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Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 #270805
12/06/2021 12:54 PM
12/06/2021 12:54 PM
Joined: Nov 2020
Posts: 3
Cincinnati, OH
davemy Offline OP
Member
davemy  Offline OP
Member
Joined: Nov 2020
Posts: 3
Cincinnati, OH
Preparation
We are 5 couples ranging in age from early 60s to middle 40s. Two of the couples had visited SXM last year and we had some definite restaurants and activities we wanted to revisit. I followed this forum and found valuable information, time saving guidance and great recommendations.
Accommodations
We chose to stay at Simpson Bay Resort Marina and Spa again this year. While there are a wide variety of accommodations available, the price, location and amenities made it the right fit for our group. All units have a full kitchen including refrigerator, oven and dishwasher. Most of our group chose the Marina building, though a few wanted the beach/sunset view offered by the Flamboyant building. The beach was just steps away, as was the pool and both offered a bar with daily drink specials, happy hours and food. We were able to walk to dinner several nights, visited the Red Piano and Hollywood Casino on several times as well. There is also secure, free, covered parking available.
Car Rental: Previously I used Kenny’s and that would have been my choice this visit, except with 10 adults, we needed a large van. I did reach out to Lesley Bruce (Kenney’s Car rental) but the person he recommended never answered the email, so I booked through AmEx travel and ended up at Dollar/Thrifty. Service was good, though I missed the personal attention and airport pick up from Kenny’s. Rental was a Hyundi H1, it was sometimes a little more effort to get everyone in and out, but only having to find one parking space and not worrying about parts of the group getting separated made it worth having.
Breakfast
We had opted not to add the breakfast buffet to the cost of the room this visit, so we stopped at Market Garden for some cereal milk and snacks as well as supplies for cocktails. We did have breakfast at La Patrona one morning, service was good, and the ala cart menu has plenty from which to choose. We also had breakfast at the St. Maarten Yacht club one morning to be able to see the ships come through the drawbridge. While that breakfast was better than average with friendly, cheerful service; there were no large vessels transiting the channel during our visit.
Lunch
Several days we ordered from the pool bar at our resort. The food was good. Chicken quesadilla was a favorite and the burger came with well-cooked steak fries. We also visited Sunset Beach bar where we shared appetizers and enjoyed drinks while watching the planes land. Topper’s was the other lunch choice, several of us were taking the 1pm tour so it was a choice of convenience. Food was good but service was slow. Arrived at noon and still had to push to get food to the tables and checks paid by 1:10pm.
Dinner
As previously mentioned, we had a few restaurants we wanted to revisit as well as several we missed last year and wanted to try.
The Hideout at La Vista: This was our first dinner on Saturday evening. There were 8 of us and we had made a reservation via email. We walked from the resort since it was only a few minutes away. I had high hopes for this restaurant, sadly they weren’t realized. The menu online wasn’t current (not a big deal but such an easy fix), service was exceptionally slow even by island standards, and everyone who chose the Mahi commented that it was overcooked and dry. It was also unique to have guests of the hotel come swimming beside your dinner table. None of those would be a deal breaker for me, but combined, I’ll look elsewhere next visit.
Skip Jack’s: This was one we missed last year and wanted to be sure to visit. We had made reservations for 10. We lucked into a parking space right in front and our table was ready when we arrived. Service from Roxy was outstanding. She was bubbly and outgoing, while also attentive to everyone’s needs and requests. Everyone agreed the food was outstanding! Nearly perfectly prepared, served promptly, well presented, and delicious. We will be back!
The Greenhouse (Simpson Bay): We split into two groups this night, so four of us walked to the Greenhouse for the end of “Happy Hour” and the Monday Prime Rib special. Each of us ordered the “Queen” cut, which was plenty when added to the sides Johnny Cakes, and drinks. We had eaten here last year on Monday and the food remains a good choice for the special, especially when looking for a change from seafood.
La Cigale: The others travelled to Sandy Ground for dinner at La Cigale. The setting was an intimate, peaceful place to enjoy dinner. The team serving us was phenomenal in the description of dining options, attention to details, and timely all evening. They were all respectful, helpful and we could not have asked for more. The food-we went there for the menu, and we all chose specials because they sounded amazing, they were delicious and beautiful to the eyes and palate. Drinks-we had cocktails, a bottle of wine and after dinner drinks. All were wonderful except for the port (had too much sediment in the glass) they offered another version to replace/correct. Overall, this was by far our favorite place for ambiance, excellent staff, and menu options.
Last year, each couple had a dinner to themselves and both restaurants were highly thought of, so we all returned to each one this visit.
Moulin Fou: Classic French cuisine with an island touch in the heart of Maho. We had a large table outside the main restaurant, so I didn’t get to see the interior or get the ambiance. While our table had a mixed view (either the front of the restaurant or the back of a ramshackle building, we had lively conversation and attracted plenty of attention from the local stray cat population. (Warning, they can be aggressive!) The food was excellent, presentation spectacular and tasty. Service was paced in the French style with the added “Island Time” speed.
