TRAVEL THERE: AN OOOPS IN MY PLANNING IN ST MAARTEN
Remember the travel seminar last year where Pauline Frommer told me to explore the possibility of shore excursions through sources other than the ship’s shore excursions. I carefully took notes and researched excursions through all the sites she recommended. I ordered two shore excursions from Cruise Excursions.com. The one we took on Saint Thomas was marvelous. We weren’t so lucky on St. Maarten.
Starting Out on the Right Foot
Things started out fine. The instructions we were given for joining the tour were exactly right. We were soon led to a bus by a joyous resident of the island named Josay. We thought it was going to be a great day.
Josay made several trips to the information area and kept coming back with passengers until the bus was full. Then we headed off for our tour. Josay drove along pointing out less than spectacular sights, but I’d been here before and knew the island was not brimming with tourist attractions and museums. This was a laid back, go to the beach kind of place.
As he drove through Philipsburg, he pointed out the famous salt ponds and explained their historical significance. Our first stop was a hilltop overlook where other tours stopped. To say the snack shop was a little run down was a huge understatement, but the creative parking of the many tour buses assured us this was a popular stop.
The First OOOPS
As we drove away from the overlook, Josay pointed out the airport and told us about how crazy it was. I gathered that we wouldn’t be getting any closer to it on the tour from the way he talked about it. That was a problem. The one thing Bill wanted to see on this cruise was Maho Beach, where the planes fly so low they literally knock over people on the beach. Josay has a very ebullient personality, but I broke into his on-going dialog to ask him about the airport. He clarified for me that we were as near to the airport as we were going to get that day.
Sometimes when I’m angry, I get very loud. This time I got very quiet. I didn’t want to make a big deal of things and ruin the tour for everyone else, but I was really upset. Sure, the disclaimer said changes could be made to the itinerary, but the airport was the whole reason we were on this tour, and what could I do about it? The only one in our party that was really interested in the airport was Bill, but he was the one I most regretted disappointing.
The Market in Marigot
The tour continued to Marigot, where Deb and I enjoyed shopping in the local market. I found a great cap for Bill that dubbed him “Bad to the Bone.” Deb bought me a sundress to celebrate my upcoming birthday. In other words, I decided to have fun in spite of our disappointment in itinerary.
Maybe it was because of the airport or maybe Josay had a little something to take the edge off while he was in Marigot, but his ebullient personality got down right egotistical after the stop. For the remainder of the tour, we didn’t learn anything else about St. Maartin/Martin, but we sure got to know a lot about Josay. How his girlfriend dumped him after he helped her win a beauty contest, how he went to Cambridge and played basketball, how his son was going to Abilene Christian College, where he lived, how he got such a good deal on it and how he and a bulldozer tricked the local cops into allowing drag racing on a certain road every Sunday morning. There’s more, but you don’t want to know any more about him than we did.
An Escape Hatch
There was a contingency on the bus, primarily the older crowd, that seemed to adore Josay and egg him on to greater feats of braggadocio. I was beginning to think I was the only one on the bus he was driving crazy, but I soon discovered that my other traveling companions were as ready to murder him as I was.
We’d actually paid extra to spend some time on Orient Beach, but my traveling companions were so ready to rid themselves of Josay that we opted to forego the beach. I think we were afraid that if we ever got off the bus, we’d never talk ourselves into getting back on.
Here’s the bottom line. DO NOT take the Smart Price Tour of St. Maarten/Martin through Cruising Expeditions. In fact, in Saint Maarten, I’d stick to excursions through the cruise ship, so that if you get cheated out of the one thing you wanted to see, the way Bill did, you have someone to take your complaint to.
And one thing more, no matter who you book your shore excursion through, if the bus driver or tour guide is named Josay RUN!
Back at the ship, we got ready for dinner at Taste and Legends in Concert in the Epic Theater. Come back next week and see how it went.