My wife and I haven't been back to St. Maarten since April 2017. (Our trip scheduled for October 2017 was cancelled due to Irma). So this is our first trip back since the hurricane.
We entered on U.S. passports. We didn't have to fill out any immigration cards; nor were our passports scanned. Immigration and baggage retrieval were both very smooth and fast.
We picked up our rental car from Thrifty -- again, smooth and fast.
Changes to the A.U.C. area in Cupecoy since our last visit:
- The hulking concrete resort buildings damaged by Hurricane Luis -- and sitting vacant ever since -- near the AUC gate have been demolished, opening up a new vista to the ocean for pedestrians in this neighborhood.
- Starz Casino is a wreck, with little sign of demolition or construction work.
- The banana grove at the edge of the golf course that used to separate the fairways from Starz Casino has been cut down, and there are signs of bulldozer and backhoe work. Evidently foundations are going in for those new residential towers people were talking about. I was skeptical that this project would ever start.
- The new Jordan Village complex (with its new Carrefoure market) looks in good shape.
- Area establishments -- the new Jules bakery, BB's, the Chinese grocery story, Bar Code, etc. -- are all open.
- Blue Mall has no open stores whatsoever.
- The tradition of open-air movie night, free to the public, on Monday nights at Porto Cupecoy continues. A small crowd last night.
- Mullet Bay beach is in great shape, with lots of new sand. It's wider than I've seen it in years. A 1 1/2 hour snorkeling inspection this morning, on all sides of Mullet Bay Beach, showed no hurricane debris in the water whatsoever.
- Similarly, Cupecoy beach has lots of sand -- nice and wide, unlike our last visit.
- Today, Baie Rouge beach had only four swimmers. If you like empty Caribbean beaches, almost all to yourself, come to St. Martin. The beach restaurant (Anthony Bourdain's "favorite restaurant in the whole world") is open, as is the T-shirt stand.
- Super U in Marigot has the same selection and low prices as ever. Plenty of parking, too. Frozen fish species you'll never find at home (like skinless stingray wings) and wonderful cheeses and wines.