Sunday, October 19, 2014

Disney Fantasy Trip Report Part 5: St. Maarten

Trip Report Links:
Part 1--Getting There
Part 2--Embarking the Disney Fantasy
Part 3--First Sea Day
Part 4--Second Sea Day

Part 5:  St. Maarten (and Pirate Night)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

We knew this was going to be a busy, long day for us. We had an early tour scheduled in St. Maarten, and it was also Pirate Night so we would be up late.

Brian's alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. He went to Cabanas for breakfast and brought back some cheese and yogurt for us. We had also ordered room service the night before for breakfast, and it was delivered around 7:15 a.m.(donuts and toast). The kids were still sleeping, and I had to work hard to get them out of bed by 7:30. We needed to head off the ship by 8:15 a.m.

We had reserved a private van tour with Joyce Prince. Originally, I had planned on booking a group tour with Bernard's Tours, which gets mostly very good reviews. But recently I had read some reviews that talked about how the group tours can be tough with small kids--there is a lot of waiting on the bus for the rest of your group to come back, hard to find/take potty breaks, etc. I came across Joyce's name on some cruise message boards and contacted her through email. We exchanged a few emails, and then I put a credit card down to secure our tour. She also called me to discuss what we would like to do for the day.

We wanted to take the kids to Loterie Farm, where they have a kids' zipline with no weight requirement (my kids don't weigh enough to participate in most ziplines). Unfortunately, the zipline was closed for renovations on our port day. So we planned to see a few beaches and local sights.

We met Joyce at 8:30 a.m. She walked us over to her van in a nearby parking lot, which also contained a cooler full of drinks. Even at 8:30 in the morning, we were surprised at how hot it was already!

First, she drove us to a lookout point:

Next, she asked us if we were up for a short hike through the countryside. We said yes, even though we were wearing flip-flops. The hike was at Guana Bay, and it was gorgeous! We did not run into anybody else while we were there, and it felt like we had the island all to ourselves.

We could see St. Barts in the distance.

We hiked up and around a small hill.

We saw several crabs crawling around in the rocks.

Joyce talked to us a lot about the history of the island and the differences between the Dutch and French sides. She encouraged our kids to ask a lot of questions.

On our way back into town, we stopped briefly at another overlook:

Then we were in downtown Phillipsburg (Dutch side of the island) where we went to the Yoda Guy store.

My boys liked all of the Star Wars stuff in here.

We bought the kids some bookmarks.

Next, we drove to Maho Beach. This is the famous beach right in front of the airport where you see planes land right over your head. I included video footage from the planes in our YouTube video. My kids were not as impressed with the airplanes as I was...they  just wanted to be at a beach!

Next, we went to Mullet Bay Beach. Joyce said this was her favorite beach because it's not as crowded as the other beaches. We could stay here as long as we liked.

We rented some loungers and umbrellas and ordered lunch at a cafe on the beach. (We brought PB&J sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies for the kids that we ordered from room service the night before).

We expected to stay at the beach maybe an hour tops, but we liked it so much that we were there for almost 3 hours! It had strong waves, which the kids loved. We were nervous at first, because we were sure that the waves would carry at least one of our kids out into the ocean, but we started to relax. And once I got Brian into the water, he started liking it (he says he's not a "beach" person).

The water was very clear, sand was soft...the kids didn't even want to play with their sand toys because the waves were more entertaining.

Edited to add: The restrooms on this beach consisted of one outhouse. So if you can't stand an outhouse, this isn't the beach for you.

We didn't really want to leave the beach, but we knew our time was running out on the island. So we packed it up and started the drive back to the ship. Joyce took us around the French side of the island. We stopped to see a few iguanas.

By the time we made it back to the ship, we had circled the entire island and spent about 7 hours with Joyce.The kids loved the beach so much that they asked if we could come to St. Maarten and stay there for a week.

Many of the people in our Facebook group did not like St. Maarten because it was too run-down. I had to wonder if we had visited the same island! We had a lovely time.

At the dock

As we walked back to the Fantasy, we enjoyed some fruit water that was available (I had the cucumber water, my favorite). They also had cold towels.
No time to rest, as we had to get ready for Pirate Night! Since we packed Halloween costumes for the following  night, we decided to just bring pirate t-shirts for pirate night. But for some reason, we couldn't find our boys' pirate shirts. We looked everywhere, no luck. Oddly enough, when we came home the pirate t-shirts were in the suitcase.

We wore our pirate bandanas supplied by DCL.

The kids wanted to see Captain Jack Sparrow.

And we took a few professional photos:


And we ran into Pirate Minnie:

We dropped the kids off at the clubs for dinner while Brian and I went to Animator's Palette for a quiet dinner by ourselves. The screens had pirate scenes during dinner.

After dinner, Brian picked up the boys to go to Guardians of the Galaxy, which was playing in the big theater as the main entertainment. I didn't think the movie was appropriate for Alyssa, so I took her to the 7:45 p.m. pirate show outside. Well, I tried to take her. We got up there a little late, and it was hard to find a spot to see.

When we did find a spot, Alyssa kept whining about how she was old enough and big enough to see the movie with her brothers. And she wanted popcorn. So I got popcorn and we went into the movie theater. I don't think she was even watching the movie. After she finished the popcorn, I persuaded her to leave the theater by bribing her with ice cream from the pool deck.

Alyssa has never made it to a pirate night fireworks show on our previous cruises. She has seen the fireworks in our videos, and she gets mad that she wasn't there. She was determined to stay awake (until 10:30 p.m.) to see the fireworks.

We still had some time to kill, so we met a few pirate characters inside:

A little after 10:00, we went up on deck to wait for the fireworks. The boys joined us after the movie was over.

So let me just say that the fireworks did not go well for Alyssa. She really tried to stay awake, but she fell asleep leaning against the railing. When the fireworks started and she woke up abruptly, she was scared and started crying/screaming. And the fireworks are over in about 3-5 minutes. Maybe next time will work out better.
Joshua was very tired as well, so I took the younger kids back to the cabin and they fell asleep immediately. Brian and Nathan went to the pirate night buffet in Cabanas (I've never been!). Apparently they have turkey legs, crepes, tacos and a bunch of desserts.

We made it through our longest day!

Next up: St. Thomas

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