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Trip Report - My Questions Answered #243224
12/24/2020 03:50 PM
12/24/2020 03:50 PM
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 154
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dvesc Offline OP
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dvesc  Offline OP
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My wife, son and I took a short trip to St. Martin last Thursday and returned home on Tuesday night. I posted several questions here leading up to the trip, and got a lot of great feedback that helped us decide to actually travel once the time came. We certainly considered not going, but I'm glad we did. I'll give a very short overview of our day-to-day activities (there's not much), and then discuss a few things that I had questions about before we left.

We spent five nights in Orient Bay at a really great AirBnB close to the restaurants and beach. We pretty much did the same thing every day -- spent half the day at Happy Bay, the other half at the beach in Orient, and then ate dinner at one of the restaurants in Orient Village. The limited variety wasn't really something we planned in advance, but we enjoyed it so much the first day we just kept doing it. Overall, it was exactly what I wanted in the vacation.

On to the answers to the questions I had before leaving ...

Would we be able get tested and get results in time?

This wasn't a problem. We are lucky to have free PCR testing nearby, and the results come back quickly. We got tested Monday morning and had the results by Tuesday morning. This was within a timeframe that allowed us to not only fill out the EHAS forms, but we also were able to avoid a second test to stay on the French side. We submitted the EHAS forms for all of us after receiving the results and were approved by the end of the day. A test wasn't required for my son since he's under 10, but we did still have to fill out a form for him. That was approved immediately upon submission.

What would the airport and flight be like?

We flew out of Charlotte on Thursday morning and it was much more crowded than I thought. The check-in line for international departures took about 30-40 minutes, and we were surrounded by people the entire time. It made me very uneasy and concerned since there was zero distancing, but most people did wear masks. Some better than others, though. This initial experience at the airport is the biggest reason I may not travel again until things get better.

The flight itself wasn't bad. I'd say there were about 35 people on board, which would have been much nicer had we not been strategically seated for weight distribution. There were several open areas on the plane, but we weren't allowed to sit there, including in our original assigned seats. We ended up with two people sharing the row across the aisle, one of whom didn't want to wear his mask unless a flight attendant came by, and no one in front or directly behind us. Based on the line I saw boarding a flight to Mexico, it could have been much worse, but I kept a pretty close eye on how crowded the flight would be only to have it not really matter as much as I'd thought due to the eventual seating arrangements.

Would there be social distancing at SXM?

As others have mentioned, we did have to take a short bus ride to the terminal. This took about a minute, but the bus was crowded. Fortunately, we were the first off and didn't have to wait in line at all to get through the airport. We landed about 1:50 and were out front with our checked bags by 2:05. It was very fast, which was a relief after the experience in Charlotte. With that said, not everyone working at the airport was wearing a mask, but we had limited contact so it didn't matter all that much.

What would it be like shopping?

My plan going into this trip was to use Petite Casino in Orient for daily trips. In the past, we always would buy way too much food the first day and waste a lot of it. I ended up going back several times during our stay, but I wouldn't recommend it if you are concerned about social distancing and masks. There may be better places to go, or you could at least just go once and that's it. Some employees wore masks, but they were pulled down more than worn appropriately. The same goes for the customers. Some didn't wear them, some did, and some put them on when they saw I was wearing mine. There was a lot less compliance to mask wearing than what we have in the U.S. grocery stores near us.

What about the restaurants?

I had the same experience in the restaurants. All employees seemed to have a mask, but they weren't really worn consistently. They were pulled up when taking an order or bringing food, though. I don't really think I saw a single customer wearing a mask. Despite all of this, we never really felt uncomfortable since we were eating outdoors and it wasn't too crowded. We ate most nights between 6:30-8. Things started to get more crowded at about 8 or so, but it wasn't hard to get a table separated from other customers earlier in the night. There was also good air flow it seemed. On Friday night it started to rain and we had to move to a covered area and ended up seated closer than we would have liked to another couple. They were smoking, but we never smelled any smoke, which made me think there was pretty good ventilation.

Would there be social distancing on the beach?

I wasn't overly concerned about this before leaving, and it turned out that it wasn't an issue at all. There weren't enough people to feel like the beach was overcrowded, and we had our own chairs. At Happy Bay, there was hardly anyone around, and at Orient we just set up in an open area with no other chairs. I don't think it would even be a problem if you were using the beach chairs at a bar. They seemed to be spread out enough, too.

What would happen if you got sick on the island?

