MITSUGIRLYS FREEDOM OF THE SEAS REVIEW & PICTORIAL
Day 9: St Maarten
April 27: Saturday
ST MAARTEN 8-6PM
We really struggled with what to do here this time around. We have been here multiple times and the last time, we had our very own personal tour guide (Kia), who used to live on the island for years, take us around to every location possible around the entire island. I mean, who can top that right? So what is there left to do?
I searched and searched and found a tour online (boating) that looked interesting and posted it on here and didn't find anyone that had ever done it. I thought that was extremely odd. While I'm very grateful for the suggestions that people on here mentioned, I had either already done it or didn't interest me. So back to checking out the boating again and decided to throw caution to the wind and blindly book. We needed something "different" to do this time around (since we didn't get a chance to do any dune buggies and I had to endure listening to Kendra the entire cruise talk about it).
Breakfast consisted of the same old routine and then we were pulling in.
This tour was called "Self-Drive Boat Tour and Snorkel from Simpson Bay" The cost was $75 a person, so not bad at all. You book it using Trip Advisor (and I will say there are TONS of great reviews on there...which is what convinced me to book). It is your responsibility to get yourself to the place however.
We caught a cab and off we went to Simpson Bay to the "Rhino Riders"
Once we arrived, we checked in (which is a building located along the water and you walk from the front of building that is a restaurant (outside) to the back.
After checking in, they gave us life jackets and fitted us with fins and anything else we needed...including giving us a bag to use to put all of our things in that we were taking with us. All items we didn't want to get wet went in totes and stored in a locked building.
We were given a quick lesson on how the boats worked and how we were to follow each other in a line in certain places, the no wake zones and most importantly the hand signals. Then everyone was assigned their boat.
Now these are "blow up" LOL boats (using that term loosely). They have a hard bottom so it's easy to get in and out of and not at all what I had pictured (honestly it was hard to picture anything about a "blow up" boat).
We had a 3 person boat (but they also come in 2 people boats). We were able to add Shawna with no problems and they switched one of their 2 person boats for a 3 person. We managed to be put in the fastest boat they had and oh was it fun!!!
We first had to do some circles in front of the place to get used to how the boats handled.
They also had us stop and pose for pictures for the paparazzi (which happened to be their photographers that sit on the second floor of their building).
Then off we went. As you can see, some of the pictures are Kendra's...which she ended up handing the camera off to Shawna at some point. Shawna took some very nice pictures of the floor, shoes, peoples legs and ....well you get the picture (well actually, you don't get the picture itself lol).
These boats could really move!
Now the 3 person boat is like this...2 people sit in the back (this includes the driver and a passenger) and then the 3rd person sits in a middle chair (which is where I sat). The only issue I had with this is that there's no back on that chair and of course the faster you go, the more it throws you back and you have to keep your balance since there's nothing to lean against. But weight distribution it is....
We came to an area that was a no-wake zone and it was really cool cruising in that area.
Kendra kept turning around looking for Billy and Brayden and they were no where to be found.
We had made it pretty far before we finally seen a spot coming up behind us. Finally, here came Billy and Brayden!!!
I guess their boat had broke down in the beginning and they had to be switched out. But, they managed to catch up to us with another one of the guides.
We took off and was having so much fun! Our boat was really moving. I did end up in Sakari's lap once when we jumped a huge wave and I had never laughed so hard.
I think my jaws were hurting so much from the laughter and smiling going on that day.
Billy jumping one of our waves:
They were going back and forth trying to pass us...it just couldn't keep up with our 3 person boat.
Kendra had finally noticed that Billy was with us and was relieved.
Hey at least she managed to get one picture of us. LOL I figured giving her my camera would allow some pictures of us boating but I guess not really.
We slowed down and let Kendra pass
Sorry Billy....we're not letting you by... lol
Ok, we felt bad for him....
We were coming to an area that had a huge hill coming up out of the water. I guess this would be the place we were stopping to snorkel. It was supposed to be a Marine Park (I forgot to mention that you have to pay $5/pp to be/snorkel in the park and that is paid to them at the shop before you leave). <---why this isn't just added to your total booking and paid at that time I have no clue.
