St. Martin – 1 Island, 2 Countries & An Amazing Port Of Call
Ever since I was engaged to be married in St. Martin, this island of two nations has held a special place in my heart. My ring was bought on the Dutch side and the proposal happened on the French, making the betrothal of two Canadians a truly international affair. Or, at least that’s how I’ll always view it. Returning this year with my 11 year old as a Port of Call with Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas was a special treat. It’s not every day you get to share with your children where your story as a family began.
Covering just 37 square miles, the tiny island of St. Martin is divided between France and the Netherlands. Although these two very distinct countries divide the land, you’ll find over 77 different nationalities living in harmony on this island paradise. If you’re visiting for the first time via a boat cruise I highly recommend taking a tour to see both parts of the island. You’ll no doubt fall in love and start planning a vacation back with a longer stay.
For our shore excursion, Royal Caribbean took us to a Butterfly Farm, Marigot on the French side, and back to Phillipsburg. Since this was my daughter’s first visit to the island, it was the perfect introduction.
For me, it was an opportunity to get some shopping in. The French and Dutch sides of St.Martin offer two totally different experiences. While there are many luxury boutiques to be found in Marigot, it’s the open-air market full of tropical fruits, flavored rums, exotic spices, and brightly coloured fabrics that call my name. This is the place to find unique artisan gifts to bring home as gifts or as a memento of your travels.
Back on the Dutch side, Front Street in Phillipsburg is where you want to be. Along this mile long cobblestone street you’ll find duty free shops selling tech, jewelry, clothing and more. With the beach just steps from you and cold frozen drinks under umbrellas calling your name, Phillipsburg can only be described as a shopper’s paradise. This might be why my husband hasn’t taken me back since we were engaged there.
Make sure you bring your best negotiator with you because these stores all try to out-do each other on pricing and you can be the big winner if you know your prices. Best bets here are definitely on jewelry and tech items such as cameras and video equipment. US currency is readily accepted on both sides of the island.
When you’ve shopped until you’ve almost dropped, there’s no better place to return to then the Freedom of the Seas, where you can recount your amazing day as you sail off to your next island paradise. For a full list of excursions available in St. Martin please see here.