Cruise from Puerto Rico down the Lesser Antilles
April 2015
Part V - Sint Maarten/Saint Martin

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The next Caribbean island we visited was Sint Maarten or Saint Martin. We arrived early in the morning in Philipsburg, the capital of the Netherland part of Sint Maarten. The capital of the French part, called Saint Martin, is Marigot. Yes, that's right. The island is divided, but without a wall or fence.

Again: We always tried to get from the ship as early as possible to have most of the day for the land excursion. We were usually ready for breakfast at 7:30 at the latest in order to be ready to get from board at 8:00 a.m. I ate proactively enough to last for the whole day, even if it was not my time for a heavy breakfast. Having lunch on the island means less time for sight-seeing and it saves money.

Remark: The following photos on the right side may not be correctly adjusted if you use Mozilla Firefox or Chrome. I propose to use the Explorer or Edge of Microsoft instead (even if most people prefer the others).

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Our "Summit" arrived in the harbor of Philipsburg But we are not the only cruise ship
As soon as we did get from the ship we were looking for a taxi. There were many drivers offering trips to any place on the island or an island roundtrip. I have to mention again: The advantage is that you can determine yourself where you want to go and where you want to stop and for how long. I had read about the best places to visit in my guide book just before we arrive. By the way, all the taxi drivers also acted as a guide by explaining the sights and answering all our questions.

We made a deal with the taxi driver Tony for 25 USD each for a round trip almost all day. It was cheaper this time because we had other passengers joining us. With a taxi you were able to see more and you also were always ahead of the slowly crowd of the ship's excursion packages.

The ship offered land excursions lasting 3.5 hours for 45.75 or 52.00 per person. They also offered more than just land excursions: About 24 more activities you can choose from like diving, snorkeling, sailing, dolphin riding, horseback riding or just swimming with prices ranging up to 189.75 USD.
Should we make a cruise around the island with this boat? We better take this van to drive around
First we hit a round-about of the Salt Pickers Then we took a look at this nice community
Following a palm-fringed road Leaving behind Philipsburg
Then driving between the Simpson Bay Lagoon and the sea
A draw bridge on the way to the airport Then around the round-about to the Maho Beach
That's the famous Maho Beach where planes flying very low over
The lady writes down the arrival schedule of the planes
Unfortunately there was no big plane (the bigger, the lower) arriving while we were there. We couldn't wait till 11:37 a.m. for United Airlines as listed on the board. I have seen a photo in the internet of a KLM plane just flying a few meters over the beach. So don't stand up, better lie down.
An ATV being used by this macho, sorry, Maho beachboy
Does this ATV belong to a nightclub's playboy? They seem to be friends, the beachboy and the playboy
After the Maho Beach we continued all around the Simpson Bay Lagoon while we crossed the border from Netherland to France. Just at the end of the strip of land between the Lagoon and the sea we arrived in Marigot, the French capital.
Crossing the border to the French part
Before we were strolling around in the city we climbed to the Fort Louis up on a hill first. The view from the fort was très magnifique. There was not that much left of the fort, just stone walls. Try to read the description on the photo. If you can't then read following excerpt from

Fort Louis was built in 1789 on the orders of Jean Sebastian de Durat, who was governor of St Martin and St Barth, for the king of France at the time. Its primary function was to defend the harbor warehouses where goods were stored (salt, coffee, sugar cane, and rum). Later the fort was abandoned and fell into ruin. In the 19th century it was restored once more, only to be abandoned again. During this period it was also the site of battle between the French and the English, as the latter regularly came across from Anguilla to raid the warehouses.
First climbing to the Fort Louis
Best spot to defend Fort Louis and the warehouses in town down below
What a nice view to the Baie Nettlé and the Simpson Bay Lagoon behind
Then we walked down to town below to look for souvenirs
Or to buy some fruits like bananas, mangos, melons, etc.
Or spices and herbs Or a carved big bird
Or having lunch? Or having a drink?
Ok, that's all we saw in Marigot. Next we drove to a beach, the Orient Beach at the other side, the east side, of the island. It was a nice beach to relax. Everything around here looked very sophisticated. Look for yourself.
Next: the Orient Beach A boutique at the Orient Beach
The best beach on the island A beach pub with many different beers
A Buddha in the back park Shops in the back street
Houses for sale in Baie Orientale are not cheap To stay in the Royal Guest House in Philipsburg neither
Back in Philipsburg we had enough time to stroll around in this wonderful city. And also it was somehow much different of what I have seen up to now in other Caribbean cities or towns.

It was not only a capital city but also one where you can stay for vacation a week or two (or longer for the many activities offered on the island itself), because of its fantastic beach all along the length of the city at the Great Bay, its many good hotels and restaurants, its pedestrian areas, its clean narrow streets with beautiful buildings and all kinds of shops. Yes, it's clean and tidy Netherland but in the tropics. Have a look for yourself.
Back in Philipsburg with many tourists
Many side streets with many shops
Many things to see like this old vintage car or this funny house
Typical Caribbean shop Typical Caribbean lady (Heino couldn't resist her offer)
Here the beer is more expensive This restaurant looks more funny
From the street right to the beach which is maybe half a mile long
So many umbrellas It looks like in Rimini
Still enough room to walk and passing-by many restaurants
Another nice restaurant to sit and feel safe because the police station is right in the middle
Also the court house is close-by so is the church not far away
This girl is gorgeous the way she smiles at me
Also some entertain-ment is part of live on the beach
If you want to stay overnight there are many hotels around
We get better back on our ship. Oh. not this one but this one: Our Celebrity "Summit"
That's it. Not much but all what you can do in a day between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Again: We always try to leave our arrival city right away in order to see the countryside first to be on the safe side to reach our ship before the scheduled departure. It get's very expensive if you miss the ship. One white lady told us that it once happened to her. She even was jailed and mistreated, because she didn't have the right documents, whatsoever, with her. Eventually she was able to fly out (I don't remember that she named the island).

Here at last some brief history about Sint Maarten/Saint Martin as copied from "Sint Maarten" in Wikipedia : "With few people inhabiting the island, the Dutch easily founded a settlement there in 1631. French and British settlements sprang up on the island as well. Spanish forces captured the island from the Dutch in 1633, seizing control and driving most or all of the colonists off the island. In 1648, the Spaniards deserted the island. With Sint Maarten/Saint Martin free again, both the Dutch and the French jumped at the chance to re-establish their settlements. Preferring to avoid an all-out war, they signed the Treaty of Concordia in 1648, which divided the island in two".

The Dutch part has a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The King Willem-Alexander is still head of state and is represented locally by the Governor. The head of government is the Prime Minister. The Island Council has 15 members. Dutch and English are the official languages. According to the census in the year 2010 Sint Maarten has 37,429 inhabitants. The majority is of Dutch and African origin. The currency is the Netherland Antillian Guilder or Florin (NAF). The exchange rate is 1.82 NAF for 1.00 USD. But there is no problem to pay in USD, but be careful not to mistake NAF prices as USD.

The French part is an overseas collectivity (COM) of France and is part of the European Union. French is the official language, but English is widely spoken. According to the census in the year 2011 it has 36,286 inhabitants, of which the majority is of European and African origin, the rest is of mixed races and East Indians. The currency is the Euro, but there is also no problem to pay in USD.

All of the previous information are very brief, just to give you an idea of what kind of island this is. If you want to know more about the places we have visited and more about politics, economy, etc. then look up any guidebook and the internet.

Created November 2015

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