Our second port stop takes us to St. Maarten, but we will get to that later. We were not scheduled to dock in St. Maarten until noon, so we had a half sea day to start out.
I slept in a bit and then headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast with the group at my favorite hidden gem, the outdoor dining deck at the aft.
The outdoor dining area at the back of the Windjammer is easily overlooked, so we decided to head there for a beautiful morning view with our breakfast.
Soon enough we began docking in St. Maarten and came alongside Freedom of the Seas right on time.
Our plans for today were to travel around St. Maarten and visit a few of our favorite spots.
We started out with a quick trip to Maho Beach to see the planes land. This is a famous spot where airplanes land very close to the beach below. Unfortunately it was incredibly hot and we managed to time it during a lull in the schedule, so we missed the big planes. Plus, it down poured on us to top things off. Oh well, onto the next stop!
We were going to go to Grand Case beach, but opted to go to Mullet Bay instead since they had umbrellas and chairs for rent.
This was my first time here, and the water was beautiful. Very rocky in some spots, but we found areas to enjoy a swim. The current was also very strong, so we had to keep a closer eye on the kids.
The beach was nice, although there was a significant drop off in the beach from where the chairs were located to the water. Nonetheless, we had a great time. The cost of two chairs and an umbrella was $10.
After our swim, we piled back into the van for a ride to the capital of the French side, Marigot.
We wanted to make a quick stop at a French bakery and our driver recommended a good one. They had bread, pastries, chocolate and of course, beer.
We decided to head back to the ship to shower and relax before dinner. Another fun day in St. Maarten was in the books.
We showered and changed to get ready for dinner and headed back to the main dining room for dinner.
The dining room wait staff outdid themselves with the assortment of Mediterranean small plates. It was like our own little specialty restaurant!
After dinner, many of us in the group enjoyed drinks in Vintages, followed by a few good songs in the pub.
Royal Caribbean announced today the cruise line will return to two major cruise ports largely impacted by hurricanes earlier this year.
Royal Caribbean will return to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Philipsburg, St. Maarten, which will be a, "major milestone towards the revival of these Caribbean gems which were impacted by recent hurricanes."
On November 30, Freedom of the Seas will be the first ship in the fleet to call on San Juan, Puerto Rico
"Royal Caribbean is encouraged by the commendable progress that has been made by the governments of Puerto Rico and St. Maarten towards the recovery of these destinations and it means a lot to us that we are heading back home. We have been part of the Caribbean community for almost 50 years, and for all of us it has been paramount that we focus on supporting our long-standing partners – who feel more like family after so many years," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. "Supporting these destinations that are so reliant on tourism is key to the future of the islands and the best thing we – as travelers and businesses – can do for the islands."
Royal Caribbean has been working closely with the governments of Puerto Rico and St. Maarten, and local businesses, and plans to offer destination experiences that will allow guests to enjoy the natural beauty, historic landmarks and culture of these idyllic islands. Power and transportation is on track to be readily available in San Juan by November 30.
Similarly, the return of power and water to most of St. Maarten means that a majority of the shops, restaurants and bars, and tour operators around Philipsburg will be fully operational for guests to experience a diverse and extensive array of dining, shopping and activities in the area. The sun and vistas of the region’s best beaches, Great Bay Beach and Kimshaw Beach, will be a beacon for guests wanting to dive into the turquoise blue waters and admire the sea life, whether by boat or catamaran, or from the relaxing comfort of a beach lounger.
The scheduled visits to St. Maarten will operate as planned starting on Dec. 17 with the exception of Oasis of the Seas, which will make its first call to the island on January 1 during her New Year’s Eve cruise. Additionally, the global cruise line will return to St. Croix on January 8 with the arrival of Jewel of the Seas, which will sail from San Juan. All calls to Dominica are cancelled through June 2018 and the cruise line is working closely with the local government on a return date to the destination.
