My friend's whole family had signed up to spend the day at a beach resort in St. Maarten, and I thought that sounded like a nice change from city tours. But my mom, who actually has that condition Michael Jackson claims is turning him white (where you lose all the pigmentation in your skin), can't spend that much time in the sun. So she decided to stay on board the ship for a lazy day to herself, and I joined my friends on the beach.
They put us in passenger vans and drove us out to the Divi Little Bay Resort (seen here) to the beach on the far side of the peninsula.
On the way from the resort entrance to our stretch of the beach, we passed one of the resident parrots, who showed dreadful manners by biting at his toes at the table.
Our resort helpers were Noël (the man), Dondra (another woman not pictured), and this woman whose name I can't remember. I asked Noël if we were on the Dutch part of the island, and he corrected me that we were on the "Dutch side, not the Dutch part." My mistake. (I still don't get it.) He also told us about the ruins of Fort Amsterdam, which was "a five-minute walk" up the hill. My friend, her daughter (FD) and I decided to hike up there and see what was left.
It took longer than five minutes, but it was a nice hike. We found grass and ruins, though I don't think this house was part of the original fort.
The fort was well-placed on the highest piece of ground in the area. Here's the view from atop a cannon, looking out to sea.
From the bay side of the hill, the view down showed us some good snorkeling waters, so we walked back down to the resort and rented some snorkeling gear.
My friend was hesitant to snorkel, because she's not a strong swimmer. Or floater. But her daughter and I encouraged her, and armed with a life jacket and flotation belt, she overcame her fear and came to love snorkeling.
On the way to the snorkel-gear rental booth, I spotted this brain coral and snapped its picture. It's a good thing I did, because even though my little camera was safe and snug inside a borrowed waterproof camera-pouch, I had trouble with it while we snorkeled.
The one time we saw a couple brain corals attached to a rock, by the time I got my camera ready, I had drifted on the tide and couldn't see them anymore. And somewhere along the way, I must have bumped the settings button on my camera the wrong way, because it started taking pictures on a 2-second delay, which I didn't notice for a while. And then there was the fact that my camera didn't seem to understand it was under water, so it didn't compensate very well for the murky wetness around it. This was my best underwater photo, of some scary-looking sea urchins with 4-inch spines.
And this is looking back toward the resort from the water. I think we got even farther out than this before we returned to the beach.
You can see all the blue beach umbrellas on the right half of the beach. Those were not ours. That part of the beach was for the guests of the resort. Our group was off just to the left of the picture, where we could rent a beach umbrella if we really needed one. It felt like a serious case of the Haves and the Have Nots (though I must admit that the Haves forked over some serious money for the privilege of lying on the umbrella side of the beach).
We swam back, just using our flippers, but my friend was intimidated by the distance we had to cover. FD started singing Dory's song from Finding Nemo: "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..." Really, what other option did we have? But the flippers made it easy, and we got back without incident just in time to catch the last bit of what was left of lunch and to use our two drink tickets at the bar.
I got a Rum Punch to try and a bottle of water. My first sip of the punch tasted pretty nasty (must have been the rum), so I tried another sip just in case I was mistaken about it. I wasn't. That's when I switched to my water. And then it was time to go back to the ship.
This picture of the pier is pretty typical of our three ports. People set up booths as close as they can get to the ships, selling souvenirs, jewelry, and the local specialty hard drinks, all the while promising that you can't get it for less downtown. Since I don't shop, I can't prove or disprove their pricing claims.
Tonight was our second formal-dress night of the cruise. FD, who has a portrait photography business, found a nice spot where there wasn't already a ship's photographer and took a bunch of picures. This is the one that everyone else but me liked the best (I'm not so crazy about how squinty my eyes get), because they said that smile is how I normally look. So here you have it: The real me (except for the top, which is more daring than normal) (and except for the sunburn, which is even more rare).
Roman, our cabin steward, used my mom's sunglasses for tonight's towel folding. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be. I called it Groucho Marx.