Per the ship’s daily flyer, Tuesday was Day 3. The captain had backed into the pier in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten and after breakfast at Tastings (same as yesterday,) I left to exit the ship to join my tour group on the pier for a ship excursion, “Ultimate Island Tour & Explorer Cruise.” Our group was divided in half and put onto two excursion vans. I immediately noted that the windows hadn’t been cleaned recently and would be difficult to get pictures through.
An Englishwoman, resident on the island since ’95, had a patter and spiel as she guided us through town and to the marina. [I guess the driver knew about the filthy windows, as he didn't leave much opportunity for photography on the journey.] It soon became evident that her patter had a limited vocabulary, as the same superlative adjectives were repeatedly applied. At the marina the groups were rejoined and put onto a two-level pontoon boat, and we pushed off for a ride in the salt marsh of a harbor and lagoon. Free rum drinks seemed to appeal to many of the cruisers, some of whom joined in singing to the 70’s and 80’s tunes, and dancing on the upper deck.
Sint Maarten is the portion of the island that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while St Martin is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic. The border between the two runs through the lagoon, so vessels which had been sunk during recent hurricanes remained (partially) submerged on the French side, while the work to clear the Dutch side was clearly evident. We heard that mooring fees are charged on the Dutch side, while it is free to anchor on the French portion.
After our hour sojourn on the water, we returned to the vans and drove along the water to the French capital of Marigot. Our guide gave us a brief talk on what to expect. With three-quarters of an hour to sightsee and shop, the group split and began checking out booths and tents, or headed to the public restrooms. I wandered a bit, not finding much different from the crafts I’d seen in Puerto Rico and St Thomas, so, after buying a hat pin(yeah!) I headed into a boulangerie and bought a baguette. Onward, I found a quaint little wine shop, where I was able to banter a bit about the wine industry and tourism on the island before buying a bottle of Chateau Mont-Redon ’18, a Lirac. To complete my purchases, I was guided to a fromagerie, which had too many options. Wanting just little pieces (they would all have to be consumed while cruising), I got small portions of a creamy blue and a round of chevre.
Back in the vans, we returned by an alternate route which took us around some of the French side of the island, before crossing the border and being dropped at the duty-free area. I had no further items I needed, and there are no cathedrals on either side of the island. There were now four cruise ships in port, so I just punted and headed back on board, and back to what would become my go-to lunch destination, O’Sheehan’s. With a draft of Stella Artois and an order of fish and chips (the chips had to be sent back to crisp them up to my taste), I updated my journal and, via text, booked a massage for when I got home. My chiropractor had given me the all-clear for my post rear-end collision treatment, and I knew my back and legs would appreciate the attention.
[Because I know that I will write these trip reports, I find it necessary to keep a journal. Whenever I have a bit of downtime, sitting alone over a drink or meal, waiting on a train or bus, I journal, talking to myself. Well, now, looking back at my notes, I find that I was not as diligent as I should have been during the cruise. Being with friends, the singles’ group, I oft times just didn’t write anything, catching up brief the next day. At least I’d learned to fully date, timestamp, and put down the location more frequently, a shortfall for prior trips.]
After lunch, I collected my Chromebook and tech equipment and went up to the pool deck, finding a shady spot on the starboard side, which shared the pier with the Aida, another cruise ship. Pulling the SD chip from the camera and using a chip reader, I transferred my few photos from the tour in Sint Maarten/St Martin over to the hard drive and a thumb drive. At my deck level, a screen shielded a pool on the Aida, which apparently was clothing optional, as two “well fed” men flashed their buttcheeks when climbing into the water. The comment I overheard, “Those that should be unclothed, don’t; those who shouldn’t, do.” While I’d been a naturist in the past, I’d realized that, while much more comfortable, sometimes discretion is the better choice and worth the confinement.
Come five o’clock, I collected the wine, bread, and cheese, as well as the cathedral book and head to the solo lounge to see Denny. I had a half-hour of “French time”, and then dropped down the stairs to the singles’ group, where we almost immediately left for dinner. Here’s an example of where the notes would help: I have no idea where we went for dinner, nor what I ate – and there are no pictures. We left the dining room and headed to the Epic Theater, where the magician entertained for an hour. Subsequentially, some of the group were heading to the bar where the Beatle’s cover band would entertain, while others, with me, returned to Malting’s where I had both a Jameson’s and a Talisker before climbing the stairs to my cabin.
A note on the bed advised that the government of Barbados, a day and a half hence, would be restricting access beyond the duty-free port area to those on ship excursions. My list of four places to visit would not be accommodated by a tour, so I resolved to see the excursion desk in the morning to find a way to fix this.