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28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry #138903
08/27/2017 06:59 PM
08/27/2017 06:59 PM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
jerber160 Offline OP
Traveler
jerber160  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
We like to book at least one excursion ahead of time and Iíd been looking at Captín Neilís Celine since Iíd heard he lost her in 2014ís Hurricane Gonzalo. In 2017 the time was prime and I called ahead to book two places and leave my credit card directly with Neil. I guess the system was supposed to be reserve space on line then pay once aboard but I wanted to insure our place. I can be a little squirrelly that way. Booking confirmed, Iíd also mentioned weíd like a van to shuttle us to and from our hotel and was assured for $20 RT a van would pick us up at 7:30 on Friday-just pay the driver. $320 for door to door service for two people, an 8AM to 6PM sail along gorgeous shoreline to Tintamarre, snorkeling at Creole Rock and mud bath silliness at Happy Bay with gear, breakfast, lunch and drinks included is a reasonable rate by any means but when you add in the quality of the food and the attentiveness of the crew, it became a bargain! A steal even.

As it turns out, the bus company driver apparently arrived early to our hotel and left without us. On Jamaica youíd say Ďno problem.í Heh. We scurried to call a cab then called Captín Neil letting him know we were on our way. I was anxious about the bridge openings but we managed to be on time at the dock on the lagoon behind the Stone Restaurant in Cole Bay, and gladly we were not the last arrivals. Unfortunately six potential mateys were lost from our 10 hour cruise and Captín Neilís on-line manifest and Ipad seemed to be malfunctioning too, so he was starting out with a rough day but he never let it get to him. The twelve survivors began to settle in and chat: T and S, a bridal party of 8 plus M and I had made it on time.

We were introduced to our crew, Francois, the French mate and work horse and Stephana, third day on the job and an extra pair of hands. Both worked tirelessly all day to see any and all of our needs were met: supplying us with food, snorkel gear, noodles, chairs, umbrellas, banter and booze. But first, mimosas!

Before I knew it, a fresh and healthy smell assailed my nose and the breakfast buffet was laid out. A huge mound of fluffy scrambled eggs with fresh parsley and herbs took on a bright newness, baguettes, assorted French pastries, Dutch cheeses and fresh fruit-watermelon, kiwi, grapes, strawberries and banana plus those mimosas on the lagoon jump-started our trip as we were headed to the bridge opening. I didnít notice that yogurt was available too. If I could offer one tiny suggestion (audacious I admit as Captín Neilís food proved to be fantastic) Iíd ask the Captín to stock a few jars of local jams, rather than Smuckerís to go with the fresh baguettes. Thatís a hangover from doing Windjammer Barefoot Cruises where I was introduced to nutmeg syrup from Grenada rather than maple syrup to be used on pancakes and waffles. That small touch of the islands has appealed to and amused me ever since and I enjoy hunting out local variables like this. That said, the tastes and smells of breakfast were welcoming and relaxing and soon weíd spread out on the upper deck where Rum Punch seemed suitable for the next leg of our morning cruise.

It was a peaceful jaunt to Tintamarre: not too hot with a great breeze, beautiful vistas and yes, rum punch. Let that sink in and donít gloss over it because itís the memory to take home to battle the stress of the daily grind: cruising along beautiful shoreline, wind in whatís left of your hair, pouring a small rum libation to the jealous water God, Agwe. A minor rain shower weíd seen over the north shore of St. Martin overtook us and I took it in stride since the warm rain was not strong enough to interrupt my tanning and I was carrying a waterproof camera. I will mention here that I was wearing a Scop patch because, on our 2015 trip, weíd taken the Tango across the Anguilla Channel and on the return leg I was surprised by getting a little queasy until we were again blocked by the island. It didnít please me that this interrupted my party! M had also had a bit of a rough time on the outgoing leg to Anguilla. Iíll concede, two years ago, a storm had passed through a few days before hence the sea was still a bit rough and cloudy and although Iíll never know if I needed the patch cruising to Tintamarre, I didnít see the need to take a chance. At one point I heard Francois offering some prophylactic remedy but paid him no mind. Before long the BP were taking glam-shot photos off the prow and T was pointing out favorite beaches on the north shore. The BP suggested music and I was gratified they had no problem when I suggested we plug in my island/soca/reggae mix. I snapped photos of Fort Louis as we passed out of Marigot but sadly, the distance was too great to get decent shots with my devices.

