Things aboard the MSC Divina are going great so far, and while I do plan to post a longer update about our on-board time in the next day or so, I wanted to talk a little about yesterday’s visit to St Maarten. As I mentioned in the last post, it had been quite a while since Jen and I had been here. For this stop, Jen found a local tour operator, Bernard’s Tours, that was pretty well reviewed that had an excursion that sounded interesting that pretty much circled the island.
With a 9am arrival in port and a 9:30 meeting time for our tour, we headed to the concierge as soon as we docked to make use of a key benefit of Yacht Club, a butler escort off the ship. On busy port days, this can be invaluable if you need to get off quickly to meet up with a non-ship tour group.
After exiting the ship and following the slightly convoluted directions to the tour tent, we checked in an sat down. And waited. And waited. It was pretty humid out, so sitting in an enclosed tent wasn’t really the way I wanted to start, but the other ship in port, the Carnival Valor, was a little behind us in docking and debarking passengers, so we had to wait. We got to the tent around 9:15, and if I recall it was 10 or so before we finally got on the bus.
After they split us up into a couple of different groups, we hopped on our bus and headed out. I would say that this was my biggest complaint of the whole tour, that the bus felt overcrowded, even though it wasn’t at max capacity. I think we had 25 on it, and with the two by two bench seats being tight, I ended up crammed in a window seat with some sort of hump under my feet, basically relegating me into a ball while we were driving around the island. Not a fun way to ride at all, and easily one of the most uncomfortable buses I’ve ridden on in any excursion we’ve done in a long time, and this alone would keep me from booking this tour again, as my knees were killing me by the time we got back to the ship.
Our driver, Mailman, was great. He gave us a very thorough history of the island, a ton of info on our stops, and had a pretty good sense of humor, as well. We made a few scenic stops along the way, including at an observation point, and a stop to see some iguanas.
After those short picture stops, we headed for the first of our two main destinations, Orient Bay Beach. Our driver led us in to one of the beach clubs, we paid a $10/2 beach chairs and an umbrella fee, and hit the water. I have to say, the water was absolutely beautiful, and the perfect temperature. We also decided, against his initial advice, to eat while we were there. He’d mentioned that being as touristy as it is, that the food prices would be really high, and we’d be better off waiting until we got to the French capital. We ignored that and hit a local restaurant, Yellow Sub, and ordered a pepperoni pizza, some sort of warm tomato/mozzarella breaded thing for Jen, a huge bottle of water, and a couple of sodas. All total, $23US, which for the size of the pizza (typical medium sized one) seemed like a pretty good deal considering the area. The pizza was really good, too!
After an hour and a half at the beach, we hopped on the bus and headed for the French capital of Marigot. Upon arrival, we immediately headed for a local French bakery, Sarafina’s, where I had the best Napoleon I’ve ever had. Very, delicious!
After walking around the area a while and doing a little shopping, we hopped the bus for the highlight of the tour, Maho Airport Beach. You know, the airport where planes come in right above the beach, and people post videos of themselves being blown around by the blast of departing jets? Yea, that beach. I’ve always wanted to go here, and even though the one AA jet scheduled to land while we were there never showed, we were there for two or three jets departing. I’ll just let my posts speak for themselves on this one J
Following the beach stop, we started to head back to port. We did make one more stop to get some amazing shots of the ships in port, and by “ships”, I mean ours, as the Divina was almost completely blocking the Valor. Sorry Valor peeps, but the few of us on this tour from the Divina got great shots J
All in all, a fun day. Like I said, other than having a great driver, I really wasn’t enamored with Bernard’s Tours, and really despised the bus ride (my knees are still killing me this morning). It didn’t help that after being crammed in the bus for a while, getting off of it at each stop was slowed down by people standing in the way sorting through the cooler near the exit door to find drinks. Just bad placement of that cooler, as most of us back there were just ready to be off the bus.
Regardless, we all loved the island and look forward to stopping there some time in the future!