St. Maarten is one of the most rewarding stops for a cruise-ship passenger. The island is divided between French St. Martin in the north and Dutch St. Maarten in the south. Each side manages to retain its own distinct flavor. The Dutch side (Sint Maarten) is a lively destination of white sand beaches, casinos, historical sites, shopping venues and lot of nightlife. Most ships dock in Philipsburg, the capital of Dutch St. Maarten.
Philipsburg fills a narrow stretch of land between Great Bay and the Great Salt Pond. Two main roads cut across the length of Philipsburg–Front Street and Back Street. Front Street, the main thoroughfare, is lined with duty-free shops offering everything from Italian leather goods and Japanese cameras to native crafts. Narrow alleyways lead in either direction to arcades and courtyards filled with flowers. Visitors will also find examples of traditional West Indian architecture, including characteristic pastel-colored houses with second-story verandas looking out over the street. Front Street’s most prominent landmark is the Courthouse, built in 1793. A grand white wooden structure topped with a cupola, it now serves as St. Maarten’s courthouse. Also on Front Street is the Simartin Museum, which gives visitors an excellent introduction to local history.
Things to See & Do
* Simartin Museum
* St Maarten Park
* Visit the many beaches especially Orient beach
* Shopping in Philipsburg
* Fort Amsterdam & Fort Willem
Cruise Season Jan – Dec
Currency Netherlands Antilles Florin (St Maarten)
Language English and Dutch (St Maarten)
Land Area 85 sq km
Electricity 2 perpendicular flat pins USA style or with a round pin below
Time GMT minus four hours
International Country Telephone Code + 1 – 599
Port Location Most ships dock on the Dutch side, in Great Bay, at the A.C. Wathey Pier in Point Blanche. The pier is about 2.5kms from the center of Philipsburg. Some ships anchor in Great Bay and tenders will transport passengers directly to the center of town. Taxis are readily available at the pier. Downtown Philipsburg is an easy 15 minute walk from the pier.
Transport Links Princess Juliana (SXM), 15km west of Philipsburg (travel time 15 minutes), receives regular scheduled flights from other Caribbean islands. Ferry services operate to Saba, St Barts and St Kitts & Nevis.
Buses run regularly between Philipsburg and Marigot. Minibuses serve the more popular destinations. There are good Taxi services on the island running from the airport, main hotels and towns. Taxis do not have meters but fares are fixed. There is a taxi station at Wathey SquareThere are plenty of car hire firms in the city and at the airport. ds, Europe and the USA.