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Trip Report 1/9-1/18 #214562
01/18/2020 12:56 PM
01/18/2020 12:56 PM
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Mr. St. Martin Offline OP
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Although some of the lovers of St. Martin may not look favorably upon my report and I anticipate being fully trashed here, I must report a realistic viewpoint and assessment of our last trip. First, my wife and I absolutely love St. Martin, this being our 13th trip to the island. The weather, which no one can control, was less than fantastic, very windy for most of the trip, however, the last several days were absolutely beautiful. Not a problem that should be stressed over. We stay at LeEsplanade in Grand Case and would certainly recommend staying with Mark and Christian. They really are hospitable hosts and with the updates after Irma, things continue to look great. Dinners in Grand Case, as usual, were excellent. The top of the pyramid being Pressior, presentation and flavors were top shelf. Orient Beach, fun as usual.

Now the realistic part. It is truly sad to return to paradise and see total devastation, lack of a great work ethic and pride in ones property, a government that stifles initiative, an airport that is in sad repair and people that just don’t get it. It is truly sad what has happened to the island. Knowing well the power of Irma, we were effected in Florida, but certainly not to the extent the island was. The first thing they should do is get the airport up and running, not just functioning, but repaired and running. It is embarrassing to say the least. Grand Case it appears will never fully recover the restaurant’s lost with Irma. Too many vacant and damaged structures in the town. Sad but realistic. Politics plays a large part of this and I am sure that political $$ are the lubricant to obtaining permits to rebuild. Orient Beach, the section by Club O, is sad and really, who wants to sit on a beach surrounded by dilapidated structures. It is depressing. I have never seen so much trash along the sides of the roads and lack of effort by the government to at least look like they could fill a pot hole, let alone trim a weed. However with that being said, the Dutch side looked great, much more recovered than the French side, less the Dawn Beach area. An additional observation: dramatic price increases in food throughout the island.

We love St. Martin, but sadly, will probably not be returning. There are so many places in the world to visit why return to something that is less than what great memories were made of. I know the tourism industry is what they are all about, but come on, you have had two plus years to get your stuff together, get the place cleaned up. Put forth the effort, overcome the obstacles and do something about the situation!

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Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214563
01/18/2020 01:01 PM
01/18/2020 01:01 PM
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Thanks for the report. You have said what several others have stated previously. Lots of work to still be done, especially with the airport and French side in general. I 100% agree with your assessment of the food prices.


J.D.
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214564
01/18/2020 01:14 PM
01/18/2020 01:14 PM
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I agree with pieces of what you say and differ with some things. Ill need some time to write it up.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214565
01/18/2020 01:41 PM
01/18/2020 01:41 PM
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Tom Offline
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We also returned to US from SXM yesterday and finally got home (PA), a couple hours ago. We were in Sint Maarten for 3 weeks.
I know that some are overly protective of SXM but should not take any of your comments personally. I will do a more detailed trip report when I settle back to normal life but do agree with your disappointment with some issues you mentioned.
1. More overcast, wind and rain than we have experienced in more than 30 years. no one but Mother Nature to blame on this one. We could not enter the ocean for a week because it was so rough.
2. Roads have always been bad and traffic has often been a mess. But, driving on French side is much worse than before. Potholes that can break an axle.
3. I cannot completely agree with your assessment of the airport. Since they have changed the upstairs/downstairs seating, almost everyone could at least sit down. Last year 2018-2019, you could not find a seat upstairs and you were not allowed downstairs until your flight was ready for boarding. It was better this year but certainly not what it should be.
4. Food prices? Shopped Carrefour's or Sunny Foods most days and was not shocked by any outrageous increases. I think for basic stuff (coffee, baked beans, hot dogs, bacon and eggs) there was no huge increase. Likely better meat cuts and classier cuisine there may have been higher increases.
More of a trip report at a later time.
Tom & Lisa

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214566
01/18/2020 01:55 PM
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OK, interesting. I know that many will be confused by your user name, which can be confused with a long time SXM visitor, Jack Rinaldi. Jack would probably have at least 100 trips to SXM..

