Friday, April 25, 2014

Report # 117 Philipsburg, St. Maarten April 25, 2014 Friday Chance of rain, 84 degrees

Welcome to St. Maarten

The ship arrived to the port of Philipsburg, St. Maarten early this morning. This is one unique island in that it is the smallest land mass that is divided between two governments......French and Dutch. The French govern 21 square miles of it, while the Dutch rule over 16 square miles. It was the Dutch who prevailed in the end, because they established the first duty free port, Philipsburg, the capital and main port of St.Maarten. 

Amsterdam docked
The total population of people is 69,000, who speak French, Dutch, and also English. Compared to the last three islands we visited, St. Maarten is not the most volcanic, but it sure is pretty with its beaches, sailboats, yachts, quaint shops, and scores of good restaurants. And that is just the Dutch side we saw today. There is another French side that is equally as nice, perhaps more famous for their cuisine and "clothes-optional" beaches. We can guarantee that the 1.7 million cruise passengers went home happy from this beautiful island in 2012. We know that we did today. By the way, later in the day, we heard that there were six or more ships in port yesterday, with a combined total of over 25,000 tourists on the island. Wow, sure glad we missed that zoo.
Pier shopping

Small pier house

Harbour Point Village Shopping

The start of many shops

Little Switzerland

Cruise and Cargo Facility

Dense palms - great for shade

Great Bay of Philipsburg

Small boat harbor

Needlenose fish

We have been to St. Maarten twice, once in the 1980's and again within the last 10 years. What was here over 30 years ago, was not what we were seeing today. Back then, we may have had to tender ashore. Today we were docked, but not in the center of town. There were three ways to get to town. One was to take a local ferry for $7. each that took you to a pier in the center of downtown. But that same $7. ticket would work all day, so not a bad deal. The next way would be to take a taxi or van for the mile long ride. Or do what we did.....walk. It only took us about 15 minutes walking slowly to reach the beginning of the Boardwalk where the beach started and the shops began.
The Candy Shop

Old cannon

Some much needed shade

Colorful clothing

Decorative balcony of a hotel

Typical market

School in town

The Oranje School (Dutch)
The Boardwalk is almost 50 feet wide, and is flanked by the Great Bay on one side, and lined with bars and restaurants on the other side. It has to be over a mile long. Behind this string of buildings are narrow streets filled with all of the highend jewelry stores, clothing stalls, boutiques, and souveniers shops. It is a shopper's paradise. 

Lots of food, drinks, and souveniers


Many happy vendors today

Narrow streets of downtown

Too many shops, not enough time
Police station right across from the HRC

Wathey Square Courthouse (1793) - home to Commander John Philips

Perfect for the beach

Different type of palms

Internet...the favorite passtime of the crew

Mass was in progress

Front Street cafes

Funky clothes

Very pink bouganvillas

The Pirate ship

Entrance to a nice hotel

Taloula Mango's
The ice cream store

Hats, anyone?

The Casino

The Candy Store on the way back

We took our time checking out the sights from the Captain Hodge Pier, where the ferry brought many passengers from our ship to town. Three gorgeous sailboats were traveling across the bay, possibly one of the many water activities the shore excursion office offered today. 

Three sailboats in Great Bay

Way to go......
Which one would you choose?

We like these

Pirate ship

Miles of beach and sand

Lots of cafes to choose from

Going to be a busy day

Carib, the local beer of the Caribbean

Wonder what curried goat tastes like?

Good place for cooling off

Probably have good burgers

Cozy up to the bar, please

Dutch friends like this place...they serve Heineken

Captain Hodge Pier

Great place for swimming

They think so

Boardwalk businesses

Bill on the beach

Mostly clear waters
Kind of overloaded boat on right

Sailboat getting ready to ship out
The color of the ocean was as turquoise as one can imagine, and the white sandy beach was free of any broken coral, which usually makes it difficult to walk. As far as we could see, there were padded lounges with umbrellas ready to give shade to those who came to sunbathe and swim. Of course, there was a nominal fee, which at some places was the price of drinks and food. Another good deal.

Lone palm

Lounges and umbrellas

Hot sands

Lazy Lizard Beach Bar & Grill


Hillside abodes

Amsterdam in one of three berths

This is the life......

