Wednesday, January 13, 2010
1st Port of Call: Sint Maarten, Dutch Antilles
1st Port of Call: St. Maarten, Dutch Antilles
The Emerald Princess arrived here in St. Maarten at 8:30 this morning and at last we had great weather, warm and sunshiny with a few clouds here and there. After breakfast we decided to go ashore and check out the place on our own because our “official” tour was not until after lunch.
Most of these ports in the Caribbean are really alike and they truly depend on the cruise ship business. They are Mecca’s of “shopping” if you’re in the market for fancy watches, diamonds, any kind of jewelry, and of course t-shirts and swimwear.
MA and I are not shoppers so we ignored the hawkers and made our way to a “water taxi”, a 100- passenger boat that takes you across the bay to town for $6 round trip. After getting our yellow wrist bands so we could get back to our ship, we jumped aboard one of those taxis and soon arrived in Phillipsburg.
This island of 27 square miles is divided into two halves: one Dutch and the other French. They seem to get along just fine after 300 years sharing the place. We strolled down the boardwalk again ignoring all the offers of tour guides and jewelry sales although I did splurge on a $4 cap because I lost the one I brought with me!
After checking everything out, we took the water taxi back, had a quick lunch and got ready for the “Natural Wonders” tour. About 40 of us boarded a bus and they took us to a sad little zoo that needed lots of TLC. There were none of the big exhibits one expects in a zoo, mostly tropical birds and iguanas, their version of natural wonders. The tour then took us on a bus ride all around the island, both French and Dutch sides and we saw some beautiful views of the ocean, hillsides, and cresting waves. All in all it was a fine day with the one I love and we both are looking forward to tomorrow in St. Thomas.
One last thing: Anchored on the next berth was that huge new ship, the Royal Caribbean: Oasis of the Seas. The Oasis is everything you might have read about, the biggest ship we’ve ever seen! It has room for 6000 passengers. It even has “inside balconies” overlooking the pool areas along with seven decks of outside balconies, on both sides. Would have loved to tour that one!
We’ve been waiting two hours to “sail away” but the Captain just announced we are waiting for passengers who missed the ship in Fort Lauderdale and were just now catching up with us. Didn’t know they did that, hold the ship for late arrivals! What a “Princess!”