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March Combo Visit Report #220302
03/11/2020 11:00 AM
03/11/2020 11:00 AM
Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 933
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SammyM Offline OP
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SammyM  Offline OP
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Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 933
Just got back today from another full week on the island with four days at Palm Court on the french side and three days to wind things up on the Dutch side staying at a new place for us -- Commodore Suites. The beaches were great (as usual), definitely ate too much (as usual), but the highlight by far was meeting 'Ruralcarrier' on Mullet Bay Beach on Monday after ordering a plate of ribs at Rosie's. Shot the bull with him for roughly an hour which was really nice as we shared our SXM experiences.

I'll have more to report about our visit, but it's now nap time after getting just four hours of sleep last night!

SXM Sponsors
Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220304
03/11/2020 11:10 AM
03/11/2020 11:10 AM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,702
Ohio
ruralcarrier Offline
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ruralcarrier  Offline
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Posts: 16,702
Ohio
Nice meeting you and looking forward to your report. Thanks for the post on Commodore Suites.


J.D.
Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220308
03/11/2020 11:43 AM
03/11/2020 11:43 AM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 78,546
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
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Carol_Hill  Offline
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Posts: 78,546
Central Florida!
Travelling is such fun, huh?? Glad you enjoyed your trip. It's always great to meet up with a new friend!


Carol Hill
Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220344
03/11/2020 04:56 PM
03/11/2020 04:56 PM
Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 933
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SammyM Offline OP
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SammyM  Offline OP
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Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 933
Yes, it's a bit tiring but I wouldn't trade my St. Martin experiences for anything. Hope that this report will help some people stick to their plans and still follow through with their visits. Yes, the coronavirus thing is a deep concern, by I'm still not aware of any positive cases on either side of the island. If it stays that way, then keeping your travel plans in place is what I would recommend. My wife and I had a great time so here goes with my report ....

DAY ONE thru DAY FOUR -- FRENCH ST. MARTIN

Jet Blue flights from Buffalo to JFK, and then onto St. Martin were super smooth and on time. In fact, we landed last Tuesday a full half hour ahead of schedule (4:00 instead of 4:30). Landing on SXM, it is still the same routine with loading onto the buses and taken to customs and immigration. Lines were almost non-existent, and we were thru in less than 20 minutes. Didn't rent a car at this time, because our destination was Orient Village and the Palm Court motel. Took a taxi and there were no travel problems, roadblocks, runaway scooters, etc. Tried staying here three years ago, but those plans got washed away by the hurricane so this was now our chance to experience this boutique hotel with it's great location near Orient Beach.

Taxi cost $35, and the trip was reasonable. Tons of traffic coming in from Marigot and places north, by only moderate traffic going away from the Maho area in that direction. Anne, the hotel manager at Palm Court, greeted us and showed us around before escorting us to our room on the second floor. There is no elevator at Palm Court, so it is wise to insist on a first floor room if stairs are an issue. For my wife and I they are not, but it was totally no fun lugging up her giant red suitcase to our second floor suite (but I got it there). Our room was exceptionally nice, with the usual hard wood floors, a deck that overlooks the pool and breakfast area, a kitchenette, and a king size bed. We were hot and tired from traveling, but the water isles in the Orient Bay area forced us to postpone grabbing showers until after 5:00 p.m. (when the water got switched back on). We then had water for about three hours, before it was shut off again ... a real annoyance. But, we didn't plan to hang around the motel and we were given bottles of drinking water at no charge along with jugs of water to dump manually into the toilets to keep them working. Strange, but it was effective.

Dinner the first night was at Le Piment, a restaurant we've been trying to get to for a long time. Overall, the experience was outstanding. The staff there is very accommodating, and even though we had reservations we watched as they did their best to fit in others who strolled up without reservations. The lovely, french waitresses working here really elevate this place to a high level. Super friendly and always ready to please, Sara and Salome made our evening dining experience a memorable one. The menu has the usual selections that you'll find at a french restaurant with various beef and duck entrees, but they also offered extensive pizza selections similar to what you would find in those cafes around Rome and Florence. We decided to go full bore on our first evening, so you can spend as much as you desire at this place. When you get the check, the prices are carefully laid out in both euros and dollars, and of course the 4 percent tax has been added in (but no service charge or gratuity).

We then walked around visiting the various vendors who had set up tables in the square before heading over to Yellow Sub for a drink. First night's sleep at Palm Court was quite restful, though the air conditioning unit was a bit noisy. No big deal.