A delegation from Royal Caribbean recently met with Port St. Maarten Board, Management and Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher, to discuss the recover efforts that underway.
The Royal Caribbean delegation discussed the state of various infrastructure on the island with the Port St. Maarten Management and Board. They also got an update on the Great Bay Beach Promenade, the commercial center of Philipsburg, Front Street and other areas of interest from a tourism perspective.
Royal Caribbean carried out a site visit as part of their destination readiness assessment to accept cruise passengers, and the availability by early November of tours, shore excursions, shopping, beaches, and other cruise tourism related amenities.
Following the visit, Royal Caribbean praised the Port St. Maarten Board, Management and Government with respect to the diligence carried out by the aforementioned to get the country ‘cruise ready’ for November in order to bring in much needed foreign exchange into the economy that would kick-start the economic engine of the country – (cruise) tourism.
Royal Caribbean announced more changes to its scheduled itineraries due to Hurricane Irma.
Adventure of the Seas will depart as planned on Saturday, September 9, but will skip a port stop in St. Maarten due to the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Instead, the ship will replace this port with an overnight in Aruba.
The Enchantment of the Seas sailing scheduled for September 11th has been delayed and will now depart on Tuesday, September 12th and will sail a 3-night itinerary to the Bahamas. Given the unpredictability of Irma, Royal Caribbean will advise if there are any changes to the itinerary as soon as they know. Guests opting to sail on Enchantment will receive a refund of 25% of your cruise fare paid in the form of a refundable onboard credit.
Guests who are unable to travel and need to cancel their cruise can receive a 100% future cruise credit. Pre-booked shore excursions will be refunded to your original form of payment.
Royal Caribbean is still monitoring these sailings, and will provide an update at 6pm EDT:
Anthem of the Seas: September 9 Bermuda cruise
Majesty of the Seas (charter cruise): September 11 Bahamas cruise
Hurricane Irma is a category 5 storm with sustained winds of 180 mph. Irma passed just north of San Juan, Puerto Rico and is currently located just north of the Dominican moving west at 17 mph. The current forecasts suggest that Hurricane Irma is tracking towards southeast Florida and should arrive Sunday morning, and then proceed to Port Canaveral Monday morning. The storm should exit the Florida area late Monday, pre-dawn Tuesday.
The following sailings are departing as scheduled:
Grandeur of the Seas: September 7 New England/Canada cruise
Liberty of the Seas: September 10 Western Caribbean cruise
Serenade of the Seas: September 10 New England/Canada cruise
Vision of the Seas: September 7 New England/Canada cruise
The following sailings are canceled:
Empress of the Seas: September 9 Cuba cruise
Enchantment of the Seas: September 8 Bahamas cruise
Majesty of the Seas: September 8 Bahamas cruise
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call 1-800-256-6649.
Many Royal Caribbean cruises that visit the Eastern Caribbean will make a stop in St. Maarten, an island split between The Netherlands and France. St. Maarten is known for its beautiful beaches, and exquisite examples of Dutch and French culture.
Royal Caribbean cruise ships dock on the Dutch side of the island, right outside of the Dutch capital of Philipsburg. Visitors to St. Maarten will find a good mix of aquatic activities, shopping, dining and more. Here are some popular options for what to do on your day in St. Maarten.
Shopping in Marigot
The French capital of Saint-Martin is Marigot, and walking its streets evokes a sense of being in a small French village, rather than an island in the Caribbean.
Marigot is full of wonderful shopping and dining choices, along with easy access to the the water. A visit to Marigot is a great choice for guests looking to do a bit of shopping, or enjoy French food while in town. You can wander the streets of central Marigot, and discover old Creole houses, restored in the traditional Saint Martinoise style and often housing luxury boutiques.
Marigot is also well known for its duty-free shopping, with a focus on luxury and French fashion.
Getting to Marigot requires a short taxi ride.
Airplanes at Maho Beach
It is likely you have seen at some point a video of an airplane landing near Maho Beach, without knowing it is located in St. Maarten.
