Monday, February 16, 2009

St. Martin - or Our First Day Ashore

You should all know one thing: when we went on the Bacardi tour, we met two couples who had just gotten off our sister ship and had visited the four islands we were heading for. (Yeah, I know, ended a sentence with a preposition -- sue me!)

Anyway, Suzanne and Teresa were a wealth of information about what to see and how to see it -- and mostly without booking through the ship. That would save us lots of money. Suzanne kindly wrote everything down, island by island. So, after our first night at sea, we pulled out our "guide" and prepared to board a water taxi for a wonderful beach.

Wrong! The water taxis did not go to the beaches we wanted, but a taxi did. We piled into two cabs, crossed from the Dutch to the French side of the island, and stopped at a water taxi that would take us across a small bay. Suzanne promised excellent snorkling, and she was right.

We waited for the water taxi, which turned out to be little more than a large Boston whaler. I watched children play as children do everywhere -- on docks, on the beach, in the water. Eventually we arrived at the beach, secured chairs and umbrellas (for a fee of course), and proceded to look like the creatures from the black lagoon as we became intimate with our snorkling gear.

Our two young men were in for a surprise -- the beach was top-optional. Gorgeous bronzed bodies romped in string bikini bottoms. Others showed off the ravages of gravity. None of our group had the guts to go topless, not from modesty, but because we didn't trust our sun block. None of us wanted to spend our vacation sunburnt in places that weren't normally (or ever) exposed to the sun and unable to scratch when we began to peel.

At the end of a long day, and a bit disappointed in Suzanne's recommendation, we returned to the ship. We had seen beautiful waters, gorgeous fish, warm smiles, and blue skies. And there was this: the ugly American. You got it: ET, phone home.

But the day ended spectacularly and wiped out any visions of ugliness. As we made ready to sail for Dominica, we were blessed with one of nature's great sunsets.

And tomorrow, Dominica and a chance for Suzanne to redeem herself.

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