Each morning from 7 to 10 Palm Court serves a continental breakfast that includes toast, fruit, croissants, french bread, etc. Additional charges apply if you want an omelette or eggs & sausage, pancakes, or other cooked items. Staying at Palm Court provides free beach chairs and an umbrella on Bikini Beach, but not in the first row. Nor is a drink provided, but beach towels are supplied by the hotel.

After breakfast we spent each day on Orient Beach soaking up the rays, walking the beach, and doing some reading. The following beach bars and restaurants from north to south are up-and-running starting with Coco Beach and their beige colored umbrellas directly in front of Esmeralda. The staff told me they opened on Monday, and there layout was impressive. Moving from top to bottom, next was KKO (Blue) which was there a year ago, then La Playa with their white and aqua blue colors, followed by Bikini Beach in light green. Most of the gaps that existed previously have been filled-in nicely, and that was refreshing to see. Past Bikini going south you'll then come to Wai Plage and there autumn like colors (yellow, red, and orange umbrellas), and of course Kontiki (dark red). But, as you walk further south some old familiar beach bars have returned or are in the process of returning. Le String, Sun Beach Clubber, Chez Leandra, and one or two others have re-appeared bringing back old memories when those places were in high gear prior to Irma. Tried to talk to staff at each of these places, and the message was the same: we're glad you guys are back!

Still no Pedro's (heard that he's in a hospital in Guadaloupe), but the Club Orient Beach was going strong (especially on Friday). Staying up at Bikini was a bit inconvenient, because you have to wear your suit down past the rocks before removing it and having to hold it as you walk along the clothing optional beach and then take a dip. Cedrick and the Perch Bar & Grill were going strong, too. Happy Hour features 2-for-1 drinks from 1:30 to 2:30, and the prices can't be beat. Just be prepared to stand in line if only one bartender in working. We walked over and had lunch at the Perch the one afternoon and we both ordered the cheeseburger platters. Not sure what changed between this year and last, but the burgers this year were the best yet by a wide margin. They're using a much better bun this year, and the burgers were jucier than I can ever remember. And, the value presented at the Perch is outstanding. Two cheeseburger platters and two drinks cost just $26 USD, and dollars and euros are valued here at the same level. Compare that price to 39 euros at Bikini for the same exact items and it's a no brainer to take the walk to the Perch and support them. Can't recommend this enough.

Dinner the second night was at an old favorite, Yellow Sub. Things are always little hectic over there, but my wife ordered the beef skewer and it looked like it was served on a sword! Huge chunks of steak with grilled veggies in between, and enough food to be shared by two. Wish I would have taken a photo of it, but I don't take my cell phone on vacation -- ever. On our third evening we returned to Le Piment for pizza, and it was very good (sort of New York style, but with good size and flavor). Pizza price yes were reasonable at 13 euros (the essentially same pizza costs 32 euros at Sa Trinxa on Ibiza, Spain). Of course, with such a low price dessert was in order and I always long for those little chocolate cakes filled with hot fudge and the scoop of vanilla ice cream that comes with it. Once again, the service was outstanding at Le Piment and the staff was exceptional.

On our last night on the french side we had reservations at L'Astrolabe in the Esmeralda resort complex and it, too was very good (though a bit pricey). For 49 euros per person, you can select a three course meal (appetizer, main entree, and dessert). But, be aware that some items are not included in that combination price and an additional 12 euros will be applied for higher ticket items. I got the caesar salad (I know, boring), an amazing filet, and an awesome raspberry dessert for that price that otherwise would have cost 6 euros more. L'Astrolabe is definitely worth the walk, especially if celebrating a special occasion or anniversary.

That's enough for now. I'll add to this report tomorrow and include our transfer to the dutch side, the end of the Heineken Regatta, and more outstanding dining at some familiar old places.

Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220347
03/11/2020 05:02 PM
03/11/2020 05:02 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,702
Ohio
ruralcarrier Offline
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ruralcarrier  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,702
Ohio
Thanks for the report.


J.D.
Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220350
03/11/2020 05:22 PM
03/11/2020 05:22 PM
Joined: Mar 2019
Posts: 17
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319expat Offline
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319expat  Offline
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Thanks for the report! Glad to hear L'Astrolabe is still good, I can still feel the uber-richness of the fois gras from when I ate there pre-Irma.

Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220355
03/11/2020 06:07 PM
03/11/2020 06:07 PM
Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 646
Maine
SXMbeacher Offline
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SXMbeacher  Offline
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Posts: 646
Maine
Nice report, Thanks!



Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220356
03/11/2020 06:11 PM
03/11/2020 06:11 PM
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 16,209
Auburn, WA
SXMScubaman Online content
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SXMScubaman  Online Content
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Posts: 16,209
Auburn, WA
Nice report. Good to see Orient is coming right along.

Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220378
03/12/2020 01:02 AM
03/12/2020 01:02 AM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 2,031
Royersford, PA (30m NW of Phil...
Biturbo Offline
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Biturbo  Offline
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Posts: 2,031
Royersford, PA (30m NW of Phil...
Nice report, thanks. I always enjoy reading reports that include our favs in Orient Village, and how well Club O beach has come along.


"In a yellow El Camino, listening to Howlin' Wolf" - Lucinda
Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220379
03/12/2020 02:05 AM
03/12/2020 02:05 AM
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 1,437
Westchester /NYC
Colour1 Offline
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Colour1  Offline
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Posts: 1,437
Westchester /NYC
We loved Palm Court! Nice pool and the made to order breakfast is a nice touch! No mention of Cruisers???? Sounds like the perfect vacation!


Sand Gravity, got to love it!
Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220425
03/12/2020 12:09 PM
03/12/2020 12:09 PM
Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 933
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SammyM Offline OP
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SammyM  Offline OP
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To Colour1 ... there were some cruisers on Orient Beach that we saw, but not like in the past when you would see hoards on them filling up beach chairs or having lunch at Pedro's. I would guess that people getting beach chairs and an umbrella on Orient was down about 20 percent, but that's just a guess. It may simply look that way because more places are now open and visitors are spreading out among them. The clothing optional beach was fairly crowded, especially on that Friday.

Now , for part two of my report ....

DAYS FIVE THRU SEVEN -- DUTCH SINT MAARTEN

On the fifth day we spent the morning on Orient Beach, before packing up and taking a taxi to the Dutch side and our next hotel, Commodore Suites. This hotel has not been open that long (about 3 years, I believe), and we decided to give it a try because the price was good for a short stay. The hotel is located directly above the Double Dutch Market on Welfare Road, near the Atrium Hotel and almost right next door to Topper's. We were blown away by how friendly the desk staff was and because the Heineken Regatta was wrapping up they had beer left over, so part of the check-in process was receiving two ice cold bottles of Heineken on a hot day! The rooms are very nice, with a spacious bathroom and full kitchenette that featured a near full-size refrigerator. Kim Sha beach is right behind this place, so you simply walk past the Burger King and down the narrow road where the Greenhouse restaurant is located and within five minutes you reach the Buccaneer Beach Bar and the beach. Two chairs and an umbrella ran $20 which seems to be the going rate these days. Kim Sha was very calm this day, and good for swimming (a nice change from Saturday on Orient or the following day when it looked like a tsunami was about to overtake Mullet Bay).

We ordered lunch from the Buccaneer Beach Bar restaurant, and it was exceptionally good. Later in the day I took a stroll along the beach and found a crossover up to Roxxy Beach (which I was not familiar with). It definitely had younger vibe going on, with a DJ blasting music (for a fee?) and a fair number of younger women who were topless, something that is far less common on the Dutch beaches from my past experiences. It definitely had a different feel than Kim Sha which is typically more family-oriented and laid back. The weather was outstanding, but that was about to change the next day. Dinner that night was at Topper's, with their usual friendly service and diverse menu. I decided on the Prime Rib special for $35, but in hindsight should have just stayed with their legendary cheeseburger at a much lower cost. Prime Rib was just okay, IMO. As an FYI, Topper's did not add the 15% service charge to our bill. So, I tipped our lovely waitress Carol 20 percent in turn.

The following day we had a good breakfast at the St. Maarten Yacht Club, which is always a nice experience. But, it was almost a bit too cool sitting on their back patio with the wind whistling thru. Then it was off to Mullet Bay Beach and eventually a walk over to Maho to once again see the planes land over our heads. I never get tired of that. Arriving at Mullet, you could see the waves crashing high into the air as you entered from the parking lot. Swimming was not going to happen on this day, and only surfers were going to take on these 8 to 10 foot waves. This is where I met Ruralcarrier from this forum, and it was very nice meeting someone from TTOL and getting to know them better. After all, we all share one common thing -- our love and dedication to SXM. I grabbed a plate of ribs from Rosie's (always a good value at $7), but not sure why they weren't up to their usual high standard. Several were overcooked and the meat was dried out form this. A bit disappointing.