Bishop St. Martin of Tours

One nice hotel on the Boardwalk

Small boat harbor

Beautiful and clean beach

Safe to swim

Many hotels

As usual, we were searching for that best pizza we could find and ice cold beers. What we did not expect to see was a Hard Rock Cafe in the center of the Boardwalk. Forget the pizza today, we decided to try their generous portion of cheese nachos with Piton beers. The restaurant was on the top floor of the store, where we first bought a city t-shirt. Finding the best seats with the coolest breeze, we cooled off and enjoyed every bite of the nachos. Our waiter was also the bartender with a great personality. When he brought our bill, he added that the last two beers were "on the house". That has got to be the first time ever that this happened in a Hard Rock Cafe. Pretty nice.

Oh boy, a Hard Rock Cafe 
View from the HRC balcony

Really cool up here
Fine dining

Carib Beer

Cheese nachos to share

Making our way back towards the pier, we picked up a few souveniers, and also a hunk of Holland gouda cheese. There's nothing better than gouda, and to find it here was a surprise. It should last us for another two weeks or more. Even better than the cheese, was the treat of ice cream, which we found at a small gelateria on the Boardwalk. With a scoop of nutella and one of mint chip, we sat down in the shade of many palm trees to eat it. 

Nutella-vanilla & mint chip

Phoebe, the local dog
We weren't there for more than 10 minutes, when a cute little dog arrived at our feet. Remember Eddie from Frazier Show? Well this dog was his twin, except for the name on the dog tag was Phoebe, a girl. There was some melted ice cream left in the cup, so we gave it to Phoebe, who licked the cup clean as a whistle in a matter of seconds. She would have followed us back to the ship if we had more.

Bridge back to the pier

Connects to the Boardwalk Strip

Local boats

Very nice buildings here

Home with a view

Roadside landscaping

Back to the duty free Harbour Point Village Shopping

Amsterdam docked until sailaway at 5pm
We needed to be back onboard by 4pm for the complimentary Grand Farewell Sail Away Party held in the Lido Pool, midship. Champagne, wine, beer, and soft drinks were served to all who came. And that was just about every guest on the ship. Caribbean-style appetizers were served while listening to the tunes of the Casa Blanca Steel Orchestra. The only downside to this affair, was the heat, humidity, and the crowded spaces in the Lido Pool area. 

Hi Barb

Are we having fun yet?

John & Yvonne at the sailaway
The smart ones gathered their drinks, then headed out back to really watch the sailaway from port. A few kind waiters, Firman for instance, followed us out there with his tray of hors d'oeuvres to snack on. One of the nice bartenders kept us all with fresh beers and wine as we all enjoyed the breezes from the moving ship. Slowly, many more folks joined us.

Many flags flying in the breeze


Our favorite waiter, Firman

Yvonne happy with her new camera
That's when things got interesting. Perhaps because the cruise is coming to an abrupt end, or more so, because the folks were imbibing more than usual (free drinks), some guests ended up in the aft pool, clothes and all. The first to go was Cheryl, pushed in by her thoughtful husband. He did expect the same from her, but she couldn't catch him. Right after that, four more people got pushed in. It was so hot anyway, we are sure it felt good. As six of us wisely moved away from the pool's edge, an elderly lady was dumped from a rattan chair into the water. OK, now this is getting bizzare. This continued until almost sunset, believe it or not. Fun to watch for sure.

Cooling off two, wine, and the pool
Rum Punch Tou

Birds on the hunt

Leaving the pier

Looks like rain maybe....never happened

Nice day in St.Maarten

This suits us
We needed to add three suitcases to our shipped luggage count, so that was accomplished within minutes with Sarah, the Fed Ex rep who joined the ship in Barbados. We inrend to walk off the ship in San Diego with only our hand carrys for the airplane. The luggage always arrives within a week or less, so shipping everything is well worth it. Besides, we still have shipboard credit to use or lose, and this is one good way to use it. 

Bye, Philipsburg

Colorful town

Many hotels

Rocky shoreline


Nice condos
Dinnertime found our table number to be six, since two were in the Canaletto. We still have not gone there, and probably will not on this cruise. We just have way too much fun at our table to miss it.

Well, tomorrow and Sunday are days at sea, where most everyone will be packing. We may do some ourselves as well.

Sun setting
Going down

About gone

Cool skies

End of the day in St. Maarten 


  1. Hello! What is the name of the pirate ship? Do you know?

  2. Hi

    It is the Treasure Seeker