After pulling up, we all roped off together.
I wasn't wasting any time and grabbed my gear and jumped off and waited for Sakari.
She had an absolute fit about wearing the lifejacket but I insisted. I told her she didn't have any fins with her (meaning monofin because she refused to wear the regular fins) and it was better to play it safe than sorry.
Off we went snorkeling... it was mostly rocks in the water with some coral. I was really hoping this wouldn't be all there was to see at this "Marine Park" that I just paid $15 for.
Headed toward the rocks where we were told the best snorkeling was.
I was still not impressed...but did some of this beautiful red sponges that we seen at St Lucia.
As you can tell, this area was pretty shallow and loaded with rocks. I decided to let Sakari "off her leash" and she removed her life jacket. I held it while we snorkeled and she was free as a bird...or a fish I guess. She was so happy but I kept a close eye on her just in case. I know she's a great swimmer but I just feel so much better when she has her fin on.
There were a lot of black spiney sea urchins all over the place. I warned Sakari not to put her foot down for anything and if she needed to rest to grab onto me.
Sakari was having a blast and diving down to explore. That child...I swear...
I think it's funny that the tanner Sakari gets, the redder she looks under water. I can always spot her when swimming...just look for the red in the water.
There were a few interesting things in the water but for the most part, I was very disappointed in this so-called snorkeling area. Maybe St Maarten really doesn't have much to see.
I spotted some ballyhoo at the surface. They creep up on you and you don't know it because you are usually looking down when snorkeling.
Sea urchin spotted
A very bleached out or dead coral. It was odd because I didn't really see much of this here.
Four-eyed butterfly fish down there..but it was pretty far down to get a good shot (right below my name).
PURPLE!!! MY FAVORITE!!!! I wish I could have got down there closer for a close up pic but it was nice of this fish to get in the picture for me.
I popped up to see how close I was to the rocks and noticed something move.
Look in the middle of the picture...
I managed to sneak up on him...
The water was getting deeper. I hate when my hair floats in front of my camera at the same time I try to get a picture.
Trumpet fish spotted down there
School of grunts from what I can tell
Ok, see the difference between the other pictures and thie two pictures below? Well, this is what happens when you zoom in using an Olympus camera. The zoom function seriously SUCKS! All of my cameras are like that despite the model number. I know this and have always known this for years....but here I am...still trying it out....hoping that magically one day it's going to change and I'll get a great picture only to get back home and see the pictures and think "what was I thinking?" It's better to take a normal picture and crop it to get a close up.
There are a few drop offs here...
Then I spotted this...and I kept starring and I knew I had seen them before (online from the dive site we used in St Thomas at Coki) and knew immediately what it was...a remora. They are sometimes called a suckerfish and can grow up to 2 feet long. They suction to things like boats or fish like whales or sharks and you can find them hitching a ride. I really wish it would have been closer (shallow water) to get a better picture but they have a very distinctive look and you know it when you see it. They have a flat head with gills which is where they suction.
(Here's a pic from the web to show you what they look like).
So we decided there wasn't much more to see in this area and decided to head back to our boats, which was quite some distance away. The bad part was it was somewhat of a difficulty swim. We were going against the waves and whew! I asked Sakari if she wanted her life jacket and she actually said "yes!". I knew it was a good idea for her to bring it.
It took awhile, but I was never so happy to see this...
Wait, how are we getting back up in the boats? You want me to do what? Oh boy....
Now this is not an easy task. Grabbing a hold of the boat and trying to pull myself up and the hubby pushing me like he's pushing a broke down car to the gas station...uphill...in the snow...while it's pouring down raining and you are sliding 😉
It took several attempts, but I did make it up in the yellow one...then I had the task of transferring to our white boat. All I could picture is me falling back into the water and having to do this again. LOL
I got the great idea that I wanted to try to drive the boat on the way back. Ohhhhh my gooddddnessss! LOL I'm pretty sure I almost flipped it a few times.
