It’s been a week since we stepped off the Ruby Princess after our first cruise and I’m still trying to figure out how to place a cruise in the world of travel. Although we visited five different destinations, including the originating port of Ft. Lauderdale, I believe the ‘real’ destination is the actual cruise ship.
Why do I say this? Your ports of call are limited in time with a maximum of about six hours of true free time off the ship. I like to relate it to computer software in that you’re getting the shareware or free trial at each destination.
Unfortunately (or fortunately for some), when your cruise ship docks, so do 3-5 others. This means that there are up to 15,000 tourists flooding into each port. This is a phenomenon that is taken advantage of in the fullest by every local business. The cruise ship companies obviously have stakes in this commercial assault. This results in a barrage of the same crap attempted to be sold to you at each stop.
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
On our Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Ruby Princess, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten was our second stop following Princess Cays on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. In the six real hours you have in Sint Maarten, you simply cannot discover a fraction of what this island has to offer. Therefore, you are sequestered to the beach area and the cruise ship approved shops in Philipsburg.
The above picture is the first bit of beach after walking from the cruise port. A water taxi will take you right from the wharf to the beach but what they don’t tell you is that you can walk it in no more than ten minutes.
Philipsburg Boardwalk and Shopping
The boardwalk along the beach in Philipsburg is full of restaurants and bars offering beers for $1 to $2 each and free wi-fi. The price of drinks is a welcome change from the cruise ships where a beer will run you $5. The free wi-fi is extremely popular, especially among employees from the cruise ships. These folks come from all around the world and this is the only time they can afford to communicate with loved ones back home.
The statue shown here may or may not have some cultural significance on the island. There was a sign on at the adjacent shop demanding a fee of $2 to have your picture taken with him. I had the zoom on and didn’t pay.
It turns out that Absinthe is legal and available in Canada and most of the rest of the world, just not sold in many places. However, at the time we were under the impression that this was some taboo substance that was outlawed. Until my visit to Philipsburg, my knowledge of Absinthe was restricted to what was to be learned in the movie Eurotrip.
(Update January 28, 2017) One of our cruisemates bought a bottle and there was a lot of speculation about the amazing Absinthe fueled party that would take place at home some time in the future. Years have since passed. Someone did crack the bottle. Nothing crazy resulted.
A typical alley full of cheezy shops and cafes in Philipsburg. We were told that Philipsburg was the place to go for cheap cameras, jewelry and electronics. Apparently watches were cheap but I have no interest in strapping a clock to my wrist. As for cameras and gear, the prices were as much or more than our own. Accessories (lenses and filters) simply did not have a wide availability. Perhaps, the French side of the island was where to go for shopping.
Philipsburg Cruise Port
Our cruise ship, the Ruby Princess, is to the left (not the yellow dingy!). Smaller, in front and to the right is the Thomson Dream, a relatively ancient ship, built in 1986. The Thomson ship has no balconies and looks similar to the original ‘Love Boat’.
The first thing you see upon leaving the wharf is a sign saying goodbye.
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten Video
The video below was taken along the boardwalk, across from the cruise port in Philipsburg. The camera was attached to a stroller and the boardwalk is made of planks – thus, the bumpy feel to the video. Unfortunately, I didn’t add a GoPro camera to the arsenal until this past Christmas…
There is another video we took of Philipsburg, showing the view from Deck 16 on the Ruby Princess. You can see that video here: Sint Maarten From The Ruby Princess.