Well, that about does it for my stories about the Caribbean. I planned my flight home a day late. It was a scheduling mistake, really. I would rather have gone home the afternoon we were done, instead of wasting a whole day stuck at Captain Oliver's Resort sitting in a hotel room watching CNN.
Anyway, I tried to make the most of my extra time and explore the island of St Martin a little. I took a taxi into Philipsburg. I really wanted to see a historic island city but it turned out to be an endless row of gift and jewery shops and casinos along Front Street. The beach was beautiful though.
My mother, who for the past several years has enjoyed cruising the world with my father who works as a ship's physician for Holland America, said that the jewelry stores you see in the Caribbean are in fact same as in the small Pacific Northwest towns on the Alaska cruises. It’s as though the cruise ship companies built these fake little towns to have enough shops selling stuff so that the thousands of passengers would have something to buy -- t-shirts, cheap wooden handicrafts, jewelry -- anything! In fact, they make a point to close the shops on the ships whenever they are at port.
The handicrafts I saw had a very generic tropical ethnic feel to them. I actually saw a bunch of Native American “dreamcatchers” for sale too. You have to wonder if this stuff isn't actually made in China!
Jewelry makes a logical gift item: it’s small, expensive and easy to carry. If it’s the kind of thing you like to buy, you can’t get enough of it. And I suspect that it’s pretty easy to inflate the prices in the ersatz free market of a cruise ship town.
I didn’t see many real restaurants either: just KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut and dozen a pirate-themed watering holes.
After a couple hours walking around I took another taxi back. It cost me $15 to get there from Oyster Pond, and $18 to go back. I would have felt ripped off except I knew for a fact that the prices were set by the government.
Stupid me. In retrospect I should have taken the taxi to spend the afternoon on the nude beach in Orient Bay instead!
[ADDENDUM: To view the complete St Martin/St Barts photo album, click here]