beach. Since this stretch of the island was split between the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the South, the best beaches for swimming and relaxing where located on the Caribbean Sea side of the island. As is the case in most of these islands which are split between the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean side beaches of these islands have incredibly rough waters, rocky beaches, strong undercurrents to the point where even Fodor’s and most guidebooks will say that they are not swimmable (surfing is usually what occurs in the waters off these beaches).

When we got off the cruise ship, we told the taxi stand that we wanted to go to Friar’s Bay. We were immediately told to go to another beach. That this other beach was better. I was well versed in this song and dance. This “other beach” is probably near a major resort, heavily touristy and overrun with annoying vendors. I kindly told the woman that we were interested in Friar’s Bay. She told us to stand “over there” with the others who had obviously not bought what she was selling. After only a little while we were shuffled into a taxi that was full. Some of us were going to Friar’s Bay while others were going to other beaches. The ride to Friar’s Bay seemed longer than 30 minutes. The island was very hilly, roads were often windy and narrow. Also, the island seemed significantly more remote than the other islands we had been too. Unlike the other islands, St. Kitts did not have a lot of development. Later, we learned in the last few years the government had decided to change their economy from sugar cane to tourism. So I can imagine that in the next few years hotels and resorts will be popping up all over the island. The island also I’m sure receives a tremendous amount of money from Ross, not only from the taxes but from the money that is infused into their economy by the students that live there for 2.5-3 years at a time.

When we were close to Friar’s bay we were taken down some dirt roads, lined with trees and shrubbery. It was a little freaky because it looked like we were being taken into the woods to be killed. If this had been nighttime it would have been 100% pitch black, besides the headlights the taxi driver would have had on. Eventually, the road ended up a cul-de-sac and we were there. Since we had been one of the first taxis to leave the port, there were very few people on the beach and not that many taxis lined up. Again, we were greeted by a dude who appeared to be running the show. Due to the fact that Nicole and I were pretty burnt, we opted for lounge chairs with shade. The shade was produced by a 2 x 4 connected to another 2 x 4 with palm tree leaves constructed in a way to make it like a canopy. It was a really cool way to produce shade. The water was blue, clear and had a huge coral reef only meters from the shoreline. Another reason why I chose this beach over others was that it had off-shore snorkeling. While, I was unsure how much it would be rent the gear, I imagined it could not be a lot. Also, Fodor’s had mentioned that the beach had a really cool bar/restaurant. All-in-all this beach sounded like the place to be! After resting for a few minutes, I rented some snorkel gear, got the underwater camera and began exploring the reefs. The way the beach worked was that half the beach was the reef and the other half was for swimming. These reefs were incredibly close to the water and with the water being fairly shallow, lying completely flat on top of the water would be critical in avoiding the coral.

The water in Saint Kitts was the warmest water we had experienced so far in our trip. The water had to be in the 80s and with the weather being in the 90s, it was not much of the reprieve from the blistering sun. Saint Kitts was hot! Nicole also came into the water, but chose not to snorkel. I got some great underwater pictures with the camera. The beach also offered jet skiing. While we were hanging out in the water and on the beach, we noticed a lot of young people with dogs. I wondered to Nicole how they had dogs on the island (did they bring them with them on a trip?) Some of these dogs were pretty big. Nicole went over to pet some of them (the huge dog lover she is) and started chatting it up with some of these younger people. This is when we found out that Ross University’s Veterinary school was located in Saint Kitts. It turned out that these dogs were rescued and were part of Ross’ program that rescues stray dogs, treats them and tries to find them homes (mainly with students). Nicole was gaga over the veterinary students and was telling them all about the famous Jackson Brown aka Hairyman, Hairybaby, Jack, Jackie and Jackson. I could not help say that he may been the world’s biggest Shih Tzu weighing in at a cool 20 lbs. The students got a chuckle out it and so did I. I mean he gets fed boiled chicken, walked at least 3-4 times a day, pampered, cleaned and clipped. Who wouldn’t want to be him? I certainly would. It’s true I’m jealous of a 20 pound 16 month old Shih Tzu. There, I said it (he is also pretty darn cute).

