Caribbean Cruise on the Carnival Sunshine: St. Martin/St. Maarten

I recently took the trip of a lifetime (so far!) to the Caribbean and I honestly regret not traveling more before now. In my entire adult life, except for one girl’s weekend to Pleasure Island (now Citywalk) in Orlando damn near 20 years ago, I have never been on a vacation just for the sake of vacation.

I have traveled back to my hometown, I have traveled to my brother’s home in South Carolina, and I have gone to visit family in Texas. None of these trips count because the only thing I saw on all of them was my family’s homes, which is nice but hardly counts as vacation.

So for my first vacation I went all out! An 8-day cruise to the Caribbean and I made the most of it, or at least I tried to. I toured the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten, saw a demonstration of Batik and then toured a historical fort in St. Kitts, went horseback riding in Puerto Rico, and wrote messages in the pristine sands of Grand Turk.

And I tried to take as many pictures of it all as I could. I am by no means a great photographer and my camera is pretty cheap, but I do love taking pictures and plan to learn to take better ones in the future. For now, these will have to do.

First stop was St. Martin/St. Maarten, a 37 square mile island divided roughly 60/40 between the French and the Dutch. We arrived at the port of Philipsburg, the Dutch capital and I met up with the tour group and we headed out. Our tour guide was Dennis, and he was very entertaining as well as knowledgeable; he told us all about the history of the island.

I absolutely love butterflies so I picked the tour that went to The Butterfly Farm (Les Ferme des Papillons), of course. It was smaller than I expected and we didn’t get to stay very long, but our tour guide Molly really knew her stuff. I heard that a recent hurricane had wiped out some of the species of butterflies they usually have and I noticed that a sign I saw in pictures beforehand was not there anymore, but still a very nice stop.

Our tour guide Molly holding a Blue Morpho

molly holding owl butterfly

This was one of the coolest creatures there, and it’s actually a moth not a butterfly. It’s an owl moth, named so because of those spots that look like the eyes of an owl – their way of tricking would-be predators.

owl moth

monarch plant

butterfly farm

I thought this mural on the wall by the gift shop was pretty cool.

Next we stopped in Marigot, the French capital. We had about an hour to walk around and explore. Just about the first thing I noticed was this juice stand on the corner.

rasta juice stand

So Rasta…I love it.

This was the message on the side.

St. Martin Rasta juice stand side

Right around the corner from the rasta juice stand was this guy – Coconut Man. He was chopping coconuts so fast I was worried for his fingers!

St. Martin coconut man

Marigot is overlooked by Fort Louis, built in 1767 on the orders of the ill-fated King Louis XVI. From here you have an unblocked view of Marigot, Simpson Bay, and Anguilla. No one could sneak up on Marigot. It doesn’t look like much from this picture, but I’m told it’s incredible. Next time I visit I will make sure to take a tour of it.

ft. louis

St. Martin Fort Louis Marina

Marina Fort-Louis is very popular with yachters as you can access it easily from the ocean and it offers 150 berths.

St. Martin boat in water

In front of Marina Fort Louis is this cannon, just kinda in the street there with traffic diverting around it. I don’t know anything about this cannon except that I found it an odd place for a cannon and so I took a picture of it.

St. Martin cannon

I didn’t know anything about this statue until I got home and searched Google for info because the inscription on it is all in French, but apparently it is to commemorate the new  status of St. Martin as a commune of Guadaloupe. It’s called Monument to a New Beginning, and was erected in 2007.

St. Martin birds statue

On Wednesdays and Saturdays clothing and souvenir vendors join the food vendors at the Marigot Market. This is a statue dedicated to the market women of Marigot.

St. Martin market woman statue

Next to the statue is a plaque that reads:
“Many souls, thousands ten thousands have trodden
Through my open-air gallery.
Fish, fowl and beast are my treats.
Selling, purchasing, the exchange of coins is like music to my ears.
I am the market in splendid beauty, color and sound.
I reign.
I am the market”

St. Martin mosaic wall

St. Martin mosaic wall closeup

There were these lovely mosaics on the walls of the marketplace.

St. Martin flags

I only recognize the flags of Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands here. I’m not sure what the other two are.

St. Martin La Vie en RoseDowntown Marigot is so charming!

marigotI’m sure I’m about the millionth person to take this same picture, but I couldn’t resist. It looks like a postcard to me.

St. Martin sign in portBefore I knew it, it was time to head back to the port. I ran into one of my travelmates and decided to try the local rum.

St. Martin Guavaberry Rum standme in St. MartinEnjoying a rum punch from Guavaberry.

St. Martin ships side by side on pierHeading back to the Carnival Sunshine. We were next to the Disney boat; I wished I could sneak on there just for a look.

St. Martin view from the pierPulling away from St. Martin/St. Maarten much too soon for me!

So that was my trip to St. Martin/St. Maarten. I really enjoyed it and I already can’t wait to go back. But I know I missed so much of it! Have you ever been? What was your favorite thing about it? What should I make sure to see/do next time?

Back in the States and Back on Track

Ok, well, physically I got back here over a week ago, but mentally I just now got here. The Caribbean is too pretty to just leave! The cruise was fantastic, but coming home was a bit of a readjustment. 8 days is plenty long enough to get spoiled. My first night back I was hit with the realization that there would be no shrimp cocktail for dinner that night. In fact, there would be nothing for dinner if I didn’t cook it myself. Ugh, reality. It’s harsh sometimes.

I had every intention of eating healthy and using the gym every day while on the cruise, but I actually only made it to the gym 3 times and while I ate healthy, I also ate a lot. The food just kept getting better and better toward the end of the cruise. I will keep that in mind for next time. In fact, I gained back 5 pounds in those 8 days. That harsh reality again. Even on vacation, calories count. Sigh, life can be so unfair.

But it wasn’t all a week of falling apart. I did run on the treadmill 3 times, which is not so easy on a rocking ship. And I did improve some. I can run longer at a time than I could before and need less recovery (walking) between running intervals than before. And I ran 5K to see what my time would be now and improved by 3 minutes and 4 seconds. That made my week – and I was having a pretty good week!

So now that I’m back on land, it’s time to get back on track. Time to get back to choosing foods more wisely, making exercise a priority, and getting enough sleep. Starting Monday, I will set weekly goals again and have weekly weigh-ins again.

This week I will post pics of the beautiful places I visited – St. Martin/St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan, and Grand Turk. I already can’t wait to go back to the Caribbean! I don’t care if I go back to the places I just went because there’s still plenty I didn’t get to see or a new place. Cozumel looks very intriguing and I hear St. Thomas is beautiful.

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken? If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?