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Trip Report September 2018 from a newbie

Trip Report from a newbie
This may be long but I am trying to be concise and I tend to be verbose!
September 8, 2018 to September 15, 2018

DAY 1 Saturday
Saturday was a long day. Got to airport at 5:00 A.M., departed at 6:00 A.M. and had a layover in Atlanta until 9:45 P.M. We landed on the island at around 1:45 P.M. Customs was a breeze but there was another flight that had come in earlier and the baggage area was quite congested and HOT. We got our bags and exited outside. There were many people there offering rides/taxis but I had arranged with Kenny’s car rental. His assistant was right there and escorted us across the street to the parking lot where the car was parked. Lesley came over, he explained the car, completed the paperwork and we were on our way in about 15 minutes from exiting the temporary arrival terminal. This was our first time staying on the island other than as cruise ship passengers. As Florida residents we are used to heat and humidity however it felt much hotter on the island than at home. We booked a VRBO condo on the Dutch side in Pelican and drove there arriving around 3:00 P.M. The condo owner met us with the keys. They had snacks and beverages in the fridge for us which was a nice surprise. The location of the condo was right on the water with a great view. We were so tired from our day of travelling and the heat that we just got comfortable, ate some snacks and retired early.

DAY 2 Sunday
We awoke early, and had coffee on the deck overlooking the ocean and then went to Zee Best on Welfare Road. We were seated and the server came out with a basket of croissants and explained that they charge only for the croissants eaten. I ordered the St. Martin omelet which was absolute perfection. My wife ordered eggs, bacon and toast which she loved. We each had a croissant and they were the best we had ever had. Went across the street to the market to get necessities (beer, chips, fireball, oh and milk, bread and eggs too). We then went back to the condo, put away the food and sat on the patio. Just those short trips showed me that the mentality of Island Time doesn’t apply once the car starts. OMG the drivers make up for the laid back experience once they get in their cars. Now don’t get me wrong, I used to live in the metropolitan NYC area and actually drove emergency vehicles in NYC but there seem to be no regard for rules of the road. At dinner time we went to the Buccaneer Beach Bar at Kim Sha and had the best burgers we’ve ever had. My Presidente was ice cold and her frozen strawberry daiquiri was refreshing. Our server, Gina, was so friendly and helpful. She started a conversation with us and when she found out we were there on vacation she thanked us for coming to the island. She was very attentive and such a nice person. After dinner we headed back to the condo and spent time in the Jacuzzi then went to sleep.

DAY 3 Monday
This was our 40th anniversary and we wanted to try the Club Orient beach. We got up early, had breakfast and headed out early to get to the beach. Being first timers at the clothing optional beach I wasn’t sure how my wife was going to react once we got there. Beside the fact of it being our anniversary, it was also a day with no ships in port which I imagined would keep the amount of people down. Previously when we were there we were dropped off from the ship by Pedro’s and walked down the beach toward Mont Vernon passing all of the beach bars and souvenir shops. We got to the beach real early and there was a chain across the entrance by the Perch Lite so we parked in the taxi parking lot. As we thought, there were no taxis coming because there were no ships in port. We gathered our bag and walked down toward the beach where the guys were just finishing up the raking of seaweed and starting to set up the chairs and umbrellas. Looking down the beach, in both directions we saw the devastation. My wife was in shock and said, “It’s all gone”. As we spoke with the guys setting up, he said to just grab a chair and he’d be around later to collect the money. A few minutes later two other couples showed up and grabbed the chairs right next to us. They were conversing with each other as we were settling in. You know the old saying, “When in Rome” so I immediately removed my swimsuit and took a walk into the water. My wife was lying on her chair in her bathing suit as the other couples were getting their stuff settled. My wife removed her top and walked into the water with me. Not bad I thought for our first foray into the clothing optional beach. We stayed in the water a few minutes and the other couples got settled and removed their swimsuits. We walked back to the chairs where my wife removed her bottoms and sat back on the chair. It was the most unusual but gratifying experience we both had ever had. To have the sun and breeze dry us off instead of sitting in a wet suit waiting for it to dry as well as being able to get over out inhibitions of being naked in public was well worth the trip. We struck up a conversation with the other two couples and found out they were just like us, normal people! It’s amazing how everything we have read was true whereby the lack of clothing removes barriers. We had a great day talking with these folks and actually forgot we were all naked. My wife and I went for a nude walk from the Perch Lite to what used to be Papagayo’s as well as going up to the Perch Lite for a round of drinks. Fearing the proverbial sunburn on my fair Irish heritage skin, we left earlier than we wanted to. As we were leaving the beach my wife said to the other couples that we’d probably be back Thursday and hopefully we’d see them again. They replied that they will more than likely be there as they go every day. The total number of people on the entire beach was only about 12-16. We went back to the condo, took showers and realized my skin was burned. Thankfully it wasn’t too painful. Her Italian heritage helped her except for some areas on her chest that had never seen the sun before. Realizing that we brought the wrong type of clothing (not cotton or linen) our plans for a romantic dinner changed from being dressed up to casual attire. We went to Sale & Pepe for our anniversary dinner which was very good. There were only 2 other couples in the entire restaurant, however we tend to eat earlier in the evening. The service was excellent and the food was hot and fresh.

