The Giddy Mystery Cruise – Day Seven: St. Maartin, Nearly Run Over by an Air France 747

It’s an early wakeup call today, we’ve pre-booked an excursion to take us around the Island with Bernard’s Tours. He came very highly recommended online. We’re scheduled to meet up with him right at the port (certainly, the Philipsburg Port, on the Dutch side of St. Maartin is by far the nicest and largest in the Caribbean.) at 9am sharp. We are there with a few minutes to spare as are about 10 other people who’ve booked the same tour. Turns out that 3 drunks from Scotland also booked the tour but are late showing up, so the assistant tour guide takes us on the bus and into town to visit a souvenir shop while Bernard waits out the sloppy Scots.
We buy floppy hats, and ugly shirts, a couple of other small items and spend about twenty bucks. If we bought the same items in New York it probably would have been over a hundred dollars. Not that we’re often found to be buying floppy hats and ugly shirts in New York, but you get my point.After about a half an hour Bernard shows up with the late arrivals and we head towards the French side of the Island, stopping only briefly at a roadside parking area on a small beach, we’re a man is showing everyone sea urchins and sand dollars, as well as some slug like creature in a shell. All of the varmints are pointy and squishy – but we tip him a few dollars anyway for the opportunity to hold these relatively disgusting things. We then grabbed a Carib, got back on the bus.Shortly after we crossed over to the French side of the Island we went to Orient Beach. Of course, that is one of the many “clothing optional” beaches on the Island. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit one of these beaches, trust me, you’re not missing a thing. Wanna know what it’s like? Ok, picture this…your grandparents, at the beach…with you…and they’re naked. Interesting though to see if any of those grandmas are actually going to trip on those things.It’s a really windy day at the beach. Our lounge chairs are under an umbrella…the wind was so strong, that after only a few minutes, it was taken up and blown down the beach. The attendant came and dug an even deeper hole and stuck it in again. Typically, this would be a foreshadowing of horrifying things to come. Sadly, it was. Not five minutes after the pole umbrella was re-set, the wind picked it up again, this time slamming a female beachgoer right in the face.

Surely she was startled, but the wails of anguish and woe which emitted from her were enough to chill your spine on this hot day. Junior Miss and I got up and ran around to see if she would live, while several other beachgoers and attendants also rushed over to her. We expected to see gushing blood and brain matter judging from the pain in her yelp. But as she slowly lifted her face from her hands, there wasn’t so much as a mark. She was fine physically, although probably scarred mentally into a lifelong fear of yellow beach umbrellas.

I was happy none of the fat naked French people came over to help, that would have been awkward in a close setting. After things calmed down, we only but up with the hurricane-like breezes for a short while before we went looking for the bus.

Our next brief stop led us to the Marigold – a busy shopping area. Having only a half an hour, yet hungry from all the excitement at Orient Beach, we ran off the bus and into the first Creole restaurant we could find. We tipped the waitress a months salary up front if she could guarantee a couple of cold beers, some curried goat and catfish, jerk chicken and a slab of peppered ribs in and out faster than your average Dominos Pizza delivery. Lunch proved to be timely and delicious!

After that we left the French side of the Island and headed back to the Dutch side, where prostitution, gambling, drugs, drinking and driving, free ice cream and free booze Thursdays are all legal! Best part about the Dutch Side….Maho Bay! Sometimes called “Airplane Beach” it’s at the edge of a runway for the St. Maarten International Airport. There’s a huge bar and patio restaurant, and huge resort hotels on the other. Basically, you hang out on the beach and airplanes come into land no more than 30 or 40 feet above your head. And not just the tiny planes and Island hoppers…but Jumbo Jets – 747’s – and the like, landing 40 feet over your head. That’s not even the freakiest part, it’s looking out over the ocean and all of a sudden a plane comes into few and just keeps coming closer, and closer until it passes just over you. Seriously fucked up.

We arrive in time for the 2:40PM Air France 747 B200– and it passes right over us, so close you could smell the bottles of Absinthe and extra cologne from the checked bags in the luggage hold.

What you don’t expect, even though the sign warned you, was just how much getting caught in a sweeping sandstorm hurts when you’re in your swim trucks. Shortly after the 747 landing, a Corsair 727 lines up to take off. Even standing at an angle – you can see how we got nailed.

Sand was embedded everywhere you can imagine. But it was great fun. A Continental 737 takes off a few minutes later, we stand further back this time to avoid the painful sand blast.

Then it’s back to the Port area. It was a nice day, but if you’ve ever been a part of a group tour, you know there’s always a few who make themselves annoying by acting like schmucks. This trip was no different. For the entire time we spent on the bus, there were two asshole guys in front of us who had to make a comment (most of the time a very un-funny lame attempt at humor) or talk to each other while the tour guide is pointing something out. They were the embodiment of the fat ugly Americans we’ve come to despise. Plus, they were fat and ugly. Then, in the front of the bus where the coolers were holding the cold beer and rum punch were the three late Scots. They had definitely stepped right off the boat to get on the ship (I don’t think they were on the Solstice). Couldn’t understand a word they said – sort of like Groundskeeper Willy with gravel in his mouth. Worst part about them being up front – they had a vise grip on the coolers and kept opening themselves up beer and rum punch, pounding and not sharing a drop. They were totally obliterated when we got back to the port. Not that we wouldn’t have been had we had control of the booze cooler, but we would have shared ya see.

Overall, we were very happy with Bernard’s Tours – we did what we wanted to on the Island, and for less money than we would have spent booking the excursion through the ship. This was the case on all of the Island’s we visited, it’s definitely better to do your research ahead of time, and plan on using cabs or those local buses you can book online before you arrive. Booking an excursion through the ship is always at least twice the cost.

Getting back on the ship with a late dinner reservation gave us all plenty of time to jump into the pool and hot tubs to try and get some of the sand off. Even in a heavy whirlpool, you quickly learned that we were going to be coming across sand grains for weeks to come.

Dinner began with our nightly visit to see Jose in the Emerald Lounge, by now he knows our drinks, snack choice, shoe sizes and tonight he offered some very helpful hints in cutting back on our Alternative Minimum Tax exposure. Tonight though, we cheated on Blu for the final time, heading into the Italian Specialty Restaurant – Tuscan Grill. It’s actually an Italian Steakhouse, which you don’t see too much of in New York, what with the sharp knives and all. We felt again a little like we were cheating on our friends at Blu as the wine steward and the Maitre De had to pass through the Tuscan Grill during our meal. They stopped and said hello, but we sensed a certain measure of disappointment behind their smiles. Are we really that good of a tipper?

After dinner we caught the late show of a New Age musician David Meyer, an apparent world wide sensation on the Xylo-Synth. He was actually really talented. This night however did not end in the dance club, as we were all a little tired from the early rise to meet Bernard. Junior Miss was beginning to grow a little bored with our tired old asses and wanted to wander around the ship some more trying to take funny videos, Chrissy and I retired just after midnight to enjoy the chocolates they leave for you when the stateroom attendant turns down your bed.

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