As we neared Tintamarre, the growing rock formations were severe yet beautiful against the gorgeous water, mottled as they were with reds, browns and grays and accented by vivid greens. In fact all of St. Maarten seemed remarkably green this year with the water stunningly clear!

Francois assured us many turtles called this area home and we got fitted with fins and masks and snorkels and overboard we went. I was on a mission scouring the grass fields diligently, criss-crossing back and forth, spying a fish or two but the famed turtles eluded me. Ah well, I got a lot of exercise and this was good but Iíd also worked up a thirst. Loungers, umbrellas and shoes had been shuttled to the beach along with a large cooler, so I crawled ashore for some chilling with El Presidente, chatting with other mates.

Francois announced the hike (a leisurely walk, really) and four of us, water bottles at the ready, set out. The ground of Ďthe flat islandí is rocky and spiky, largely overgrown with roots and vines but water shoes were solid enough to stand up to the task. Tintamarre is now deserted but we were given some bits of history regarding an airfield mostly utilized in World War II. We were led to the downed hull of an airplane nested in shrubs (the on-line photos are fairly common) and the ruins of a house can be seen not far off. Our walk sort of circled the once-air strip. There was a small salt pond and we were reminded fresh water is a problem here but wild goats running in the distance seemed to be doing fine! The hike was hot but preferable to overindulging in booze and Francois was informative, warning us one bush was Ďbadí but I deemed it pharmaceutical in that itís milky sap could burn the skin.

I admit my energy was starting to flag; the long trek back to the pink-sand beach seemed long. The girls a few times needed a hand to navigate the rocks and once again on the shore, I opted to walk the top of the dunes, trying to stay on grass rather than slogging through deep and shifting sand, avoiding the sometimes rocky breaking waves. Small lizards were everywhere.

Returning to base, another beer and dip in the shallows was in order. I was sans mask and snorkel and didnít a ray swam right beside us on an arcane route of its own? Slow moving, I wanted to see it under water but thought it would be gone if I ran for my mask. Itís fascinating the way they undulate but it was difficult to see and it wasnít a turtle. If Iím not mistaken I think we snorkeled back to the Celine too and I did one more hopeful loop of the grasslands, to no avail but I still enjoyed sipping a beer in the cool water before climbing aboard for good.

LUNCH was a gorgeous affair: delicious paella with finely cooked and seasoned calamari and shrimp was my favorite. If youíve done it, you know how hard it is to cook calamari and this was remarkably tender. Succulent even. I havenít praise enough for Captín Neilís pasta salad with sun dried tomatoes. I could have made an entire meal of it, bowls upon bowls, not limiting myself to a side serving but I held back! There was falling off the bone barbecued ribs and beautifully garnished potato salad. A greek/fruit salad was mouth watering and garlic toast was perfection. This fantastic spread was cooked in the tiny galley and easily fell in line with our week of terrific food. Playing the gentleman I let the others graze the buffet first so I didnít get a sample of the blackened fish but it looked awesome. Ahh well, and although I didnít indulge, not long after this beautiful meal, an Ice Cream Boat pulled up next to us. A few in the Bridal Party ended up mixing their ice cream delights with bar offerings ending up with boozy desserts. I was content with my Presidente.

We returned to SXM and headed for Creole Rock-the snorkel stop. Snorkeling on St. Maarten isnít wonderful. Iíve never encountered really thriving reefs although Creole Rock, like Tintamarre is part of the marine reserve. I never twigged that there was a feed-the-fish leg of our cruise-I thought weíd just be snorkeling a reef and Iíve never found this type of excursion to be fulfilling because, even though Iím a tyro, I find it much more satisfying to be actually scuba diving. The peaceful and quiet immersion into the undisturbed underwater world is much more calming and pleasing in its totality but staying on the surface at Creole Rock was fine. Francois had saved the shrimp shells from the paella to attract those who dwelt here and M was thrilled as yellow striped goat fish and sergeant majors swarmed and a few mid size something or others boldly darted in, flashing in to attack the offerings. Francois was everywhere doling out portions of shrimp shells and he circled the group divvying some to each of us so we could all join in the feeding. I thought taking underwater video made fish-feeding a much more fun activity and M also enjoyed the greater ease she was gaining at snorkeling. She also enjoyed the many spiny urchins dotting the bottom. I did too!

