St Maarten- the third and last island we visited
This island is owned half by the French and half by the Dutch. This island also had a small shopping center on the port, with the information desk one of the first things you see. We had decided to go to the beach first and then head towards the shopping center. So we all piled into an van and took a long drive to the French side (the boat docks on the Dutch side) and I have to say that the beach we went to was covered in chairs, there was no shade in site (unless you rented a chair with an umbrella) and the water was rougher, deeper and defiantly more choppy. Now whether this is from the inlet or because there was a hurricane on the other side of the Caribbean, I cannot say.
I will say that you don’t have to pay for chairs, you can try as hard as you like to find a seat of your own, but I warn you that this would be very difficult as the beach is decked out into segments that are run by family groups, or sit at one of the many different outdoor restaurants that lined the beach. I paid the $8 for a chair with an umbrella that came with a free drink.
This beach was by far the most populated beach we went to, it was also the one with the most people trying to sell you things. They had items ranging from jewelry, towels to a aloe massage and someone walked by with something to sell about every 5 minutes. This is where the sunglasses came in handy. I lounged a bit with some dark shades and did not turn my head to indicate I was interested in what they were approaching with, just stared straight ahead or stayed laying in the position I was.
I lounged a bit on the chair before heading into the water for a bit. Unlike Morgan beach, you could not see straight through the water and the sand was courser. They had jet skies available as well as pulling a long cigar like tube behind a jet ski. The restaurants they had, although I didn’t order anything, ran about $8 to $12 for decent sized plate of food. From what I did try and saw, the place we ate at had good food and the rest of my party didn’t get sick eating it.
We stayed at the beach for about 3 hours, the guy who drove us was called to come get us and we headed back towards the main shopping town by the cruise ship port. This island has a huge diverse shopping center in town. They have casinos on one side of the town and the other side has shops, food and hotels. The group ended up splitting up when half the group bought jewelry and the other half continued on.
This town/city was hot, they had virtually no trees and many many expensive shops. We finally made it into a sandwich/crepe shop but had no idea where or how we were supposed to order. Deciding to wander around before returning to the ship (were we knew where the food was) we hit up a chocolate shop and an ice cream parlor. The ice cream parlor was right off the beach and it was delicious! I hadn’t had ice cream in a while so it was great treat for me.
As a coincidence, my dad who didn’t want to eat off one of the smaller stores, ate at the parlor and ended up having stomach problems (but not food poisoning). I still think that he’s horribly in denial about being lactose intolerant.
We did end up meeting back up with part of the group to eat at one of the indoor restaurants, but didn’t stay long because part of the group wanted to go to the place with even cheaper beer. I’ll talk again about being realistic. If you drink frequently on the ship where drinks range from $7 to $20 dollars, changing restaurants for beer that’s a dollar cheaper is wasting time, energy and after a while, the rest of the groups patience if they are not on the same page as you.
We decided to head back to the ship instead of searching out the cheaper restaurant. I will say this for St Maarten, they have a wide variety of food available to you on the beach and it all looked good. I saw barbeque, southern, and Thai. They had Indian food near the shops and a few Chinese places as well. This island was by far the most diverse if food offerings.
Instead of getting a taxi, we decided to walk back to the ship which took about 20 minutes. I enjoyed the heat as I live where it’s cold and rainy basically all year round. If we’re lucky we might hit 80 degrees an day in summer. They have sidewalks back to the ships, so you’re walking in an area that’s comfortable to walk on.
Once back near the port, I headed back to the ship and cooled down.
Favorite Island: St Thomas
Beach: St Thomas
Shopping: St Maarten
I will say that the ship did not hand out the border security claims form until after all three islands. When I was sailing, you didn’t have to claim any purchases as long as the total amount you purchased was under $1500. You did not have to claim any alcohol unless you had more the 1 liter per person, with a max of 4 liters total. Please check with current regulations if you have questions and for accurate information.