The EHAS emails from the Dutch side give instructions on who to call, but I never figured out what would happen on the French side. I tried multiple times to determine what the process would be if we got sick and were quarantined. I never got an answer. We fortunately didn't have to find out, but I'm still curious where someone staying in a hotel or AirBnB would go to quarantine. I guess staying put would be an option, but I can see why that might be problematic for a few reasons.

We ended up purchasing a travel insurance policy that was supposed to cover additional lodging costs if we ended up having to delay our return due to illness, so I think we would have been OK. However, it would be nice to know for sure where tourists would stay if they got sick and couldn't leave. Not having this information made me nervous at times.

How about getting back home?

Check in at SXM was much easier than in CLT. The line was short, and we only got held up briefly due to a baggage issue with the person in front of us. Security wasn't an issue either, and we just walked right out to the plane at our gate. There wasn't any waiting to do that. There were even fewer people on the plane back to Charlotte, so we had even more space than flying over. After landing, customs and immigration was also pretty easy without any crowds or waiting.

Would I do it again?

Probably not. There are two reasons. The first was how crowded the airport was in CLT. If I could somehow avoid that experience, I'd probably travel again. There were just too many people in a very small area to feel comfortable, and it wasn't a great way to begin a trip.

My second reason is that I started to feel a little under the weather on the fourth day. I woke up not feeling great and then noticed I had a 99.5 temperature about mid-morning. I think it was just from getting a little sunburned the day before, but I couldn't help but worry some. This is when not knowing what was going to happen to me and my family became an issue. Had I known exactly where I'd go if I actually was sick, it maybe would have made the morning easier. But I didn't know, and I had to at least briefly consider that I might be getting sick and possibly picked something up in the airport or flight. Then what? There was just a lot to process and consider, and it wasn't something I'd like to do again -- especially on a vacation. After a few hours, I started feeling better and was able to relax. Everyone is still healthy now that we're home, too.

As I mentioned, we had a nice time and I'm glad we went forward with the trip, but I'd be reluctant to fly again under these circumstances. Despite making every effort to do it safely, there were still times when I couldn't control what was happening. I guess that will always be the case on trips, but just checking in for a flight shouldn't really be something that creates anxiety. This wouldn't keep me from recommending other people go, though. We've just had our trip, and I can wait a few more months for things to get better before traveling again.

Last edited by dvesc; 12/24/2020 04:52 PM.
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Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243226
12/24/2020 04:18 PM
12/24/2020 04:18 PM
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 319
Carib_Ian Offline
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Thank you for your honest, informative report!

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243227
12/24/2020 04:25 PM
12/24/2020 04:25 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 74,939
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
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Carol_Hill  Offline
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Central Florida!
thanks for the report. I understand your concerns. I think I would have similar concerns and it would interfere with my enjoyment.


Carol Hill
Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: Carol_Hill] #243228
12/24/2020 04:43 PM
12/24/2020 04:43 PM
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 732
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phillygirl7 Offline
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I have a scientist friend who was dismayed at people traveling right now. He knows we like it in SXM, and I said we do, we are outside almost all of the time, including dining spots. He did say that is a good thing, very hard to catch the virus if you are outside. He still goes to work but masks for all -- all the time.

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243229
12/24/2020 04:50 PM
12/24/2020 04:50 PM
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 13,857
Auburn, WA
SXMScubaman Online content
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SXMScubaman  Online Content
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Auburn, WA
Thanks for posting your experience on island. Disappointing to hear that masks aren't being worn by some airport and restaurant employees. What airline you fly out of CLT?

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243230
12/24/2020 04:54 PM
12/24/2020 04:54 PM
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 154
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dvesc Offline OP
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dvesc  Offline OP
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We flew American.

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243232
12/24/2020 05:37 PM
12/24/2020 05:37 PM
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 13,857
Auburn, WA
SXMScubaman Online content
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SXMScubaman  Online Content
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Auburn, WA
Thanks. To bad they didn't enforce masks better.

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: SXMScubaman] #243236
12/24/2020 06:43 PM
12/24/2020 06:43 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,160
Ohio
ruralcarrier Offline
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Originally Posted by SXMScubaman
Thanks for posting your experience on island. Disappointing to hear that masks aren't being worn by some airport and restaurant employees. What airline you fly out of CLT?

Pretty sure AA is the only airline with direct service out of CLT to SXM.


J.D.
Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243237
12/24/2020 06:48 PM
12/24/2020 06:48 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,160
Ohio
ruralcarrier Offline
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ruralcarrier  Offline
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Ohio
Thanks for the report.


J.D.
Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: SXMScubaman] #243238
12/24/2020 07:01 PM
12/24/2020 07:01 PM
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 154
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dvesc Offline OP
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dvesc  Offline OP
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Originally Posted by SXMScubaman
Thanks. To bad they didn't enforce masks better.