Regardless, I do agree that the French side has lagged far behind the Dutch side in repairs, for which I primarily blame the French government. The airport is a whole 'nother situation, which I hope will be resolved soon, although perhaps not, with stories in the Daily Herald in the past couple of days..


Carol Hill
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Tom] #214573
01/18/2020 02:39 PM
01/18/2020 02:39 PM
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Perhaps more so restaurant prices is what I see as substantially higher.


J.D.
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214575
01/18/2020 02:54 PM
01/18/2020 02:54 PM
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If we all decide to stay away as Mr St Martin has, the island we love will surely collapse. So, that is not the answer. Do whatever you can to help.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: RonDon] #214583
01/18/2020 03:03 PM
01/18/2020 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by RonDon
If we all decide to stay away as Mr St Martin has, the island we love will surely collapse. So, that is not the answer. Do whatever you can to help.

It comes down to personal choices. I saw enough in Nov. to keep me away from most of the French side for a while, throw in the "protests" and it might be even longer if at all in the future.

When one does not enjoy where they go, or they feel uncomfortable, I see no reason to go back. They are not at all newbies with having had 13 trips.


J.D.
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: ruralcarrier] #214585
01/18/2020 03:18 PM
01/18/2020 03:18 PM
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As many of you know, we have been going to SXM for a long time. When we were there over the past few weeks, we sold our time share weeks at the Belair. We may well return to vacation on Sint Maarten again but have really reduced the time we spend on the French side over the past years and Irma reconstruction reinforces that decision. I think the Dutch government in SXM is more aware that without tourism their economy will really suffer.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Tom] #214589
01/18/2020 03:36 PM
01/18/2020 03:36 PM
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Sounds reasonable. Where did you stay this trip?


J.D.
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214602
01/18/2020 05:19 PM
01/18/2020 05:19 PM
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You're assessment is well received and points out many things that many of us are already aware of. But, this is a classic case of the "glass being half empty instead of half full." Yes, I really hoped the French government would have taken a more 'pro-active' approach with this post-Irma, but a storm the magnitude of Hurricane Irma has never struck this island so many of us suspected that things would be in a state disarray for many, many months. On our return last year my wife and I were both happy and sad at the things we saw (i.e, the butterfly farm vanished, Club O. a total mess, etc.). But, we found the spirit of the people was still there and stronger than ever. On a Saturday night we attended services at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Philipsburg and afterwards talked with many of the locals about their island and it's future. Their spirit was not broken, and we assured them we would always be back and never turn away from them. Yes, prices have gone up and yes, it's always been windy here but we can deal with that. Like RonDon noted above we can't abandon SXM now.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214606
01/18/2020 05:42 PM
01/18/2020 05:42 PM
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Many places in the world to travel but with all its faults and every island has them, where else would you go in the Caribbean to have such diversity.. i.e French and Dutch, food, casinos and beaches? And without traveling 8 plus hours to get there? Aruba? Not for me.
I love London and parts of the UK but need at least 3-4 weeks and a lot of dosh! I go from Miami so it’s just 2 and a half hours or so, about as much as I can take these days traveling. St. Thomas has gone way downhill, just jewelry stores left and the food not as diverse. St. John, lovely for just a few days. British Virgin Islands, great if you are a boater. Barbados, Antigua, St. Lucia to the Grenadines, done them all and each one has charm and certainly less traffic and mess than SXM at present.
However, many here have built up such great friendships and loyalty over the years with vendors and restaurant owners that it’s difficult to try anything else...,depends what you like to do also. If you are a four seasons person that stays on the beach all day and likes to be served hand and foot by the pool, yes there are other places to enjoy..but from what I’ve seen on this board, most like to explore new and old, love shopping for food and love dining out as well on the Dutch and French sides.
Not sure where else you can do this. From gourmet French meals to hamburgers and fries. Turks and Caicos, great beaches and some good restaurants, but expensive. Anguilla, stunning beaches and actually quite a choice of restaurants and will split our time between the two but with all its problems, SXM is still like a second home for us.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: ruralcarrier] #214656
01/19/2020 07:06 AM
01/19/2020 07:06 AM
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We stayed at Belair again but maybe for the last time. Most that have stayed there over the years comment that it is "dated" and that is a valid point. We have always liked the Belair and the local people that run it. Our problem is that the owners of the Belair (actual owners not timeshare folks) decided to renovate and update the "infrastructure" that should have been done by them over the past 30 years but chose to have the timeshare owners foot the bill for these improvements. They added an extra $380 per week to the maintenance fee. That was an insult to those of us as timeshare owners who had requested these improvements for 30 years only to be ignored. They have begun to update air conditioning systems and hot water systems that many have complained about for decades.
Without the timeshare restrictions and lack of accountability of how my money is spent, we can stay at Belair or another resort (we checked out several others while we were on the island) anytime we like.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Tom] #214658
01/19/2020 07:12 AM
01/19/2020 07:12 AM
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Sad, but true. It is often easy to rent at many places for around the annual m/f and one can go when they choose and also try different places.


