Our cruise next took us to the captivating country of Sint Maarten, a unique destination that shares an island with another country. Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Netherlands, occupies the Dutch half of the island, while Saint Martin represents the French half. The island’s multicultural character, with over one hundred nationalities living together harmoniously, fascinated me. Having to visit yet another country, I hired a driver and headed over to the Dutch side of the island to check out the country of Saint Martin, while our ship was docked in the country of Sint Maarten. Both are part of the British Virgin Islands.
I spent most of my time at Maho Beach, on the southern end of the Dutch side of the island and world renowned for its crazy airport just next to the small beach. The only thing separating the very active runway from the public beach is a small two-lane road.
It was an exhilarating experience to witness the jet engines kicking wind and sand as brave souls dared to not get blown away. In the past, people would hang on to the fence and their feet would lift off the ground as they hung on! Injuries and death disallowed this practice now punishable by huge fines so instead everyone braces for the engine blasts from the small beach.
I spent the day at the Sunset Grill and watched planes taking off and landing as I perused the online flight schedule to identify when large planes would be approaching, marveling at the low-flying airplanes overhead and enjoying the thrill of their powerful engine blasts.
Our cruise then docked at Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, where I indulged in the best conch fritters, I had ever tasted. This culinary delight added to the vibrant tapestry of experiences that the Caribbean offered. Each island had its own unique flavors and specialties, and Tortola’s delectable treat left a lasting impression.
Our final port of call was Nassau in the Bahamas, a destination I had visited before. This time, I embarked on a long hike through the city, discovering the historic Fort Fincastle complex, and journeying down the “66 steps” hewn out of solid limestone rock by slaves in the late 1700’s, and now called the Queens Staircase in honor of Queen Victoria, who abolished slavery upon her ascension to the throne in 1837. It was a powerful reminder of history and the resilience of those who came before us.
The cruise was first class, and a true blast! Onboard activities included a hilarious “silent disco” dance party, where participants donned headphones and danced to their preferred DJ’s music channel. The sight of people grooving to different tunes simultaneously was both entertaining and infectious. I tried my luck at the onboard casino and had a grand time with new friends.
As the cruise drew to a close, it was time to bid farewell to the captivating Caribbean islands. The journey had been a perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and cultural exploration. With memories of breathtaking landscapes, new countries, delectable cuisines, and unforgettable experiences tucked away, I disembarked from the ship, grateful for the enriching moments that would stay with me forever.
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