St. Maarten

This is the second of our four stops during our transatlantic crossing. Our island visits were short and offered only brief glimpses of each place, so our observations are limited.
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Our first port stop on the Caribbean side of the Atlantic was St. Maarten- an island that is half French, and half Dutch. The curious division of such a small place makes for an alluring mix of food, architecture, and lifestyle.

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The cruise terminal felt like Disneyland- fake and populated with overpriced tourist shops. We hopped on a bus and got out of there as fast as we could. Our destination: Orient Beach, on the French side of the island. The drive took about 45 minutes, and we were surprised to see how little development was around. St. Maarten appears to be a place with untouched pockets, and for that we think it would be worth a longer stay sometime in the future.

Orient beach is a 2 mile stretch of sandy bliss along the eastern side of the island. It has the distinct Caribbean feel we were hoping for, and beautiful blue water at the perfect temperature for swimming. Walk to the northern part of the beach and most beach stands will accept only the euro. The southern end generally accepts only the dollar. The few restaurants in the middle advertise ‘$1=€1′, which we found endlessly entertaining.

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Our plan was to visit two different beaches, but apparently St. Maarten has a bad traffic problem that prevents too much hopping around the island. Instead, we headed back towards the port. We spent the afternoon wandering around the downtown area- about 15 minutes walk from the cruise ship. It was a giant change from the vibe of Orient Beach, but worthwhile to lose a few hours prior to reboarding.

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St. Maarten was the most tourist-driven island we visited on our cruise, but despite this we had a really nice time there. There is a lot to see, and it’s worth a trip back there to spend more time– it’s been added to our list of places we’d like to return to.

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