Day 4 Tuesday
We decided to relax and let the sunburn calm down a little. We ate breakfast in the unit and just sat on the deck watching the water and the cruise ships going by. Before we knew it we were getting hungry and realized it was close to dinner time. Where to go? Topper’s was where we decided to go. Again, maybe because it was early, or maybe because it was September, there were very few people there. We were seated and had Heineken beer on draught. MMMM good. We met yet another server. His name was Zaire and he was such an asset to the establishment. He was trying to push the specials, Prime Rib or 1.5 pound lobster, neither of which we were wanting. He wasn’t pushy, just doing his job. We both decided on the brisket sandwich with gravy. O-M-G that was well worth it. I would have licked my plate clean if I didn’t have the manners I was taught. We started talking to Zaire and found out that he lived through Irma. He said that it was a horrible experience and hoped he would never see anything like it again. Prior to Irma, he was dealer at Casino Royale which was destroyed in the storm. His words were very haunting when he said, “In one day I lost my home, my car and my job” but he didn’t let it dampen his spirits. He was so proud of his country and loved telling us where to shop in Philipsburg and then asked us if we’d like to taste some rum. He came back with 5 samples for each of us. I have to admit that the rum was fantastic and we bought the customs limit of 2 liters. After that pleasant dining experience, we went back to our condo and realized how thankful we should be for what we have.

DAY 5 Wednesday
This was a trip to Philipsburg. The drive there was uneventful and the Carrefour on Bush Road looked as if they were still working on it. Thanks to the information from Zaire the night before, we found the parking lot next to the police station. We walked towards Back Street and the street vendors were there. The items they were selling reminded us of the same stuff you can get anywhere such as Cozumel, Grand Cayman etc. My wife was looking for locally made things for souvenirs and these things didn’t strike her fancy. We went into a couple of stores and really don’t like being followed as if we are going to steal something, not to mention every time my wife would take an article of clothing off the rack she would be hounded with questions about buying it. The shopping trip ended early which was a bit disheartening because I know she wanted to spend some time just browsing. Maybe next time we go we’ll try a shopping trip again. On the way back to the condo, we decided to stop again at Buccaneer Beach Bar. As we got to the tables, we saw Gina again and she immediately came over to us. She brought us menus and asked me if I wanted a Presidente and asked my wife if she wanted a strawberry daiquiri. We were only there once before but she remembered what we were drinking. I ordered the Italian sausage, peppers and onion sandwich while my wife had the ribs and wings. Again the food was excellent and the beverages were cold! My wife asked Gina about local artisans for souvenirs. Gina introduced us to a woman who I think was named Heleen(?) who makes jewelry by hand. She was originally from Holland but has lived in Sint Maarten for a while. She makes jewelry with stones imported from Holland and the items are very nice. Unfortunately she had already packed up her items but she informed us that she is there every day from about 8:00 A.M. until about 12:45 P.M. We left the bar a couple of hours later and went back to the condo. It got to be dinner time and we both said the lunch we had was still holding us over so we decided to stay in. Unfortunately the unit we rented didn’t have TV or satellite just a Roku with limited abilities. We decided to check out the Netflix and binge watched a full season of Fuller House. When we got hungry my wife made us some fried egg sandwiches in the condo. Time to retire and see what Isaac was about to bring in the morning. Hopefully we’d be able to get back to Club Orient beach tomorrow.

