No matter what cruise line you happen to be traveling on, there is a good chance that if you are taking a trip to the Eastern Caribbean your itinerary is going to include a stop at either St. Thomas, St. Maarten, or both. During the Caribbean cruising season, these islands can have tens of thousands of people a day arriving and subsequently departing on any number of ships. This particular island has a history that has seen control of the island change hands repeatedly between the Dutch, the French, Spanish and the British between the island’s discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493 up until the early 19th century. As a result of all this, the island is divided between two nations: The north side of the island is a French territory, and is known as Saint-Martin, and the south side is a Dutch territory known as Sint Maarten.
The island boasts a number of well-known beaches, including Orient Beach, which is considered to be one of the best beaches in the Caribbean (and is also noted as being one of the world’s most popular clothing-optional beaches) and Maho Beach, notable for its location directly behind the runway at Princess Juliana Airport. As is the case with many Caribbean islands, there is also plenty of shopping to be found, assuming that what you happen to be shopping for is jewelry and/or liquor. Oh, and there’s also plenty of tourist kitsch to be found, but one thing you notice after having been on a number of islands is that a lot of it is the same stuff on each island, just with an added sticker showing where it came from (other than China, that is.)
Unfortunately, the short visit we paid to St. Maarten didn’t allow enough time to get much beyond the town of Phillipsburg on the Dutch side of the island, but even in this short time there was still plenty to see, and also time to go out for a rather interesting sailing trip. After the jump, more on our visit to St. Maarten.