We then walked over to Maho where the waves were also quite strong, but not at the same intensity of Mullet. We ordered drinks at the Sunset Beach Bar before heading back and preparing for a night dining at Skipjacks. We heard and read that Skipjacks has been 'hot & cold' lately, but they were really 'on' this evening. First we watched some dude who was fly fishing bag an impressive tarpon out in the bay (catch & release) as the dinner crowd applauded him. Then, it was time for business. I ordered the SJ Seafood Platter ($30) and it was worth every cent. Shrimp, scallops, mahi mahi, and a crab cake back along with two sides did the trick and left no room for dessert. Skipjacks did include the 15 percent service charge so it's was smart to check for that before settling the bill. But, later dessert did enter my mind and a quick trip to the market below did the trick. How convenient!

On our final day a breakfast visit to Zee Best is a must. Oh that basket of baked goods and croissants they bring out when you get your menu! No, they're not free but I simply can't hold back and must have a few. Breakfast here is terrific. Huge portions and full size glasses of juice validate the slightly higher prices, but you won't be hungry for a long time after eating here to start off your day. My three egg ham & cheese omelette looked like a five-egg omelette, and tasted great. We didn't have to leave until later that afternoon, so we spent more time on Kim Sha before packing up one last time and heading to the airport. The airport is still coming along slowly, but our Gate 5 did not have a jetway and once again it was on a bus to the plane and boarding from the front and and the rear of the plane simultaneously. Flight to Ft. Lauderdale was bumpy (the dreaded "rough air"), but we got their safely and then faced the 90 minute adventure through Customs & Immigration. Maybe once the coronavirus pandemic is over we'll opt for global entry.

Another Jet Blue flight to Buffalo got us back at midnight and we wrapped up another fun St. Martin vacation. We are now just hoping and praying that St. Martin stays strong with all the coronavirus stuff going around. We had some minor concerns before taking this trip, but we're glad we didn't cancel. Until the next time ...

Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220426
03/12/2020 12:14 PM
03/12/2020 12:14 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 78,546
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
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Carol_Hill  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 78,546
Central Florida!
Thanks for a lovely report! Yes, I do fear for the island, how all this will affect her citizens, from a health standpoint, and financially.


Carol Hill
Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220432
03/12/2020 12:55 PM
03/12/2020 12:55 PM
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 762
Harriston
megamania Offline
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megamania  Offline
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Harriston
Great trip report,,,I wondered about commodore suites if we ever needed a night or two between places. Thanks for update. It is crazy how everyone experiences different things. Zee Best for our breakfast was absolutely horrible. Never have I ever order bacon and eggs and got two strips of that pre-fab bacon...and of course I was real hungry that morning. Sooo disappointing. Someone had eggs benedict and by the look and sound of it,,,much better choice. Costly enough, but don't mind when food is good. Also we are SkipJack lovers, but there were 8 of us,,,all were very disappointed except for one who ordered the salmon, Said it was awesome.
So, I guess my point is...we all have different experiences. I always give a place one more try if really disappointed, but that's about it. The last year we were somewhat disappointed in the lobster at SkipJacks,,,,size of lobsters are too large to start with (tough) and cooked too long or something. Years before, we never had a bad meal there. AFter two most recent experiences,,probs try elsewhere, although the staff are pretty friendly smile


Randy and Meg Young
Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220433
03/12/2020 01:12 PM
03/12/2020 01:12 PM
Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 933
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SammyM Offline OP
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SammyM  Offline OP
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Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 933
I try to ask as many locals as I can about where they like to eat as well as gain opinions from those of us on this forum. Then, I try to weight the results and make an informed decision. Every place has good and bad days, but usually the better places are a safer bet in the long run. I was shocked at how overcooked the ribs were at Rosie's. Some were simply not edible. Overall, all of our dining experiences were good highlighted by that beef skewer dish at Yellow Sub and the improvement in the cheeseburgers at Perch Bar & Grill. Still trying to figure out why some places on the Dutch side charge the service fee while others forego it.

Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220435
03/12/2020 01:18 PM
03/12/2020 01:18 PM
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 16,209
Auburn, WA
SXMScubaman Online content
Traveler
SXMScubaman  Online Content
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Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 16,209
Auburn, WA
"Oh that basket of baked goods and croissants they bring out when you get your menu! "
You mean that basket of recycled pastries that god knows who touched them before you. No way.

Re: March Combo Visit Report [Re: SammyM] #220456
03/12/2020 04:27 PM
03/12/2020 04:27 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,702
Ohio
ruralcarrier Offline
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ruralcarrier  Offline
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Posts: 16,702
Ohio
Thanks or the second installment. I went back to Mullet Bay today, much calmer.


J.D.

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