I felt terrible again Thursday morning, because of the seasickness. The Sea Bands were helping me sleep, but they had no effect on the head-spinning exhaustion during the day. I ate a very small breakfast of gruel, and we stopped at Cafe al Bacio for cappuccinos before getting off the ship.
There were six ships in port that day, something we didn’t even think possible. They were the Holland America Eurodam, which we’d sailed on in the Mediterranean (it was pretty exciting to see it again), a second Celebrity ship, Princess, MSC, and one of those gigantic Royal Caribbean ships. Which meant at least 12,000 tourists were wandering around the island that day. That’s kind of incredible.
We walked through the port shops to the taxi stand, which was of course a gigantic mess. We found the line for cabs to Maho Beach, and waited there for 20 minutes or so because a van showed up for us. We piled in, and it started raining almost immediately. The driver tore up and down hills and through towns on the way there, and it was all I could do to not throw up all over the place. I was glad I had a gigantic bottle of water along with me.
The driver dropped a group of people at Mullet Bay first, which was at the end of a potholed road through a golf course. Then he headed back to Maho Beach and dropped the rest of us at Sunset Bar and Grill. As expected, there were people everywhere, and I doubted we’d find anywhere to sit. However, the place is gigantic, so we were able to get sets right at the bar. We ordered a couple rum and Cokes, and went to check the flight arrivals on their board.
I had learned of Maho Beach after our first visit to St Maarten, and I was really excited to go back and see it. I remember seeing the first photos of it and thinking they had to be photoshopped, because that couldn’t possibly be real. But no, there’s a tiny beach at the end of the airport runway that regularly has huge jets landing. The largest ones are those coming from Europe, obviously.
There’s a road separating the beach from the airport fence, with constant taxi traffic and people walking back and forth (especially on such a busy tourist day). There’s the Sunset Bar at one end and the Driftwood Boat Bar at the other, and the beach is packed with people swimming and watching for planes. When they’re arriving, everyone lines up with their cameras, and when they’re leaving, the brave (or stupid) people cross the street and cling to the fence. When the planes fire up their engines for takeoff, they get blown across the street and down the beach. Then everyone has to scramble into the ocean to retrieve whatever items got blown in there by the jet blast.
So I’d read all of that, and thought it was hilarious, and that I had to see it. I didn’t realize just how incredibly great it would be.
While the bigger jets didn’t come in til afternoon, there were small planes landing constantly.
We had another drink, then decided to get an appetizer. Our plan was to hang out there for a while and then walk over to have lunch at the resort across the beach, so we figured we’d do that a bit later. There were planes to see, after all.
It rained really hard a few times, and everyone came in to huddle in the bar. We were under the shelter (which made our sunburns happy), so we were already in a good spot. We ate and sat around watching for incoming planes. It was easy to figure out when they were coming despite the umbrellas in the way, because everyone would get out their cameras.
Around 1pm, the big jets started to come in. Delta was first, and it BLEW MY MIND. It was fantastic, and everyone cheered as it landed.
The sun came out, and it was gorgeous outside. We had another round of drinks and waited for the Sun Country plane.
The Delta plane turned around at the gate pretty quickly, and went back to the runway to take off. People clung to the fence for their lives, and a lot of them ran across the street propelled by the jet blast. (It gave me fond memories of being blown out the doors at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. RIP.) Other people lost their hats in the ocean and had to run after them. I was laughing hysterically. It was the best.
Then an American flight came in, and I got video of it. I’ve only watched this twenty times already.
There was a while until the AirFrance jet arrived, and at that point we knew we had to see it. We decided we might as well just commit to spending the day there, and ordered lunch. I was glad they had a veggie burger on the menu. (It was really good, too!) A band set up on stage and started playing reggae, so it was basically my favorite place ever. Beach, rum, good food, and reggae… that’s all you need, right? That goofy Captain Morgan statue didn’t hurt, either.
Then it was time for the big plane. We could tell it was coming in because there was a mass rush to the edge of the patio. I’d never been so excited for a plane to land… at least, a plane I wasn’t on at the time.
It was awesome.
Then it was time to head back to Philipsburg, because we wanted to do some shopping and hopefully revisit Juggie’s Place. We found a cab driver wandering around the bar, and he gathered up a few more passengers before leading us to his van. Along the way, he kept trying to poach fares from other drivers. It was really entertaining, but the other drivers weren’t thrilled about it.
He dropped us in the center of town, and we set off to wander (after reapplying a heavy coat of sunscreen). The only directions I had for Juggie’s Place read “by Diamonds International”, which seemed like enough until I noticed they had Diamonds International on every third block. We knew it was in a courtyard off an alley and figured we’d recognize it, so we walked down Front Street peering down every side street along the way.
We didn’t find it going one direction, so we turned and went back the other way. Still nothing, and I was getting really worn out. (Stupid seasickness.) We decided to stop into a duty-free liquor store to see what we could find there.
They had a massive collection of scotch, and there were a few rums we’d never even seen before. We sampled and picked up a bottle of HSE rum aged in sherry casks from Martinique there, and they wrapped it up for us to take back. We then decided to just go find a place to sit at along the boardwalk, since we couldn’t find Juggies.
Our ship was the last to leave that evening; we had a departure of 6pm, whereas most of the rest of them were 4:30 or 5. That meant the town was fairly empty at that point, and it was interesting to watch the locals closing things up. I remember what it was like being in Bermuda after the cruise ships left… it felt like a ghost town for a bit until local life resumed.
We got mojitos at the Blue Bitch Bar, and sat facing the ocean. The bartender was really entertaining. We hung out there watching people pass by, and then the rain started up again and everyone scrambled. (The bartender had a good point… why do people come running out of the ocean and try to hide when it rains? That’s the best place to be, isn’t it?)
Finally it was time to go, so we walked over to the water taxi stop and rode to the cruise port to board the ship. A few of the other ships had already left at that point.
We stopped at the martini bar for the drink, then went up to the room for sailaway on the balcony, followed by a shower. On the way out of port, we could see the end of the runway and the beach where we’d spent the day.
Later, we went up to Marlon’s for a caipirinha, then went to get dinner at the buffet. I had my usual salad bar and Indian food, because they didn’t have a lot of variety. (I was fine with that.) We then got seats at Rendevous to watch the Latin band. They were fantastic, as were the dancers – we had a few really good salsa dancers on board, apparently. That was followed by karaoke, which we were pretty excited to see until we realized just how godawful some of the singers were. It was so bad it wasn’t even funny, so we decided to move on.
Around 9:30, we headed to Michael’s Club again. There were a ton of Canadians at the bar (as usual), and we saw our Pittsburgh friends hanging out on the deck smoking. We hung out talking to them, and ordered beers. The bartenders seemed to be in an especially good mood that night, handing out snacks and a bunch of Chimay samples.
Round about 11:30, it was time for bed. We had to be up early for St Thomas the next day!