Day IV - St. Maarten
As we’re pulling into port today, we decided to have breakfast in the forward dining room. Looking out across the calm, blue water, we first noticed a single bird soaring near the bow. Then two. Then a flock. Moments later, a pod of dolphins broke the surface and swam under us. Jen’s glee snagged the attention of most of the room.
Excitement began to build as the first land in over two days became visible in the distance. It really is amazing how these giant vessels are able to park. The process which used to require several tugs and some fancy coordination is now handled by the side props; not a tug in sight. I can hardly parallel park a compact car, so these pilots have my respect. As we pulled alongside the pier, the Disney ship behind us blew its horn to the tune of “When You Wish Upon a Star”; awesome.
Misreading the shore excursion tickets, we ended up on the pier about an hour early, but it was a very nice day, so why not stick around? Not long before our group was ready, a storm blew in. Strong winds blew the icy rain horizontally at us for about five minutes before blue skies prevailed again.
Damp and a bit cold, we headed to the smaller pier to find our next ride: a 40-foot catamaran. This boat would take us across the bay to our dive area. After signing our lives away to yet another safety waiver, gear was distributed and instructions given. Time to swim. The water was chilly at first, but easy to acclimate to. Despite an uncooperative mask (guys, shave the ‘stache or apply Vaseline), we were able to observe a sunken submarine (hurricane in 2003) as well as several varieties of fish, coral, and urchins. The guide even brought an urchin to the surface for us to touch and hold; a very strange experience, but fun. Toward the end, he retrieved a conch shell Jen had found, and told her to keep it. The thing stinks, but will be pretty when dry.
Back on land, we visited the downtown shops. Jen got some free “gifts” from several shops, and drooled over some not free jewelry. We found a beautiful trillian-cut tanzanite and talked the salesman down almost $400 before remembering we left most of our money on the ship, and couldn’t justify parting with all our shopping money on one stone. Because we refrained, we were able to acquire some needed sundries, a couple gifts, and some fabulous local rum.
Having finished shopping, we grabbed a quick drink at a beach bar, squished our feet into the sand, and headed back toward the ship. On the way, we met a couple also returning. After a brief conversation, we realized that we have a lot in common: They’re celebrating their honeymoon for their 10.10.10 wedding, he’s a mobile developer, and she’s creative, short and bubbly. You never really know who you might meet in a place like this.