Day 5 Thursday
The seas were building and crashing right below our patio. The skies were overcast with an occasional sprinkle of rain but nothing too serious. Fearing the weather may get worse; we decided not to chance the trip over to Orient. The ships that were scheduled to come in on both Thursday and Friday were redirected so no ships in port. We went to Buccaneer to see Heleen but she wasn’t there so we decided to go to Zee Best for our second visit. We sat outside and ordered our breakfast. The server that we had on the first morning of our visit arrived and immediately greeted us as if we were old friends. My wife ordered a bagel with everything and I had the almond croissant French toast. The flavors blended so well. We then took a ride around the area and went back to the market for a few more necessities that we were low on (cookies, milk and soda). For dinner we decided to try the Isola Italian restaurant by the Hollywood casino. Again the servers were so friendly and tanked us for coming. We had one of their specialty pizzas called the Hollywood pizza. It comes in the shape of a star and it was not sauce heavy but rather ingredient geared. This was also the first time we tried the sparkling water and was instantly hooked. The servers had time to talk to us and it was very informative. One of the servers also went through the storm at the SBR up on the hill. She explained that the building started coming apart and the manager risked his life to get her and her family down to the building by the beach. She told us that the building they were initially in is gone now, torn up by the hurricane. Again we couldn’t imagine what these people went through. We were very happy to share our money with these people who are so proud of their home. After dinner we went downstairs to the casino and dropped a few dollars into the one arm bandits. Why they call them that anymore is beyond me because all you do is push buttons, they should be called electronic bandits! As we were leaving it started to rain and it wasn’t too severe but it was enough to get the roads wet and hide some of the potholes, oops.

Day 6 Friday
A shower and a bowl of cereal for us in the morning. My wife said she wanted to make a second trip to the Club O beach before we left so we got the beach bag ready. We waited a little while because the skies were still a little overcast but I didn’t want to deny her going back to the beach. I noticed she didn’t put on her suit, just a t-shirt and gym shorts so I asked her if she forgot to put on her suit. Her reply was, “No, I didn’t forget. I don’t plan on wearing anything at the beach”. OK, I guess she enjoyed the first visit, as did I. We stopped by the Buccaneer and Heleen was there. She was so excited to see us because I think she hears people say they’ll be back all the time but never really come back. My wife purchased quite a few souvenirs for friends and family and Heleen was very generous on her pricing. On our way across the island, the skies were still overcast and we ran into a little rain near Marigot. I mentioned that this may be a rainout but since we had nothing else planned we’d just get to the beach and decide. We arrived and the Perch was open so we were able to park right near the bar. We walked up to see if the chairs and/or anything else were set up. When we got to the Perch, we saw the couples that we met on Monday were already there and they welcomed us back. They had said that the weather was going to clear and they were waiting it out. Since no ships were in port because of the storm, attendance was again very low, maybe 20 or less. There were also other folks that we had not met on Monday that were waiting for the weather to clear. One of the couples had made some dip and had chips. They invited us to partake in chips and dip and we got a round of drinks. The weather cleared and we all headed down to the beach. We each got our chairs and umbrella and enjoyed the beach. Everyone was again so friendly and the folks that were new to us were very friendly too. We stayed longer this time because the sun wasn’t as severe but left somewhere around 3:00 P.M. We went back to the condo and took another shower. We looked at each other and both said we needed to have another one of those great burgers, so off to Buccaneer we went. We walked in and before we even saw Gina she saw us and yelled hello! Within minutes she brought over a Presidente and strawberry daiquiri. We ordered the burgers and when they came we again talked with Gina. We ordered a few more drinks and it was getting close to Gina’s quitting time so we asked for our bill. The bill was wrong because it was missing a beer and frozen drink. We pointed it out to her and said that she bought us our first round. Wow! We are so glad that we have been generous in our tipping because these people are really great and need the tourist money. Dreading the fact that tomorrow was our departure date, we headed back to the unit, did laundry and packed most everything.

DAY 7 Saturday
Departure Day.
We got up and had breakfast of stuff in the unit. The cruise ship was already in port so we missed it coming in. We relaxed a bit and discussed how great this vacation was. The landlord came over to make sure everything was OK and to ask if the cleaning woman could get in to get started. I was taking a shower and my wife explained that I was unable to forward him my boarding passes so he opened my Delta reservation on his phone. I entered the information and when the print screen came up he went back to his home (2 units over) and printed them for us. He thanked us for our business and also thanked us for being such great guests. Our plane was scheduled to depart at 2:30 P.M. so at 11:00 A.M. we left the unit. As we passed the Buccaneer my wife suggested we go in for one last drink. I parked the car where I could see it and we sat at the bar. The bartender greeted us and said, “You looking for Gina? She’s off today.” My wife says to him, “No we are leaving and just wanted one last drink at our favorite bar.” She then said she felt like Norm at Cheers! We had a drink and at around noon left for the airport. It couldn’t have been easier to return the car. Kenny’s is great and a system in place that is so easy there’s no way I’ll rent from anyone else on subsequent trips. The departures temporary facility was quite “interesting”. You have to sit outside until your airline representative gets to the table to allow you access inside. Unfortunately there were four major airlines all departing within about 30 minutes of each other so the place was packed. Only half of the A/C was working and what felt like a thousand people made it very hot and sticky. We had JetBlue, Spirit, United and Delta all departing within a very short period of time. We were able to find a place to sit to wait and once they started boarding our flight we got onto the bus that brought us out to the plane. We departed and in less than 4 hours we were back in the USA, landing in Atlanta. Customs was relatively easy and quick. I have the mobile passport app but the Atlanta airport Wi-Fi is tricky. I had used it before we left for the trip so when we got back there it automatically reconnected, or at least that what my phone said. After completing the form and submitting it the app said that it appeared I wasn’t online even though my phone said connected. After going through customs, about 30-40 minutes I realized I had left my tablet in the seat back in front of me. I collected my bags and was able to see a Delta agent. She went back to the plane but said it had already been cleaned and the flight agent at the gate said no one turned anything in. She suggested I fill out a lost report at After going through the remainder of customs/baggage we went to our terminal to wait at the gate. Figuring I had time to kill, I went to but it wouldn’t connect. I then googled Atlanta Hartsfield airport and another screen popped up saying I needed to log in. So a word to the wise if you want to use the mobile passport app make sure you get the second screen that requires you to log in. I bet that if I had known that then I could have zipped right through the customs portion because there was no line at the mobile passport app counters.

