Favorite thing: Christmas to me is usually snow covered trees but this past Christmas it was Christmas trees , palm trees and sand. Christmas in the Caribbean was wonderful; warm weather, beautiful beaches and best of all no family to stress us out.
It's interesting to check out other cruise ship in the various harbors where yours arrive. In Sint Maarten we had a full house. As we approached the harbor that morning there were already two other ships there. And then to our right, the mother of all cruise ships, The Allure of the Seas, pulled up and passed ours to get to harbor first.
Maaaan that thing is HUGE. And, for the record, I have no desire to ever sail on a high rise on the sea.
Favorite thing: most ships here dock from 10 a.m until about 2 pm. That's when the streets are most crowded with tourists, especially in the shopping area in Philippsburg. If you plan accordingly, you can actually have a calm walk through the shops and streets, however, the shops do close fairly early, as do most restaurants. So be sure to check times so you aren't walking down a deserted street.
Favorite thing: If you are looking for bargains, the Dutch side of the island is the place to go. The French side is beautiful but shopping is expensive. We have been here many times on different cruises. One time, no one knew (until we arrived) but it was St. Maarten Day, so no stores (not even 1) was open. Most people just got back on the ship but we followed the sound of the drums from the local parade and were treated to a glimpse of the local culture.
Favorite thing: Restaurants in Grand Case and everywhere else of the French side are NOT doing the 1 dollar = 1 Euro when you pay in cash even though they put it on their websites. May be in some small grocery shops they might still do it (happened to me only once) but overall this deal is no more.
Favorite thing: Cruise ships dock at the Great Bay several days a week. Stores in the Great Bay are only open when the cruise ships are in town, generally from 10-2. You can check the local paper for a schedule of cruise ship arrivals and time your visit to Philipsburg around that. Otherwise you will be disappointed.
Favorite thing: Marigot is a small town on the French side of the island. There is no beach access here. However this is the harbour where daily ferryies to neighboring Anguilla and St. Barts can be found. There is also a considerable amount of dining and boutique choices. It does have somewhat of a European flair to it. It is definitely the most charming of all the beach towns. One thing to note is that with the exception of restaurants, almost all of the shops close down between 1-3 each day and are closed on Sundays.
This doesn't fall under a favorite thing or fond memory but it is general information.
The stray population here is overwhelming. Coincidently an article was published in the local paper while I was on the island citing the Antilles of being the third worst in the world in their treatment and care of animals (Greece was 1st, Bulgaria 2nd, China 4th).
There is a local humane society but they are overwhelmed and rely mostly on donations from foreigners.
All the wonderful immigrants from all over the Caribbean islands. Many come here for economic reasons. They are paid much higher on jobs here than their native islands. Everyone loves to have fun and the weather is warm and sunny 365 days a year-even during hurricane season.
Fondest memory: The food on the French side is delicious as well as the nightlife. The shopping is more trendy and chic. I know, because I spent over $2,000 on unnecessary items and cash advances. The Dutch side has many eateries, a few clubs, and all the casinos. Many of the casinos are walk-in. I'd never known that until I visited SXM. Queen Juliana Airport is on the Dutch side. Departure tax is $30 USD each time you leave the island by airplane 9not fond of this at all).
Paralleling Front Street in Philipsburg, facing South, lies Great Bay Beach. The beach is long of over a mile, and wide. So there is plenty of fine white sand to lie on.
The waters are clear and calm. Great Bay is ok for swimming, but also a favorite place for beach strollers, as you can watch the coming and going of cruise ships in the harbor.
Front Street and the board walk have recently undergone substantial remodeling and reconstruction, which significantly upgrades this attractive spot. The area is close to the cruise ship dock, which makes it a favorite place for short term visitors, too.