J.D.
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214691
01/19/2020 11:10 AM
01/19/2020 11:10 AM
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Thanks for your perspective. There is some merit to some of the things you speak of. I do think another bright spot on the French side is Orient Village, which has bounced back nicely and may be even better than it was in some ways, with some tired places getting renovated and some new restaurants.



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Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214739
01/19/2020 02:32 PM
01/19/2020 02:32 PM
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Seems funny how France was so quick to clean up St. Bart's. Not hard to understand.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: PelicanPirate] #214786
01/19/2020 06:16 PM
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Ok. Here are some thoughts similar/different.

French side progress. We saw alot of progress. Mt Vernon has alot of professional work going on. There is an actual skycrane in the area working on something old/new visible from “the lobby” of Mt Vernon. The road to Mt Vernon is as smooth as ever. New roofs everywhere. Orient Village most up and running and again alot of construction/repair going on. The expensive metal fence around the vacant property on the road to Club O is fixed.
Grand Case places we frequent are all back open. I wouldnt guess they got whacked by a Hurrican at Bistrot, Ocean 82 or Talk of the town.

Whats not fixed we might visit. Club Orient, Paradise View, theChurch in Grand Case still needs a roof. Alot of what needs fixed looked like weathered unfixed before the hurricane.

Dutch side not fixed. Bunch of structures along rental car road, the airport, sunken boats, badabing bldg.

Id say french side is a little behind in the areas I see. Maybe worse on both sides places i dont see.


As or wanting to return. Ill take a free trip to SXM anyday. I like the place the moment the plane lands. Planes, airports, yachts, cruise ships,sailboats, resturants, beaches, au natural beaches, sailing, snorkeling, french people, dutch people, euros, dollars, natives who speak french and or dutch, cheap wine, cheap booze and wine, fancy restaurants you can wear shorts to, casinos, clubs, proximity to STB, more planes, more cruise ships,Marys Boon.

We were 18 months gap before to after hurricane. We commented then that was about right. We came 12 months this time. While much progress, we felt we were just here.

We might shake our destinations up abit. We went to Asia in July and had a great time seeing new stuff.

St Martin and Sint Maarten are by far and away the coolest island in the Carribean. St John and Jost Van Dyke are paradise but offer almost nothing ither than a view to SXM.

So if we are going fly tonthe Caribbean we will be back, but we might go other places outside the. Caribbean before we are dead and not be back as often. That said I have been looking at SXM airfrares for this summer. Maybe it is an addiction.

Sorry for the rambling rant.


Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214811
01/20/2020 06:57 AM
01/20/2020 06:57 AM
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Great comments PelicanPete.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #214829
01/20/2020 08:52 AM
01/20/2020 08:52 AM
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We stayed for two weeks in December during some of the problems on the French side.
The Dutch side has made great progress. Yes, there is still far more to do (removing the partially sunken boats or the ones stranded on dry ground)...but as others have said, that was one massive hurricane.
The biggest issue I see is the airport. The fact that it has taken this long to get to this point is ridiculous. In 2018, there were insufficient seats on the floor and we were sitting on the floor. At least in 2019, there were sufficient seats.
We arrived three hours prior to our flight time (as advised) and were told that they couldn't accept our bags yet and to wait an additional hour. We had to stand outside waiting.

Our arrival in SXM, we had to stand in line an hour to get through immigration. Some of that was outside.
We were considering an additional trip in February 2020. But I think I will wait another year to see if anything gets fixed at the airport.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: lcote] #214830
01/20/2020 08:53 AM
01/20/2020 08:53 AM
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Quote
Our arrival in SXM, we had to stand in line an hour to get through immigration. Some of that was outside.
We were considering an additional trip in February 2020. But I think I will wait another year to see if anything gets fixed at the airport.


Sadly, it sounds like there are still problems with one of the loans for the airport.


J.D.
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: PelicanPirate] #214930
01/20/2020 04:49 PM
01/20/2020 04:49 PM
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EveVer Offline
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Originally Posted by PelicanPirate


As or wanting to return. Ill take a free trip to SXM anyday. I like the place the moment the plane lands. Planes, airports, yachts, cruise ships,sailboats, resturants, beaches, au natural beaches, sailing, snorkeling, french people, dutch people, euros, dollars, natives who speak french and or dutch, cheap wine, cheap booze and wine, fancy restaurants you can wear shorts to, casinos, clubs, proximity to STB, more planes, more cruise ships,Marys Boon.

St Martin and Sint Maarten are by far and away the coolest island in the Carribean. St John and Jost Van Dyke are paradise but offer almost nothing ither than a view to SXM.



You pretty much hit the nail on the head for my husband and me. We were in Simpson Bay for a week Jan.7 -15, our first visit to SXM since 2011. Yes, things have changed and yes, there is still work to be done after Irma! But we still love it for all the reasons we used to love it and were happy to be back. There are other places in the world we want to visit too but when we need a quick week in the Caribbean, it's SXM all the way for us and will always be.

I'd like to write a trip report and I may but in case I don't, I would like to mention:

The wind was OFF THE CHAIN every single day but the very last day we were there. I am a good swimming but could not be bothered with the extra effort I had to put in to even just get INTO the water - it was so rough - so I only swam twice. Food in all restaurants seems extremely expensive! But the food was all amazing so at least there's that! So sad to see Cheri's Cafe gone! The frame of the building and the little kitchen is still there tho. It's very strange to have that space empty now. There are many homeless cats living in there. People are feeding them. There is now decent beer to be had! Dinghy Dock in Simpson Bay carries a lot of Craft beer and some "locally" brewed selections on tap. And last but certainly not least, we LOVE the Simpson Bay Causeway!!! :)))))

It was so nice to be back and we will continue visiting our favorite home away from home, SXM!!



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Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: EveVer] #214933
01/20/2020 05:04 PM
01/20/2020 05:04 PM
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For sure, the Causeway is a great addition to the island. Glad you enjoyed your (long delayed) return trip!


Carol Hill
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Carol_Hill] #215006
01/21/2020 10:11 AM
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Thanks, Carol! I think my husband has already started looking for our next spot for a return visit!
smile We are obsessed I guess!



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Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #215588
01/26/2020 10:21 AM
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I wonder if the lack of progress described above is intentional? I remember a lot of complaints about how much the island had changed over 20 years. Too much development, traffic increases, etc. What if the decision was made to slow down construction this time? Part of the appeal of the islands was the special feeling you got when visiting when compared to Florida. I personally liked it rough around the edges as opposed to lined up, perfectly maintained palm trees, seeing goats on the roads, etc. I felt it lost its appeal all shiny and new. Just another person's perspective. Have a good day..

