We’re awake early again this morning, to discover that Sky Princess is the first cruise ship in a long line sailing into Petersburg, Sint Maarten. Eventually six ships dock, disgorging more than 10,000 passengers.
The cruise terminal itself is not unlike Antigua’s (albeit much, much larger and slightly shinier) with lots of duty free shops and bars trying to part travellers from their cash. There is jewellery, clothing, liquor and perfume – just like an airport duty free area, but with sunshine.
The walk into town is fairly straightforward and the pavements are generally well-maintained. I guess they have to be when you have 10,000 or more passengers making the trek each day.
Despite hearing that the local Hard Rock Café (HRC) may be closed, we can see its sign from our balcony. So we head along the “Boardwalk” just to make sure – we don’t have any specific destination in mind. The view is suitably tropical, with palm trees, turquoise waters and white sand stretching the length of the bay. Sadly the weather is a bit mixed so there are a few light showers as we walk. To be honest, the damp and the light breeze are a little bit of a relief from the heat and humidity in between.
The walk is punctuated by the smell of barbecued meat and bar-side entertainers who are singing and dancing. There’s also a man selling fresh coconut punches (of course). In the distance our cruise ship towers over the bay.
Eventually we reach the HRC and discover that yes, it is permanently closed. The downstairs floor is now occupied by some kind of clothing shop. The upstairs still looks like the restaurant could re-open tomorrow – sans memorabilia.
We have also heard that Front Street (Vorstraat) is worth a look, at least in terms of duty free shopping. We head one block back from the sea and immediately run into a problem. The pavements are narrow and really badly maintained this far west on the street and there are no drop curbs anywhere. Progress with the mobility scooter is impossible. Back to the Boardwalk.
Top tip: The pavements in Petersburg are fine(ish) – so long as you stay in the very busiest parts of town. The moment the quality of the shops decline, so too does the sidewalk. So if you’re travelling with a mobility scooter, don’t go too far west along Front Street. Also be prepared for a bumpy ride because of the block paving.
The Boardwalk is smooth cement for its entirety, so so long as you aren’t planning on shopping, it’s a better choice for scooters and wheelchairs.
After a few blocks we try Front Street again and find that although not perfect, the pavement has improved. The block paving is still quite uneven and Linda likens it to the toning plates found in gyms! We pass dozens of stores selling designer labels and jewellery, many of which have staff eagerly inviting us in. Thankfully they are far less pushy than their counterparts in Antigua which makes this stop more enjoyable.
Contender for weird moment of the trip: As we passed a beauty parlour, a lady said to Linda, ‘I like your hair. Is it a wig?’
At the old Guavaberry Rum distillery we do a very quick geocache (#GC3EEPY), then head back to the Boardwalk. We stop at the Lazy Lizard bar and Linda samples the guavaberry colada – it’s not too bad, sweet and slightly fruity. It’s also 2-for-1, so we get two for $10 USD. There are some picnic benches on the beach under the palm trees which are a great place to hang around for an hour or so – especially as there is a slightly heavier rain shower while we drink.
Top tip: St Maarten is a Dutch territory, so technically the local currency should be the Euro (€). However, the locals are determined to hold on to the Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG) instead. Not that it matters because every bar and shop advertises prices and accepts payments in US dollars ($).
And if you have a Revolut card, it doesn’t matter at all.
Back on board, it is time to relax in the Wake Bar watching intermittent rain showers sweep over Petersburg. It’s still very warm – far too warm for our British sensibilities.
Our departure is somewhat delayed because there is a queue of ships waiting to leave port, and so we trail the other out. These ships are so brightly lit it looks like they are on fire…
Would we visit St Maarten and Petersburg again? Probably not. And certainly not until Linda is fully mobile again. If we were passing this way on a cruise ship in future we would definitely try out the local zipline (it’s massive!) and make a trip out to the world-famous Maho Beach to watch the jets landing at the airport.