Isola: Another returning choice from last year. Conveniently located within the Simpson Bay resort (though a separate entity) we walked across the street for an Italian dinner. This is an excellent Italian restaurant. We haven’t tried the pizza, though the carry out orders made it clear that it’s a popular choice. Mostly classic Northern Italian cooking with ample portions (Wife and I each split an entrée with another person) and delectable desserts (more reason to split the entrée!).
La Patrona: Originally planned to be St. Maarten YC, but we made a change on the fly to allow for an opportunity to something new. With the change, I had to make a same day reservation, but they had ample room to accommodate us. Originally just six of us came to dinner, but midway through our meal, the other four arrived, having been advised to avoid the French side restaurant location they wanted to try. The meal was good, service was quick though not outstanding. This is true Mexican not Tex-Mex with which many Americans are more familiar.
Emilio’s: We intentionally selected this as our final meal as a group. We had eaten here last year and wanted to return. The restaurant seemed less crowded than last year which was a surprise. Marionela was our server, she is the daughter-in-law of Norman and Su (the owners). She was a wonderful hostess. Knowledgeable of the menu and drinks, friendly and caring. All the food was well prepared, served quickly and beautifully presented. They have a large menu of both bourbon and aged rum and the bartender definitely has flair! While dinning, Norman stopped by our table, and I imposed on him for some pictures and a tour of the wine cellar area for those that hadn’t been here last year. Last year Su gave us the tour at the end of our meal, so I wanted the others to have the opportunity.
Activities
Rainforest Adventures Flying Dutchman zipline: Again this year a portion of our group went ziplining. While they passed on the tubing, passed on the bumpy ride, they did enjoy the smaller set of four lines and then the “steepest zipline in the world” the Flying Dutchman. The views are magnificent, and all the equipment appears well maintained and in good repair. Worth the cost in views alone.
Shopping in Philipsburg: This was the actual purpose of our visit. I am a bourbon aficionado as is a least one member of each couple. Yes, women can appreciate bourbon too. While I found parking, the rest of the group started shopping in Gulmohar’s Whiskey Paradise. I have developed a little friendship with the owner and enjoy discussing the current bourbon news with him. When I arrived, the ladies were just departing for the jewelry store owned by a family member, so the serious bourbon shopping began. Even with just one cruise ship in port there was a steady flow a customers and so we made our purchases and headed down the street to regroup. The ladies had been well taken care of at Royal Jewelers. Every couple made purchases at both establishments, and we certainly added to the local economy.
Fishing with Coconut Reef charters: Eight of us headed out with Craig and Capt. Randy for the 3/4-day fishing. We had a good day on the water. Departing the lagoon at the 8:30 bridge opening, we had caught a Mahi Mahi and barracuda within the first hour. While the seas stayed around 3-5 feet, Craig worked hard to get us to the fish and land the ones we hooked. Final tally was a 40 lb Wahoo along with a smaller Wahoo, a couple of barracuda, Mahi and a Bonita. The sandwiches and coleslaw lunch kept us fueled for the day. It was a good day on the water. Craig even made a special stop at our hotel dock to allow for most of the group to get ready for dinner.
Pyratz gourmet sailing: This was the highlight of our week! As close as I will ever get to experiencing the yacht life. From the time we boarded Max and Tess hustled to meet our every need throughout the day. There was a continental breakfast waiting for us on the rear deck and mimosas or bloody Mary’s set the tone for the day. Another passing through the channel with the 8:30 am bridge opening, and a 40ish minute cruise led to snorkeling at Creole rock, with ample time to explore the marine preserve. We then motored to Tintamere island for more snorkeling, swimming, hiking on the island and the opportunity to see turtles. While we enjoyed all this, Tess kept the beverages coming. There was a constantly filled pitcher of water (actually 2, one plain the other flavored with lime and mint) or rum punch, wine and beer. Max then demonstrated his grilling ability by cooking up a lobster lunch, though there was duck breast for those that chose that option. A three-course lunch was served in the forward lounge area and included a rum Agricole tasting during dessert. We returned the way we had come with a final stop in front of the La Samanna resort. By this point everyone was too relaxed to venture back into the water, but we all enjoyed the views and another drink. We returned with the 5pm bridge opening and reluctantly departed the Ever Glourius. They offer a shared trip for their Tuesday sailings, if you don’t want to have a private charter. This is a bucket list trip!
SXM brewing tour: Another repeat from last year, this is a small local brewery still finding their niche. There was no one still there from our previous visit. The new Master Brewer seems much more knowledgeable and capable, plus he is training a local to take his position, so this will truly become “the beer from here” The lager is crisp, fresh, and almost has a sweet finish. They have several other options including 2 IPAs, amber ale, light lager, and seltzers. They are having issues with the bottling line, so only appear to be selling draft kegs currently, severely limiting their availability.
Topper’s Rhum tour: While not what I would consider quality distilling, they are making a wide variety of flavorful rhums. The tour guides are enthusiastic and fun, there are plentiful samples, and there’s gelato. It makes for a fun way to spend some time out of the sun. I even got to meet the man himself, this visit.
The remainder of our time was spent in the pool or on the beach, enjoying the sun, sand, surf, and several frozen drinks. We found new friends, spent time catching up with old friends and had memorable experiences. It was a great week.