Back aboard we made the short jump to Happy Bay where the deck was cleared and a smallish paint can was set out. Where I was expecting a human-sized vat of ooze, this was the mud bath. Francois dipped a hand in and muddied up and bemused, I joined in, making sure I did my face and shoulders well. Iím not sure why! The creamy goo was slick and before I knew it I was leaping off the side of the boat-something I havenít done in years and I felt kind of young! <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Clapping.gif" alt="" /> While Francois was leading us in this silliness, Neil was donning snorkel and mask, and lifting hatches and looking concerned, but we were busy playing. As itís not possible to wash completely clean in the water we put the deck hose to use and Francois and Steph were needed to de-mudify us.

Our day was coming to its close and we headed back for the Marigot bridge opening. I guess we had a vague sense something was wrong, but Captín Neil was calm the entire time.
Apparently something was wonky with a propeller. We did the silly wave/smile/wuuhuu at pedestrians up on the drawbridge and once in the lagoon, we circled three times, a relaxing sunset activity, even if we were ready to bring our fine day to an end. We couldnít help but marvel at the sleek mega-yachts at anchor here. One black beast was pure 007/Spy/Bond/Predator/Fantasy that was to the other anchored yachts what the newest feral CGI Godzilla is to the old, lumbering human in a suit. Now Iím wondering why I was disinclined to snap a picture and oddly, canít find one on line. Eventually, Francois manned the dinghy giving us a gentle nudge, and a man from the dock leapt to lend a hand and we were docked.

Our day wound to its end around 7PM. Gilliganís now-bonded crew of 12 said their goodbyes, tipped the crew (I hope everyone was generous-they were diligent and pleasant in the midst of a rough day) then we went our own ways: Neil lifting M and myself back to the Flamingo as the bus problem remained unsolved. Our kick-it-back excursion day was at an end and an event-filled time on the Celine too became a vacation memory.

Back at the Flamingo we were happy but whooped and in need of rejuvenating showers in air conditioned coolness. The Pelican Grillís board had announced Friday as Prime Rib Night plus steel drums and although itís a flexible vacation rule to try to eat foods I canít readily get at home, that seemed like the easiest plan after the day weíd put in. When The Pelican was Toppers, weíd deemed it less than satisfying and avoided eating here since there were so many wonderful places nearby but weíd had some happy hour success with the new managementís appetizers and decided to give it a go. This was not a good choice. I do not like it when my drink spills because the table convulses at the effort it takes to hack through gristle not to mention a good prime rib should not have gristle, nor an unable-to-be-broached outer layer. The rice did nothing to tempt my tastebuds and the green beans remained stagnant on my plate. I believe they, like styrofoam, will remain in the eco-system for generations. A side order of plantain was happily redeeming and tired as I was, theyíre probably why I couldnít muster the energy to send anything back to the kitchen. Despite this culinary disappointment, reminiscing about the day, plus enjoyable if loud music and a guavaberry colada for dessert ended our excursion day well. <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/duh.gif" alt="" />

SXM Sponsors
Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jerber160] #138904
08/27/2017 07:04 PM
08/27/2017 07:04 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,160
Ohio
ruralcarrier Offline
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ruralcarrier  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,160
Ohio
Thanks for the report. The prime rib meal sounds rather disgusting.


J.D.
Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: ruralcarrier] #138905
08/27/2017 07:11 PM
08/27/2017 07:11 PM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
jerber160 Offline OP
Traveler
jerber160  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
Quote
ruralcarrier said:
Thanks for the report. The prime rib meal sounds rather disgusting.
Not disgusting actually but really sub par. Except the beans. Those I'd say were disgusting.

Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jerber160] #138906
08/28/2017 03:36 AM
08/28/2017 03:36 AM
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,916
Portland, OR
jazzgal Offline
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jazzgal  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,916
Portland, OR
I really enjoy your writing - thanks for the report. I'm scheduled for this same trip in November.


