St. Barts is your destination for high end shopping; however, we pull out early to head to St.Maarten

By Gerry Barker

ABOARD AZAMARA QUEST, DAY EIGHT – You don’t have to be rich and famous to come to St. Barts (or St. Barths, or Saint Barthelemy – you’ll see all variations of the name), but definitely being the former will help. This way station for the jet set features the highest of high end shopping (in the market for a Louis Vuitton hammock?) set amid its charming Swedish and French roots.

The harbor at Gustavia, St. Barts

The harbor at Gustavia, St. Barts

We were originally scheduled to be here for almost 24 hours, but the captain has told us we will be leaving instead at 5 p.m. for our next destination, St. Maarten. A weather front is approaching that could result in waves of 2-4 meters, so the rest of our itinerary is now somewhat in doubt. We’ll get further news on the situation later this afternoon. Yikes.

Unlike Dominica, St. Barts is more arid, with much less rainfall. In fact, it hardly ever rains. Except today, when it followed us all around our morning tour of the island. But it passed, and Pam was able to get her shopping done afterwards in the stores along the main street in Gustavia, the hub of commerce. I’m fairly convinced everyone who lives on this island owns at least two cars; they are everywhere. This is also somewhat surprising since a gallon of gas goes for around $8.

There are some nice beaches, and plenty of restaurants. Speaking French is an asset, but if you stay very long, make sure you have plenty of room left on your credit card.

Grilled artichoke and potato at Aqualina

Grilled artichoke and potato at Aqualina

Last night we dined at Aqualina, one of two specialty restaurants on board the ship. I can honestly say it was as good a meal as we’ve enjoyed anywhere. The service was superb and each dish expertly prepared and flavorful. Pam opted for the pan fried Dover sole, while I had the filet mignon. We both had to end the meal with the Grand Marnier soufflé. Four stars.

The White Night party by the pool

The White Night party by the pool

Afterwards, we had to check out the “White Night Party” going on by the pool. Attired in white, party-goers danced, twirled, sipped cocktails and enjoyed live music and dancing under the Caribbean stars. A few brave souls even tried to master the limbo bar. A few of us were still dancing even as the staff packed up the decorations and moved the chairs out.

So tomorrow I’ll be filing from St.Maarten – maybe. We’ll know for sure later today. Stay tuned.

This just in. Capt. Steig has just announced we have permission from the authorities in St. Maarten to proceed to Philipsburg, ahead of the expected wave swells coming our way. Only 15 nautical miles away, we should be dockside there by 7 p.m.

And more good news: The casino and shops aboard have special permission from St. Maarten to remain open. We should be arriving there just in time for tonight’s Italian Buffet.

March 9, 2013

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