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 French side (St. Martin), is certainly more relaxed and sophisticated. There are first-class resorts and secluded white sand beaches. Its capital, Marigot, is Mediterranean resort-like, with yachts in the harbor, and open-air markets and shops lining the waterfront. A bit to the north, Grand Case is known for the island’s best restaurants.
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. Its two main streets, Frontstreet and Backstreet, are bustling thoroughfares lined with shops and restaurants.
Things to See & Do
* St Maarten Museum
* St Maarten Park
* Visit the many beaches especially Orient beach
* Shopping in Philipsburg
Cruise Season – Jan – Dec
Currency – Euro (St Martin), Netherlands Antilles Florin (St Maarten)
Language – English and French (St Martin), English and Dutch (St Maarten)
Land Area – 85 sq km
Population – 35,000
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 airport is 15km west of Philipsburg (travel time – 15 minutes) and 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 Square. There are also plenty of car hire firms in the city and at the airport.