Published: March 8th 2012
March 8th 2012
Wednesday – March 7th
Welcome to St Martins. But already we are ahead of the story. Last night we were watching Movies under the Stars. After about 30 minutes it turned into Movies under the Raincloud. So we did not watch the horse movie after all. However that marked the beginning of a kind of rough night at sea. Apparently we caught up to those storms again and the strong winds made the seas rough and the ride was kind of bumpy. But we arrived in St Martens at 10:00 AM on schedule.
We had gotten up and packed our stuff for today’s excursion, and then went up to the buffet for breakfast. While we were eating they started cancelling shore excursions again, but NOT ours this time. There had been quite a few tours which had included some portion on the sea, and it was just too rough for those. However our tour was to be basically land-based, so thankfully we went as scheduled. It was a comfortable day although kind of windy. Mostly the skies were overcast, but we did get some suntan from somewhere.
We learned some
View from Bus
Dutch side of Sint Maartens
of the history of the island. Christopher Columbus (on his second voyage to the New World) spotted the island in 1493, on the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours, which is why he gave the country its name.
For centuries, salt has been an important product for this island. In the 1620s the Dutch began to harvest the island's salt ponds. The Spanish, knowing the value of salt, built a fort on the island in 1634 to control access to that valuable commodity. In the early 17th Century, the Dutch and French began to build small settlements and eventually drove the Spanish off the island. There are still many salt ponds on the island, but they no longer harvest salt. In fact there are no products produced on the island and tourism is their only source of revenue.
In 1648, the Dutch Republic and France agreed to divide the island between their two nations. The story goes that one French soldier and one Dutch soldier stood back-to-back where one point of the border would be. They starting to walk around the perimeter of the island and where the two met again marked the
other end of the border. It turns out that the French got 21 sq miles and the Dutch got 16 sq miles.
The French side (St. Martin) is said to be more relaxed and sophisticated - the “first-class resorts” and white sand beaches are mostly secluded. Marigot is a Mediterranean resort-like capital city, with yachts in the harbor, and open-air markets and shops lining the waterfront
The Dutch side (Sint Maarten) is a lively destination of white sand beaches, casinos, historical sites, shopping venues and a lot of nightlife. Philipsburg, a duty-free port, is the main entry point and is the Dutch capitol. It is said to vibrate with Caribbean colors, sounds and cruise ship passengers.
Our tour bus took us for a drive around the island, seeing all the major cities and locals on both sides of the border. Our bus driver had stories to tell everywhere. Since the roads are narrow and the buses large, we moved fairly slowly around both the Dutch and French sides. Then we stopped for about 90 minutes at Orient Beach. This is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.
Janet is not particularly a beach person, but she even thought it had spectacular views up and down the coast. Although she brought he swim suit, Janet did not try tot water, but David went out into the waves and found the water was comfortably warm and the sand was soft and smooth. Actually you have to go quite a ways out from shore before the water gets much above waist high. Afterwards Janet browsed through some of the local shops (she eventually bought an island blouse) while David walked along the beachfront and got to see more of the scenery, which was very impressive.
Then our bus took us back to the ship and we had a late lunch on the Lido Deck. We had about three hours before dinner, so we restrained ourselves somewhat during the lunch. We followed this with a rest break for a couple of hours before going back for dinner.
Today everyone had a story to tell about their adventure ashore. We are sitting at a table for 8, but 2 of the people never came because they’d met other friends and decided to transfer to their table. But the 6 of us have been pretty regular. One couple (Bill and Louise) went to the airport where they shoot the classic pictures of planes landing over the beach at St Martins. Then they shopped in the stores and basically explored on their own. The other pair (Jackie and Betty) went on a bus tour of the island with an extended stay at the butterfly museum. So everyone had a good day.
For dinner, David had the Salmon steak but Janet felt adventurous and ordered a Caribbean montage of seafood (shrimp, mussels, calamari, crawdad, and other unidentifiable delicacies). Actually it wasn’t quite what she was expecting, but wasn’t too hungry since we had the late lunch. After dinner we stopped at the T-shirt sale and got each of us souvenir shirts from the trip.
They have a different kind of act in the theater this evening which is something that doesn’t seem to attract our attention. Instead the on-ship TV channel is replaying the War Horse movie, so we will get to see it after all. But we can get comfortable and watch it from bed. If we nod off, then no one else will know. So that’s about all for tonight.