We spent most of the day relaxing in our awesome chairs with great shade, location and as more and more people began to flood this beach (students and tourists), it became a little crowded, but because the beach was fairly long and spread out it wasn’t overly crowded. Another highlight of this beach was the aforementioned bar/restaurant. This bar served up plenty of options for frosty beers and beverages (like pina coladas and the like). I grabbed a few beers throughout the day and got Nicole a frozen beverage.

You know it wouldn’t be a trip without there being an issue at least once a day. Today, the issue came courtesy of a couple that we had come to the beach with in our taxi. The couple was from Queens and we had chatted with them for most of the journey to the beach from the port. They seemed pretty chilled, laid back people just enjoying their vacation. When we got to the beach we had to tell the driver what time to pick us up. They initially had said 3PM. Nicole and I thought that would be too much time at the beach. We eventually agreed on 2PM. By 1PM Nicole and I had agreed that we wanted to stay longer, grab some grub from the bar/restaurant and enjoy the beach a little more (we realized that with today being Good Friday, nothing in Basseterre would be open (this was confirmed by several of the students we spoke with). Therefore, instead of going back and hanging out at the shopping center at the port, we would hang out and enjoy this magnificent beach. I walked over to where this couple was sitting and told them we wanted to stay until 3PM. They said that sounded good and when the driver came I would tell him 3PM. Around this time, Nicole and I were hungry and decided to grab some food at the bar/restaurant. By this time the place was jumping and we were only able to get to bar stools on the side of the bar/restaurant. About thirty minutes later the driver came and I told him that we wanted to leave at 3PM. He said no problem. By this time Nicole and I had put our order in but I quickly realized that it may take some time. Now I understand “island time” and that things naturally take longer but this was pushing even my limits of patience (as well as Nicole’s). The food ended up taking about an hour and a half. The food took so long we just finished by the time the driver came for our 3PM pickup! We had sat down and ordered at about 130PM!

The food was freshly made and really good. It was definitely at tourist prices as the meal came to almost $40 with tip! So when the driver came looking for us, I said I would go find the couple coming back with us (it was important that they came back with since the price of our taxi depended on having more than 6 people). When I went over to them to tell them that the taxi driver was here and ready to go they said “Oh we’re good.” I was like “what does that mean?” “Listen man, we got this other couple that wants to go back at 4, why don’t you just come with us, we’re good here, we’re chillin,” the guy responded. I was like “Na, I think we are all set leaving. I’m tired and we want to do some shopping back at the port since most stores in Basseterre are closed.” He said “alright man.” I walked away pissed realizing that this couple had screwed us and if we didn’t find other people to fill the taxi that we would have to pay a lot more to get back. I was pissed off because we had accommodated this couple by staying longer (twice) and we were really friendly to them and then they pull this shit on us. I’m sure Karma would pay them back (if it hadn’t already). Luckily, as we going to our taxi, we noticed a couple that was looking for a taxi back, I told them that we had room and they quickly shuffled into ours and we were off! If we hadn’t found that couple it would have cost us at least $10 more to get back. This place was real far and unless you had a full taxi, it wasn’t cheap to get to from the port.

Upon being dropped off by the taxi, we began to walk around this makeshift shopping center. All the ports had them and whoever owned the land and the buildings made a fortune off them. Again, the center had clothing, souvenir and a ton of jewelry shops. We started walking around going from store to store. Our first priority was to get our shot glass and picture frame. We found a store where we got all of our stuff in one fell swoop. We also picked up some t-shirts to give as gifts for back home. I also managed to get a patch for my backpack (I had gotten one in Barbados and St. lucia and wanted one for St. Kitts. St. Kitts was country number 48 on my list!).