This was a great vacation because we were not in any type of rush to do anything. We had done the excursions as cruise ship passengers in our prior 4 or 5 cruises. I was so surprised at how quickly my wife was able to overcome her fears/inhibitions about the clothing optional beach. I think there will be a follow up trip but next time I think it’ll be the French side to be closer to Orient. The people who live on the island are fabulous and super friendly. The folks we met at Club O beach were so supportive and non-judgmental of us first timers that I know we’ll be lifelong friends. My only apprehension is that we are totally unfamiliar with the French side but I am sure that between this website and people we’ll meet there we’ll be just fine. To sum up the clothing optional portion of our trip, I’ll quote one of the ladies we met while at the Club O beach. “It’s easier to get naked in front of strangers and once you do it, you’re hooked”. She was so right!!!!

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Great report! Thank you for sharing! When Club O reopens you may want to consider staying there, it is so nice to walk from your unit to the beach.

The Simpsons
If it does re-open then we will definitely try it, plus I understand the rental includes 2 chairs and umbrella for the week too!
Bonjour, Monsieur Chien Adjoint. Merci pour le rapport.

If you are going to stay on the French side next year, you will need to start learning French. For your first trip, however, Bonjour and merci should get you through.
I have a hard enough time with English!! I'll have to bring along my Google translate app.
Great report Deputy. Thanks.
Really nice report. The only place we had trouble speaking French was at Leader Price supermarket, just trying to by some dam coffee creamer! LOL

Life's a beach!
Originally posted by sxmbeacher Really nice report. The only place we had trouble speaking French was at Leader Price supermarket, just trying to by some dam coffee creamer! LOL

Life's a beach!
As I remember, Leader Price was on the right going toward Orient after leaving Grand Case. Has it reopened since Irma? When we were there in June it wasn't open. In fact very little was open on the French side other than around the Village.
Last edited by Christa September 25 2018 06:54
Yes, the one near Cul De Sac roundabout has just reopened. i think i saw it on Facebook? I think it was mentioned that there was a Asian type restaurant and One island tee shirts in the same parking lot that are open also. I am going in April and hoping to stay mostly on the French side, so i hope a lot more is open by then.

Life's a beach!
We stayed right next to the Village, so plenty of businesses were open. Spent our days at Club O Beach and walking on Orient, so we had almost everything we needed. Didn't have Club O resort, but enjoyed our trip enough that we have already booked for next year.

Good to know Price Leader is back. Going there beats a trip into Grand Case.
Last edited by Christa September 25 2018 08:34
Yeah. We are so happy about Leader Price. We did all of our grocery shopping there except for some booze from Petit Casino and Club O.
Christa, if you don't mind me asking, how did rent in the village, VRBO? Did you stay over one of the restaurants or shops, and were they nice?

Life's a beach!
Yes, we found the studio through VRBO. It was nice. And yes, it was over the shops in the Plaza, just past the last roundabout coming into the Village on Avenue des Plages across from the Village. It was on the north side of Avenue des Plages. Plenty of restaurants and cafes open in the area, as well as a small grocery.
Great, i'll look into it. Just a little nervous about renting that way, but i'm sure its fine. Thanks for your in put. thumbsUp
Oops, apologies for my high jack Deputy.

Life's a beach!
No apologies needed. I mentioned in my report that we were toying with the idea of a return with a French side rental.
Thanks. We're Club O refugees trying to figure out where we want to land. Hopefully when you return, the French side will be in much better shape, as more of the hotels, shops and beach bars will be rebuilt.

Life's a beach!
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