Aside from an initial announcement, there wasn’t much going on in terms of enforcement. However, the flight attendants coming back were a lot more active in the cabin, so that helped keep people accountable. Every adult knows what they are supposed to be doing, but it unfortunately takes being monitored to make it happen in some cases. Our toddler was told by a flight attendant he was wearing his mask better than some adults. I think it was only kind of a joke.

Last edited by dvesc; 12/24/2020 07:19 PM.
Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243239
12/24/2020 07:21 PM
12/24/2020 07:21 PM
Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 879
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SammyM Offline
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Appreciate your detailed report. I'm sure it will be helpful for those planning a January visit. But, being an eternal optimist things will be far better later next spring and into summer as COVID begins to retreat. We'll be waiting until Fall '21 for next visit. And, J.D. you are spot on. It is American that offers direct flights to SXM from CLT. As they do Miami. United is out of Newark, while Delta typically offers flights from Atlanta and New York JFK.

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243240
12/24/2020 07:55 PM
12/24/2020 07:55 PM
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 154
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dvesc Offline OP
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dvesc  Offline OP
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Yes, I think you’re right about things improving. We were very tempted to just postpone the trip. Everything has been changing all along, but hopefully it will be for the better soon.

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243250
12/24/2020 11:41 PM
12/24/2020 11:41 PM
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,297
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MotownTim Offline
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The most detailed and informative report so far during this difficult time.

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243252
12/25/2020 01:55 AM
12/25/2020 01:55 AM
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,916
Portland, OR
jazzgal Offline
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Portland, OR
Excellent information for the rest of us. Thanks so much for your report.


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Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243256
12/25/2020 08:19 AM
12/25/2020 08:19 AM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 4,260
Massachusetts
boucharda Offline
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boucharda  Offline
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Massachusetts
Great report.

SXM has done all it can to try and prevent tourists arriving with the virus but it definitely has to look in the mirror and deal with their own residents if they want to curb the spread AND prevent the tourists from being exposed to COVID by the residents of SXM. Getting jammed on a bus at the airport kinda symbolically says it all right from the start.

Yup...only a minute or two and probably not a biggie but does create an immediate impression of how the Island will protect THEM.

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243257
12/25/2020 08:29 AM
12/25/2020 08:29 AM
Joined: Jul 2006
Posts: 12,754
Peaceful Eastern North Carolin...
GaKaye Offline
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GaKaye  Offline
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Peaceful Eastern North Carolin...
When you say diners weren't wearing masks in restaurants, do you mean they weren't wearing them at their tables? Nowhere that I know of requires that, and it's pretty impossible to eat and drink while wearing a mask. As most restaurants on the island are outdoors , I also don't think it's necessary to wear a mask when entering and being seated. At indoor restaurants, sure. We did notice a lot of "chin masks" on staff at various places, but they pulled them up when they got near patrons.


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Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: GaKaye] #243259
12/25/2020 08:59 AM
12/25/2020 08:59 AM
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dvesc Offline OP
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Masks weren’t really used at any point by customers. We never ate indoors, though, and I think the general approach was that masks weren’t necessary as long as outside. We were OK with that, and I don’t feel it was much different than what you’d see at outdoor restaurants in the U.S. With that said, I didn’t see people using masks when getting up from their tables or walking to the restroom. We may have been more concerned if we’d eaten later when it was more crowded, but the mask use of others also may have changed with more people around.

Last edited by dvesc; 12/25/2020 09:06 AM.
Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243267
12/25/2020 10:32 AM
12/25/2020 10:32 AM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 4,260
Massachusetts
boucharda Offline
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boucharda  Offline
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Massachusetts
Masks obviously can't be worn while seated and enjoying a meal but most definitely should be worn when entering an establishment and when moving around in that establishment. On our recent visit to St. Thomas you definitely were made aware of this mandate that is in place for the protection of both visitors and residents ...and we never had an indoor meal. Outdoor dining places had the same rules as indoor and it was your preference where to dine. Bar service was to table only....I felt safe. Different environment and I guess I will find out for myself in January

oh...and outdoor restaurants, at least in MA have the same mask requirements as above.....guess it's state dependent in the USA

Re: Trip Report - My Questions Answered [Re: dvesc] #243279
12/25/2020 01:33 PM
12/25/2020 01:33 PM
Joined: Jul 2001
Posts: 7,116
St Louis, MO
SXMNorm Offline
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SXMNorm  Offline
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St Louis, MO
Thanks for taking time to post and give some good, current info.


Next SXM visit - January/February 2022

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