Maho Beach is a small beach on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island, located adjacent to Princess Juliana International Airport. Maho Beach is unusually close to the threshold of a runway, and is directly under the flight path, resulting in aircraft on their final approach flying over the beach at altitudes of less than 100 feet above ground level.
The beach itself is white sand and has little to no vegetation because of jet blast erosion. The reason to visit Maho Beach is to see planes landing, and experience the thrill of seeing them in person. The Sunset Bar and Grill is located at the beach, which offers refreshments between landings.
Orient Bay beach, situated in the north-eastern part of the island, is one of the island’s largest and most popular beaches. The beach offers a full range of tourist amenities, including beach restaurants, hotels, shops and water sports.
Orient Bay is widely regarded to be among the best beaches in the Caribbean, and is the perfect setting for a day at the beach. Orient Beach is the most developed, the most popular and the busiest beach on the island and is reputed as much for its natural beauty and setting as it is for being the island´s foremost swimsuit optional beach.
Orient Bay is the only beach on St. Martin with a large number of beach bars and restaurants directly located on the beach.
If you want to experience the French side of St. Martin with a bit more authenticity, head over the Grand-Case. The village of Grand Case has retained all its authenticity, particularly in its housing.
Grand-Case is well known for its exquisite dining and has the perfect mix of attractions in and around its center. Grand-Case has all the flavors of French 'haute cuisine' and 'savoir vivre'.
Nearby, visitors can check out the beach that offers several beach bars, restaurants, and small hotels. Frugal travelers, will appreciate the beach side market square with the 'lolos', serving grilled lobster, barbecue food, and local treats.
The capital of St. Maarten is Phillipsburg, which was settled by the Dutch in 1631 for the Great Salt Pond located nearby. Jewelry and souvenir stalls line the main street. A promenade has been developed along the waterfront and is lined with a vast range of restaurants and bars.
Like Marigot, Philipsburg offers duty-free shopping to visitors at the many shops that line the two main streets downtown: Front Street and Back Street. Shoppers will find jewelry, perfumes, appliances, clothing and more for sale throughout the town.
There are also a number of cultural hot spots to check out, including the St. Maarten Museum, Courthouse and Sint Maarten National Heritage Foundation.
Since there is so much to see in St. Maarten, a lot of times a tour of the island makes a lot of sense. Taking a tour of St. Maarten allows you to get a "taste" of the highlights and maybe set yourself up for something on a future visit.
There are a lot of tours you can take, either on your own, with a private driver or through a group tour. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and one of the big factors will be cost. Group tours will be the least expensive options, but you will be at the mercy of the pace of the group. Conversely, a private tour will allow you to do what you want, when you want, but with the caveat that you will pay more for it.
Island tours are very popular shore excursions and available through third parties or with Royal Caribbean. Taxis are readily available at the port area, as well as around Philipsburg and most popular tourist areas.
Have you tried any of the places we outlined? Do you have a recommendation for something to do in St. Maarten? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!
Royal Caribbean cruises that stop in the island paradise of St. Maarten/St. Martin will often find guests heading over to the French side of the island to enjoy the many terrific activities, and certainly French cuisine has to be at the top of that list.
Those that want to enjoy an authentic French cafe experience, will absolutely love a stop at La Sucrière in the French capital of Marigot for the fresh foods, cafe atmosphere and little taste of France in the Caribbean.
Across the street from the ocean are a great many restaurants, including the La Sucrière bakery.
Before you even set foot in this boulangerie, you will have a great view of the harbor in Marigot, with its many yachts and sail boats anchored just off shore.
La Sucrière is set up like an open-air cafe, with plenty of seating underneath a roof that has no walls. Like many French cafes, dining at La Sucrière is as much about enjoying the ambiance and weather around you, as the food itself.
Inside the bakery is a semi-circle shaped large room with plenty of freshly baked good to consider. The area is lined with fresh breads, pastries, sandwiches and beverages.