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Mr. St. Martin] #215590
01/26/2020 11:15 AM
01/26/2020 11:15 AM
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The wife and I had been looking forward to increasing the frequency of our trips to SXM once we finally became empty nesters in August of 2017! Great timing smile

We've been back 3 times since Irma, but now stay on the Dutch side instead of the French. The lack of progress at the airport is mildly disappointing, but at least it functions for its intended purpose, so no complaints there. The rebuilding effort and results on the Dutch side are noticeable. Its coming back, and is still a great place to visit, and in the last few trips we've been to beaches and restaurants we never visited before. We'll be back again.

That said, the lack of progress on the French side is ridiculous, depressing, infuriating, bewildering, ... you name it. Just an observation, but it seems like with a few notable exceptions there is a general lack of will to improve the situation, and no one really seems to care. That's on both the government and the people of St Martin, native and metropolitan. Everyone seems to want to point fingers and demand action from someone else. Everything is someone else's problem. There are exceptions, but they only prove the rule.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Lucky13] #215597
01/26/2020 12:58 PM
01/26/2020 12:58 PM
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The
Originally Posted by Lucky13
........

That said, the lack of progress on the French side is ridiculous, depressing, infuriating, bewildering, ... you name it. Just an observation, but it seems like with a few notable exceptions there is a general lack of will to improve the situation, and no one really seems to care. That's on both the government and the people of St Martin, native and metropolitan. Everyone seems to want to point fingers and demand action from someone else. Everything is someone else's problem. There are exceptions, but they only prove the rule.


Respectfully, I so disagree with your assessment.

The people of BOTH sides have made tremendous strides in improving the conditions post that b itch Irma given the incredible amount of damage sustained on both sides of the island, but the people of the French side have been seriously hampered, mostly by government - both local and mainland. Just getting roofs instead of tarps has been problematic for them and the clean-up itself has been a monumental effort. And for sure, those with better financial situations have done big things already but the general population has made great strides given all the restrictions and the pitfalls they’ve had to deal with.


Respectfully,

pat



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them."
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: pat] #215610
01/26/2020 02:21 PM
01/26/2020 02:21 PM
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Pat--I agree, I find a tremendous amount of DESIRE to rebuild on the French side, mostly shut down by government and lack of insurance payoffs/lack of money.

With regard to the carbets, if that were ME, as an owner of one of them, I would want to commit suicide, as the French government has surely driven them out of business.


Carol Hill
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Carol_Hill] #215615
01/26/2020 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Carol_Hill
Pat--I agree, I find a tremendous amount of DESIRE to rebuild on the French side, mostly shut down by government and lack of insurance payoffs/lack of money.


So the people of St Martin have no influence over their government? You're pointing a finger at the government on behalf of the people. That fingerpointing is part of the problem, if not THE problem.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Lucky13] #215616
01/26/2020 04:58 PM
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Lucky--I assume you were aware of the recent unrest on the French side?


Carol Hill
Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Carol_Hill] #215617
01/26/2020 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Carol_Hill
Lucky--I assume you were aware of the recent unrest on the French side?


I was there. I got caught up in it trying to get to OB. Got turned around in Cul de sac (before anyone but the protestors even knew that the protest had started) and almost got trapped in Grand Case. The French side has many, many problems. Some were inflicted by Irma, and some are self-inflicted. The commonality is that everyone wants someone else to solve them. Maybe it wouldn't be so obvious except for the stark comparison to the efforts that have been made on on the Dutch side. Just my opinion as a visitor, and not trying to offend, but flame me if you feel the need to.

Re: Trip Report 1/9-1/18 [Re: Lucky13] #215634
01/26/2020 07:09 PM
01/26/2020 07:09 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 70,579
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
Traveler
Carol_Hill  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 70,579
Central Florida!
Lucky--My problem with your statement is that you assume that the people have any control over the government. If the locals felt that they had ANY sense of control, I don't think the unrest would have happened, certainly not to the extent that it did. PERHAPS now things will change, but I totally get the locals' frustration with not being heard at all.


Carol Hill

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