After spending ungodly amounts of money on things that should cost a fraction of what we paid, it was off to the jewelry shops. One of the shops was called EFFY. This is apparently a popular jewelry brand back home. Nicole was curious how much the stuff cost, so we went into the first one we saw and began to look around. Eventually, we found that they had men’s bracelets, pulled one out and looked at it. Upon turning it over, we noticed that the bracelet had a marking on it that wasn’t EFFY. It was another name. Nicole then says “what is this?” The guy proceeds to tell us that this is the men’s line of EFFY. Nicole was skeptical, which meant I was extremely skeptical, as Nicole knows her jewelry. I then said “well if this is EFFY where the EFFY stamp is?” The guy then looks at his boss with this bewildered, nervous look and then Nicole and I left. It was clear that either this bracelet was a fake or that it wasn’t EFFY but some other brand being pawned off as EFFY. Either way, this place was shady as hell and wasn’t the place for us. We had seen other shops advertising that they were an EFFY boutique. We went into another and were informed that this brand that the first store was trying to say was EFFY was in fact a completely other brand of jewelry that specialized in men’s titanium bracelets! This made me question whether any of the jewelry we had seen was in fact real. I mean how they could possibly sell this all this brand named jewelry at the prices they do!

Eventually we stumbled into a jewelry store which did not advertise a particular brand. The main dealer in the store was extremely friendly. We began chatting with him and were very pleased with his demeanor and what he was offering. Nicole was looking to buy me a men’s titanium bracelet. We had seen one previously in Barbados and since then she was hooked on getting me one. I was hesitant to let her get me one, but was very flattered at the same time. This guy showed us a bunch and then it came down to haggling. Since Nicole was making the purchase I let her do the bargaining. She ended up getting the guy to lower the original retail tag value 40%. I was ecstatic about the bracelet and really appreciative that Nicole had bought it for me. The bracelet was so nice, titanium, not too flashy and incredibly light. It fit me perfectly, did not need to be sized at all and overall was really moved by the fact that she bought it for me.

By this time, we were tired. The sun really drains you of your energy. We headed back to the ship, got some food, chatted with our Thai friend for a while and then hung out until dinner. Tonight we saw our second show. The show was really good. It was a Mexican juggler/comedian. He reminded of George Lopez because all he was doing was ripping on Mexican’s and Puerto Ricans. I found him to be funny, but since 90% of the crowd didn’t speak English, he wasn’t getting as many laughs as he should. When he really wanted a good laugh from the crowd, he told the joke in both English and Spanish and that worked well. After dinner we did some gambling and then headed up to sleep. Tomorrow was our last stop, Saint Martin/Maarten and we wanted to enjoy every minute of our last island!

Josh and Nicole’s Awesome Caribbean Adventure 2011: Day 5 Castries, St. Lucia (Loooosha)

Friday, May 6th, 2011
Besides being known for their beaches, shopping and great weather, St. Lucia is also known for 2600+ foot Twin Pitons which are part of an active volcano on the island of St. Lucia. These Pitons can be seen from ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh and Nicole’s Awesome Caribbean Adventure 2011: Day 4 Bridgetown, Barbados

Thursday, May 5th, 2011
After being stuck at sea all day yesterday, I think Nicole and I were extremely eager to get off the boat and do some exploring on our next island. I was unsure what to expect of Bridgetown and the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh and Nicole’s Awesome Caribbean Adventure 2011: Day 3 Day At Sea

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
After going to bed fairly late the night before and knowing good well we had nothing to do today, I decided to sleep in. I think that it was a little later than Nicole had expected me to sleep ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh and Nicole’s Awesome Caribbean Adventure 2011: Day 2 St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands (USVI)

Monday, May 2nd, 2011
The alarm went off at 730AM as Nicole and I had decided to get up early to try and maximize our day. We were both excited like little school children. I had never been to any of the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh and Nicole’s Awesome Caribbean Adventure 2011: Day 1 New York City – San Juan, PR (Via Atl)

Monday, May 2nd, 2011
My alarm clock went off at 5:30AM, in preparation of our flights which would eventually land us in Puerto Rico hopefully around the 4PM hour. The cruise is scheduled to leave tonight at 10PM, giving us plenty of time ... [Continue reading this entry]