Saturday, June 14, 2014

Class Reunion Eastern Caribbean Cruise - St. Maarten

Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Sint Maarten is the Dutch side of the island of St. Martin, and Saint-Martin is the French side. It's kind of a small piece of real estate to have belonged to two countries, but there you are. This is the island I was least looking forward to, since reports from friends who had visited previously were heavy on the shopping and crowded beaches. I am neither a dedicated shopper nor an avid sun worshiper (especially in a crowd). In spite of my initial lack of enthusiasm, I have to admit that I enjoyed our relaxing, low-key day in St. Maartin. But I'm getting ahead of myself again!

The ship docked in Philipsburg. It was the kind of blazingly hot and sunshiny day that says, “You know you want to jump in the water, right?” And the water here is the most ridiculously surreal shade of teal. So, yes, you do want to jump in it! But not from the ship. That would hurt.

The view from the water taxi. St. Maarten
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
After breakfast, Harry and I joined Fred and Cathy for a little dockside souvenir hunting, after which we all took a water taxi to the beach. It wouldn't have been an impossible walk, but the water taxi was too cheap to pass up, the weather was hot, and Harry's toe was swollen from Antigua's snorkel boat issue.

Your chair awaits you. St. Maarten
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
It took just a few minutes to get from the ship to town and the beach that lines it, where we discovered that lounge chairs with sun umbrellas were available for rental from local entrepreneurs. The going rate seemed to be $20 for the day and included two chairs and an ice bucket with five drinks of your choice (soda, beer, or bottled water). Our particular entrepreneur could have made a few extra bucks bringing us another bucket of drinks, because we were extremely thirsty due to the heat. On the plus side, however, we were able to get some fried conch without too much trouble, though it was tepid and soggy by the time it arrived. This led me to be a little nervous about eating it. But I was hungry and I love conch. So, I ate it. I know.
Shopping in Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.

The shopping area in Philipsburg was convenient to the beach, new-looking, and well staffed with enthusiastic salespeople. The Dutch Caribbean culture was evident, and so I was reminded of Aruba. Right away, I warmed up to the island. As you know if you've read my blog posts at all, I love Aruba! Cathy and I enjoyed a marathon “free shopping” (Cathy's term for going from shop to shop picking up the freebies only) expedition, where we left with everything we had come for. But I am constitutionally unfit for shopping that's totally free, apparently. Well, you have to have something to take home for yourself that reminds you of your travels, right?

Count the conveyances! St. Maarten
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We returned to the beach and waded out into the water for some “salt water therapy” (Cathy's term for a nice soak in the warm sea). Ahhh. Wow, it felt like heaven. So refreshing. So relaxing. The guys napped under the sun umbrellas. It was a restful and fun afternoon. If you look at a map of the island, you will see that there are beautiful beaches everywhere. Obviously, we only went to the closest one. If we were to stay on the island for a week or so, though, I'm sure we would visit a lot more of them. And that sounds like something I might like to do.

Romantic dinner for two.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Back at the ship, we hot tubbed and rested until it was time to get ready for dinner. When you select “anytime” dining, you have maximum flexibility as to when you'll eat and with whom. But things don't always work out the way you planned. That's what happened this particular evening. A bunch of us were hoping to eat together, but our group was broken up between several tables. So, it wasn't the party we'd hoped for; however, we had a grand time anyway. And Bob and Karen had a romantic dinner for two right next to a window, with a view of the full moon rising. Come on. That's awesome!

What we ate: I started with the shrimp cocktail, followed by wildberry soup (cold) and a proscuito-tomato-arugula salad with balsamic dressing. Then came the lobster tail. Okay, lobster tails. Keep 'em comin', boys! And for dessert, baked Alaska. He had blue cheese souffle, tomato soup, the same salad, the lobster tail(s), and the baked Alaska. It was a superb meal.

Just one more look at that water... St. Maarten
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We joined a large group of “us” in the theater for “Stars in Their Eyes,” which showcased the dance skills of the performers very well. In fact, it was the best production of all. And that was followed by “Beyond the Honeymoon,” a “how well do you know each other” game for newlyweds and not-so-newlyweds. The Claytons participated, and they had been married the longest. Oh, the things we found out about them! They were hilarious! What does he say when he's “in the mood?”... “Brace yourself!” And there was much, much more, but these are their stories to tell. And they did. Thank you for entertaining us so well, you two.

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