[Linked Image]
Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jazzgal] #138907
08/28/2017 06:34 AM
08/28/2017 06:34 AM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
jerber160 Offline OP
Traveler
jerber160  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
Quote
jazzgal said:
I really enjoy your writing - thanks for the report. I'm scheduled for this same trip in November.
they take such good care of you.. you'll love it I think

Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jerber160] #138908
08/28/2017 08:56 AM
08/28/2017 08:56 AM
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 359
Maryland
Jim_Laraine Offline
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Jim_Laraine  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 359
Maryland
Nice report, thanks!

Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jerber160] #138909
08/28/2017 09:04 AM
08/28/2017 09:04 AM
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 704
Western MA
S
SandS Online content
Traveler
SandS  Online Content
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S
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 704
Western MA
Enjoyed reading your report. We found it very informative since we have never been on a trip like that. Thanks for the tip about the Pelican, we were considering it last Feb. but never tried it. Since you stayed at the Flamingo did you notice any improvements at the beach bar at SBR? We hope your whole vacation was as good as your boat trip.

Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jerber160] #138910
08/28/2017 09:07 AM
08/28/2017 09:07 AM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 13,301
Brookfield, CT.
pat Offline
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pat  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 13,301
Brookfield, CT.
Sounds like a lovely day. TY for sharing it. <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/handshake.gif" alt="" /> <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/handshake.gif" alt="" />


Respectfully,

pat



"Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat
them."
Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jerber160] #138911
08/28/2017 09:28 AM
08/28/2017 09:28 AM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 74,939
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
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Carol_Hill  Offline
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Posts: 74,939
Central Florida!
thanks very much for the report. Sounds lovely!


Carol Hill
Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: SandS] #138912
08/28/2017 10:09 AM
08/28/2017 10:09 AM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
jerber160 Offline OP
Traveler
jerber160  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
Quote
SandS said:
Enjoyed reading your report. We found it very informative since we have never been on a trip like that. Thanks for the tip about the Pelican, we were considering it last Feb. but never tried it. Since you stayed at the Flamingo did you notice any improvements at the beach bar at SBR? We hope your whole vacation was as good as your boat trip.
I'm not sure... the only bar we go to at SBR is the one out on the sand by the volleyball court. I don't think it has a name. We only went once because they took the conch off the menu and were playing American oldies. I didn't go all this way to listen to Lionel Richie. The Pelican did have conch and mostly island music a lot of the time.

Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jerber160] #138913
08/28/2017 10:17 AM
08/28/2017 10:17 AM
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 17,951
St Maarten
BillandElaine Offline
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BillandElaine  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 17,951
St Maarten
We do this trip every couple of months, the only excursion we continue to do after all these years. Never fails to be a wonderful time. I somehow can't imagine wanting dinner after being fed like that all day! <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/jester.gif" alt="" />


Elaine
*********************************
God Bless the broken road....
Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: jerber160] #138914
08/28/2017 04:08 PM
08/28/2017 04:08 PM
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,916
Portland, OR
jazzgal Offline
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jazzgal  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,916
Portland, OR
Quote
jerber160 said:
Quote
jazzgal said:
I really enjoy your writing - thanks for the report. I'm scheduled for this same trip in November.
they take such good care of you.. you'll love it I think


I've been on it several times before and yes, I will be well taken care of.


[Linked Image]
Re: 28July2017Celinetoo. again long. sorry [Re: BillandElaine] #138915
08/28/2017 08:42 PM
08/28/2017 08:42 PM
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
jerber160 Offline OP
Traveler
jerber160  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Sep 2014
Posts: 334
Pittsburgh, PA
Quote
BillandElaine said:
We do this trip every couple of months, the only excursion we continue to do after all these years. Never fails to be a wonderful time. I somehow can't imagine wanting dinner after being fed like that all day! <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/jester.gif" alt="" />

Well, I think lunch was served around 1 or 2 ish... and after all that exercise.... snorkeling Creole Rock.. washing off mud at Happy Bay,, yeah,, 8 PM I was hongry again. And I don't think anyone over ate. Nice healthy portions seemed to be the rule for the day.


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