R217 Caribbean on Aurora – Day 11 – Port 2 – Tuesday 22 November 2022 – St Martin

Please pay attention to the following messages. We have seven ports in seven days coming now. I will try to keep on top of the posts, but if I fail, please forgive me. Back to back ports were a killer when I was young. I am now getting old and it doesn’t get easier, funnily enough.

Greetings from Sint Maarten, also known as Saint Martin – depending on whether you are in the Dutch bit or the French bit.

PSA: Despite the respective European overlords of both parts of the island, the currency here is the US dollar.

We stayed on the Dutch side this time. We’ve visited both sides on previous visits, but we didn’t feel up to much today. Having spent the previous two days in bed with an ear infection, I wasn’t keen on going too far, although, as it turned out, I was fine.

We remembered from last time the helpful man who runs a golf buggy service from the gangplanks to the shore – over a quarter of a mile. We reckon that the entire pier is probably the best part of a mile long these days – they keep extending it for bigger and bigger ships.  He isn’t allowed to make a charge, but is allowed to accept tips… 😉 He was there, right on time, and took us to the land with his usual cheery smile. We took a taxi from the new concrete taxi rank area. It was here last time, but we managed to disembark at precisely the same time as Everyone Else Visiting The Island That Day. That was fun. Today, despite four ships being in at the same time, it was deserted and we had our choice of vehicles. The lack of competition for taxis may have been due to the fact that we did not disembark until about half one.  I knew that early starts were a bad idea – now I have proof! What with needing to eat something by way of a breakfast, we first went up to Horizon and had a fruit brunch. Which turned out to be a very smart move because we didn’t see any food until we got back on board over two hours later.

The taxi took us to Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side, about 10 minutes from the cruise terminal, which has not changed since our last visit however many years ago. There are two main streets, named, for the forgetful, Front Street and Back Street. Between Front Street and the beach is The Boardwalk, which is tarmac, not wood. It’s a pleasant little strip of cafes and bars, if you can get past the women handing out flyers for jewellery stores.  I’m not sure what the deal is with buying jewellery in the USA, but everyone in the Caribbean is utterly convinced that all cruise ship passengers want to do is purchase thousands and thousands of dollars of precious stones. We have learned to say that we are British, not American, and that we are not here to refill the vaults of Hatton Garden single-handed. Everyone is very lovely, even when they’re nagging you, so it’s not as uncomfortable as it could be to keep saying no. And they now try to entice you in with offers of air con and wifi! Which, when it is 30 degrees in the shade (add 5-8 more for direct sunlight) and the humidity is so high you can barely tell when it actually starts raining, is very inviting indeed!

We wandered down the Boardwalk and sat in a café to drink two Diet Cokes which, together, came to less than the cost of one on board ship. Our dinner table mates, Maureen and Geoff, passed by and joined us for a drink. It was nice to just chill out and people watch, whilst listening to the ‘entertainer’ next door murdering reggae classics to the backing of a steel band recording. Well, the steel band bit was nice. His singing did not assist in our enjoyment much.

We went to find a taxi to take us to find some gluten free lunch. I accidentally sent us to the place we went last time! The Divi Little Bay Resort. We only realised we had been there before when we pulled up outside. We went to the same restaurant we had visited last time, with Mum and Mario and Josephine in tow, now called Gizmo’s Grill. Sadly, whereas on our previous visit, we had been able to have a meal, this time did not go as well. When I asked for gluten free options, the lady serving had no idea what I was talking about. She went and got her manager, who said that they didn’t offer it “any more”. We both expressed our dismay at this, shrugged, went back to the taxi rank and left.

We then tried a restaurant that Maureen’s friend (who used to live here) had recommended as catering for gluten free and other diets. They didn’t offer gluten free either. The blank stares I got seemed out of place for an Asian fusion restaurant (!), but if they didn’t separate things to prevent cross-contamination, I wasn’t in the mood to risk it. So that was 20 dollars in wasted cab fares, and we still hadn’t eaten!

In the end, we agreed to admit defeat and go back to the ship to eat.  We sat under some very loud speakers playing Ed Sheeran and Whitney Houston songs in the sunshine until the water taxi came to take us back to the ship. At which point, the heavens opened.

Now, this is the tropics – rainforest country and all that – so it wasn’t a surprise to get rained upon. It doesn’t matter – you’ll be dry again within a few minutes. What did surprise us was that rain so fine we mistook it for mist could leave us so soaked that we had to change our clothes before going to lunch. We were drenched. My look this evening can best be summed up as Drowned Rat. Being rained upon in this heat is actually very refreshing, although when you step into a puddle while wearing sandals, and it’s WARM, that is a very strange sensation indeed. 

After eating something light, that didn’t require the energy to chew (Russian salad for the fact fans), I went for a siesta – I was shattered. I think Dad was planning to stay awake and do stuff, but when I woke up at 6.40 pm, he was spark out on his bed, too. So we were rather late for dinner (which starts at 6.30) but we weren’t up to eating much anyway, so it didn’t take us long to catch up with Maureen and Geoff. Tomorrow is Antigua.  No rest for the wicked.

Tl;dr: The Divi Little Bay is NOT gluten free any more.  The Green House at Bobby’s Marina may be gluten free or not – they don’t know – so probably best not to risk it.

P.S. As regards the Spot the Difference game we’ve been playing on board, I can now add that there appear to be no pencil sharpeners on Aurora, so if you go to Reception, they just give you a new pencil! Also, there is now a lady with a trolley who brings teas and coffees to your lunch table, which is new. The game has been expanded to require guesses as to whether the arrival or departure of an item or service is due to environmental concerns, Covid or Other Excuse (unspecified). It’s quite an entertaining game. Feel free to play along at home.


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