The staff speak French and English, and nearly everything available was made fresh earlier in the day. In fact, the smells alone as you walk in are worth the visit.
You will find a fairly wide selection of baked good to purchase at La Sucrière. The French bakery advertises itself as a boulangerie and patisserie, which means it is a bakery and pastry shop.
Frankly, there is a lot of great choices and we quickly found ourselves in danger of over-ordering because everything looked so good. You should definitely skip eating on your cruise ship prior to visiting this bakery.
La Sucrière features freshly baked breads, French open-faced sandwiches (known as tartines), quiches, cakes, fruits and more.
If there is one thing missing, it would be cheeses. Some of the sandwiches have cheese with them, but if you want to enjoy bread with your favorite kind of cheese, you should consider stopping elsewhere prior to eating here so you can combine it.
The food can be enjoyed at the cafe or wrapped up for a meal later. Certainly if you are planning on spending time elsewhere on the island, taking some of the amazing food with you is not a bad option.
In terms of the food, it certainly is fresh and sweet. French breads, like baguettes and croissants, are always good choices and the fact they are baked on the premises really makes it taste better.
La Sucrière was a highlight of our stop to Marigot, because of the quality of the food offered here. Part of the appeal of visiting ports of call on a Royal Caribbean cruise is the opportunity to sample the local cuisine, and La Sucrière is a fantastic example of French baking.
The combination of atmosphere, freshly baked goods (the smells!) and views from the cafe seating area made this a great meal. There is some great shopping just steps away, so there are some nice activities to do before or after your meal here.
If you are going to visit the French side of St. Martin/St. Maarten, you ought to stop in at La Sucrière for a bite to eat.
Location: Front de Mer, Marigot 97150, St. Maarten-St. Martin
The hurricanes of 2017 damaged the beach. We do not recommend going here until it is rebuilt.
Picking the right shore excursion for families is always a challenge because depending on the age of your kids, what is appealing to one family might be completely uninteresting to another family. When you have young kids, the choices become even more complicated.
Just over the French side of St. Martin is a small beach that offers the perfect kind of beach day for young children or anyone that enjoys going to the beach without waves.
The appeal of Le Galion beach is a horseshoe shaped beach that has little to no waves, which makes it perfect for kids that cannot swim or are not strong swimmers.
The beach is a short drive from where Royal Caribbean docks its cruise ships and just over the French side of the border. Upon arrival, there is a large cove surrounded by a beach that provides easy access to the water.
There is no cost to access the beach, but there are charges to use the chairs and/or umbrellas (5 Euros for either). The beach is frequented by tourists and locals alike, with locals usually setting up further down the beach where they can just put out a beach blanket.
The chairs and umbrellas are provided by the nearby bar and restaurant, which offers waiter service and has a full bar menu, as well as a good-sized lunch menu.
Over the years, the amenities and offerings at Le Galion beach have been improved and there are diving platforms (complimentary), kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skis and more available for hourly charges.
Le Galion is a quiet family beach that is great for non-swimmers and kids to have a relaxing day. The beach is a shallow lagoon, and adults can walk out many dozens of yards from shore and not have the water go past their waist.
Le Galion also tends not to get as crowded as some other beaches frequented by cruise guests. It is a laid back beach experience that offers just enough for kids to do, without relying on a ton of water toys that can turn the ocean into a virtual playground.
We have brought our children to Le Galion for years because the beach experience is perfect for kids that just want to splash around without fear of getting knocked over by waves or suddenly finding them in deeper water than before.
The cost to use the beach chairs and umbrellas is fair and waiter service that brings drinks and food is pretty good. There is nothing else around, so you are dependent on the beach bar for food and drink, but their prices are fair for the French side of the island and the staff speak English and French fluently.
If you want a quiet, relaxing beach that has little-to-no waves, then Le Galion beach is perfect for you.