St. Maarten is always fun to visit, but we are going to miss our stop in Virgin Gorda

By Gerry Barker

ABOARD AZAMARA QUEST, DAY NINE – Might as well start with the news update from the Bridge: We won’t be going to Virgin Gorda, the last stop on our cruise and the one probably most anticipated by many, including myself. Sigh. Unexpectedly high waves have compromised the use of the tenders, and as we learned from the earlier mishap in Nevis, safety must come first. We will instead head to the protected harbor of St. Thomas, where Quest can dock safely.

The water taxi in Phillipsburg is a bargain

The water taxi in Phillipsburg is a bargain

And so Virgin Gorda and The Baths have to remain on our bucket list.

Today we are docked at Philipsburg in St. Maarten, the island with the split personality: Half French, half Dutch. Having experienced the French side on a previous cruise, we opted to take the water taxi over to Frontstreet and the main shopping district. If you plan to remain in the immediate Philipsburg area, the water taxi is a great option — $7 for a day pass and all the trips you want to make, and they come every 10 minutes.

Pam shopping at the tourist market

Pam shopping at the tourist market

A short walk past Frontstreet is – yes, you guessed it – Backstreet. A few blocks away is the Philipsburg Tourist Market, where vendors sell all manner of clothing goods, hats and specialty items. Ratchet up your bartering skills; prices are negotiable.

Afterwards, take a stroll along the beach that Frontstreet fronts. Pick a bar and enjoy something cool to drink while soaking up the scenery: White sands, palm trees with boats and yachts dotting the turquoise water stretching off to the horizon. Wi fi is readily available at many merchant locations. One vendor advertised a beach chair, umbrella, bar service and wi fi, all for $7.50.

Enjoy the view on Frontstreet

Enjoy the view on Frontstreet

There is much to see on this small island, including 17th century forts, a butterfly farm and lots of beautiful beaches, including a few where you can go au natural if you so choose. We didn’t.

We had some excitement onboard early this morning, when Capt. Stig came on the P.A. system at 2 a.m. and informed us to ignore the emergency signal that was sounded accidently. While we did wake up and hear the captain’s announcement, we totally missed hearing the signal. Not good.

Also noteworthy: Max, our keyboardist in Looking Glass and other venues around the ship, has regained the voice he lost somewhere in South America and is now singing his ballads as well as playing them. We can also look forward to “Sunday Sundaes” on the pool deck tonight. Not a bad way to end a relaxing day in St. Maarten.

March 10, 2010

About Cynthia Boal Janssens

Cynthia Boal Janssens is the editor and chief blogger for She is a former national president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She has sailed on over 40 cruises all over the world.
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