Thursday, March 31, 2011

St Maarten/St Martin Two countries, one beautiful island! I pre booked a private excursion with a tour guide named Bernard. He’s kind of famous in the Caribbean cruise world and had received loads of positive reviews on cruise critic. We met about 9am and started our 5 our tour of the island. The group was large so we ended up being in a separate van with only one other couple and Bernard! He told us some interesting facts about the island –the history of the wars between France and Holland over the land and their eventual agreement to split the island in two, the fact that tourism has been the island’s chief source of income since 1949 when salt mining and cotton were abandoned by the govt, each side of the island has different currency, their own airport, etc. There are numerous differences in the laws for example: marijuana use and drinking and driving are both legal on the dutch side… hmmm. We also learned that the average person pays about 18% of their wages to taxes but that includes free education including college and govt health care for all…. hmmm again.

We made our way around St Maarten (the Dutch side) and St Martin (the French side) and, as always, I marveled at how beautiful it all is. We stopped at a rocky spot and were shown an absolutely enormous starfish (which I honestly think they may have planted there but that didn’t keep it from being real), live sand dollars, a sea star, and both black and white sea urchin. I’d never seen a white urchin before. It was very cool!

Then we were off to Orient Beach which is well known for having a nude portion—yes, they were absolutely naked. Whatever. We rented some chairs and an umbrella ($10!) on the merely topless side of the beach and G spent the next 2 hours running and jumping in the water and digging in the sand. They had seadoos for rent and Bobby was super interested but decided to pass since the strong and constant wind made the water really choppy. Bummer.

After that we went to an open air market in Marigot. There were only a few booths due to it being Sunday but I still managed to find a necklace and bracelet made of stone that the vendor called red dragon jasper. G slept through the shopping portion since she was pooped from the beach.

Then were finally headed to Maho Beach which is famous for only one thing: its about 50 feet from the take off/landing strip of the airport. The planes are so low as they come over the beach that it shakes the people below. Some crazies actually stand right behind the planes as they power up for take off so they can get hit with the jet blast. Uh yeah, interesting to see from a distance but it didn’t seem like those people who were getting pelted with sand were having much fun. Anyway, watching the planes land, especially the big ones, is pretty neat. Luckily G woke up just in time to see a 747 land. I thought she might be a little freaked out by the noise but she really liked it!

After that it was back to the ship!

Dinner in the dining room tonight was the best yet :-) The night before the assistant maitre d’ came by to ask how everything was going and we felt somewhat forced, unfortunately, to advise him that our service had been less than stellar. We felt bad complaining –the cruise crew work very hard but we felt like we couldn’t continue to ignore it. He said he’d take care of it right away and much to our delight, everything was tremendously improved! Our food was extra yummy (shrimp cocktail, chicken wellington and cheesecake for Bobby, crostini, duck wonton soup, pork tenderloin and banana walnut cake for me, and shrimp cocktail, cream of mushroom soup, mac and cheese and strawberry ice cream for G). Again G was excited about seeing the show and I’m so glad we did because it was fantastic! It was some sort of juggler who was not only a great juggler but very, very funny! As much as G wanted to see it, she crashed when it was about half over. These are just really big days for a little girl.

Our official St Maarten/Martin photo:

This picture is funny because every time G sees a sign or something, she wants to have her picture taken by it. She'll excitedly run over while screeching "take my picture mommy!"
I think this is the biggest starfish I've ever seen in the wild. It was the only one there though which kind of made me think that they parked it there. There was a lot of sea life there though. Many urchin and sea stars, etc.
Checking out the sea star
Isn't that little island/sand bar behind us to the left cool? It seemed like a neat place to snorkel.
G with the white urchin.

G enjoying her nightly ice cream. She ate so much ice cream on this cruise... eeek.
My silly girl

This is a few of our professional shots from that night. When the photog suggested that G stand on us she was super excited. She's always asking me if she can step on my back. She's such a goof.

Tomorrow St Lucia!


Karen said...

Wow! How long was your trip? I love the family shots!

Jen said...

That pic of her standing on you guys is sooo cute! You should frame it and hang it on your wall somewhere!