I was giving the hubby a ride of his life and Sakari was doing the filming and photography. I just want to take this moment to thank Sakari for taking such an unflattering picture of mommies double chin. I knew I shouldn't have had that extra 5 pieces of bacon this morning.
We went into a bunch of different areas that we didn't go to on our way there. We were told "on the way back...open her up and have some fun"....and fun it was.
We were zig-zagging back and forth and going everywhere.
Finally the zig-zagging got me a few goods time by banging my knee into the throttle handle and I was done for. I stopped the boat and switched with the hubby because I could not endure this abuse any more. LOL
Then we were off to the races again
And a little slow down so they won't pout and I can get some good pictures.
We had fun all the way back and once we got back into the bay we started at, they turned around and we headed back out for some more fun. WOW! They really let us go out for quite some time! It felt like it was longer than we expected and it was definitely worth the money for sure.
Once we got back to the place, they had the pictures they had taken of us for sale. I want to say they were maybe $15 but not completely sure.
We had talked about walking down to the beach after our rhino tour (because it ended a little after noon or 1pm). They told us it was a short walk from there...just go out front, take a right and follow the street until you see Burger King and take a left and that street would run into the beach at Buccaneers (which is where we stopped for food with Kia last time we were here).
We headed out and Billy was dragging behind...by dragging I mean he hadn't even made it out of the building yet. LOL Then all of a sudden one of the employees that gave the tour stopped us by the street and ask if the handicapped guy wanted a lift there. There was a lot of gravel along the way, which would require him to go out onto the busy street if he wanted to roll on his knee scooter. He apologized that he didn't have room for all of us, but we were fine with that. I ran back and told Billy what was going on and he came out and got his free ride.
We continued walking the path they told us and ended up right where we wanted to be.
We sat in an area by the bar and ordered some lunch.
The kids headed out to the beach to play in the sand
I headed out to the water to take some pictures and cool off after that short but hot walk.
They had a lot of paddle "things" for in the water there to rent. I have no idea what they cost.
After eating the kids went out to play in the water for a bit and we relaxed in the shade.
As soon as Billy took his walking boot off and laid down to nap, I let him know it was time to grab a cab and head back. LOL Oops.
The bartenders there said they'd call a cab and then told us to head up to the street and down it and there was our cab (several of them actually so not really sure it was "ours" or that's just where they wait).
Back to the port we went.
Back to the ship and sail away time...
At some point we ate again
Sakari wanted to swim more...of course....
And a little hot tub time
I knew that I had to get the luggage packed up and did some packing. I always hate when there's a port day the day before we get off the ship. It just makes things feels so rushed.
We did go to the casino for a little bit and it was an ok night.
This was our hanging towel ________ tonight....like what the heck is it?
Tonight was the night we were finally going to get to pick up our photos from the week. I managed to grab every one of them I could.
Now this was the photographer we had issues with about the photo package....I almost didn't stop to take a picture with him but we needed some from St Maarten so....
The day we were in Barbados, when we got off the ship, there wasn't a photographer around. This turtle was actually upstairs at the buffet to take pictures during breakfast...I'm glad we at least found him.
I think I ended up with 67 photos to keep from the package we paid for and I'm pretty sure Kendra probably had at least 15 or so. That's about 80 pictures for the price of $269 or a little more than $3 a picture. Not bad I guess (even though lets be honest, if you had to pay for them individually I would have never picked a lot of these out with some of the funny smiles Sakari makes nor would we have been dressed down so much. LOL
We had a lot of fun with these and the picture frame...I have a huge one of these I use for pictures as well. lol
These were some of my favorites with the posing
We continued to hang out at the pool deck until it was time to drag Sakari out of the water so that I could get as much water out of her bathing suit and get it packed and put our luggage out when it was needed. I have to say, there were several "over-achievers" in my hall that had them out super early. LOL
Now just so you know....
There's more to come with getting off the ship.....as everyone knows...WE ARE AN EXCEPTIONAL GROUP AND YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM US....this time....we outdid ourselves....and took Kia along with us for the ride LOL
Also coming up, spending our day in Puerto Rico before flying home the following day....
Sakari's drawing for the night