Attached Files 2.10.jpg4.17.jpg5.31.jpg6.11.jpg7.50.jpg
SXM Sponsors
Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270806
12/06/2021 01:02 PM
12/06/2021 01:02 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 78,185
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
Traveler
Carol_Hill  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 78,185
Central Florida!
Thanks! What a lovely report and pictures! Looks like a good time was had by all! And you surely had some adventures! Makes me feel awfully lazy, compared to what we usually do on vacation! blush


Carol Hill
Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270807
12/06/2021 01:02 PM
12/06/2021 01:02 PM
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 15,972
Auburn, WA
SXMScubaman Online content
Traveler
SXMScubaman  Online Content
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 15,972
Auburn, WA
Glad you tried out La Patrona. We ate there multiple times this last May and always had great food and service. Not your typical TexMex food. Just good traditional Mexican. Isola is another one of our favorites too.

Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270808
12/06/2021 01:04 PM
12/06/2021 01:04 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,666
Ohio
ruralcarrier Offline
Traveler
ruralcarrier  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,666
Ohio
Thanks for the report. The Hideaway at LaVista has usually been decent but is has been 18 months since I was last there. Sorry to hear you had a less than desirable experience.


J.D.
Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270810
12/06/2021 01:14 PM
12/06/2021 01:14 PM
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,274
Portland, OR
jazzgal Offline
Traveler
jazzgal  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,274
Portland, OR
Great report - thanks for taking the time to write it.


[Linked Image]
Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270811
12/06/2021 01:41 PM
12/06/2021 01:41 PM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 2,026
Royersford, PA (30m NW of Phil...
Biturbo Offline
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Biturbo  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 2,026
Royersford, PA (30m NW of Phil...
Nicely written report - thanks. We've been wanting to try La Cigale, and your description sounds amazing. I hope things improve in Sandy Ground by next month so we can go there and feel safe.


"In a yellow El Camino, listening to Howlin' Wolf" - Lucinda
Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270813
12/06/2021 02:01 PM
12/06/2021 02:01 PM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 13,990
Brookfield, CT.
pat Offline
Traveler
pat  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 13,990
Brookfield, CT.
What a beautifully written and prepared report so thank you for taking the time and making the effort to share with all of us. It is truly appreciated. You managed to pack more into your week than we did in two full weeks so congrats. Reservations made yet for a return?

Again, thank you for sharing.


Respectfully,

pat



"Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat
them."
Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270821
12/06/2021 07:09 PM
12/06/2021 07:09 PM
Joined: Mar 2016
Posts: 200
Shelby2 Offline
Traveler
Shelby2  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2016
Posts: 200
Lovely report and pictures! Sounds like a great trip!!

Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270826
12/07/2021 08:31 AM
12/07/2021 08:31 AM
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 3,911
Rhode Island
RonDon Offline
Traveler
RonDon  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 3,911
Rhode Island
You sure packed in everything for a great time. Some places you mentioned we have not as yet tried so I put them on our list.

Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270847
12/07/2021 12:34 PM
12/07/2021 12:34 PM
Joined: May 2021
Posts: 124
LI, NY
R
RM5 LI Offline
Traveler
RM5 LI  Offline
Traveler
R
Joined: May 2021
Posts: 124
LI, NY
Such an awesome trip report. Thank you for sharing.

Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270870
12/08/2021 05:45 AM
12/08/2021 05:45 AM
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 1,423
Westchester /NYC
Colour1 Offline
Traveler
Colour1  Offline
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Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 1,423
Westchester /NYC
Sounds like a great time was had by all!! I will recommend with a group that big. Think about going out on the Rhino Safari riders and snorkel trip to Creole rock from Pineapple Pete's marina. Leo would have you has a privet group!! It's a blast!! We gone out more than a few times, always a great time!! As a privet group you can omit the snorkeling if you want, IMHO, do it at least once, bring camera's! BTW, my wife "Fabila" did it for the first time this past November and had a BLAST!!
https://www.rhinotours.com/

Attached Files David Rhino gang 2019.jpgLouise Rhino1021.jpg

Sand Gravity, got to love it!
Re: Trip report 11/27 through 12/4 [Re: davemy] #270872
12/08/2021 06:52 AM
12/08/2021 06:52 AM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 86
East Tennessee
lhbsurf Offline
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lhbsurf  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 86
East Tennessee
What a great, informative report! Thanks for sharing.


Laura

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