Our first port after the crossing was Philipsburg in the Dutch half of St Maarten.
We went back to Maho Beach for the day to watch planes landing on the airport’s runway at the side of the beach.
Philipsburg, St Maarten Monday 29th October
I was awake early for the sunrise. We had had a good night’s sleep as overnight the ship had slowed after the period yesterday at 23 knots.
At 7.10 am I could hear the pilot boat just off the side of the ship. This was our first landfall for five days and we were like most of the passengers anxious to get off Azura.
We were at the Oriental for breakfast as it opened at 8 am. Then it was back to the room to sort out my gear for my Maho Beach. There was another ship, Celebrity Summit, berthed on the other side of the quay. Azura was close to the terminal so it was a quick walk to enter the cruise terminal complex.
The water taxis were too our left and to our right was the ground transportation. Since our last visit things had changed and we had to pay for a taxi ride (and the return) before we caught the taxi. We were given a wristband to pay for our return trip.
To Maho Beach
Our taxi driver took to the back streets of Philipsburg to avoid the morning traffic jams. We were sharing the minibus with an extended family of first-time visitors. Despite being asked repeatedly by the driver to keep the windows, closed the children in the back kept opening them time and time again. We had to stop at an ATM for one of the other passengers and this was an opportunity for a seating change and the kids were moved away from the windows.
I was sat in the front passenger seat and had a first-hand view of the remaining destruction after last year’s hurricane. There were shops and houses boarded up and many had either missing or damaged roofs. We hit the usual traffic jam as we came into Cole Bay. After the taxi was carved up by a French registered car our driver was muttering under her breath about French drivers!
As we crossed the lagoon we could see yachts and motorboats cast up on the beach or simply sunk. Our driver told me about her experience of the hurricane. She had stayed in her house to wait it out. There was so much water from the hurricane that it streamed in through all her windows and doors until the whole place was flooded.
The Sunset Bar at the end of Maho Beach had been rebuilt and extended even further out over the beach. We sat on one of the old tables next to the railings. The bar was empty so we had a great wi-fi connection and chatted with friends in the UK using WhatsApp.
Here is the schedule for arrivals for the day.
This didn’t cover the small island hoppers or all the private jets that use the airport.